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House of Lords

Tuesday, 15 July 2014.

2.30 pm

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Carlisle.

Message from the Queen

2.37 pm

The Lord Chamberlain (Earl Peel) (CB): My Lords, I have the honour to present to your Lordships a message from Her Majesty the Queen, signed by her own hand. The message is as follows:

“I have received with great satisfaction the dutiful and loyal expression of your thanks for the Speech with which I opened the present Session of Parliament”.

Leader of the House

2.38 pm

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon (Lab): My Lords, before exercising the privilege of leading tributes to the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Oareford, I welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell of Beeston, to her new role as Leader of the House. The whole House rightly paid tribute to her for the consensual manner in which she piloted the same-sex marriage Bill through your Lordships’ House, and I am sure that she will use those skills as Leader of the House. I wonder whether her skills could also be used to offer a peacemaking role between Mr George Clooney and the Daily Mailbut I will leave that to the noble Baroness.

It will be a pleasure to work for the noble Baroness, who I am sure will secure the Government’s business in the Lords in a style that fits with its traditions and places the proper emphasis on effective scrutiny and the willingness of government to rethink from time to time. I also know that she will not forget that in the strange but wonderful position she has as Leader she wears two hats—Leader of the Conservative Benches and Leader of the whole House. The whole House will be united in its support for the noble Baroness as Leader. I trust that press reports that she will not be a full member of the Cabinet are not true.

I turn to the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Oareford. I start by thanking him personally for the warm and productive working relationship that he and I had during his time as Leader. His door has always been open, as has his mind. He has shown himself to be a consensus builder with inner steel. He was endorsed for such skills in his new commissioner role by the Prime Minister, who this morning said:

“He has proven a skilled negotiator, respected by all parties”.

Whether he can extend those skills to negotiations with Nigel Farage remains to be seen—but if anyone can, perhaps it is the noble Lord.

This might not help his credentials within his own party, but as someone who leads the Labour Benches, which believe that our present and future must lie in a

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reformed EU, I was relieved that we have such rational chap in Brussels, notwithstanding our differences over the EU Referendum Bill. This morning he said that one of his challenges was,

“how to strengthen public support in many countries for the European Union”.

I trust that he includes the UK in this.

While I fear that some of his colleagues in the Commons want us to leave the EU come what may, I know that the noble Lord will work with colleagues in the Commission to bring about reform. However, I offer him commiserations for having to deal with some elements of his own party who will want to breathe down his neck, harrying him towards the exit.

The noble Lord survived the experience of the Maastricht Bill in No. 10 and I have no doubt that he will survive the tensions of being a Conservative Commissioner. From these Benches, we wish him well.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness (LD): My Lords, I associate the Liberal Democrat Benches with the very warm wishes expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Royall of Blaisdon, to my noble friend Lord Hill of Oareford.

Perhaps I may paraphrase Benjamin Disraeli by saying that everyone likes flattery, and when you come to an outgoing Leader of the House, you should lay it on with a trowel. You may wonder why from these Benches I am quoting Benjamin Disraeli. The truth is that the noble Lord, Lord Hill, pointed me in the direction of this quote when I spoke to him on the phone this morning.

I actually need no prompting whatever to pay a very warm tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Hill. I valued him as a Front Bench colleague from 2010—but particularly since I was appointed Deputy Leader of your Lordships’ House in October last year, I have had a warm and constructive working relationship with him. He has been an exemplary and thoughtful Leader of your Lordships’ House, protecting the interests of the House and of individual Members in everything that he has done during his term of office. I can sincerely say that his overwhelming concern has always been to protect the good reputation of this House, and he has regularly returned to this in our many conversations together. Party politics aside, we have genuinely worked very well together and I hold him in very high regard.

I echo the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, in saying that the noble Lord had a consensual way of working in the House and a particular concern for detail that I believe will stand him in good stead in his new role in Europe. The outgoing United Kingdom Commissioner was also a Leader of your Lordships’ House. We may reflect that, to operate in a House where no one party has a majority, we must build alliances and agreements across it to get things done. I suspect that this House was therefore a very good training ground for his new position. Whatever our party-political views on Europe, we on these Benches wish him well in his new role.

I also extend a warm welcome to my noble friend Lady Stowell as Leader of the House. We worked well together this time last year on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, said, the manner in which my noble friend conducted

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the Bill shows the qualities which she will have to be Leader of our House. However, I wonder whether her new elevated status will make George Clooney think again about his recent engagement—but only time will tell.

I hope that I am not betraying any confidences by saying that, when I spoke to my noble friend Lord Hill this morning, he reflected on the fact that my noble friend Lady Stowell has a bit of a baptism of fire today, with some Standing Order changes that she has to move and the House Committee at 4 pm. It was in the way that he said “the House Committee at 4 pm” that I recognised a man who was demob happy. I look forward to working constructively with my noble friend, starting at 4 pm in the House Committee.

We on these Benches look forward to working with my noble friend, and I once again to pay tribute to the valued work and service to the House of my noble friend Lord Hill of Oareford.

Lord Laming (CB): My Lords, on behalf of my colleagues on the Cross Benches, I endorse the warm and very well deserved tributes to the noble Lord, Lord Hill, and wish him great success in his new appointment in Brussels. I and others recall well that he was a most effective and hard-working Minister, and I admired greatly his commitment to furthering the protection and well-being of vulnerable children and young people. It is a great credit to him that he quickly established himself as Leader of the House. He has fulfilled his responsibilities with great skill and care. He has commanded the respect of the House and is rightly held in very high regard.

Like others, I had heard rumours in the media about him being a possible candidate for a post in Europe. I readily admit that, rather selfishly, I hoped that that would not happen—but now that it has happened, he will be greatly missed by us all. The noble Lord can be assured that he takes with him to Brussels our grateful thanks for all that he has done during his work as Leader of the House, and also our warmest good wishes. I feel sure that we all agree that the noble Lord is a thoroughly nice colleague, who is able, conscientious, reliable and a real pleasure to work with. We wish him well.

If there is good news in losing the noble Lord, Lord Hill, it is that he has been replaced by the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell of Beeston, who is greatly admired for both her professional and her personal qualities. As has already been said, her skill at handling difficult legislation has been well and truly tested in your Lordships’ House. We welcome her most warmly to her new role, we wish her great success and we all look forward to working with her.

The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, I associate those of us on these Benches with the generous comments from around the House about the noble Lord, Lord Hill. My colleagues have been grateful for the support, the wisdom and the guidance of the noble Lord and his office for the Lords spiritual to enable our contribution to the work of the House to match the high levels of all other parts of the House. He also

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did a wonderful job as Education Minister and he has been a good friend to the Church and to the Lords spiritual.

On these Benches he will forever be remembered for the slight confusion in the Pass Office that his and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford’s introduction caused. The right reverend Prelate—Christopher Hill—and the noble Lord, Lord Hill, introduced on the same day, briefly shared a wife due to clerical confusion over their surname. This was thought by all to be a step too far towards liberal inclusivity, even with the news yesterday of the imminent arrival of women to the episcopate.

We also extend our warmest welcome to the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell. As we have heard, she had the imposing task in the previous Session of introducing changes to the marriage law and we were very grateful for her willingness to engage constructively with all sides of the debate. We are sure that this will continue in her new role and we greatly look forward to further engagement with her in the years to come. So we welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, and we say thank you very much to the noble Lord, Lord Hill, wishing him well in his new endeavour of representing the complex interests of the United Kingdom with our European partners in the Commission.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Baroness Stowell of Beeston) (Con): My Lords, first, I thank all noble Lords for their kind words about my predecessor and the warm welcome extended to me. I fear that I will never live down my remarks about George Clooney.

I am honoured to stand here as Leader of your Lordships’ House. That is not least because of who I succeed. My noble friend Lord Hill of Oareford is also a personal friend of more than 20 years. He and I worked together closely in the past and, as noble Lords may recall, he was one of my supporters when I joined this House. He has always been a source of support, wisdom and good humour—not just for me but for many of your Lordships. His unruffled and self-deprecating style sets him apart, as does his unfailing courtesy and generosity as a kind and straight-talking man. We will all miss him during his time at the Commission. My noble friend heads off to Brussels at an especially important time for this country, and the Prime Minister has sent a man with the country’s very best interests at heart. Undoubtedly, my noble friend will be brilliant in that job.

This House must always meet the highest standards that the people it serves rightly expect. My noble friend, although Leader of your Lordships’ House for only a relatively short time, put that right at the heart of the work he did. In his time as Leader, he proposed and supported changes to the House’s Code of Conduct to strengthen and clarify its operation, as well as new sanctions to deal with those who fall below the standards that we expect. My noble friend can be rightly proud of the way in which he has led this House with distinction. He has been a firm defender of its traditions and customs.

Like my noble friend Lord Hill, I have huge respect for this House and its work. I am very conscious of the great privilege of being Leader and I shall use all my energies to work with your Lordships to meet our responsibilities.

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Northern Ireland: Illegal Petrol and Diesel

Question

2.51 pm

Asked by Lord Mawhinney

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their estimate of the total loss to HM Treasury caused by the production and smuggling of illegal petrol and diesel in Northern Ireland.

Lord Newby (LD): My Lords, the latest tax gap figures published by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs estimate the market share for illicit diesel in Northern Ireland at 12% to 13%, or around £80 million, in 2011-12. Petrol fraud was estimated as negligible.

Lord Mawhinney (Con): I thank my noble friend for that reply. Given the illegal production and smuggling of fuel in Northern Ireland for decades, given the fact that today a quarter of all fuel sold in Northern Ireland is illegal, and bearing in mind the loss to the Treasury which my noble friend just mentioned and the fact that there has not been a single conviction, is he surprised to learn that many people in Northern Ireland believe that that set of circumstances points to the fact that a deal may have been done with the smugglers, akin to that for the on-the-runs, suggesting that if they stick to smuggling no other action will be taken against them? Can my noble friend assure us that no such deal has been conducted in writing, words, nudge or wink by this Government?

Lord Newby: My Lords, I can absolutely do that. First, perhaps I may correct the noble Lord. A quarter of all diesel consumption is not illegal; 12% to 13% is illegal; the balance is made up of diesel that is bought in the Republic and brought across. I also assure the House that it is not true that there have been no convictions in this area. There were nine convictions last year, nine convictions the previous year and four convictions the year before. It is true that, unlike in the rest of the UK—or, rather, in England and Wales—there have not been custodial sentences in Northern Ireland, but legislative change last December was undertaken specifically to deal with that problem.

Lord Alderdice (LD): My Lords, when the Independent Monitoring Commission was established by the British and Irish Governments, we sought to investigate this problem and were shocked to discover that, despite the fact that the Northern Ireland Office had been there for a very long time and was very well resourced, almost no resource was being put in by HMRC to address it. It just did not seem a priority. We worked very hard, without trying to create a problem or embarrassment for the Government. It is true that, by the time that we were finishing up, HMRC had appointed a substantial number of people to address the problem, but there is now no Independent Monitoring Commission and the Northern Ireland Office is a shadow of its former self. How can the House be assured that there will be proper monitoring and accountability to ensure that HMRC continues to do what it needs to, because that certainly was not the case in the past?

