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Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws: I know that we are all as anxious as my noble and learned friend to get through the amendments, but I have not yet had the opportunity of speaking to Amendment No. 148 which relates to those with whom one consults. It is suggested that, as far as is practicable, the parents and the children who will be the subject of the proposed curfew should be spoken to and involved in consultation.

My concerns are different from those which have already been raised. Consultation with the community is likely to elicit the views of the residents who are complaining about destructive children. It is less likely to be with the parents of those children or the children themselves. Such parents may be the least likely to attend a public meeting, especially if they feel that they might face hostility. The children themselves may be on the streets because home is not a conducive environment. The children who are on the streets may well be the children who may be subjected to domestic violence, who may witness domestic violence, or suffer sexual abuse. Not to seek the views of those children and to understand their circumstances, may result in sending them back into the arms of parents who are abusing them.

It is insensitive to proceed with such a curfew if we do not know enough about the children involved. We know that there will be difficulties, but, as far as is practicable, the parents and the children who will be the subject of the proposed curfew should be spoken to, and their views should be sought during the consultation process.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: That was well put, but it still leaves the amendment relating to extending the period of consultation not spoken to. I understand that my noble friend Lady David will not be moving it, so I shall not deal with it.

I shall again explain how the provision works to try to set my noble friend Lady Kennedy's mind at rest. The local authority has to consult the police and any other appropriate organisation before it submits a scheme to the Home Secretary. The Home Secretary

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then approves or rejects the scheme. The scheme will have to contain provision for consultation with the area to which it will apply, before the local curfew notice becomes effective. There is a two-stage process. One is the compulsory consultation with the police and any other body, such as social services, residents' groups, or voluntary agencies with which it appears at the time it should consult. There is then the approval by the Home Secretary.

Before the order becomes effective there must be consultation with the area which will be affected. It is hoped that at that second stage it will be possible to consult the people whom it will affect--the people who are having a bad time, because of the conduct of under-10 year-olds, and also the people (the children or more likely the parents) who may be affected. They can say, "This is a good idea; this is a bad idea", or whatever.

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws: I am afraid that my concerns are not appeased. The experience of social workers, community workers and those involved is that some children on the streets at late hours are avoiding their homes for the very reason that they are not safe and conducive environments. Often, such children are in families where abuse of one form or another is prevalent. Therefore, speaking to their parents will not get to the real problem. Such children need sensitive handling because home is not a place to which they wish to return. They are too young to be runaways, but often a few years later they are on the roads making their way to London.

We should be concerned about the safety of such children. It is all very well to be dismissive of that, but many people involved with those communities are concerned that children are on the streets because home is not a place to which they want to return.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I am not sure where that leads. The purpose of the order is that if a child is out at the relevant time he can be taken into the custody of a responsible person. Intervention can occur. To say simply that they might not like to be in their homes, but to provide no means by which anything can be done, appears to lead nowhere.

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws: The purpose of the amendment is to consult as far as is practicable with the parents and the children. That is something which the Minister imagines might happen. It may well be that he can consider the matter in the fullness of time, but he has already conceded that he would like to see that happening. However, that is not stated in the Bill. Earlier, the Minister's reply suggested that that would happen in any event.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: With respect, my noble friend Lady Kennedy is taking two entirely separate points. As regards consultation, the answers I have given about the two-tier process meet her point that there is inadequate consultation. I believe that there is adequate consultation and that the second tier meets precisely the point about not consulting with

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those in the locality and the people concerned. That will be one of the aspects of the scheme before the Home Secretary approves it.

When I gave that answer, my noble friend remarked that some children will be on the streets because they do not want to be at home. That is right and the local curfew notice will have the effect of allowing responsible adults to intervene and help. However, the issues are entirely separate.

