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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland of Asthal, was right about what the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth of Breckland, said. It covers lots of people who do not have a formal job such as teaching or social work. All sorts of other people can claim to be educating a child, especially if we go down the road indicated by the next group of amendments. They could be addressing the child's emotional well-being, confusion about sexuality or whatever. It is much wider than that.

I am deeply depressed by the response to the amendment, except for that of my noble friend Lord Lucas, who gave his support. It defies belief that somebody on a sex offending register could be allowed a defence by simply claiming to be dealing with a child's emotional well-being or with the education of a child, even in a one-to-one relationship.

In education, one need only think of Connexions. Surprisingly, even the parents of young people below the age of 16 are not allowed to know what the relationship is between an adult mentor and their child. They are not allowed to know who the mentor is or even to know that the child has a mentor. As it is couched, the law allows the mentor to get up close and personal to a young person, without the parents knowing anything about it. It is probable that such people could be engaged in dealing with drugs, sex and sexuality. In that situation, young people would be very exposed, if somebody got into the Connexions field. I have done a little detective work on how people become mentors. Given the number of mentors being employed, it will not be long before a paedophile is

17 Jun 2003 : Column 697

engaged as a Connexions mentor. It would be interesting to know where culpability would lie in that situation.

I am deeply depressed by the response, and I seek the opinion of the House.

5.8 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 17) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 72; Not-Contents, 192.

Division No. 1

CONTENTS

Alton of Liverpool, L.
Ampthill, L.
Anelay of St Johns, B.
Armstrong of Ilminster, L.
Ashcroft, L.
Blackburn, Bp.
Blaker, L.
Blatch, B. [Teller]
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Caithness, E.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Cavendish of Furness, L.
Chadlington, L.
Chalker of Wallasey, B.
Colwyn, L.
Denham, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Dundee, E.
Eden of Winton, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Elton, L.
Fookes, B.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Geddes, L.
Gray of Contin, L.
Hayhoe, L.
Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.
Howe of Aberavon, L.
Howell of Guildford, L.
Jopling, L.
Kimball, L.
Knight of Collingtree, B.
Lane of Horsell, L.
Lawson of Blaby, L.
Lucas, L.
Luke, L.
Lyell, L.
Marlesford, L.
Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Monro of Langholm, L.
Moynihan, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Northbourne, L.
Northesk, E.
Norton of Louth, L.
O'Cathain, B.
Onslow, E.
Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Rawlings, B.
Rees, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Rogan, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Seccombe, B. [Teller]
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Sheppard of Didgemere, L.
Skelmersdale, L.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Swinfen, L.
Tebbit, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Trumpington, B.
Ullswater, V.
Vinson, L.
Waddington, L.
Wade of Chorlton, L.
Wakeham, L.
Windlesham, L.

NOT-CONTENTS

Acton, L.
Addington, L.
Adebowale, L.
Ahmed, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Alli, L.
Amos, B.
Andrews, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Avebury, L.
Barker, B.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Berkeley, L.
Billingham, B.
Blackstone, B.
Bledisloe, V.
Borrie, L.
Bragg, L.
Brennan, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookeborough, V.
Brookman, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Burlison, L.
Burns, L.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Carter, L.
Chan, L.
Christopher, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cohen of Pimlico, B.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Craig of Radley, L.
Crawley, B.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L. [Teller]
Desai, L.
Dholakia, L.
Dixon, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Elder, L.
Erroll, E.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Evans of Watford, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Falkland, V.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Filkin, L.
Garel-Jones, L.
Gavron, L.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Golding, B.
Goldsmith, L.
Goodhart, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Greengross, B.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Hamwee, B.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Harrison, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Howarth of Breckland, B.
Howe of Idlicote, B.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Jay of Paddington, B.
Joffe, L.
Jones, L.
Jordan, L.
King of West Bromwich, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Layard, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Lipsey, L.
Livsey of Talgarth, L.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
Maclennan of Rogart, L.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Mar, C.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Marsh, L.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Methuen, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Mitchell, L.
Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Monson, L.
Morgan, L.
Morris of Aberavon, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Newby, L.
Nicol, B.
Northover, B.
Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.
O'Neill of Bengarve, B.
Orme, L.
Parekh, L.
Patel of Blackburn, L.
Paul, L.
Pendry, L.
Perry of Walton, L.
Peston, L.
Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Radice, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rees-Mogg, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Rennard, L.
Richard, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Roll of Ipsden, L.
Rooker, L.
Roper, L.
Russell, E.
Russell-Johnston, L.
Sandberg, L.
Sawyer, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Shutt of Greetland, L.
Simon, V.
Slynn of Hadley, L.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Smith of Leigh, L.
Stallard, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Strange, B.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Temple-Morris, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thornton, B.
Tordoff, L.
Turnberg, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Walker of Doncaster, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Walmsley, B.
Walpole, L.
Warner, L.
Warnock, B.
Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Weatherill, L.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Wilkins, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L. (Lord Privy Seal)
Williamson of Horton, L.
Winston, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

17 Jun 2003 : Column 699

5.20 p.m.