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Lord Newby: My Lords, I do not know about the past, but in very recent times HMRC has had in-house resources in Northern Ireland to deal specifically with this issue. Additional funding has gone to the road fuel testing units, which are crucial. There is the introduction of a new, more effective marker just round the corner. It is worth informing the House—to demonstrate that we are being effective in this area—that the plant capable of producing more than 8 million litres of laundered fuel was recently found and dismantled in a cattle shed in Crossmaglen.

Lord Hylton (CB): My Lords, is the Minister aware that cheaper diesel and petrol prices in the Republic have forced the closure of most filling stations in Northern Ireland in a strip 10 or 20 miles wide along the border? Will the Government therefore move to equalise fuel taxes, as is being done in the case of corporation taxes?

Lord Newby: My Lords, the setting of the duty rates for diesel and petrol are obviously done at a UK level. Although this is a problem, it is only one of the many considerations that have to be taken into account. There has been a differential in diesel pricing between the Republic and Northern Ireland for a very long time. Some people are obviously going across the border but, as I said earlier, as a proportion of the total consumption of diesel in Northern Ireland it is relatively modest.

Lord Gordon of Strathblane (Lab): Will the Minister consider publishing all the available data on quite legitimate cross-border traffic? It might further illuminate the debate on Scottish independence, where many people feel that you can have differential rates north and south of a land border without any apparent change in consumer behaviour.

Lord Newby: My Lords, there is a lot of data published about the duty rates. Noble Lords can see those. What is extremely difficult to do is to demonstrate with any great degree of precision exactly how much of a product crosses a border without a customs post. That is obviously a challenge between the Republic and Northern Ireland, as well as more generally within the EU.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab): My Lords, there is also, of course, a problem of smuggling from mainland Europe into the UK. I went down to Dover a couple of years ago and was shocked to see how porous our borders are. We spoke to the customs officer there; in terms of illegal alcohol and tobacco, there just were not the staff to stop the vehicles to check them.

Lord Newby: My Lords, tobacco smuggling has been a problem for some time. The additional resources that have gone into HMRC over the course of this Parliament, which amount to about £1 billion, have among other things enabled more to be put into that area also.

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Lord Browne of Belmont (DUP): HMRC figures confirm that in 2013-14 illicit fuel was identified at some 33 filling stations. Does the Minister agree that it would be helpful if HMRC would publish the names of the filling stations concerned so that law-abiding motorists could make an informed choice not to use them?

Lord Newby: The slight danger is that others might not, of course. The HMRC is looking at this issue. There is a legal problem at the moment. The legislation would allow naming and shaming to take place only above a certain financial threshold, which would not be met by some of these petrol stations, which are typically small and independently owned. There is also a bad faith test in the legislation so there would need to be a change in it, but HMRC is looking at that issue.

Income Tax: Top Rate

Question

3 pm

Asked by Lord Forsyth of Drumlean

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what effect the reduction in the top rate of income tax has had on revenue received by HM Treasury.

Lord Newby (LD): My Lords, the forecast Exchequer revenue effect of reducing the additional rate of income tax to 45% is estimated at around £110 million per year. This is set out in table 2.2 of Budget 2013.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Con): My Lords, I am astonished that my noble friend is not prepared to take more credit for the success of the Government’s policy. Is it not the case that the reduction in the top rate of tax from 50% to 45% has resulted in a record level of 28% of all tax revenue being paid by the top 1% of taxpayers? Is that not more than twice the level that was paid by the top 1% of taxpayers when the Labour Government under James Callaghan had a marginal tax rate of 98%? Is not the lesson that lower taxes and fairer taxes are needed in order to cut the deficit and preserve public services?

Lord Newby: My Lords, the noble Lord has a better memory than I have. I am very happy to take credit for the Government’s achievements. The proportion of income tax collected from the top 1% has gone up from about 26% to 28% during the lifetime of this Government. Certainly, income tax take from high earners is extremely resilient because they are prepared to pay it at the levels we now have.

Lord Dubs (Lab): My Lords, is that not a fairly small sum of money compared to what we lose every year through people who dodge and evade taxes?

Lord Newby: My Lords, it is a very considerable sum of money, but we are taking steps across a range of areas to tackle evasion and avoidance, whether by

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individuals or firms. There is a measure in this year’s Budget specifically designed to get tax upfront from individuals who are engaged in schemes that might subsequently be found to be avoiding tax. That will generate a considerable amount of income. A number of other measures that we have taken are bringing in hundreds of millions of pounds from people who previously were able to avoid taxes.

Lord Wrigglesworth (LD): Does my noble friend not agree that if we want a fairer tax system, it also means that we need to ensure that the broadest backs bear the greatest burdens when we are facing difficulties?

Lord Newby: Yes, my Lords, and that is why the Government have taken a raft of measures which will ensure that those with the broadest backs pay very much more than the additional amount of income tax that they might have paid had the rate remained at 50%. For example, we have increased higher rate capital gains tax, raised the stamp duty on higher value homes and reduced the cost of pensions tax relief. These measures, taken with other measures, mean that the additional amount being paid by high earners was more than £1 billion last year and will be more than £2 billion this year and more than £4 billion next year. This is real cash coming into the Exchequer as a result of measures we have taken to hit those who otherwise were avoiding tax.

Lord Davies of Oldham (Lab): My Lords, how can the Government claim that they are being fair when they cut the top rate of tax, giving a £3 billion tax reduction for millionaires? How does the Minister think that squares with the ordinary taxpayer in the country? To say that it brings in more revenue because people who have been dodging tax altogether actually decide that they will make a contribution scarcely sounds like good government.

Lord Newby: My Lords, there is no £3 billion, as I have explained. The effect of the cut is £110 million. The other measures we have taken will bring in over a three-year period some £7 billion extra from the same people. For people on ordinary incomes, the rise in the income tax threshold means that by next year the typical basic rate taxpayer will be £805 per annum better off and 3.2 million people who were otherwise paying income tax will not be paying income tax at all.

Lord Lawson of Blaby (Con): My Lords, it may be difficult for the party opposite and my noble friends on the Liberal Democrat Benches to understand, but taxation has one purpose, and one purpose only, which is to raise revenue. The Minister said his memory is not very good, so may I remind him that when in 1988 I reduced the top rate of income tax from 60% to 40%, it brought in much more revenue and also resulted in the wealthy paying a higher proportion of tax than ever before? Will he reconsider his previous answer?

Lord Newby: No, my Lords, it simply is not true that the sole purpose of tax is to bring in revenue. Obviously every tax does bring in revenue, but some

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tax is introduced in order to affect behaviour. We are about to have a plastic bag tax but I do not think that the primary purpose of that tax is to bring in money.

Lord Haskel (Lab): My Lords, the top 1% pays more tax. Is that because their income has gone up?

Lord Newby: It is partly because their income has gone up, but proportionately it is because they are prepared to pay the tax. As noble Lords opposite know, and as the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, has just demonstrated, when you get to very high levels of tax and very wealthy people, whether they pay it or not is not simply a question of whether they get a demand from HMRC.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con): My Lords, will my noble friend also comment on the beneficial effect of the decline in corporation tax—a business tax—which has had the effect of bringing some of our best companies back to London?

Lord Newby: My Lords, the Government are very keen to ensure that the tax regime is internationally competitive. That is the effect of the corporation tax changes. As the noble Baroness said, it is having a number of beneficial effects.

Lord McFall of Alcluith (Lab): My Lords, Martin Sorrell of WPP said that for large corporations, corporation tax is a voluntary activity. Is that what the Minster meant by his answer to the last question?

Lord Newby: It certainly is not. As the noble Lord knows, we have taken the lead internationally to make sure that companies—which for many years in some cases have not paid much tax—will pay a proportionate amount. We have taken the lead in the G20 and the OECD to make sure that we have different rules in place, rather than rules that were designed more than 100 years ago. We are going to see the first fruits of that in September; the long-term effect will be that some companies that have been able to avoid paying tax in the past almost altogether by deciding where they were domiciled will not be able to avoid it in future.


Cabinet Office: Efficiency and Reform Programme

Question

3.07 pm

Asked by Lord Risby

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what savings the programme of Efficiency and Reform, run by the Efficiency and Reform Group led by the Cabinet Office, has achieved since 2010.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): My Lords, for the financial year 2013-14, the Cabinet Office Efficiency and Reform Group, which was set up in June 2010,

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helped government departments to make savings of some £14.3 billion. This follows £10 billion savings achieved in the financial year 2012-13, £5.5 billion in the financial year 2011-12, and £3.75 billion in the financial year 2010-11. These savings are calculated against a 2009-10 baseline.

Lord Risby (Con): My Lords, the whole House will welcome the return to economic growth. However, given the continuing high deficit and debt, does my noble friend accept that living within our means and also controlling the cost of government remain vital objectives? Although I welcome enormously the progress that has been made so far, can my noble friend indicate any further progress on cross-departmental procurement activity and the effective involvement by SMEs in this whole process?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, that is a very broad question. Having seen this process close up, I have been struck by the extent to which Whitehall is a confederal system in which departments have to some extent resisted control from the centre. One of my favourite projects in this efficiency and reform scheme has been to centralise the collection of waste paper and build a closed loop system, from which we now save some £4 million—a small amount, but all contributing from building a much more effective system for recycling paper within Whitehall.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno (LD): My Lords, does the Minister agree that not every saving is praiseworthy? For instance, I read in the report that £250 million has been saved on Network Rail repairs. Is it not better that we look first before some savings are made to ensure that they do not undermine the traffic and do not undermine the safety of our railways?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: Of course, as with taxation, there are a range of different objectives in what you are attempting to save. However, much of what the Efficiency and Reform Group has been doing is to apply the sort of careful consideration of how best to ensure that you make the best use of centralised and long-term contracts, as supermarkets do in their relationship with their suppliers. The creation of the Crown Commercial Service earlier this year and of the Major Projects Authority in April 2011 are very important factors in making Whitehall officials more competent and efficient in dealing with the commercial world.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab): We support any work that is done to cut costs, but is the Minister not slightly ashamed when he asks civil servants almost to count the paperclips when the Government then waste £1 billion on selling Royal Mail too cheaply?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the noble Baroness knows that floating companies and making IPOs are always very difficult matters to estimate. We can go on arguing about that particular transaction for a long time, but I am very proud of what the Efficiency and Reform Group has included. I have not yet touched on the digital transformation in which, as

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we all know, the move from using paper to using digital in transactions with government offers enormous potential savings.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab): The noble Lord, Lord Roberts, asked a very wise question. Is it not the case that most of the savings will be made by destructive cuts in capital expenditure rather than cuts in revenue expenditure?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: No, that is not the case. If I may carry on about the Government Digital Service, it is a wonderful example of insourcing, bringing people in from the Guardian online and various other places and saving an enormous amount of money that was previously being spent on outside consultancies with large, usually American-owned IT firms. We have managed to save a lot of money and have produced a much better result. We have also saved a great deal by focusing on redundant property. For example, different government departments had 18 different buildings in Bristol. The efficiency gains that one can make from that are very considerable.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean (Lab): The noble Lord gave a very interesting answer to the previous question—

Lord Brabazon of Tara (Con): If we did sell the Post Office too cheaply, surely that pales into insignificance in comparison with the sale of the gold reserves some years ago.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I do not want to be too partisan on this question. I am focusing on the efficiency gains that this Government have achieved very creditably in the past four years.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, perhaps I may go back to the question before last as the noble Lord gave a very interesting answer. Can he tell us how much actually has been saved by the digital insourcing that he described?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: The previous Government spent an enormous amount on outside consultants.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: But how much are you spending?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I am sorry, but I do not have the figures before me on that. I shall have to write to the noble Baroness later. One substantial element in these savings has been the reduction in outside consultancy and outside contracts. The Government Digital Service has saved a great deal of money. I would go further and say that, in my experience, the quality of the people who work in the Government Digital Service is absolutely outstanding.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: But the noble Lord will write.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I will write.

