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Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her comprehensive reply. I hope that she will not be embarrassed by my saying that she is rapidly getting a reputation for being a Minister who is direct and responsive, and who replies verbally to questions. I thank her for that.
Today's debate has been important. We discussed these matters during the process of the Bill, but a long consultation on which these final orders will be based has taken place since then. It has been important to see how the whole process has eased a little here and there, and how much attention has been given to matters which I and others raised. The problem with negative orders is that one does not see the results. The information which the Minister has given is important. The original order looks as though it will be a useful
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addition and not be terribly restrictive and directive as some people feared. It will be useful in what we all know is the unsatisfactory situation of properties being left to deteriorate without anybody apparently being able to do anything about it.
Baroness Hanham had given notice of her intention to move to resolve, That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to revoke the regulations laid before the House on 22 February (S.I. 2006/368). [26th Report from the Merits Committee].
House adjourned at eighteen minutes before seven o'clock.
The Committee met at half-past three of the clock.
[The Deputy Chairman of Committees (BARONESS TURNER OF CAMDEN) in the Chair.]
The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Turner of Camden): If there is a Division in the Chamber while we are sitting, this Committee will adjourn as soon as the Division Bells are rung and resume after 10 minutes.
The noble Baroness said: Amendments Nos. 1, 2, 4, 7 and 8 seek to clarify the exact make-up and ethos of the Independent Barring Board, which I shall refer to as the IBB. The body is pivotal to a new approach to safeguarding vulnerable groups. Prior to this Bill, the inclusion of individuals on List 99, or the POCA or POVA lists, has been at the discretion of the Secretary of State.
The IBB is a welcome new discretionary body. It is clearly a positive step forward for safeguarding vulnerable groups to have an official discretionary watchdog. However, the buck does not stop there. The Committee does not need reminding of the portfolio of cases that led to the Bichard inquiry, but it may be worth recalling the chain of events that led to the inquiry into our safeguarding lists. The Bill addresses the issue of who makes the decisions for inclusion on the lists, but we need to look further down the line at the point of information. For example, how will the IBB ensure that communications are kept to a premium with police forces and the CPS across the country? Where is the duty on the CPS to inform the IBB of changes to an individual's profile? How will the IBB ensure that it is managing not only a national list, but a national list that keeps up with local developments?
Amendment No. 1 would remove the sub-paragraph that enables the Secretary of State to decide how many sit on the IBB. It is a probing amendment. How many are likely to sit on the IBB, and where will they be recruited from?
That ties in with Amendment No. 2, which addresses the criteria under which the Secretary of State will appoint the chairman and other members. There is a slight drafting error in the amendment, for which I apologise. It should read,
Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 go further in addressing the structure and running of the IBB. Amendment No. 7 would remove the dual role of the chairman of the IBB as both chairman and chief executive. Again, this is a probing amendment, which is worthy of discussion. Is the Minister comfortable with a chairman taking the dual role of chairman and chief executive? Would it be better to have the chief executive take on the demanding task of delivering results and marshalling a group of diversely experienced individuals while the chairman would then have the independent oversight of management and be able to bring to it a bigger picture and broader perspective? I have in mind the Higgs report on corporate governance. I am trying to equate some of the principles behind the Higgs report with those for the governance of any kind of board. Does the Minister consider that that makes sense? Of course, there is always a cost.
Amendment No. 8 makes a suggestion about the make-up of the IBB. It is hardly controversial to say that it will be difficult to find individuals talented and experienced enough in their chosen fields to relinquish their careers to serve on the board. The amendment has two objectives: a sustainable and fresh-thinking board staffed by individuals with up-to-date experience, and perhaps modified to include a time limit for serving on the IBB. I present this to noble Lords as a suggestion and would welcome ideas on how it might work in practice. The amendment would ensure that at least half of the board was made up of members seconded from local authority areas, from which they would have the experience necessary to make informed decisions on individuals suitable for inclusion on a barring list.
It is not far from the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. On this point, I think we have similar objectives. The only difference is that the individuals would be members of the IBB on a secondment scheme. They would not have to give up their careers to take part. Indeed, serving on the board may well be a boost to their careers, giving them a chance not only to bring to bear their experience on such vital and often incredibly difficult decisions, but also to take their knowledge of the safeguarding process into their subsequent working lives.
He placed the costs to statutory and voluntary agencies at £1 billion a year. In the light of that, can the Minister indicate the exact start-up and running costs of the IBB? As the Bill stands, it will be entirely up to the Secretary of State to decide how much the members and chairman of the board receive in payment. The board will also be required to make payments of,
Not only does the Bill present astonishingly wide financial potential to members of the IBB, but the final responsibility for and management of those financial arrangements falls to the Secretary of State.
I am most grateful to the Minister for his extensive pre-Committee notes, notwithstanding that they interrupted our bank holiday weekend, although to very good purpose. However, I was disappointed to find nothing about the financial arrangements for the IBB. The same concern has informed some of my later amendments, and I would be grateful if the Minister could indicate the process for allocating funds to the IBB and say whether that allocation will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny in the usual way.
Amendment No. 4 would delete the sub-paragraphs that would enable those pensions and remunerations. That is not to say that Members on these Benches think that members of the IBB should not be paidfar from it. But I hope that the Minister can clarify the process for allocating funds. Amendment No. 12 probes further the financial management of the IBB, while Amendment No. 13 addresses the part of the Bill that allows for gifts or loans of money and property to be made to the board. I am sure the Minister can reassure us that clear records will be kept of loans made and of the property that was on loan to it.
This large group of amendments is presented in a most constructive spirit. However, some areas are in serious need of clarification, as I hope I have just demonstrated, and there are other areas where I would ask noble Lords to consider alternative methods of management, as with the membership of the board. I beg to move.
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