Baroness Walmsley moved Amendment No. 18:


    Page 6, line 31, at end insert "(including but not limited to)"

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 18, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 21 and 22 and the rest of the amendments in this group. I welcome government Amendments Nos. 19, 20, 83 and 84. They go a long way towards achieving what we want. Therefore, I shall not press my amendments.

There is clearly a great need for advice about the emotional side of sexual relations and the pressures that young people feel about them. Agony aunts in teenage magazines, counsellors at the end of a telephone helpline, teachers and other youth workers provide services which are highly valued by young people. A question poll on the CosmoGIRL website a few days ago produced the following results. The question was: "If you have a question about sex who would you turn to?". The result was that 3 per cent responded that they would turn to a doctor or Brook Centre; 79 per cent responded that they would turn to a magazine agony aunt; and 18 per cent responded that they would turn to their parents.

I should like to quote from two of many letters received by these magazines. Thanking a magazine for printing an article about a teenage mother, one girl wrote:


    "Thanks a lot for printing [the article]. I showed it to my friend who had recently been pressurised into having unprotected sex with her boyfriend. She has now broken up with him after she had the strength to say no. I was so thankful after reading this article. I am so proud of her".

That letter was written by a 15 year-old.

The second letter said:


    "Dear Bliss


    I am writing to tell you how much I love your magazine. I am really shy and always feel embarrassed when my friends talk about sex and use slang words because I don't know what they mean.


    Please print my letter and tell me what oral sex is (but please don't print my name)".

That was written by a 14 year-old.

Those letters speak for themselves. Parents and doctors are highly desirable as confidants for young people but, for many reasons of their own, young people do not always choose to use them as such. I should therefore like to take the opportunity of making three brief points. First, this is the first time that the law has attempted to make talking to children a criminal offence. There have been several references to the Gillick case during the course of this Bill. The Gillick case was not about advice, it was about

17 Jun 2003 : Column 700

treatment—in other words, physical touching which, without proper consent, could be held in law to be an assault.

Under Article 10 of the Human Rights Act, children have a right to,


    "receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority".

While it is difficult to think what advice and information might not now be covered by the exemptions of Clause 15 as, it is to be hoped, amended today, if a prosecution or a civil action was ever launched about, say, a certain style of sex education, the Government should acknowledge that Article 10 overrides the narrow prescriptiveness of this clause.

Secondly, to make a more general point, the clause demonstrates the Bill's obsessive tunnel vision on child abuse which fails to take in the wider picture of normal adolescent behaviour and ordinary society. For the sake of prosecuting an adult for talking in an inappropriate way to a minor—just talking, not grooming or inciting or touching, which are all separate offences already—the Government were, until this late stage, happy to jeopardise the work of hundreds of thousands of counsellors, advisers, teachers and parents who are all making the difficult process of growing up easier for our children.

Frankly, it beggars belief that anyone will now be prosecuted by the police under this clause. What was far more likely before the Government came around to the point of view expressed by these Benches and others—and could still just happen—was that one of the so-called "family" organisations would have tried to launch a civil action—a Gillick rematch, as it were. Do the Government really want this? I hope that today we shall do enough to avoid that.

Finally, the Government's amendment still remains a hostage to fortune because it is so prescriptively framed. For example, subsection (3)(c) permits assistance which prevents a child becoming pregnant. It assumes that the "child" in question is a girl under 16 years-old. Suppose, as is not unheard of, the "child" is a boy under 16 who is seeking contraceptive advice because he is having sex with an older girl. Strictly speaking no one could help him with his problem because his girlfriend is not a child who is in danger of pregnancy. I am afraid that the clause was written so prescriptively because the Government were paranoid about not allowing "loopholes" for child abusers, although in practice such possible loopholes can be found wherever one looks. Just because a child abuser might try to use a loophole does not mean that he will escape prosecution. Surely it would have been much wiser to have accepted our earlier suggestions which made a general, commonsense declaration that advice and assistance which was in the child's best interests would not be an offence.

However, I do not wish to appear ungracious. I welcome the Government's amendments. I shall be supporting them. As I said, I shall not press my

17 Jun 2003 : Column 701

amendments, but I look forward to hearing the Minister's assurances to those bona fide people who help young people. I beg to move.


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