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Child Abuse

Question

3.13 pm

Asked by Lord Storey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to prevent and tackle child abuse in the United Kingdom.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con): My Lords, child abuse is an abhorrent crime. We established the national group on sexual violence against children and vulnerable people as one of the ways in which we are working to eradicate it. Additionally, as the House was informed last week, in response to public concerns on this matter, the Government have announced an inquiry to consider whether public bodies and non-state institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse.

Lord Storey (LD): I am grateful for my noble friend’s reply. I want to talk about a particular education matter, so he may feel the need to write to me about it. I wrote to the Minister asking about the number of young people who are not in school—it is about 80,000. We also know that several thousand young people have gone missing from our system, as each young person should have a unique pupil number. How can we ensure the safety of those children, if we do not know where they are being taught, or if they are being taught in unregulated institutions, or wherever they are? How can we make sure that they are protected and safeguarded, as we do in schools?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: My noble friend raises quite a specific issue, but, as I am sure he is aware, the Government’s strategy in Working Together to Safeguard Children provides clear statutory guidance for school staff. As he rightly pointed out, unfortunately there are children who are not within school and safeguarding their interest is also important. If I may, I will write to him specifically on that issue.

Baroness Howarth of Breckland (CB): My Lords, I ask the Minister what he is doing about programmes to deal with children abused in their own homes. As he will know, some 46% of children and young people who are abused are abused at home and a large number are in situational abuse, where they are abused by a babysitter or someone who happens to be around. The best programmes for that are education programmes in communities, but I note that some of those have been cut recently. Does the Minister agree that we should reinstate them?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The important point here is that, as the noble Baroness points out, abuse of children can take place anywhere—in schools or in any institution in society. The Government’s programmes have certainly been focused. Indeed, the whole basis of the new body that has been set up is to ensure that no facet of society—whether religious institutions, government bodies or political parties—falls out of the net. As far as issues go at home, of course the

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Government are supporting such work. For example, we have appointed the first ever Chief Social Worker for Children and Families in England, Isabelle Trowler, and we are working with her to provide independent, expert advice to Ministers on social work. She will act as a figurehead for the profession and will work with local authorities, which are very much on the front line in protecting these children in homes.

Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top (Lab): My Lords, the evidence now is very clear that many more children are abused within their own families—physically, sexually or both—in a way that was simply not uncovered in the past. The answer to this is really early intervention and much better support for parents on parenting. I believe that the Government need to go much further than they have proposed to do so at the moment. Does the Minister have any proposals with which he can reassure the House?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: On the issue of early intervention, I will speak both on a personal front and also, if I may, for the new Leader of the House, as both of us made our maiden speeches on that very issue. This is of concern not just to the Government but to all of us in your Lordships’ House. Through this particular inquiry and other initiatives, the Government are looking to address the issues of historical abuse and also the issues of prevention. We are investing a great deal more in education, both through our schools and through our social services systems. Of course, if there is good practice that should be shared and taken on board, I am willing to meet with the noble Baroness to discuss that further.

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, in pursuing a review into questions of institutional child abuse, are her Majesty’s Government committed to recognising that listening to the voices of survivors and victims of child abuse is vital at every stage of this inquiry; that their voices, through for example the Stop Church Child Abuse campaign, are clear that ultimately only a full public inquiry will do; and that Sir Keir Starmer would be a trusted member of the inquiry panel?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The right reverend Prelate again makes a very important point. Let me assure him that the whole intention of this inquiry is to make it open and transparent. While it has been set up on a non-statutory basis at the current time, if the chairman and the panel decide that this requires a statutory underpinning then the Government have already committed to that—indeed, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has done so. The right reverend Prelate also raises the important point about ensuring that any bodies involved in protection of children from child abuse—be that in the church or voluntary sectors or across the board—are also included in providing evidence. In terms of the specific suggestion, I shall certainly take that back.

Baroness Butler-Sloss (CB): My Lords, does the Minister recognise that the importance of looking at historical abuse, although that is extremely important, should not deflect from the equal importance of dealing with recent child abuse and that which is going on

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across the country at this moment? It seems to me, if the Minister will agree, that there needs to be sufficient resources for the police, who at the moment are being cut down in the amount of money they have. They really need more money to cope with both kinds of abuse—those of the past and those of the present.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The noble and learned Baroness speaks with great experience and expertise on this subject. Therefore, I am sure all noble Lords will join me in expressing great sadness that she has chosen to step down from the role for which she was selected, although we all appreciate the reasons why she did so. The Government fully recognise her ability in this regard. Certainly, it was the view of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary that she should remain the chairman of this important inquiry. Turning to the substance of her remarks, I totally share the concerns she has raised. This is not just about looking backwards but is about ensuring that in the future we protect children in all facets of society. The important element is that we engage fully in this area, that no stone is left unturned historically and that no person feels that they are vulnerable to sexual abuse tomorrow. This is an abhorrent crime and the sooner we eradicate it from our society, the better. I am sure all noble Lords share that sentiment.

Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab): My Lords, I assure the noble Lord that we on this side of the House share those concerns. Noble Lords will recall that last Monday I raised our concern that there has been a 75% drop-off in the number of people added to the list of those barred from working with children and vulnerable adults. Last year, there were nearly 6,500 referrals to the Disclosure and Barring Service on the ground of suspicious behaviour, the majority of which came from local authorities, yet only 165 people were barred from working with children. Why are so few referrals being acted on? In the light of evidence that so many abusers go undetected, will the Government review and reconsider the changes made to the vetting and barring system?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The noble Baroness raises an important point about these predators—there is no better word for it—who are sometimes undetected or sometimes are detected but action on them is not followed through. When researching this Question, I was startled by some of the statistics, including that of the 16,500 children currently at high risk of child sexual exploitation. The Government intend to pursue the very points the noble Baroness has raised through the inquiry panel that has been set up to look at these elements to ensure that, as I have said, this abhorrent crime is preventing from occurring in the future.

Business of the House

Timing of Debates

3.22 pm

Moved by Baroness Stowell of Beeston

That Standing Order 46 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with on Wednesday 16 July and Thursday 17 July in respect

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of proceedings on the Finance Bill, the Supply and Appropriation (Main Estimates) Bill and any Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill; and that Standing Order 40(5)

(Arrangement of the Order Paper)

be dispensed with on Thursday 17 July.

Motion agreed.

Public Bodies (Abolition of Food from Britain) Order 2014

Motion to Approve

3.22 pm

Moved by Baroness Northover

That the draft order laid before the House on 6 May be approved.

Relevant documents: 1st Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, 1st Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.Considered in Grand Committee on 9 July.

Motion agreed.


Serious Crime Bill [HL]

Serious Crime Bill [HL]2nd Report from the Delegated Powers Committee3rd Report from the Delegated Powers Committee

Committee (3rd Day)

3.23 pm

Relevant documents: 2nd and 3rd Reports from the Delegated Powers Committee

Clause 62: Child cruelty offence

Amendment 40BZA

Moved by Baroness Walmsley

40BZA: Clause 62, page 46, line 34, after “(1)” insert—

“( ) for “that age” substitute “the age of 18”;

( ) after “wilfully” insert “recklessly”;

( ) omit “unnecessary”;”

Baroness Walmsley (LD): My Lords, I wish to speak also to Clause 62 stand part.

Amendment 40BZA would introduce to this very good clause three additional small changes to the Children and Young Persons Act 1933. These are issues that have been raised with us by various children’s organisations, including Action for Children. The first part of the amendment seeks to probe the age to which a person may have responsibility for a young person. The Act currently applies to someone over the age of 16 who also has responsibility for someone “under that age”. The first part of this amendment therefore questions whether the responsibility should be for anyone under the age of 18, rather than 16, given that we have had numerous changes in the definition of children of late, and it varies from one bit of law to another.

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The second element of the amendment would add the word “recklessly” after “wilfully”. This was contained in the Private Member’s Bill of my honourable friend Mark Williams MP in another place. Action for Children has suggested that we need to insert “recklessly” alongside “wilfully”. The introduction of “recklessly” would be in line with the interpretation of the 1981 Sheppard ruling, and with the interpretation of recklessness recently defined by the House of Lords in R v G. The term “recklessly” was identified in the Sheppard ruling as preferable to “wilfully”, which is considered difficult to interpret because it is unclear whether it applies to someone’s action or failure to act, or to their failure to foresee future consequences of their action or inaction. We suggest that “recklessly” is added to clarify this.

There can be a particular problem in cases of child neglect, which typically involve the failure to provide care, food, supervision, a safe environment and so on, so we need to cover foreseeing the future consequences of actions as well as the actions themselves. Adding “recklessly” also serves to protect parents and carers where there is any doubt that their action or inaction was due to mental incapacity or excusable ignorance of parenting skills. This is because, under the recklessness test, if there is any doubt that the behaviour of parents or carers was attributable to inherent incapacity to understand or change their behaviour, they will not be prosecuted. This would therefore protect them. “Recklessly” would also confirm the exclusion from liability of, for example, carers agreeing to high-risk medical treatment where there is no better medical option for a gravely ill child.

The final element of this amendment removes “unnecessary” from the requirement that the offence causes unnecessary suffering. The view of children’s organisations is that there is no unnecessary suffering that a person may cause, and that the term is antiquated and should be updated to a modern understanding. However, as my noble friend Lady Brinton has pointed out, certain suffering may be unavoidable; for example, where a child has suffered bereavement.

Perhaps the Minister will say whether the under-16 definition meets the modern understanding of what we mean by children. Would it not be better to cover all children to the age of 18? Why do the Government feel that “wilfully” alone is a better term to use than adding “recklessly”? Will they commit to looking again at this issue in the light of the enormous support that Mark Williams’s Private Member’s Bill had in another place? Will the Minister also say whether the term “unnecessary suffering” is clear enough in a modern context? Is there not a risk that this could prevent certain abuses from being prosecuted under the offence?

I shall also say a few words about the Question that the clause stand part of the Bill. We strongly support this clause, so tabling this Question is not about whether or not it should remain in the Bill, because it is a good clause. However, we have some questions about whether the new and welcome explicit reference to psychological harm will mean that other offences involving harm will now be read as referring only to physical harm. Specifically, offences related to domestic violence could potentially be undermined.

