POLITICS

Queen's Speech 2012: Divorced Fathers To Get More Rights

09/05/2012 12:51

Fathers look set to be given additional rights to see their children after family break-up or divorce, as long as it is in the child's best interests, under reforms set out in the Queen's Speech.

Last year's family justice review warned against introducing a legal presumption of shared parenting, warning it could create an "unacceptable risk of damage to children".

But today's speech announced a consultation on legal options to strengthen the law in England and Wales to ensure that, "where it is safe and in the child's best interests", both parents are able to have a relationship with their sons and daughters after they split up.

The Children and Families Bill also sets out plans to speed up adoption and care proceedings and give more support to disabled children.

The Bill will create a six-month time limit for family courts in England and Wales to reach decisions on whether children should be taken into care and will require the court to take into account the impact of delays on the child.

It will stop local authorities in England from delaying adoptions in the hope of finding a perfect racial match for the child, if there are couples waiting to adopt.

In most cases, the child's ethnic background and that of the prospective adopters should come second to efforts to place the child swiftly in a permanent home, the Bill says. The Government will discuss with Welsh ministers whether the change should be extended to Wales.

The Bill also aims to give families more choice and control over support for children with special educational needs (SEN).

The system of SEN statements for children with disabilities and learning difficulties will be replaced in England from 2014 by a simpler assessment process providing statutory protection up to the age of 25 for those who go into further education, rather than it being cut off at 16.

Parents and young people will be given the right to a personal budget to fund their support, to strengthen their power to make choices about what they need.

Local authorities and health services will be required to plan and commission services jointly for children, young people and families.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the Bill would "put families front and centre of our national life, with unprecedented support for parents and the biggest reform for 30 years of support for children with special needs or disabilities".

The Bill will also give more powers to the Children's Commissioner for England to protect children's rights, taking over responsibilities from school inspector Ofsted.

Commissioner Maggie Atkinson will be given more independence from ministers and powers to carry out assessments of the impact of Government policy on children.

State Opening Of Parliament 2012

09/05/2012 16:59 BST

Labour was 'hyper-active', according to George Eustice

Conservative MP George Eustice has told the BBC that the problem with Labour was its "hyper-active legislation"

"They spent ages bringing in bills that were badly thought through sand then they needed to use sessions to undo what they’d done and reverse the mistakes they’d made," he said.

“I think this government had a full session, a very long session – two years – some very big pieces of legislation went though, and I actually think it’s right that you don’t just jam the programme with endless legislation for the sake of it.”

09/05/2012 16:24 BST

Zac Goldsmith fears retreat on MP recall

The government has been accused of quietly rowing back on political reform by omitting plans to introduce the power to recall MPs mid-term from the Queen's Speech.

Tory backbencher Zac Goldsmith questioned why a Bill was not mentioned in the list of legislation announced on Wednesday morning.

"So where was the promised Recall Bill in the Queen's speech? How can Government expect to 'rebuild trust' if it so casually drops key promises?" he said.

09/05/2012 16:07 BST

Is Cameron saying lobbying reform has been delayed till next year?

@ ChrisMasonBBC :

David Cameron dismisses lack of bill on lobbying in the Queen's Speech, saying there will be another Queen's Speech next year.

09/05/2012 16:03 BST

PM: My government is doing what this country needs

The Prime Minister has mounted a robust defence of his government in the House Of Commons.

He said:

"This is a government that confronts the long-term challenges that we face, and that is what our country needs. A government that rolls up its sleeves to deal with the deficit, not an Opposition that thinks you can borrow your way out of debt."

"A Coalition government that is determined to unleash the private sector, spread growth around our country, sort out our financial services. Not a Labour one that bloated the public sector, sat back while an unregulated banking sector brought our country to its knees."

"A government that is backing hard-working people, not an Opposition that says it’s on their side but refuses to make work pay, refuses to cap welfare and wants to heave debts onto our children."

"This is a government that is taking the tough decisions to help families who work hard and do the right thing. Acting for the long term, governing in the national interest, this is a Queen’s speech to rebuild Britain, and I commend it to the House."

09/05/2012 15:53 BST

Graham Jones MP says Cameron is 'dying on his feet' in the Commons

@ GrahamJones_MP :

Cameron dying on his feet talking about the Queens Speech. Uninspiring. Punch drunk from the omnishambles.

09/05/2012 15:48 BST

Andrew Gwynne MP thinks Cameron is just waffling...

@ GwynneMP :

The PM's response to the Queen's speech debate is waffle. Ed M is obviously still buzzing from the elections. He was at his very best today!

09/05/2012 15:41 BST

Chi Onwurah MP attacks Cameron's 'emptiness'

@ ChiOnwurah :

@Ed_Miliband really nailed the emptiness of a Queen's Speech which doesn't mention jobs & does nothing to create them

09/05/2012 15:35 BST

Cameron summarises his government's agenda...

"It is about a government taking the tough long-term decisions to restore our country to strength, dealing with the deficit, rebalancing the economy and rewarding people who do the right thing."

09/05/2012 15:35 BST

Cameron defends the 'Snoopers' Charter'

Speaking in Parliament, the Prime Minister has defended proposals that have caused controversy for their apparent invasiveness.

“What we are trying to do here is not look at the content of people’s telephone calls, but just to update the measures for finding out who called who and when

“I say to people, of course let’s look at the detail, but I don’t want to be the Prime Minister standing at this despatch box saying ‘we could have done more on terrorism’.”

09/05/2012 15:22 BST

Miliband - endorsing Nadine Dorries?

@ IanDunt :

Miliband wants Nadine Dorries on the government's remuneration committee http://t.co/y9vH2Nro #QueensSpeech

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