§ Mr. K. J. Woolmer (Batley and Morley)
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,the removal from this country of the young children Jessica and Jason Riley, the grandchildren of Mr. and Mrs. McArdle of Morley, contrary to the terms of a court order making them wards of court".I should like to explain briefly the background to this deeply moving case in order that you, Mr. Speaker, may understand why I am asking for a debate in the House today.
Jessica and Jason Riley are aged about 15 months and 10 weeks respectively. They are the children of Jay Arthur Riley and Maureen Claire Riley. Maureen is the daughter of my constituents Mr. and Mrs. McArdle. Some time ago Maureen met and married Jay Riley and joined him in the sect known formerly and the "Children of God" and now known as "The Family of Love".
Whatever the original intentions of this sect when it started in the United States in the 1960s, there is now strong evidence that it encourages, even expects, its members to engage in female prostitution as a means of recruiting adherents and of raising finance for its small communes. There is also strong evidence that the children of families in the sect are, from a very tender age, expected to engage in sexual activities, both between themselves and with adults.
There will be many views on such matters, but I believe that you, Mr. Speaker, will understand the deep concern felt by Mr. and Mrs. McArdle as the grandparents of the very young children in this case.
On 20 November the children were made wards of court by a court order in Leeds. It was ordered that they were not to leave this country. The McArdles' solicitors telephoned the Home Office at once and asked that a watch be kept on all ports of exit from the country. The solicitors sent the court order to the Home Office on the same day and advised that they had reason to believe that the Rileys had air tickets for travel to Canada from Heathrow.
Following some days of uncertainty and evidence that the Riley family had left their normal residence, a judge in Leeds, on 1 December, made a "seek and find order", lifting press restrictions in order to find the children as a matter of urgency. In fact, it now transpires that the Riley family, including the two small children, had left by air before the end of November and had arrived in Vancouver, Canada.
The specific matters that I seek to have discussed are the need for a thorough inquiry by the Home Secretary to consider whether all reasonable steps were taken to protect 590 the interests of these small children, and to establish how and why the Rileys managed, in effect, to flaunt the court order and take the children to Canada.
I seek also an urgent debate on the activities of the sect known as "The Family of Love". I believe that many other families have experienced the desperate concern that the McArdles have felt as they have seen children taken away from them.
This is an important matter, as it concerns the lives of very young children, who are not able to choose and decide for themselves. The intentions of the court in this case have not given them the protection that they require. Even in this tragic time of 3 million unemployed, the welfare and care of individual children will still, I hope, have an important place in this House.
It is an urgent matter, for two reasons. First, the merits of the case should have been heard in the High Court on 16 December. This has now been thwarted, but it is still necessary that a full airing is given to the position and to the failure of the proper safeguards to operate for these children. I am sure that the views of the House would have some impact if the matter were to be raised in Canada.
Secondly, this matter is urgent because other children and families continue to be under the influence of this sect. I have heard only today of what can only be described as the kidnapping or abduction to Costa Rica, by the father, of four children of a mother from Bristol.
In the case of another religious sect, it took a newspaper and its resources to expose the sham and misery caused to many lives. We must always act carefully in these matters, but I believe that there are strong grounds for an urgent official inquiry into this so-called "Family of Love".
I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for your attention, and for that of the House.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Mr. Woolmer) gave me notice before 12 o'clock midday that he would seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,the removal from this country of the young children Jessica and Jason Riley, the grandchildren of Mr. and Mrs. McArdle of Morley, contrary to the terms of a court order making them wards of court.The House will have listened with deep concern to the distressing story that the hon. Member has outlined, but he will know—I vary my usual reply in saying this—that there are other ways in which this matter can be brought before the House. I remind the House that I do not decide whether this matter should be debated. I merely decide whether it is of such a nature that it has to be debated tonight or tomorrow night.
The House has instructed me to give no reasons for my decision. After careful consideration of the hon. Member's representations, I must rule that his submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order, and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.