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The intention of opposing the Question that the clause stand part of the Bill is therefore to ask the Minister to make a statement from the Dispatch Box that other offences will not be undermined by this welcome change; and to ask the Government to look again at whether it would be a positive step to amend other legislation to reflect psychological harm, in the same way as we are now affecting offences against children. Will the Minister confirm that this welcome change in Clause 62 will not have an adverse impact on including psychological harm within other offences, where it is not explicitly referred to—for example, domestic violence? I beg to move.

3.30 pm

The Lord Speaker (Baroness D’Souza): My Lords, I should perhaps remind your Lordships that if the amendment is agreed to I cannot call Amendment 40BZC by reason of pre-emption.

Baroness Butler-Sloss (CB): My Lords, to a considerable extent I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, but want to go rather further. I thank the Government for, and indeed welcome, Clause 62 as far as it goes. I should like to give particular thanks to the previous Minister of Justice in the other place, Damian Green MP, who has always been open to listening to Action for Children, for which I am largely speaking; I am also speaking for the NSPCC. He has been extremely helpful in giving us an opportunity to put our points of view to him. It is largely due to his diligence that the clause is in the Bill, so I thank him very much.

Clause 62, as far as it goes, is good but does not go far enough. The purpose of my Amendment 40BZB—supported particularly by Action for Children, and warmly supported by the NSPCC—is to update and bring into the 21st century Section 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933. I have to tell noble Lords that 1933 was the year in which I was born, and it really is about time that we had 21st-century legislation. I am a relic of that period but the law should not be. I am supported in this amendment by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, and the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, whom I thank very much.

The purpose is to identify in criminal terms serious neglect and emotional abuse. “Neglect” is in the 1933 Act but does not include the effect of neglect on children and all sorts of emotional abuse that children suffer. Neglect is the most widespread and potentially most serious of all forms of abuse because it is, in itself, largely neglected. It is not seen. There are appalling stories where the police have identified a problem and discovered that they could not take any action by, for instance, threatening the family with some sort of criminal proceedings because the abuse and neglect that they see does not include the emotional abuse of things such as frozen awareness. Some noble Lords may know what I mean by that—for example, a child aged two sitting in a corner, not moving because of the way in which they have been treated. The police, who may come into a family, see and understand this but have to go away and tell the social workers, who may or may not take family proceedings in the magistrates’ court but are not obliged to do so. The

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police cannot warn the family that if they do not mend their ways they may become the subject of criminal proceedings.

The purpose of this updated legislation is not to put families in the criminal court but to try to push them, by a combination of threat and cajoling, into behaviour that will save the children who are in their care. My amendment, therefore, puts in modern wording such as,

“physically or emotionally ill-treats, physically or emotionally neglects”,

and removes altogether the words “unnecessary suffering”. I totally agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, that “unnecessary” should not be there, but “suffering” is not the word we use nowadays. In the Children Acts and other adoption and child-related legislation we talk about “serious harm”, “substantial harm” or some such phrase. One should get rid of “unnecessary suffering” and get this legislation to join the rest of legislation on children by using “serious harm”. As regards the criminal side of this matter, we then need to explain what “serious harm” means. Proposed new subsection (6) in my amendment sets that out.

It is with some hesitation that I do not entirely agree with the noble Baroness on proposed new subsection (6)(b). I have to say that having battled with the Minister in the other place over inserting “recklessly” instead of “wilfully”, and being told that there was a firm view against doing that, Action for Children, the NSPCC and I, together with some MPs from the Commons, believed that we should explain what “wilfully” means. That is why we have put in,

“that a person with responsibility for a child foresaw that an act or omission regarding that child would be likely to result in harm, but nonetheless unreasonably took that risk”.

That allows the word “wilful” to remain, since the Government seem to want it, but also explains it so that everyone—particularly the police, and indeed people who ill treat their children—understand exactly what it is about.

I very much hope that the Government will now listen to what is being said in this House, although they failed to do so in the other place. I very much urge that this should be looked at again.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab): My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 40BZC, which is in my name. I ,too, welcome this clause. My amendment, which is promoted by the Children’s Society, finds a different way to address the same issues we have already debated in this group. As the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said in her introduction, there are currently a number of inconsistencies in the law. My amendment finds a particular way to try to address them.

The amendment changes the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 to increase the age of a child victim of cruelty and/or neglect from under 16 to under 18. I argue that it is a simpler approach than some of the other amendments in the group. It would bring the criminal law into line with the rest of child protection legislation and would send a signal that 16 to 18 year- olds should be protected in the same way as children who are younger than 16.

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The latest statistics, with which I was supplied by the Children’s Society, show that, in 2013, 14,290 children aged over 16 were children in need because of either abuse or neglect. A further 1,110 children aged over 16 were recognised as children at risk of significant harm and placed on a child protection plan. Of those, some 290 children had emotional abuse listed as the main category of their abuse.

As some members of the Committee will know, I sit in family court, youth court and adult court as a magistrate. I can clearly say that the most disturbing of those three jurisdictions is family court. You deal with some extremely vulnerable people—and some extremely vulnerable young people. It would be no surprise to anyone who works in either the youth or family jurisdiction that 16 and 17 year-olds are among the most vulnerable groups we deal with. I believe that they should be given the same protections as those aged under 16.

The Lord Bishop of Durham: I rise to support the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, on behalf of myself and my colleague, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Truro, who chairs the Children’s Society. The Serious Crime Bill rightly seeks to update the law on neglect of children. We welcome the Bill and the Government’s commitment to seeking to improve the response to victims of emotional neglect. The current law is outdated and inadequate. We also support the amendment tabled by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss.

The UK is one of the only countries in the world that fails to recognise emotional neglect as the crime it is. It is to the Government’s credit that they seek to address that through the Bill. However, I believe that the Bill should go further and increase the age a child can be defined as a victim of cruelty and neglect from under 16 to under 18, which the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, seeks to do through his amendment. By changing the law in this way we can, for the first time, offer protection to all children from cruelty and neglect.

I, too, am grateful to the Children’s Society for its briefing, and I shall offer a story that it gives of Jessica. Jessica was known to social services because of the neglect and abuse she experienced in her family. When she was 16 the relationship between her and her family deteriorated and she was forced to move out of her family home. In the next year and a half she experienced unsuccessful placements in a hostel and bed and breakfast accommodation. Experiences of neglect at home made it difficult for her to form meaningful relationships. During that time, starting with her first unsuccessful placement in a hostel, Jessica became a victim of sexual exploitation, started using drugs and developed mental health problems. Stories such Jessica’s mean that we need to ensure that this measure applies to all children under 18.

This definition is the one enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is in the Children Act 1989, which governs what safeguarding responses children should receive if there are concerns about their well-being. The PACE codes of conduct for the police were amended last year so that all under-18s are treated as children. From a safeguarding

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point of view, children should be viewed as being under 18. Sixteen and 17 year-olds can be very vulnerable. The statistics mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, showed that. Yet they do not always get access to the services that younger children can receive. Professionals often see 16 and 17 year-old children as more resilient than younger children. They are often seen as more able to avoid abuse, or more grown-up and therefore more able to cope. It does not help that the criminal law aiming to deal with the perpetrators of child neglect does not cover 16 and 17 year-olds. This sends all the wrong signals that they are not as vulnerable as younger children.

The Government’s other reforms increasingly recognise that 16 and 17 year-olds are children. For example, they are not normally treated as adults under the benefits system. The position has recently been reinforced through the rules of the new universal credit system—a basic condition of entitlement for which is that the claimant is at least 18. That was debated in this House when the Welfare Reform Act 2012 went through Parliament. I would like to hear from the Minister why children aged 16 or over cannot be considered at risk of neglect and why the new law on emotional neglect should not apply to them.

Baroness Howarth of Breckland (CB): My Lords, I shall speak very briefly as I hope that the Minister will take these amendments away and come back with a combination. I support the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and her companions in their amendment, but I am absolutely with the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, in relation to the age of these children.

Some years ago the Social Research Unit at Dartington produced a compendium of all the research about emotional abuse in children. It showed that the development of children who had been emotionally abused was more severely impeded in the long term than the development of those who had been physically abused. This is different from sexual abuse, which is another thing. Children who had experienced physical abuse were more likely to be able to survive and grow through it than those who had been emotionally abused. Those children whose parents had never made a proper emotional contact with them were unlikely to make relationships later. So, in terms of mental health and the economics of the situation, looking after these children, and doing so until they are 18, makes really good sense.

Baroness Meacher (CB): My Lords, I rise to make two small points on Amendment 40BZB, so ably introduced by my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss. First, I congratulate the Government on clarifying in Clause 62 that psychological effects on children have equal importance to physical effects. As my noble friend has just said, it is also my professional and personal experience that psychological damage to children is often more serious than physical injury—although, of course, it depends on the severity of both. This is an important step forward, albeit not an entirely new one. I know that the legislation has always alluded to psychological or psychological-type abuse. I strongly

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support Amendment 40BZB and hope very much that the Government will be able to support it, or something very like it. It seems to me that the clarification is altogether helpful.

I welcome proposed subsection (6)(b), which defines the term “wilfully”, and have no worries about it. Further elaboration will no doubt come in regulations. I should be grateful if the Minister would assure the House that in those regulations the Government will clarify that a parent with a drug addiction will be regarded as not having the competence to foresee that an act or omission regarding a child would be likely to result in harm, but nonetheless as unreasonably taking that risk. Clearly, if a drug-dependent parent is causing physical or psychological harm to a child, the matter must be dealt with. Again, I hope that regulations will be put in place to ensure that resources for the treatment of the addiction will be put in place and that the parent will be expected to make good use of them in order to avoid continuing damage to a child.

3.45 pm

I think that the Minister knows that I do not believe in being soft on drugs, if a drug-dependent person is causing harm to others and above all to children. However, for the child, the best possible option is for the parent’s addiction to be brought under control through good-quality treatment and for the child to remain with their parent and for the parent or parents to avoid prosecution.

That brings me to my second point. As I have already said, full recognition of the importance of psychological injury to children through emotional abuse is most welcome. I want to underline that point; I do not question it for a moment. However, whatever the abuse, prosecution and lengthy court proceedings can be extremely damaging for entire families, including the children. Prosecution or care proceedings often take an enormous length of time and really must be seen as the last resort. I hope that clarity in the law about the existence of emotional abuse as a crime will ensure that resources are devoted to psychological treatments that will prevent such abuse or bring it to an end in order to minimise the use of the courts in this area as far as possible. I should be grateful if the Minister would give us some assurances on these points.

The Earl of Listowel (CB): My Lords, I support Amendment 40BZB in the name of my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss. I am sure that many of your Lordships are aware that very often there is a cycle of family dysfunction from one generation to the next. For instance, we know that many of the young women who come through the care system are more likely to have their children removed from them in due course.

