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Lord Thomas of Gresford: I want to refer simply to a matter of drafting. I notice that Clause 33(1) makes it an offence if a person,


Under subsection (2), which we are considering at the moment:


    "An individual is guilty of an offence if he knowingly offers work in a regulated position",

and so on. Now there is to be added,


    "or (b) fails to remove such an individual from such work".

The mens rea appears to be absent from that provision. I wonder whether the draftsman can have a look at it.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am grateful to the noble Lord for raising that point. I am not sure that I necessarily agree with him that mens rea is absent. The clause refers to "procuring". However, I shall take away the matter and examine it further.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

4 Oct 2000 : Column 1545

Clause 33, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 34 [Meaning of "regulated position"]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 101:


    Page 17, line 25, at end insert--


("(i) a position whose normal duties involve the provision of youth justice services as defined in section 38(4) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 101, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 102 and 103. With regard to Amendment No. 101, the Youth Justice Board was set up under the 1998 Act. Therefore, it is odd that the provisions of the Bill do not include someone who is involved with the board as such work, almost on a daily basis, involves contact with children or young people. I believe that that is a serious omission from the Bill and, given the intentions of the Bill, I hope that the noble Lord will agree.

Amendment No. 102 brings the Bill into line with some of the changes which are taking place in local government. If the Minister looks at Clause 34(5)(b), he will see that there is reference to a,


    "member of a social services committee established by a local authority".

Now one has to add, "or any associated sub-committee". Committees as we knew them--education committees, social services committees and so on--are all disappearing under the new structural arrangements. Therefore, I believe that the inclusion of "or any associated sub-committee" would be a harmless addition. It would provide a catch-all for whatever the structural arrangements were in any local authority.

Amendment No. 103 adds a list of regulated positions held by individuals who would be disqualified from working with children if they were convicted. The list in the Bill relates strictly to child-related positions. However, my amendment broadens the list to include positions that may involve contact with children. I cannot believe that the noble Lord will accept any of them, but certainly I believe that some of the items in my list are debatable. They are there for that purpose. However, if the noble Lord is not prepared to accept some or all of the items, I believe that he should give some clarification to the Committee as to why they are not appropriate in this part of the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I turn, first, to the inclusion of the youth justice service as a whole. That matter was considered very carefully as a result of discussions in another place. All people who provide youth justice services and who regularly supervise, train or care for or are in sole charge of children are already covered by the definition in the Bill. That should cover all front-line staff who have contact with children as part of their normal duties in any of those capacities.

Thus, youth justice workers whose positions need to be covered are already within the definition. We do not accept that the definition should be extended to cover ancillary staff, such as secretarial and administrative staff, who, after all, have no direct contact with

4 Oct 2000 : Column 1546

children. In some areas, such as schools and children's homes, we believe that exceptionally that should be the case. That is because the degree of trust placed in such institutions in respect of caring for children is at its very highest.

If we extend more widely the position from which offenders under Part II are disqualified, there is a real risk that we shall create an unemployable class of people. Whole areas of local authority or health service employment would become completely out of bounds, far beyond what is needed to protect children.

I turn to the list of positions set out in Clause 34(6). This is a crucial part of the definition of regulated positions. It denotes positions where a particular position of trust and respect is afforded to the holder. It covers roles in which, for example, postholders have the right to go into schools or voluntary groups without supervision as a privilege of their position. The children and their parents might look up to such individuals and respect them as "safe" members of the local establishment.

However, the list specifically and rightly is limited to positions of that kind in relation to children's services and not to general positions which may happen to relate to children. The only justifiable exception is directors of social services where, even if children are only a part of their responsibility, the role is so crucial and the possibility of abuse or cover-up where things go wrong so great.

The new positions suggested by the amendments do not fall into the child-related category. I accept that they are all positions of importance in the community. However, I believe that their inclusion here goes beyond what is necessary to ensure the protection of children.

Amendment No. 102 takes the positions below the highest level of authority and responsibility. It goes beyond the top-level boundary that we have set. Although it is important to be a member of a sub-committee to a social services committee, we do not consider that such a position should be dealt with at the same level as a member of the committee itself. We believe that, if we begin to break down those positions beyond the level of highest responsibility, the scheme may lose its coherence.

