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Ms Shipley: I welcome the guidance, but is my right hon. Friend aware that it often does not reach people on the ground? Can he give me an assurance that sampling will take place across the country to find out whether the guidance is being disseminated and acted upon?

Mr. Clarke: I agree with my hon. Friend. Indeed, Lord Laming dealt with adequacy and the extent to which it informed the way in which professionals operate. I can give the assurances that my hon. Friend seeks: we are simplifying the guidance and ensuring that it reaches every professional through training, and that we will test whether we are succeeding through the statistical techniques that she mentioned.

Mr. Burstow: I want to emphasise a question that Conservative Members have already asked and that I

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raised during the statement on the Laming inquiry: when does the Secretary of State expect to issue the overdue and much-needed guidance on sharing confidential information between agencies? The lack of clarity causes grave anxiety for many agencies and gets in the way of good, integrated childcare practice.

Mr. Clarke: I cannot give a firm date, but I shall ask my hon. Friend the Minister for Children whether she can provide further information when she responds to the debate.

I do not want to spend much time considering children's trusts, because we dealt with the point in earlier exchanges. However, many recommendations in Lord Laming's report relate to the lack of co-ordination and communication between the relevant agencies. We believe that children's trusts are the way forward; they are already being established to help tackle such issues. They are intended to bring together some or all of the services that local education authorities, social services, health or criminal justice services commission and/or provide for children. They may also include other services for children up to the age of 19. Local authorities will be the lead organisations. We believe that such integration is the way forward, so we held a bidding process that led to the announcement of 35 pathfinder projects to establish the best way in which to proceed.

Let us consider the national service framework and the way in which hospitals deal with children who need protection. All health and social services bodies should work to common standards, and on 10 April 2003 the Government published the first part of the national service framework for children, young people and maternity services, including a standard for hospital services. The full framework, to be published in 2004, will set standards for child protection services against which health and social care organisations will be inspected. We have a 10-year programme for improving health and social care services for children and young people. The standard takes account of Lord Laming's recommendations that apply to children in hospital.

Andrew Selous: Will the Secretary of State tell us his views on the balance between prevention and cure, especially in the context of couple stability and parenting courses? What are his views on mainstreaming some of that activity?

Mr. Clarke: My thinking was pre-echoed, if such a scientific concept exists, by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood (Mrs. Humble). We must move from saying that social workers are the only people responsible for children's protection and security to a position whereby a wide range of professionals and their communities believe that that is part of their overall responsibility. We believe that the different professional structures, funding and bidding regimes have not fostered that necessary sense of mutual and collective responsibility. The Green Paper will be centred on tackling that point. It will stress that social workers alone cannot bear all the responsibility. The teams and approaches and the collaborations between that profession and others are vital.

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Mr. David Kidney (Stafford): Although it is understandable that today's focus is on intervention when things go wrong, does my right hon. Friend accept that investment in promoting positive parenting means that things will go right most of time?

Mr. Clarke: Absolutely. One of the aspects of which the Government can be most proud is the sure start programme, which has tried to make my hon. Friend's point central. If I can use jargon, mainstreaming the sure start approach is important for everything that we must try to achieve. Many Labour colleagues are keen for that to happen and I hope that that applies to colleagues in other parties.

A further recommendation by Lord Laming referred to the review of private fostering. We have noted the recommendation in his report that the law on the registration of private foster carers should be reviewed. Consequently, the Social Care Institute for Excellence was commissioned to undertake a study into the effectiveness of child-minding registration and its implications for private fostering. The report is due for publication shortly and it will inform our conclusions.

So, I reject the charge that we have not been active enough in acting on Lord Laming's recommendations. My colleagues in the Department of Health and in my own Department who have taken on these responsibilities have been energetic and vigilant in seeking to make progress on the approach set out by Lord Laming, and I emphasise that they will continue to be so.

Mr. Lansley: Given what the Secretary of State has just said, is he in a position to say how many of the 82 recommendations in Herbert Laming's report that were intended to be implemented within six months have been so implemented? Perhaps the Secretary of State can also now answer my question on recommendation 7.

Mr. Clarke: I am advised by my hon. Friend the Minister for Children that about 83 of the 108 recommendations have been partially or fully implemented at this stage. I have tried to set out as clearly as I can that we have made major progress.

The final point of difference—an important one—is the suggestion that the delay in the publication of the Green Paper on children is a key problem. The Opposition put that point at the core of their motion, and it was also a central part of the speech made by the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham. The delay is of one parliamentary week. We shall publish the Green Paper in the week in which the House comes back after the recess.

We have delayed the publication by one parliamentary week for two reasons. First, the recommendations of the Green Paper—I acknowledge that it is a Green Paper and not a White Paper—are very far-reaching in a great many respects. We want to ensure that, when we publish it, we take full account of the changes in the machinery of government to which I have referred, and of the informal conversations that we have held with interested organisations in the field, such as professionals and representatives of local government. The exchange that we had a few moments ago about the appropriate person to be the named individual with the

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right level of responsibility illustrates how difficult and delicate that issue is. I want to ensure that the Green Paper reflects those dilemmas in the best way possible.

The first reason for the delay is, therefore, that the Green Paper is a far-reaching document, and I want to ensure that I get it right. We also want to take full account of the machinery of government changes that we have made, and of the initial responses that we have received.

Tim Loughton: Before the Secretary of State tries to convince us that this is a delay of only one parliamentary week, will he acknowledge that that delay will involve children not getting for two months the attention from the Green Paper that we were promised? This is not the first delay but the second. The Prime Minister promised us last October—a promise that the Secretary of State reiterated in January—that the Green Paper would be published in the spring, which is now some months behind us.

Mr. Clarke: I do not accept that for a second. It might be an illusion that is current in the Conservative party. Publishing a Green Paper is not the same as doing something. To publish a Green Paper is to get to the policy decisions that we have to take. The protections that we are applying and the work that we are doing are going on in precisely the way that I have described, and they would go on regardless of when or in what way the Green Paper was published. I have outlined in some detail the work that is going on. The suggestion that professional social workers in social services departments are stopping doing their work of protecting the people in their care because they are waiting for the publication of a Green Paper is simply wrong. Equally, the legislation that we prefer is in place.

Tim Loughton: Listen to the Local Government Association.

Mr. Clarke: I listen to the LGA in a number of ways, but I do not accept its assessment of every issue.

The second reason for the delay is that the Prime Minister associates himself with this initiative, as we made clear at the time. That is because the seriousness and scale of it will require commitment right across government to ensure that it will work. We wanted to make sure that that could be the case.

It is always possible to score political points on these questions, although I advise the Opposition against so doing.

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