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Children In Care (Injuries)

Volume 982: debated on Wednesday 2 April 1980

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14.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many children who were under the care and supervision of social work departments suffered non-accidental injuries in 1979.

I am disappointed with that answer. Does not my hon. Friend acknowledge that there is growing public concern at the number of cases of children who have suffered abuse whilst under the care and supervision of social work departments? Further, will he discuss with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State the requests that have been made for an inquiry into the circumstances leading up to the deaths of Tracy O'Day, Angela Burns and Mandy McGibbon?

There are a number of questions involved here. However, my right hon. Friend is at present considering the three cases referred to by my hon. Friend and will come to a decision in due course. As regards the general question of the worries that my right hon. Friend and I have about such cases, I remind my hon. Friend that the Leader of the House has also indicated that the Government are considering the training of social workers in this area and will be reporting when we hope to take some action.

Will not the hon. Gentleman slap down more vigorously the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Walker) for seeking cheap publicity over circumstances that cause enormous distress to the innocent parties involved, such as friends, relatives, and indeed, social workers? Will he make it quite clear that he supports the idea that no social department can solve all the individual problems of society?

I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Walker) is doing what he is doing in the best interests of social work in Scotland. I shall certainly consider what the hon. Gentleman said and take the necessary action.

Does the Minister recognise that, despite all the concern that has been expressed, the meagre additional provision for this area of activity in the public expenditure White Paper, and with inflation at its present rate, means that there will inevitably be a cutback in the level of services which are provided at present? Therefore, the concern which is now being expressed is likely to increase in the future.

I cannot accept what the hon. Gentleman has said. He knows perfectly well that in the figures for next year we have allowed for a growth in social work.

Later

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your guidance on question No. 14, and in particular on the supplementary question asked by the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Walker). You will recall that during his supplementary question, he referred to the Tracy O'Day case. Unfortunately she was murdered. Her family live in my constituency. The hon. Gentleman gave me no notification that he intended to raise one of my constituency cases. Is it still a custom of the House that when an hon. Member intends to refer to another hon. Member's constituency—particularly on such a sensitive subject—he adopts the normal courtesy of advising the other hon. Member concerned?

I remind the House that we survive by observing our courtesies, one to another. If an hon. Member wishes to refer to another hon. Member's constituency, it is courteous to let him know. I did not expect the hon. Gentleman to know that. I remind the House that I am caused difficulty from time to time because hon. Members have asked questions which appear on the Order Paper about other hon. Members' constituencies. Obviously, I am unaware that they concern other hon. Members' constituencies. I hope that courtesies will be observed.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker, I have no intention of abusing the conventions of the House. Indeed, I always hope to emulate your splendid example, Mr. Speaker. I only wish that many other hon. Members would do so.

I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman, not for the kind words about me, but because some hon. Members are unaware of some of our unwritten courtesies and conventions. They mean as much as our Standing Orders.