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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I say at once that I have a great deal of sympathy with the purpose behind the amendment but I cannot recommend that the House supports it. The Bill is targeted on improving the child protection system. I do not think that it would be practical to expect the system to encompass satisfactorily the needs of a very diverse group of adults as this amendment proposes. Before any such extension can be considered along the lines suggested by the amendment further work is necessary to identify the most appropriate way to proceed.

I recognise that the Bill envisages extending protection to mentally impaired adults, but they are the one group whose position is most similar to vulnerable children and whose circumstances are clearly set out in the Mental Health Act 1983. If I gave the impression to

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the noble Earl at Committee stage that it could be widened in the way suggested I should not have done so and in that sense I am sorry to disappoint him. But he will be aware that the interdepartmental ministerial group under the chairmanship of the Home Office is looking at the whole question of the best way to carry forward work on protecting all groups of vulnerable adults. Given the current work that is being actively carried forward in this area, I hope that the noble Earl agrees that it would be inappropriate to pre-empt the findings of that group in the way that the amendment proposes. We have taken note of the noble Earl's

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remarks both today and in Committee and shall ensure that the substance of what he says is reflected to that group.

Earl Howe: My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister and look forward with anticipation, and some optimism, to the work of the interdepartmental group. In thanking him for his explanation, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

        House adjourned at eighteen minutes past three o'clock.

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