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Lord Goldsmith: I too am glad that Clause 4 forms part of the Bill. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle, for engineering a situation in which it is possible to say that. However, it is important to bear in mind that we are talking about criminalising particular conduct. If we are talking about criminalising it, we have to think of the prospects of matters coming to court and the circumstances in which they may do so, as the noble Earl, Lord Russell, reminded us.

If the noble and learned Lord is able to show that some changes to these categories can be made in a way which leaves the position workable, I shall be happy with that. Indeed I should be pleased because it is important that young people--we are talking here about boys and girls--receive protection. However, I wish to draw attention to one concern that Amendment No. 17--which was passed earlier--gives rise to. Clauses 3 and 4, as they stood together, were concerned with a person who, while in a position of trust, engaged in sexual intercourse or engaged in any other sexual activity. It seems to me that the consequence of adding Amendment No. 17--which amends Clause 3--which includes as a criminal offence,


is the following. It adds a new dimension to the balance between criminalising conduct and the protection of the young.

One of the points powerfully made earlier today concerned the position of teachers or others in important positions who may be subject to unfair and malicious allegations. It would be right to say that the amendment made will have that impact in relation to those who are in positions of trust; that is to say, they will be open and more vulnerable to an accusation that they have been preparing someone for the activity I mentioned.

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I say that at this stage because in considering the balance with regard to those categories of trust where children are most vulnerable and most in need of protection, and therefore where it is most justifiable to create a criminal offence, one must bear in mind that if one pushes the line too far, one may well put people who are doing a proper and good job at risk of allegations. Why are the allegations different? I refer to an allegation that someone has engaged in sexual activity--that is a definite and clear statement of conduct--and an allegation that someone has prepared someone for that at a later stage which must be much more open to interpretation of events. I respectfully suggest to the Committee that that must be carefully considered when deciding whether it is right to extend the categories in the ways proposed. As to the details, given that this is a general discussion on the clause rather than on the detailed amendments, I say nothing.

Baroness Young: I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Carlisle for giving us the opportunity to consider these issues on a clause stand part debate. The noble Earl, Lord Russell, referred to the dangers of single issue amendments. We would not be talking about abuse of trust if we did not have a Bill which lowers the age of consent to 16. This does not worry only myself. I believe that I am right in saying that the first person to raise the matter of abuse of trust was the Labour Member, Mr Joseph Ashton, who tabled an amendment on that issue. He was right to do so. I am glad that the Government have included provisions in the Bill on that matter. Our concern with regard to the amendments which we have not been able to debate tonight is that we do not feel that those provisions go far enough.

I should be concerned if the Committee thought that in tabling the amendments we had sat in a small room thinking up things to do. In fact all the amendments, almost without exception, arise from people who have thought about the issue at great length and in great detail. The amendments which we have been unable to move--Amendments Nos. 21 and 22, 30, 31, 34 to 36 and 44--arise from the report of Sir Ronald Waterhouse, a highly respected judge who had studied the issue.

Leaving aside the amendment regarding education, Amendment No. 24 was grouped with Amendments Nos. 25, 32 and 38. Those amendments arise from the Government's own report, Setting the Boundaries. If noble Lords look at Setting the Boundaries they will discover that the amendments to which I have referred pick up recommendation 32, which extends the provisions on the abuse of trust to ancillary staff in residential homes to cover all social care workers.

Finally, Amendment No. 24 covers recommen-dations 35 to 39, 41 and 42 in the review. I have read most of the review. Clearly, having considered the matter in considerable detail and at considerable length, members made recommendations. If we fail to do anything about any of those recommendations, we can do as the noble and learned Lord suggested earlier.

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I understand that all these matters will be considered. By next March they will be looked at. Two or three months later we may get something. And--who knows?--after the next election in the next Session of Parliament we might have legislation. In the meantime, those children who are affected by the Bill will not have the care that they should have. I believe that it is a matter of conscience that we do something about it. If the amendments are incorrectly drafted, or do not meet the case, I and my colleagues would gladly accept any provision that the Government may bring forward. But before we reach the next stage of the Bill, I hope that they will look seriously at these amendments because they meet points which have been raised.

Earl Russell: Before the noble Baroness sits down, will she agree that the abuses described in the Waterhouse report took place when the age of consent was much higher? What did that fact do to help the people who were subject to them?

Baroness Young: My Lords, I believe that Sir Ronald Waterhouse said that were the age of consent to be lower, then the abuse would have been worse still. I think that society has a tremendous responsibility for what emerges from Waterhouse. It is not a point-scoring issue. I think that I am right in saying that there were children who, if the age of consent, were lowered, would have suffered. We should look at his recommendations and those in the Government's own White Paper. That is the point I make. Outsiders have considered the issue. We have simply picked up their amendments.

10.15 p.m.

Baroness Blatch: I support all that my noble friends have said. The Government bear some responsibility for having voted against a fifth condition. They have set their face against any extension of the conditions in the clause. That is unfortunate.

Apart from the example referred to by the right reverend Prelate regarding abuse of those people in the church, the 20,000 mentors established by the Learning and Skills Act will be in positions of trust, very directly, in one-to-one relationships with some of the more vulnerable people in our schools. Those vulnerable people will be befriended and advised, often in a physically isolated place where they can talk and discuss problems openly. My noble friend Lord Carlisle of Bucklow explained how manipulative people operate, befriending young people and generously buying their favour to the point at which consent is almost assumed rather than asked for. We are talking about young people who are hungry for someone to take notice of them and to give them attention, love and affection and who find themselves in a situation that makes them very vulnerable to such people.

The Attorney-General and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, have referred a number of times to the Government having a view on the issues. I thought that we were having free votes on everything. I did not think that the Government had

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a view. The Bill was not a manifesto pledge and every Member of this House and another place, including the Prime Minister, as I understand it, can take a view on the issues. It is deeply worrying that the Government appear to have decided that they do not want any extension to the conditions in the Bill. I have mentioned mentors and the Church and others have mentioned familial relationships. We know of instances of young people, particularly very small children, being abused in the home. Even children between 16 and 18 are not immune to that kind of relationship. However, they will be left outside the protection of Clause 4.

If a young person is taken advantage of by a personal adviser, someone from social services, a guardian, a mentor, a member of a youth organisation or someone from within a church, there will be no offence of abuse of trust, unless the relationship is directly professional. Even in education, full-time teachers are included, but why not part-time teachers? How much less is the abuse if it is perpetrated by a part-time teacher rather than by a full-time one?

It would be helpful if the Minister would give some defence of the Government's reasons for not being prepared to include such inoffensive amendments. The Government may have problems with some of the categories, but others are so glaringly missing from the four conditions set out in the clause that passing the Bill as it stands would mean knowingly leaving some young people without protection in a high-risk situation.

The Minister will no doubt remind us again of the review committee's recommendations and the consultation that will be completed in the spring. However, unless a Bill is announced in the coming gracious Speech, we have to be pessimistic about the chances of there being one in the next Session. If there is not, we shall have to wait for the new Parliament after the general election. That will bring further unacceptable delays. Nothing in the amendments would have precluded further strengthening and additions that the Government might have thought up after the consultation. I am deeply depressed that the Government have unequivocally set their face against any extension of the categories of people in a position of trust who will be included in the Bill.


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