|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The noble Viscount has got it exactly right, as he defines the issue. We are acting on the basis that the question is whether the uncle by marriageI apologise for using such complicated language previouslyshould be regarded as somebody separate from a person who lives with the family but provides no care. The noble Viscount has got it right. We think that we have drawn the line in the right place.
I thank the Minister for agreeing to consider the position of step-siblings again, but only in the context of subsection (3). I understand that that is his position. However, I go back to what he described as proximity and balance of power. I cannot see the difference between including half-sisters and half-brothers in the close family unit described in subsection (2) and including step-siblings and foster siblings. The noble and learned Lord said that it was a blood relationship or a half-blood relationship, but, given the ability of a half-sister, step-sister or foster sister to influence and abuse the child through the family relationship, there could be circumstances in which the same degree of potential for abuse existed.
My noble friend, Lady Blatch, exposed the issue of the position of uncles by marriage. The clause also deals with partners who are not necessarily married, so it is more complicated than the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun of Abernethy, suggests. Again, my noble friend sees the relationship as being the dominant issue. It does not necessarily matter whether the person lives in the same household or has to prove that a caring relationship of the sort referred to in subsection (4) exists. It is the family relationshipnotwithstanding the fact that it is not a blood relationshipthat carries the potential for abuse.
I am prepared not to press Amendment No. 201 pro tem, given the noble and learned Lord has said that he will look at the matter again. I hope that he will not move his Amendment No. 202, thus allowing us to debate this further before Report stage. Our debate today has made me more concerned about family relationships and how they are to be brought within these offences than I was at the outset. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Baroness Blatch: I am sorry that the noble and learned Lord has not taken the advice of my noble friend Lady Noakes because it would be helpful if we could consider this matter further. The Government have nothing to lose. Taking the two Houses combined, they have such almighty powers that they will get their way in the end. I think that we should all be given an opportunity to stand back and think again.
The noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, pointed out a matter that I had not properly picked up, which was my fault. He said that an uncle of the sister of the father of the child who lives in the same house but does not have any supervisory, training or caring responsibilities, would not be caught. Equally, if the same uncle is in sole charge of the child, but does not live in the household, again he will not be caught. Only someone living in the household with a caring or supervisory role would be caught.
That is a very muddled arrangement. We are discussing here an uncle who takes advantage of and abuses a child in what my noble friend described so well as a "family situation". Members of the Committee on all Benches should be extremely concerned about any abuse taking place in such close family relationships. Simply because both of the criteria set out in Clause 30(4) are not fulfilled, a young person will have no redress.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: Having listened to the debate, I consider that the point as regards the distinctions between family relationships and blood relationships is a good one. I support the suggestion made by my noble friend Lady Blatch that further consideration might be given to this matter. It is of some importance as regards the welfare of the child.
Baroness Howarth of Breckland: I seek clarification on one point about which I am very concerned. Is it not the case that, either under this clause or the earlier clauses relating to sexual offences, the case would have to be proved? Therefore, in the second set of circumstances the offender would be caught under earlier parts of the legislation once it is enacted. If not, then there is a serious gap. If so, however, the point is covered.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, is quite correct. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, has been extremely persuasive in making her point. However, I feel that it would be wrong for me not to move the amendment because it would give a totally false expectation about what is going to happen
Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.