I have long been fighting for a change in the law when it comes to family policy, so that children have the right to know and have a relationship with both parents. It is not about fathers' rights or mothers' rights, but about putting the child first.
I have previously introduced a Bill about this, which I withdrew last year after the Government indicated support for the principles of it, and that provision for such a law may be included in the Children and Families Bill which is currently going through the House.
In today's second reading on the Bill I gave a short speech about this issue;
Some 3 million children in this country are growing up in families that have separated, and around 1 million of them have no contact with one of their parents. The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service has been criticised in the past for having a heavy case load and for too often not being timely enough, so the provisions in clause 10 relating to mediation are extremely welcome.
Clause 11, most of all, is dear to my heart. It will give children the right to know, and to have a relationship with, both their parents. We need the understanding that the child must have the right to a relationship with both parents, because too often it is about mums' rights and dads' rights, but this is actually about the rights of the child. It is not right that a parent should sink their child's right to know the other parent in a sea of acrimony when they split up. From my point of view, that is a very timely and welcome reform. I have had so many complaints about that from constituents, such as Mrs A of Wootton, who wrote about her son's experience. She said, "Each time a visit is due, their mother creates a great deal of hassle, never being able to give a precise date etc., and she has twice prevented the visit completely."
It is not simply about mothers with residence. There are cases in which the father has had residence and has blocked the mother from seeing the child. What I have to say is that it is wholly wrong in both cases, as it is an abuse of the child's rights. It is a child's right to know and have a relationship with both parents because both parents have love, affection, knowledge and mentorship to offer—and the law should not stand in the way of that; the law should assert and assist that and make it more possible.
It has been an honour and privilege to serve as Member of Parliament for Dover & Deal. I hope to be re-elected to serve our community for another term.
Many of my appearances in the House of Commons are now on Youtube. Please click the link to watch the footage.
Please email me at email@example.com or ring my office on 01304 379669 if you need to get in touch.