Perhaps I may deal with the specific points about consultation. Amendment No. 146 suggests that certain specified bodies should be consulted. That will be at stage 1 of the consultation; that is, before the scheme is put to the Home Secretary. It is suggested that we include in the Bill social services authorities, local education authorities and health authorities. One would imagine that they would be precisely the bodies to be consulted. There is a problem if one identifies who must be consulted because the focus will be only upon those people when it might be appropriate to consult others, too. We do not believe that that provision is appropriate. However, that is not to denigrate or downplay consultation with such people; they are the kind of people one would wish to consult.

In Amendment No. 147, the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, proposes that there be consultation with:

    "members of the community within the specified area to which subsection (2) applies".

Again, I hope in the laborious description I have given the area to which the local curfew scheme applies will have its opportunity for consultation at the second stage of the process. I hope that meets the point which the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, raised.

Amendment No. 148 refers to the point made by my noble friend Lady Kennedy of The Shaws about,

    "so far as practicable, the parents and children who would be the subject of the proposed curfew".

Again, that would be met at the second stage of the consultation. In fact, both the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, and my noble friend Lady Kennedy propose that that consultation should take place before the matter goes to the Home Secretary, whereas it seems to us much more appropriate to consult the community which may be affected after there is a scheme approved by the Home Secretary which is not yet effective. They must be consulted on that scheme before it becomes effective.

I hope it is clear that we have already considered the issues raised in relation to consultation and have put them into effect in terms of the scheme that we have put together. I hope that we have done enough to indicate that we too, as far as is practical, would like to consult with the people with whom Members of the Committee would wish us to consult. Therefore, I hope that the amendment will be withdrawn.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: Before that is done, I am rather concerned that the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, seemed to imply in what she said on Amendment No. 148 that the whole raft of

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child protection measures which we have in place is inadequate. I wonder whether that is quite what she meant.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I do not know whether she did or did not mean that. I cannot answer for her in that respect. She does not choose to answer and I do not blame her at this time of the night.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: I seek leave to withdraw the amendment, although I shall return to the whole scheme in a few moments.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 147 to 149 not moved.]

Baroness Anelay of St Johns moved Amendment No. 150:

Page 12, line 27, leave out subsection (6).

The noble Baroness said: Clause 14(6) provides the local authority with the power to vary the hours of the curfew according to the ages of the children. This amendment removes that power. It is a probing amendment to ask the Minister to explain how the Government expect that the police can operate the clause effectively as it stands.

So far today Members of the Committee have been taken to Clackmannan. At this stage of the day I do not propose to take them on quite such a long journey but just down the railway line to Brookwood in Surrey, to the forecourt of J. Sainsbury, a large supermarket. But just to make it a bit easier, I shall transport them to a warm June Friday evening. It is a supermarket which has 24-hour shopping on a Friday evening. It runs a creche until fairly late into the afternoon but after that responsible parents take their children shopping with them. Unfortunately, there are irresponsible parents as well, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, referred earlier to such parents. Therefore, one could have a situation where there is a curfew in place in the area to cope with some of the difficulties which have been known to occur on summer evenings when children under the ages of 10 have gathered together and have caused mayhem, particularly in the area of the bottle bank.

What happens then when there is a mix of children? Some of them are there because they were originally shopping with their parents but have slipped away. Others are there bent on having a good time. However, that is not a good time for the neighbours in the area because, although it is a large forecourt for a large supermarket, it is bounded by some very pleasant areas in which to live; that is, they are pleasant until children become rather noisy. That sounds a rather cynical description, but it is a situation that occurs and one with which the police have to deal.

It would appear that the Government have set in train a process where the police are expected to sort out various categories of children as to why they are there, and also various ages of children, in order to deal with curfew requirements which would apply to

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children in different ways according to their ages. It seems to be a minefield--a minefield in which the police are expected to weigh in and sort out matters. I hope that they would not do so in a mob-handed way; indeed, I can just imagine some of the newspaper headlines if a sufficient number of police officers turned up to try to sort out the children, especially the under 10 year-olds. It is a most difficult situation and one that I hope the Minister will be able to explain. Perhaps he can tell the Committee how the police can operate effectively with the clause as it currently stands. I beg to move.

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