One of the results of early neglect in childhood can be the development of a character which is very resistant to advice or intervention from others. Being rejected by one’s parents at an early age can give rise to a personality that is very wilful and resistant to others, understandably, because such people may distrust others around them. I can see this amendment being particularly helpful when one thinks of a parent who may be very

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wilful, who may believe absolutely, “I am not going to be told by anybody else what to do. I know how to bring up my own children”. That wilfulness may be influenced by their early experience. Dealing recently with a middle-aged man whose mother was an alcoholic and talking to the health professionals dealing with him, it was striking that no one could tell him what to do. He resisted all attempts to provide him with treatment and any advice from those around him, even the professionals.

The particular advantage of this amendment is that it may help individuals who are very resistant to taking advice from professionals. It may just be the extra incentive that will give them the chance to try something different with their children or to seek help for themselves when they are very distrustful of other people and professionals. I hope that is helpful.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote (CB): My Lords, I very much support my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss, because her amendment absolutely stresses this emotional side that we are talking about and which has been in the background for far too long.

However, I am only on my feet because I think that the point made by my noble friend Lady Howarth is absolutely right. All these measures, and particularly the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, need to be brought in to the Bill, which should be amended. For that reason, I very much hope that the Minister will do just that.

Lord Elystan-Morgan (CB): My Lords, at Second Reading a month ago, I committed the cardinal sin of making some very specific and detailed comments of a nature belonging more to a Committee stage than otherwise. I am not going to make up for it by making a Second Reading speech today, but I very much welcome the amendment in the name of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss.

I have little doubt that the draftsmen of Clause 1 of the 1933 Act intended that “cruelty” should relate to both physical and non-physical cruelty. However, in 1981 in the case of Sheppard, this House caused some confusion in relation to that matter by placing what might be described as a somewhat heavy gloss upon the words of statute. The combined effect of the amendment and Clause 62 is that the situation will be made abundantly clear. I very greatly welcome that.

I also take the point that in so far as defining cruelty in terms of serious harm, a very great bringing together of two concepts has been achieved; that is, the definition of “significant harm” in Section 31 of the Children Act 1989, which of course is the section that sets up the machinery for the obtaining of a care order, is now almost exactly the same—or so near as to make no difference whatever—as the definition of the criminal offence that this clause brings about.

I take wholeheartedly the point made by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, that the last thing one wants to do is to bring these civil situations into a criminal court. Sometimes that is inevitable. I also take the point that it is right that social workers and those involved in the protection of children in the civil field should, as it were, have the same hymn sheet

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as those who deal with those situations in the criminal field. They are two different fields, which should be mutually exclusive if humanly possible, but nevertheless it is right that the same standard should apply to both.

Baroness Walmsley: I wonder if the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, would be kind enough to address the House because I am having some difficulty in hearing what he is saying.

Lord Elystan-Morgan: Profound apologies. I was discerning perhaps a twinkle of support this side and one welcomes every little support one can get in this place. I apologise profusely to the noble Baroness.

In so far as “wilfully” is concerned, this is an extremely important development. Lawyers well appreciate that “wilful” can mean an act of deliberate commission or omission. On the other hand, intelligent lay men, be they magistrates, jurors or in any other capacity, might find it very difficult to consider that something which is pure omission can be wilful.

Then there arises the almost theological question of whether “recklessly” should be included. I think—but I might be corrected, and for this reason I shall turn to the authorities on the other side—that in so far as the statutory definition of wilful is set out here, it is in fact the classic definition adopted by this House in a case of recklessness called Caldwell in the 1980s. It was the case of a tramp, if I remember rightly, going into unoccupied premises and striking matches, who was found guilty of arson on the basis of recklessness. If am right about that, there is no dispute about the difference between recklessness and wilfulness in this connection.

I will make a general comment on Clause 62, which will not have to be repeated on clause stand part. Section 1 of the 1933 Act is 80 years old. I am one year older than the noble and learned Baroness, and therefore I was about a year old when this became law. The verbiage is much older than that. The verbiage comes from the Poor Law Amendment Act 1868, virtually all of it from Section 37.

That Act was passed in order to deal with the problem of the Peculiar People. The Peculiar People were very devout people who believed that, whenever there was illness in the family, you should not go anywhere near a doctor. You should pray to Almighty God, and accept the will of Almighty God. The consequence was that, when death occurred, and many of these people were prosecuted for manslaughter, a humane jury found them not guilty because of their utter devoutness, although, of course, it represented utter unreasonableness. It was to deal with that particular issue that Section 37 was passed.

This means that we have today still the remnant cobwebs of that Victorian verbiage. Victorian verbiage in a statute sometimes can serve us well. The Offences Against the Person Act 1861 is a classic example which will be with us for many generations, I have no doubt. However, there are cases in which one can look afresh at the whole situation and possibly create an instrument that is more consistent with the needs of the 21st century.

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Lord Rosser (Lab): My Lords, I shall be brief. The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, has rightly set out in some detail a strong case for Amendment 40BZB, with which we are associated. I will not attempt to repeat the points that have already been so effectively and powerfully made. The need to recognise in the Bill that harm can be caused by emotional ill treatment and emotional neglect as well as physical ill treatment and neglect is important, as is the substitution of “serious harm”, which is consistent with other areas of criminal law, for “unnecessary suffering”, including the inference that there can be necessary suffering.

The amendment also defines “harm” and “wilfully”, with the latter definition stating that the person has to have the capacity to foresee that an act or omission would be likely to result in harm but none the less unnecessarily took that risk.

We also support the amendment moved in the name of my noble friend Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede that it should be specific that the age of children to whom a child cruelty offence applies is “under 18”.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) (Con): My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend Lady Walmsley for moving her amendment, to the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss—we are delighted to see her in her place, taking part in our debate—and to the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, for outlining their respective amendments. They have all brought extensive knowledge to this debate. We have missed my noble friend Lady Hamwee, who cannot be in her place this afternoon. I am sure the whole House wishes her well.

The amendments all relate to the scope of the offence of child cruelty in Section 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933. Before I address the amendments, it may assist the Committee if I explain our approach in Clause 62. I am grateful for the general welcome which the clause has received. I am grateful, too, for the support of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser. Many of those welcoming the Bill spoke in support of the amendments. That I understand, and I will try to address their concerns.

The offence in Section 1 of the 1933 Act is committed when a person over the age of 16 who has responsibility for a child under that age wilfully assaults, ill treats, neglects, abandons or exposes that child in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health, including any mental derangement. That is the law as it stands. The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, has been among those who have argued for some time—as she has pointed out, in her discussions with my right honourable friend Damian Green in his ministerial capacity and with me— that the offence of child cruelty in the 1933 Act lacks the necessary clarity when it comes to tackling psychological suffering or injury to children.

4 pm

The Government’s view has been that the current offence already covers relevant behaviour which is likely to cause psychological suffering or injury. However, to ascertain whether there were any gaps in the law, officials at the Ministry of Justice engaged with the

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relevant experts in England and Wales at the end of last year. A ministerial round table on the issue was also held in October 2013.

Some of those who responded to the Ministry of Justice expressed concern that the offence of child cruelty might currently be restricted to physical harm. Others felt that some of the language in Section 1 was out of date—the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, explained why some of it indeed dated back to Victorian times.

The Government’s conclusion in light of the responses received was that while the current law in Section 1 of the 1933 Act is still effective in that it covers cruelty likely to cause non-physical, as well as physical, harm and the courts are able to interpret it appropriately, it could benefit from further clarity.

Clause 62 will provide this clarity by making it explicit that the child cruelty in Section 1 of the 1933 Act deals with both physical and psychological suffering or injury and update some of the rather archaic language by replacing outdated references to “mental derangement” and the concept of “misdemeanour”.

My noble friend Lady Hamwee in tabling her amendments, and the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, in speaking to them, sought an assurance that introducing into Section 1 an explicit reference to psychological harm will not mean that references to suffering or injury in other legislation will be read as not extending to psychological harm—in other words, that there is no extension of the concept that we are seeking to put right here to other legislation. I can assure my noble friend that Clause 62 is intended only to clarify the meaning of suffering or injury in the context of Section 1 of the 1933 Act. It reflects the Government’s view that the term already includes, by implication, suffering or injury of a psychological nature. It is not intended to change any other statute by implication.

We have before us a number of further proposed amendments to Section 1 of the 1933 Act. The question for the Committee is whether the amendments made to that section by Clause 62 go far enough in delivering the necessary clarity in the criminal law on child cruelty. The amendments in this group are designed to test that issue. I know that Action for Children, which has campaigned assiduously for the reform of Section 1, has argued for further changes. I am grateful to that organisation and to the noble Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, for recently meeting the then Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims, my right honourable friend Damian Green, to discuss this matter further.

There is some overlap between Amendments 40BZA, 40BZB and 40BZC, particularly as regards the requirement that one of the prohibited acts in Section 1 of the 1933 Act is committed “wilfully”. I shall deal with that aspect of the amendments first, because it is important to understand the full implications of “wilfully”. I understand the intention behind amendment 40BZA to replace the reference to “wilfully” with the word “recklessly”. Amendment 40BZB retains the reference to “wilfully”, but seeks to define it as meaning,

“that a person with responsibility for a child foresaw that an act or omission regarding that child would be likely to result in harm, but nonetheless unreasonably took that risk”.

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There is a well established body of case law that sets out the meaning of the term “wilful” in this context. Indeed, only last night an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, included the word “wilful”. It is a widely understood legal term. It clearly provides, among other things, that the term “wilful” already implies an intentional or reckless state of mind. We are concerned that inserting a definition of “wilfully” into Section 1 of the 1933 Act would risk creating uncertainty in respect of the significant number of other existing offences subject to the “wilful” mental state; for example, the offence of wilfully neglecting a person lacking mental capacity under Section 44 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, accepts that the meaning of “wilful” may well be established in case law, but argues that police officers, social workers and others do not really understand what the term means in the context of child cruelty. As I said, the term is accurately referred to in the Crown Prosecution Service and relevant police guidance. However, the Ministry of Justice is liaising with the Department for Education, the CPS and the police as to whether any updates or amendments to the relevant guidance would be necessary to ensure that the effect of Section 1 of the 1933 Act, as amended by this clause, is clearly understood and appropriately applied by front-line professionals. We feel that the concerns behind this aspect of these amendments would be best dealt with through guidance rather than in the Bill.

Amendment 40BZA, together with Amendment 40BZC, also seeks to amend the offence so that it applies to cruelty against a person under 18 rather than, as now, under 16. Young people aged 16 and 17 are lawfully able to be married and are generally deemed capable of living independently of their parents. Those under the age of 16 are generally more vulnerable and dependent upon those who care for them. For this reason, we believe that it is right that Section 1 of the1933 Act is focused on protecting persons under the age of 16.

I now turn to other aspects of Amendment 40BZB. The effect of proposed new subsection (4) would be to stipulate that two of the five “behaviours”, ill treatment and neglect, can be either physical or emotional in nature. I have made it clear that, in our view, non-physical ill treatment is already covered by the existing law. Should non-physical neglect also be so covered? The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, has explained her view that this would allow police and social services to intervene earlier in cases where they suspect emotional neglect of the child is occurring. However, in this context, the term “emotional” has no clear or settled meaning in law and is difficult to define. Some have already criticised the intention behind Clause 62—incorrectly, in our view—as being to criminalise relatively trivial emotional neglect, such as not buying a child the latest toy for which he or she is clamouring. I use that as an example of some of the criticism that the Government have come under in tabling Clause 62. Although “emotional neglect” would, if the amendment were accepted, have to lead to “serious harm” to constitute an offence—and the courts have long held that such suffering or injury must be more than trivial—accepting this part of the amendment

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might fuel such concerns. I would not want that to happen. That said, we will consider the proposal further before Report.

