Adoption and Children Bill

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Tim Loughton: I do not want to talk at length, but I should like to put it on record that the Opposition have a good deal of sympathy for the intentions that the hon. Gentleman has just expressed so eloquently, and with great experience and form on the subject. He was optimistic in identifying the number of children in private fostering as between 8,000 and 10,000. I suspect that the problem is far greater, although we do not know. Given experiences in my county of West Sussex, there is a specific problem with west African young girls who turn up at Gatwick airport, mostly from Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Many arrive on their own and are then placed in care, but many others go unregistered and unnoticed by the social services

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department and end up in highly unsatisfactory and dubious private foster arrangements. I echo the hon. Gentleman's comments.

The problem has already gone underground, so to introduce some registration scheme would be to close the door after the horse had bolted. We need to tackle the problem afresh. It is not disputed that child minders be expected to register, which has become part of the natural process, and we have far greater recourse to police checks now. There are other measures, such as the register that the Government have rightly set up to check people who come into contact with young people through youth work. Various checks are in place for all sorts of other contact between young people and individuals who may have had problems in their past.

Mr. Brazier: What my hon. Friend has just said goes to the heart of the matter. As a first step forward—perhaps the only one—before moving to the wider issue of registration, the introduction of police checks would be important and worth while. They have

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already been introduced successfully in Kent for people who come over on school placements, and every school in east Kent now collaborates.

Tim Loughton: That is an important point. We can learn lessons from what has happened in the county shared by my hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Mr. Shaw).

The bottom line is whether the new clause in its current form is workable. The hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford had the good grace to admit that it was a bit rusty and would need great improvement. It certainly needs to be improved in how it deals with blood relatives, which is a completely different kettle of fish. Not for the first time, the hon. Gentleman has started a useful debate and it is appropriate that the subject be raised again in Committee. Subject to reservations on how the new clause would be brought into practice, its principle has a deal of merit, for which I commend him.

        Debate adjourned.—[Angela Smith.]

        Adjourned accordingly at three minutes to Seven o'clock till Thursday 17 January at half-past Nine o'clock.

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The following Members attended the Committee:
Stevenson, Mr. George (Chairman)
Bellingham, Mr.
Blackman, Liz
Brazier, Mr.
Brennan, Kevin
Dawson, Mr.
Djanogly, Mr.
Gidley, Sandra
Llwyd, Mr.

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Loughton, Tim
Love, Mr.
Moran, Margaret
Munn, Ms
Shaw, Mr.
Smith, Angela
Smith, Jacqui
Walter, Mr.
Winterton, Ms Rosie

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