Page last updated at 16:51 GMT, Wednesday, 16 June 2010 17:51 UK

Children's Hearings Bill debate

MSPs voted unanimously to back the general principles of the Children's Hearings Bill , after it reached the first stage of its parliamentary scrutiny, on 16 June 2010.

Children and Early Years Minister Adam Ingram led the debate and said the legislation was vital to protect the hearings system.

Mr Ingram told MSPs 47,178 children were referred to the children's reporter in 2008-9 and while some aspects of the system worked well, many others did not.

The legislation will create a national convener and a national body to oversee the 40-year-old system, presently run by councils.

The Education Committee convener Karen Whitefield highlighted the committee's concerns about the centralisation of responsibility for the hearings and the lack of clarity about the role of the national convener.

Conservative Children and Schools convener Elizabeth Smith said the bill was a "legislative sledgehammer to crack a relatively small administrative nut".

Mr Ingram closed the debate by saying there was consensual agreement on the need for reform, but he conceded there was still some work to be done to provide reassurances to MSPs before the next stage of the bill's scrutiny.

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