New subsection (5) would require the likely impact on the child constituting the offence to amount to “serious harm” or “injury to health” rather than “unnecessary suffering”. Harm is further defined by new subsection (6). Amendment 40BZA also addresses the issue, but it simply omits the word “unnecessary”. I am aware that some consider the reference to the term “unnecessary” as archaic and not relevant to modern times, although Amendment 40BZB defines harm broadly to include the impairment of,

“physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development”.

It seems to us that the overall impact of the amendment would be to raise the threshold of unnecessary suffering to serious harm. Although the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, has argued that it would be beneficial to raise the threshold in that way, because fewer parents would face trivial prosecutions, it seems to us that if serious harm were to be so interpreted by the courts, prosecutions could be harder to secure—and not just in trivial cases. There is a risk that the effectiveness of the offence would, in turn, be undermined. However, that the main purpose of the law is to protect children and we are not convinced of the need to amend that aspect of Section 1 does not mean that we will not consider those suggestions further.

I think that I have addressed the question of my noble friend Lady Walmsley. As for the question of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, about drugs and culpability, whether someone under the influence of drugs is capable of behaving recklessly is a difficult issue, which would depend on the circumstances of the case. It may not be appropriate to stipulate that in guidance, but I agree that where child cruelty arises as a result of drug dependency, support services need to be able to address that. I accept that; I think that that runs through the debates that the noble Baroness and I have on drug issues. It might be worth me writing yet again to her on that issue, because it is an interesting area of policy, and I will copy everyone else in on that.

The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, mentioned the difficulty of providing help to people who are vulnerable in that regard. He is right to do so. The Government very much understand that that is one difficulty that one has in the whole area of child neglect: the parents themselves have often suffered neglect in their childhoods. His point was well made. The noble Baroness, Lady Howe of Idlicote, the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, to whom I have already referred, the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth of Breckland, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham all spoke generally in support of what the Government seek to do but also felt that we ought to consider the contents of the amendments.

4.15 pm

I would like to talk about a particular aspect that perhaps goes back to the portrait of the past painted by the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan; going way beyond that auspicious year of 1933, back to the Victorian 1860s, with the proposal to remove subsection (2)(b) of section (1) of the 1933 Act. That subsection

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paints a tragic picture. It might be a scene from Hogarth’s famous print “Gin Lane”; someone going to bed drunk and unknowingly suffocating a child who shared that bed. The subsection makes it clear that if a child under the age of three dies in those tragic circumstances the offence of child cruelty has been committed. The subsection may seem anachronistic and redundant, but sadly children can still die in those sorts of circumstances today. This clarification might be useful to police and prosecutors. Indeed, to remove it might cast doubt on whether the child cruelty offence is still applicable in that situation. However, the Government will think again about whether the subsection needs to remain on the statute book.

I hope I have shown by the tone in which I have addressed the amendments that the Government take seriously the points raised by noble Lords. I have indicated that we will be considering some matters further. I cannot commit to bringing forward any government amendments to Clause 62 on Report, but equally I am not ruling out that possibility. In the knowledge that over the summer—we have the advantage of long gap in which we can consider these matters before Report—we will reflect very carefully on all the points have been made in this debate, I hope that my noble friend will be content to withdraw her Amendment 40BZA and will support, as indeed I am sure she will, Clause 62 standing part of the Bill.

The Earl of Listowel: I have a few words of praise for the Government. I thank the Minister for his response and for recognising the importance of what my noble friend Lady Meacher said about the need to intervene early to support families to get off alcohol and drugs. When it comes to the family courts, the Government have substantially supported the family drug and alcohol courts, which originated from district judge Nicholas Crichton in the Inner London Family Proceedings Court and ensure that such families have judicial continuity over a 12 year period and that there are good interventions to get the parents off drugs and alcohol so that they can keep their children and not have their children taken into care. It is very much to the Government’s credit that they funded and evaluated this work and now the president of the family court is looking to roll it out across the country. Many families will benefit because of the good work of the Government and this will avoid unnecessary cruelty to their children.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, we have had a very good debate. Quite clearly there is a great deal of consensus across the House. I echo what the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, said. I hope that we can have further discussions about this between now and Report and that we come to some consensus as to what may or may not need clarifying. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham for agreeing with me that we need to level up the age at which we consider children to be vulnerable. They may be able to get married legally, but that does not mean that they are not vulnerable. There is also considerable consensus that the word “wilfully” needs clarifying and there have been various suggestions about how that should

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be done. The Government believe that we need Clause 62 even though the law already allows child abuse to be interpreted as psychological. In the same sort of way, although there may already be agreed definitions of “wilfully”, there may still be a need to clarify that in one way or another, based on the various amendments that we have had. I am sure we can come to some agreement about how that might be done. There has also been consensus about the need to remove the word “unnecessary” or perhaps the whole term “unnecessary suffering” and to change it in some other way.

I hope that the Minister will be able to accept that we need further discussions about this between now and Report. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 40BZA withdrawn.

Amendments 40BZB and 40BZC not moved.

Clause 62 agreed.

Amendment 40BZD

Moved by Baroness Brinton

40BZD: After Clause 62, insert the following new Clause—

“Child cruelty: duty on police officers to liaise

(1) Where an officer is investigating a potential offence under section 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 (cruelty to persons under 16), as amended by section 62 of this Act, he or she must notify the Safeguarding Children and Adults Board of the relevant local authority.

(2) A notification must include details of the child or children who are considered to be the victims of the offence.

(3) The Secretary of State may produce further guidance on the form a notification under this section may take.”

Baroness Brinton (LD): My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment 40BZE, which follows on from it. These amendments support much of the debate we had on the previous group but move us into the practical arena rather than the one of legislative definitions. In the past year, the NSPCC helpline dealt with 8,000 contacts about emotional neglect and abuse, and 5,500 cases were so serious that they were referred to local authorities for further action. This was a substantial increase on previous years. I am glad that the Minister recognised that clarity is required on this difficult issue of defining emotional, social, psychological or behavioural neglect.

Alongside these statistics, new evidence shows that child protection professionals do not have a clear sense of the law in relation to neglect and that the law is sometimes not being applied consistently. My concern in these amendments is to ensure that there are mechanisms in place for the moment a potential offence of child cruelty has been reported, whether to police or local authorities. In essence, there must be a case conference with all the relevant stakeholders from all the different departments and, crucially, the child concerned should have access to child and adolescent mental health services. The reason for this is that two years ago the NSPCC carried out an online survey which showed that only 7% of social work professionals

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believed that timely action was taken in response to neglect and only 4% thought that it was likely or very likely that timely action would be taken to respond to emotional abuse. That 4% is a shocking statistic and exactly why we are having this debate about being more specific in the legislation on this. That contrasts with 75% of respondents to the survey who said that they were very confident that timely action would be taken in response to physical and sexual abuse.

That is the point of these amendments, which may or may not be appropriate in this legislation, as I mentioned in my Second Reading speech. I would be very grateful to hear from the Minister that there is some cross-departmental discussion about how we ensure that this is framed in guidance to social workers, health professionals—whether doctors, school nurses or district nurses—and anybody else involved in a child’s life, such as at sports clubs and certainly including teachers in schools. We need to make sure that the victims of this are as well covered as the offence and the offender.

That brings me to my final point. This will be effective only if professionals in this area have adequate training to recognise and understand the very particular problems of emotional and psychological abuse. I am reminded of a debate we had during the passage of the Children and Families Bill when my noble friend Lady Walmsley and I tabled some amendments about exorcism and the emotional trauma that some children face, particularly when exorcism is carried out with them present. The noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, said at the time that we did not need a specific law on this, and she was absolutely right because there is some legislation within the current framework—the problem was that it was not being carried out by the professionals. That is why these amendments have been proposed. I will not repeat the points that were made in the previous group, but this supports all those made by noble friends and other colleagues. I beg to move.

Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, I briefly want to support—and not support—the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton. I support her obvious wish that proper liaison between authorities should take place in terms of safeguarding. All of the codes and practices are already there, but what is not there is the available time. It is not that social workers are not trained, although they could do with more training—certainly around the issues of satanic and witchcraft abuse, although that concerns a tiny proportion of the cases. However, on the matter of broader emotional abuse, social workers are pretty keyed in to what is needed. The problem is that they know that they do not have the time to go in and do the work that is necessary to help families, and they have no wish in these circumstances to end up removing families through the courts.

The real answer—and I speak as a vice-president of the Local Government Association—is to look at how local authorities are using their resources and whether enough of those resources are going towards safeguarding children and their general protection and prevention from abuse. We need to look at whether we are asking the professions—social workers in particular, but also the police—to carry out a totally impossible task. If you are working day to day intervening in cases, you

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have very little time left to liaise with your colleagues. As a professional who has undertaken this work over many years, I know just how much time it takes to ring round, organise conferences, ensure that the appropriate information is available to everyone and pull all of that together.

So the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, is absolutely right. We need to make sure that the safeguarding co-ordination works well. We need to make sure that the local authority designated officers, to whom these situations have to be reported, have enough time to think through what the action should be, and are able to take it.

The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I welcome this amendment. I would just like to highlight to your Lordships concerns about the availability of child and adolescent mental health services. In recent information, the mental health charity for young people Young Minds has drawn attention to the fact that,

“34 out of 51 … local authorities in England have reduced their CAMHS budget since 2010. Derby City Council reported a cut in its spending by 41% since 2010. … Overall, local authorities in London have cut their CAMHS budgets by 5% since 2010. 8 out of 12 councils … have reduced their CAMHS budgets”.

So there is a real concern that, although the principle is absolutely right here, the CAMHS services, which are so vital, have unfortunately often been cut. I was very pleased to meet, with members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children, the honourable Mr Lamb MP, who is the Minister responsible for this area. It was very encouraging that he was aware that a lot of work needed to be done in this particular area. In addition, the Select Committee on Education in the other place is producing a report on child and adolescent mental health services, which I am sure many of us will look forward to—I believe it will be produced in October.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con): My Lords, I am sorry that other commitments prevented me from speaking at Second Reading on this important Bill, but I have followed its passage closely and I am very grateful to my noble friend the Minister for the briefings that he has given, which I have attended. I want to make one point on the new duty proposed by my noble friend Lady Brinton, and the same point applies—so I shall not repeat the point a second time—to the detailed proposal for mandatory reporting, which may be made by my noble friend Lady Walmsley. I am reassured that my noble friend Lady Brinton was suggesting that, to some extent, her amendment had an exploratory nature.