Of course, this is a matter which we can continue to review and which at some future date we may wish to revisit. Essentially, in our view the extra positions and services go far too wide. We believe that we have the balance right in this area as currently drafted in the Bill. For those reasons, I trust that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Blatch: I am grateful for that explanation. I am entirely culpable in relation to the wording of Amendment No. 102. It is my own wording and I realised, almost as the noble Lord was describing why it was not acceptable, that he was absolutely right.

However, neither is the wording on the face of the Bill, as it stands, acceptable. Local authorities are changing dramatically as the result of an Act passed by both Houses of Parliament. Such things as social

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services committees may not exist. In fact, I suspect that within a short time they will not exist at all. Therefore, a form of words needs to be found.

I believe that the word that was offensive (in a mild sense) was "sub-committee" because it rather denoted that I was talking about a spawned sub-committee of a main social services committee. I was trying to say that under the new arrangements a member of a social services committee will be something else, and a description needs to be found to convey that it is the appropriate local government committee with the responsibility for social services, or some such wording. If the Minister is able to find a form of wording that better reflects what I am talking about, I shall be grateful.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Perhaps the noble Baroness will kindly give way. I said that we would keep the positions under Amendment No. 102 under consideration. I am quite prepared to take away the matter and give it further thought. I see some merit in the point that is being made. I suspect that the noble Baroness is right: sub-committees may well in time become things of the past. We are changing local government for the better and we may need to have a look at that issue more closely. With her agreement, I shall be happy to take away the matter and give it consideration.

Baroness Blatch: I am grateful for that response. Again--

5 p.m.

The Earl of Listowel: Before the noble Baroness decides whether to withdraw the amendment perhaps I can seek clarification on one point. I understand that paedophiles have a tendency to form networks. Is the Minister confident that the measures in the Bill as it stands are sufficient protection against infiltration of paedophiles into the higher ranks of organisations that may have some ability to show patronage to paedophiles?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: That is a pertinent question. The history of investigations into rings of child-abusing paedophiles within childcare organisations is known to all of us in the Committee. It is a matter of grave concern. One can never be 100 per cent certain about such matters. Since we have been in government, we have tried to introduce legislation that closes down all potential avenues to such infiltration. As is our aim, in large measure this Bill closes off many more of those opportunities. I am grateful for the support of the noble Earl.

Baroness Blatch: The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, is absolutely right. One has only to read the Waterhouse report or consider the case of Mr Laverack in my own local authority. There was a sophisticated network of paedophiles working right across local government in areas that did not have direct contact with children, but they had a real opportunity to create the kind of

4 Oct 2000 : Column 1548

conditions where, at times, they came into contact with children. That is an important point that should be given some consideration. I am delighted by the way in which the Minister has taken that point on board.

I am sorry to be pedantic about my "sub-committee". I think it is a misleading statement and I want to expunge it from the minds of everybody. The issue that I rather clumsily attempted to resolve, but did not succeed in resolving, is the problem of there not being a social services committee. Therefore, a form of words needs to be found for a committee that has responsibility for social services.

I understand what the Minister said about my long list. However, it needs to be kept in mind and, as the Bill becomes an Act and is put into practice, it will be important to be able to revisit some of these matters, especially in the light of the network point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel.

I am sorry about the position of the Youth Justice Board. Again and again we come back to the nature of the paedophile. By nature the paedophile is a manipulative person. Paedophiles are accommodating; they appear to be nice people in a superficial way but they are deceptive. Those who worm their way into becoming members of the Youth Justice Board do not just become clerks and secretaries but those who are responsible for policy and overseeing what happens in the area in the youth justice services. It seems to me that the Youth Justice Board is an important addition.

I am not sure whether the Youth Justice Board is subsumed in the youth justice services. The Minister mentioned that the youth justice services will be incorporated in the Bill. If the board is subsumed in that, I would be reassured. If it is not, I may revisit the matter at later stages of the Bill.


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