MP hits out at Children and Families Bill impact

Caroline Nokes

Caroline Nokes

First published in News
Last updated

CHILDREN from broken families will miss out on time with either their mum or their dad under a new law, a Hampshire MP has warned.

Caroline Nokes, Conservative MP for Romsey and Southampton North, criticised the Children and Families Bill, arguing it would make it harder for youngsters to “have a meaningful ongoing relationship with both parents”.

She told ministers: “Few people consider the emotional and psychological impact that enforced separation from one’s own flesh and blood can have.

“The feelings of separated parents are simply not considered. That situation must change in the interests of justice for parents.

“It is also sound public policy and will lead to children being less damaged by their parents’ separation.”

Ms Nokes said she had been “elected on a promise” in favour of shared contact, adding: “The Bill will not deliver what we promised.”

The row follows an amendment to the Bill, passed in the House of Lords, to guarantee that a child’s welfare will always be a court’s “paramount consideration”.

Critics led by former judge Baroness Butler-Sloss feared separated parents would otherwise enjoy equal time – even when this was not in the child’s best interests.

The peer warned: “The stronger, more dominant parent may insist on an arrangement based on equality, which is not appropriate for the welfare of the children.”

The Government accepted the amendment, which was included in the Bill that MPs passed this week, including the ban on smoking in cars carrying children.

Ms Nokes stressed she agreed that “the welfare of the child should be the court’s paramount concern”.

But she added: “If, as a society, we are genuinely interested in tackling the impact of family breakdown, we must start by encouraging and enabling non-resident parents to remain active in their children’s lives.”

But the concern was dismissed by Edward Timpson, the Tory children’s minister, who said: “I do not share the scepticism of some honourable members.

“The Bill will help to ensure that more children have the opportunity to have a relationship with both parents.”

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