The point that I wanted to make is an appeal for balance and care on the new regulatory requirements that we put in this Bill. Obviously, I share the horror at recent cases of abuse and concern about inadequate enforcement in the past, which has led to many of the problems that have come to haunt us. However, I fear the imposition of bureaucratic new duties and associated offences on liaison or reporting—that outcome can often be achieved by a good service and by common sense. This Bill brings in a number of new measures, which are good, but we should not be labouring it with

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extra measures, which could have the perverse effect of preventing a focus on the vital areas needed. We need to ensure that the offences in the Bill are properly enforced in a focused way by those concerned. I would have a concern if we sought to write these amendments into the Bill. We should ask ourselves, as the Minister hinted that he would during his summer of reflection, exactly what is needed and what would be best, given the inevitably limited resources that you have in these very important areas.

4.30 pm

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Brinton for bringing this important matter before the Committee. We all recognise that every child should be protected from sexual and other forms of abuse and neglect, and this Government are absolutely committed to doing everything that we can to ensure that they have the full protection they deserve. In recent years—I scarcely need to say this to noble Lords—we have seen appalling cases of organised and persistent child sex abuse. This includes abuse by celebrities as well as the systematic abuse of vulnerable girls in Rochdale, Oxford and other towns and cities. Some of these cases have exposed failures by public bodies to take their duty of care seriously, and some have shown that the organisations responsible for protecting children from abuse, including the police, social services and schools, have failed to work together properly.

That is why, in April 2013, the coalition Government established the national group on sexual violence against children and vulnerable people, which is led by the Minister for Crime Prevention, my honourable friend Norman Baker. This cross-government group was established to learn the lessons from some of the cases that I have mentioned and the resulting reviews and inquiries. As a result of its work, we now have better guidance for the police and prosecutors and better identification of children at risk of exploitation through the use of local multiagency safeguarding hubs.

I assure my noble friend Lady Brinton and other Members of the Committee that we are aware that there is more to be done. Significantly, as I informed the House on Monday last week, the Government are establishing an independent inquiry panel of experts in the law and child protection to consider whether public bodies and other non-state institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse. It will begin its work as soon as possible after the appointment of all the members of the panel. I hope to be able to report back to the House with details of those members and the terms of reference for the inquiry panel very soon.

Meanwhile, the work of the national group continues apace. As part of this work, the group has considered the issue of mandatory reporting and whether there is a need for some form of more targeted statutory reporting regime to deliver better protection for children and vulnerable adults. However, the picture here is, by definition, a very complex one. Some evidence suggests that, in the USA, Australia and Canada, mandatory reporting legislation has been accompanied by significant increases in the number of referrals of suspected child

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abuse and neglect made to the authorities, a large percentage of which in the end were not substantiated. As the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth of Breckland, pointed out, there is a risk that child protection services can be diverted from the task of increasing the safety of our most vulnerable children to evidence gathering and investigation of cases that are eventually unsubstantiated and which often lead to significant disruption of family life. Those words from the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, are important to bear in mind.

Having said that, there is an emerging consensus that action must be taken to address the clear failures in public protection in the past. Indeed, noble Lords may have seen remarks just last week by Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC—an organisation which has the protection of children at its heart—which supported the introduction of a criminal offence making covering up and hiding child abuse within institutions illegal. Those and other views are an important contribution to the debate, and I would like to assure the Committee that this issue is being actively and carefully considered. The primary concern from all involved is the uncertainty about the number of reports that would result and, if there were large numbers, how those reports would be triaged to ensure that the most serious cases were identified. It is hugely important that, if we are to propose changes of this kind, we make absolutely sure that we get it right.

It is against this background that I now turn to the detail of Amendments 40BZD and 40BZE. Those would place a requirement on police, when investigating a child cruelty offence under Section 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, to inform the local safeguarding children and adults board of the investigation. Subsequently, the local authority would be placed under a duty to liaise with relevant officials, such as those at the child’s school, social services or the police. My noble friend seems to be addressing concerns that relevant children’s services are not sufficiently joined up in their response to child safeguarding. That concern has of course been borne out by several recent serious case reviews. I concur absolutely with the intention behind these amendments. As I have indicated, the Government are already committed to considering these issues. However, as I have also said, there is no easy solution. While we accept that this is a pressing issue, such consideration will necessarily take some time. In advocating a change in the law, Peter Wanless has acknowledged the need for further discussions as to the form of any new reporting duty and to whom it should apply.

It is right that the Government take the time to consider this important issue fully, in the light of all the evidence and having considered the views of the many experts and stakeholders, who rightly hold strong views. My noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe and the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth of Breckland, pointed out that there are other factors that have to be borne in mind. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, pointed out that the issue is far from simple and there are also funding questions to be considered. I say to noble Lords that their views will be very welcome in this context. I know that a number of Members of this House have already been involved in this important

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debate. I encourage others to be involved in providing us with views and information on which we can base a decision that achieves the objective of safeguarding children.

The Government recognise concerns about our current safeguarding system and understand the public’s anxiety about the reporting of child abuse. They are taking this issue very seriously and want to make sure that any action they take achieves the desired outcome of improving safeguarding for all our children and vulnerable adults. Given the complexities involved, it is right that we look carefully at this matter. The new independent inquiry panel is also relevant here. For these reasons, I cannot offer my noble friend an assurance that the Government will legislate in line with her specific proposals. I can, however, give an assurance that the Government take this issue very seriously and, should there be a need for further legislative change and action, we will bring forward measures to deliver this as soon as possible.

My noble friend highlighted the need for all involved in child protection to work together more effectively. I cannot agree more. All the evidence suggests that the best protection and results happen when agencies work together and when not just a single agency considers the protective needs of the child. That is why the Government have undertaken significant work to improve our understanding of the different multiagency models in place to support information sharing around safeguarding responses for vulnerable people.

I hope that my noble friend will be reassured by this. There is already guidance requiring social workers to convene a strategy discussion—the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, will know all about this—with all relevant professionals who are known to the child and the family if they suspect a child may be suffering significant harm. Our guidance is also clear that support should be given to a child as soon as need is identified. Early help services can be delivered by teachers, youth workers and health workers to support children. It is important to bear in mind that that work can be invaluable in dealing with these matters promptly. In the light of what I have said about what the Government are doing and the invitation to noble Lords to be involved in that process, I ask my noble friend to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Brinton: My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. I absolutely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, that time pressure, particularly on social workers, is a key and fundamental problem. It is one of those adages that Governments always produce legislation for statutory work but often, certainly in the current climate, do not fund the support required to deliver that effectively. I am sure that training is vital. However, I am mindful of the NSPCC survey of social work professionals. If only 7% believe that timely action is being taken in cases of emotional abuse, partly because of training and partly because of identification, there is an issue. Guidance may well be available, but there are still concerns.

I am very grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, for raising the issue of child and adolescent mental health services. I hope that it may be possible for the Minister and those of us who are interested in this

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issue to meet Norman Lamb to talk about the pressure on child and adolescent mental health services, particularly for this group of children who may not automatically be referred to those services. We are told that in some areas there is an 18-month waiting list for a child to be referred. For a child who is being emotionally abused, that is far too long.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I will do my utmost to try to arrange for noble Lords who have spoken—and, indeed, others who may be interested in this subject—to meet Norman Lamb and, indeed, Norman Baker, who, as noble Lords know, also has responsibilities in this area.

Baroness Brinton: I am very grateful to my noble friend the Minister for saying that.

I thank my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe for her contribution, with which I agreed. I was a county councillor for some years and I have concerns about the Minister’s comment regarding the priorities of triage when big issues are involved. In Cambridgeshire, we had a case where a family had two adopted children and anyone would have thought they were absolutely the apple of their parents’ eye. They were doted on completely. If they had been triaged, people would have said there was no reason at all to look any further. Yet these children were being quite severely emotionally abused. They had to be removed from their family and placed with foster parents. The foster parents’ reports about their next year with the children, as they unscrambled what had gone on, shows we have to understand that sometimes triage, which can be obvious in an accident and emergency sense, may be much more complex when looking at issues of emotional needs.

Regardless of that, I am grateful to the Minister and look forward to hearing more about the report back on the members of the inquiry panel and its remit. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 40BZD withdrawn.

Amendment 40BZE not moved.

4.45 pm

Amendment 40BZEA (in substitution for Amendment 40C)

Moved by Baroness Walmsley

40BZEA: After Clause 62, insert the following new Clause—

“Mandatory reporting of abuse in relation to regulated activities

(1) Subject to subsection (4), providers of regulated activities involving children or vulnerable adults, and persons whose services are used by such providers being persons who stand in a position of personal trust towards such children or vulnerable adults, who have reasonable grounds for knowing or suspecting the commission of the abuse of children or vulnerable adults in their care whether such commission of abuse shall have taken place or be alleged to have or be suspected of having taken place in the setting of the regulated activity or elsewhere, have a duty to inform the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) or children’s services or such other single point of contact with the local authority as such authority may designate for the purpose of reporting it or any such matter, allegation or suspicion as soon as is practicable after it comes to their knowledge or attention.

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(2) Failure to fulfil the duty set out in subsection (1) before the expiry of the period of 10 days of the matter or allegation or suspicion first coming to the knowledge or attention of the provider or of any person whose services are used by the provider as defined in subsection (1) is an offence.

(3) It shall be a defence to show that the LADO or children’s services or that such other single point of contact with the local authority as such authority may designate for the purpose of reporting was or were informed by any other party during the 10 days referred to in subsection (2) or had been so informed before then.

(4) A Secretary of State having responsibility for the welfare, safety and protection of children and of vulnerable adults may in exceptional cases by a letter or other instrument under his hand rescind or temporarily suspend the duty referred to in subsection (1) in the case of any specified child or children or of any specified vulnerable adult or adults concerning whom it appears to him that the welfare, safety or the protection of such child or children or of such vulnerable adult or adults would be prejudiced or compromised by the fulfilment of the duty referred to in subsection (1) and may where it appears to him that the welfare, safety and protection of children is furthered thereby exempt any specified entity or organisation and the members thereof that works with children generally in furtherance of their welfare and safety and protection or any specified medical officer from compliance with the duty referred to in subsection (1) provided always that no allegation is made against such entity or organisation or member thereof or against such medical officer.

(5) It shall be a defence for any person to show that a Secretary of State having responsibility for the welfare, safety and protection of children and of vulnerable adults has issued a letter or other instrument under his hand rescinding or temporarily suspending the duty referred to in subsection (1) in the case of any specified child or children or of any specified vulnerable adult or adults and it shall be a defence for any person employed by or operating as an entity or organisation that works with children or for any medical officer to show that a Secretary of State having responsibility for the welfare, safety and protection of children and of vulnerable adults has by such letter or instrument under his hand whether temporarily or permanently exempted it and its members or any medical officer from compliance with the duty referred to in subsection (1).

(6) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable—

(a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to a fine, or both;

(b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to a fine, or both.

(7) In this section “regulated activity” has the same meaning as in Schedule 4 to the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006.”

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, this amendment is exactly the same as Amendment 40C; it has just been put in a different position. I am most grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham for adding his name to it. Abuse of the most vulnerable people in our society is wicked and a great deal more widespread than most of us think. There are those who use power, strength and blackmail to subject those who cannot fight back to the most horrible abuse. It is done behind closed doors and certainly that is where a lot of it stays. However, there is hope because there are signs, if only we would look for them. We need not only to see them but to act upon them as well. We need to give the abused people opportunities to confide in a trusted adult, in the secure knowledge that that person will do something to make it stop. That is why we need a new duty to report abuse.

Of course, I know that legislation is not a silver bullet, but it can help and it has done so in other countries. In addition, I agree with those who say that

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we need more training, awareness raising and the protection of the law for those who expose the horror. Amendment 40BZEA covers not just children but vulnerable adults as well, although for simplicity my remarks will mainly refer to children. However, the vast majority of what I say also applies to elderly and disabled people, and those with serious mental disabilities too—all groups that have suffered far too much abuse in recent years by unscrupulous people.

We heard on the BBC only this morning about cases of abuse of people with mental disabilities where nobody said a word. My intention is not to criminalise people—though there must be penalties if this measure is to be effective—but to empower those who know that something is wrong and to protect them as well as the children. The current system is not working. The recent report about Jimmy Savile’s activities made that very clear. There needs to be an increase in the detection rate of child abuse in the UK, which is estimated to be only 5% of the actual amount, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s report in 2010, How Fair is Britain?

I shall explain what my amendment does. Proposed new subsection (1) puts a duty on individuals standing in a position of personal trust towards children or vulnerable adults and who work in “regulated activity”, as defined in Schedule 4 of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006. The duty is to report abuse that is known about and where they have reasonable grounds for knowing or suspecting abuse. If the abuse is adult on child, or on a vulnerable adult, it should be reported to the local authority designated officer. If it is child on child—and there is a great deal of that—they should report it to the local children’s services. If the local authority has chosen to have a single point of contact, the report should be to there.

Proposed new subsections (2) and (3) say that the report must be made within 10 days of the knowledge or suspicion, unless the abuse has already been reported by someone else.

Proposed new subsection (4) allows the Secretary of State to exempt certain groups from this duty, in the interests of ensuring that children and vulnerable adults can feel comfortable disclosing the abuse—for example, to their doctor or a confidential helpline such as ChildLine. There will be a term of imprisonment or a fine for failure in this duty.

Proposed new subsection (7) refers to Schedule 4 to the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 for the list of institutions that are covered by the amendment. It includes all forms of teaching or training of children, care or supervision, treatment and therapy et cetera—and a similar group in relation to vulnerable adults. In other words, it relates mainly to the people who would normally need a CRB check in order to do their job; it does not include family members.

This is a measure whose time has come and I encourage the Government to grasp the moment. In a recent independent survey, 96% of the public thought that we already had such a law. Although the public would strongly support it, we do not have one at the moment. We have a whole range of regulations, professional duties et cetera—none of which have been effective in situations in which adults were worried about being the whistleblower, about reputational damage

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to their institution, or that they may have got the wrong end of the stick. This measure would protect and empower those people, and protect children.

It is not for teachers, nurses and care workers to decide whether there is a case to go to the police. It is not their job. It is the job of the experienced officer within the local authority—as opposed to triage, which the Minister has just mentioned—to investigate and then report to the police when they believe that there may be a case to answer, or to take some other action.

There are other parts of the world where there is a duty in law to report, such as Australia, every state of which has some version of this duty and some sort of penalty. It has been very effective in exposing that which was previously hidden. It has been shown that there is a high rate of substantiation of the allegations, contrary to what the Minister has just said. In the case of reports by teachers, 70% led to police action prior to the new law; and the percentage after the new law came in was 69%, which was very close. The percentage would have been higher if it had included situations in which the children needed help but the police were not involved. Only 2% of reports were found to be malicious. These figures came from Professor Ben Matthews, a highly regarded researcher on these issues; and I am happy to supply them to the Minister. I heard Ben Matthews say on the BBC a few months ago, around the time of the famous “Panorama” programme:

“Mandated reporting in some form is an essential part of an effective child protection system”.

Someone I know used to work as a child safeguarding officer in Australia and was familiar with the effective working of the measure. She also told me that that Australia has a programme in schools called, “No, Go, Tell”. It is pretty obvious what that means. When she came to work in this country, she was amazed that we do not have something similar here. That makes the case for good-quality PSHE in all schools in which children are taught what not to tolerate in terms of invasion of their personal space, and what to do to keep themselves safe.

What have others said about my proposal? Last week, as we heard, the NSPCC made a major and welcome shift in its policy on this matter, but it does not go far enough. It has proposed what I have called “safeguarding lite”. The idea is to have a duty on closed institutions such as boarding schools and children’s homes not to cover up known child abuse. By the way, it is not clear who within those institutions would have that duty. There are several things wrong with that. First, it ignores the majority of children. There are 8 million children in education in this country, and less than 1 million of them are in boarding schools and children’s homes.

Secondly, by covering only “known” child abuse, the onus is put on the head teacher or care home manager to decide whether abuse is known or not. That is not their job; it is the job of local authority designated officer, who has the training and experience to know whether to report to the police or take some other action. That is what those officers have been trained to do. Thirdly, the policy is confused. Think about this: a head teacher in a boarding school has a duty to report a case, but the following term, if he

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takes over a maintained primary school, his duty is only under some regulation, with no legal penalty for ignoring it.

Think about a girl who would have this protection in a boarding school, but if she goes to a church youth club in the holidays she has no protection. Think of a boy who has protection in a care home, but has none when he goes to the local sports club. This matter is the responsibility of all of us, but in particular it should be the duty of all those who work with children in a position of trust. It should go with the job, along with the duty to get a CRB check.

The Local Government Association has briefed us all and asked us to look at how the duty would operate in reality. I know there are those who are concerned that the system would be swamped with cases if my amendment became law. I say two things in answer to that. First, if that is the case it means that there is an enormous amount of child abuse out there going undetected and untreated. That causes mental health and relationship problems throughout the lives of those abused, and allows perpetrators to get away with it and abuse other children. It also costs the public purse a lot of money in the long term.

Secondly, the experience in Australia was that, yes, the number of concerns reported increased, but they were investigated and considered by the right people. There was a very high level of substantiation and only a tiny amount of malicious reporting, which I believe is a fair price to pay. Anyway, such cases are looked into by experienced people who recognise malice when they see it.

I expect that noble Lords will recall the case of baby Peter and the fact that there was an increase in the number of children taken into care after it became public. That has settled down to some extent now, but it means not that too many children are taken into care now, but that too few were before, possibly because of resources. We must ensure that the system has sufficient resources and is robust enough to weed out cases that do not warrant action. In any case, the vast majority of child abuse would not entail the child being taken into care if she was not already.

The Local Government Association talks about us all having a moral responsibility to report abuse. Of course we do, but we have had that for years and it has not worked. What we need is not the confused and complicated system proposed by the NSPCC, but a very simple amendment to the law. The people on whom the duty in my amendment would fall are already defined in law: there is already a definition of,

“reasonable grounds for knowing or suspecting”.

We need training in recognising the early signs of abuse and neglect for all those who work with children and vulnerable adults, and we need guidance on how to report it. We need everyone to make it their business to protect children and vulnerable adults as a public duty, but we need to strengthen the law to help those who know something to have the courage to do something. I beg to move.

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I support the amendment. I begin by pointing out that, had I been in this House two years ago, I would not have

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supported it. It is my experience of listening to and hearing stories, not just from within the church sector but from many sectors, that has led me to be convinced that this is a move we need to make.

Currently, under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, a form of mandatory reporting already exists; that is to say, a duty to refer arises in certain situations connected with regulated activity. Admittedly, that is just for vetting purposes, but what the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, effectively proposes is an extension to this. It will mean that those who work with children or vulnerable adults in regulated activity and have reasonable grounds for suspecting or knowing that abuse of these vulnerable groups has taken place are under a duty to report this to the local authority. I wholeheartedly support this principle, and I welcome the suggested amendment. Indeed, every person who works with children or vulnerable adults, which includes teachers, doctors, nurses, youth workers and volunteers, has a responsibility for keeping them safe. No one individual could possibly have a complete picture of a vulnerable person’s situation. All professionals who come into contact with those vulnerable groups have,

“a role to play in identifying concerns, sharing information and taking prompt action together”.

That is from Working Together to Safeguard Children.

5 pm

At present, those professionals who fail to report may face disciplinary procedures or be held to account in a serious case review. Yet, far too often in the past, abusers have been allowed to get away with their crimes because those in authority have failed to report. As the recent NHS inquiry in relation to Jimmy Savile at Leeds General Infirmary stated, a number of organisational failures had allowed someone,

“as manipulative as Savile to thrive and continue his abusive behaviour unchecked for years”.

The serious case review in relation to Vanessa George at Little Ted’s Nursery in Plymouth noted that, while the offender exhibited high levels of sexual behaviour and often engaged staff in inappropriate discussions of sexual activity, no concerns were raised with the manager and no action was taken. This failure contributed to providing,

“an ideal environment within which George could abuse”.

Similarly, there is the case of the teacher Nigel Leat. Leat was jailed indefinitely in 2011 after admitting 36 sexual offences. He had been allowed to get away with his crimes because, despite numerous reports to the head teacher from staff and parents raising concerns over a 14-year period, the head teacher had not kept accurate safeguarding records, had failed to report concerns and ultimately did not meet his responsibilities to safeguard children in his care.

More recently, the serious case review into the tragic death of Daniel Pelka at the hands of his mother and her partner stated:

“Unlike the UK, some countries have a process for mandatory reporting of child care concerns to government departments, which raises the question that if it existed here, whether injuries seen upon Daniel would have been independently reported by individuals to the authorities”,

and thereby resulting in further more effective interventions to protect Daniel. That was published last September.

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There are too many other cases. Too often, confusion over the threshold for reporting and concerns about confidentiality have prevented those who have suspicions or concerns that an individual is being abused reporting those concerns to the appropriate authorities.

Many countries already have some form of mandatory reporting. Indeed, in Northern Ireland it is an offence not to report an arrestable crime to the police which, of course, includes crimes against children or vulnerable adults. There has already been mention of Australia, the United States and the vast majority of jurisdictions in Canada. Of course, in introducing this we would need to look at which of those systems works most effectively, because they operate differently. Mandatory reporting acknowledges the seriousness and often the hidden nature of abuse, and can enable the early detection of cases which may not otherwise come to the attention of the authorities. It reinforces the moral responsibility of individuals to report suspected and known abuse, concerns and/or allegations. Such laws help to create a culture which puts the most vulnerable first, where their welfare is paramount and serves to illustrate that abuse will not be tolerated in any circumstances.

Of course, I acknowledge that the introduction of mandatory reporting will not provide a complete solution but it will serve to increase professionals’ and the community’s awareness of abuse and, as stated, put the needs of the vulnerable first. This can, of course, mean that there is a substantial increase in the number of reports being made to the authorities—probably particularly in the first instance. That is why it is essential that such authorities are resourced properly and that adequate funding is provided so that support services can respond and intervene where needed, and to such an extent that preventive work is not restricted. In addition, it is essential that professionals, who are subject to such a duty, are properly trained so that they are aware of which cases should and should not be reported.

Last week, the Prime Minister asked in the other place,

“should we change the law so that there is a requirement to report and make it a criminal offence not to report? … I think it may well be time to take that sort of first step forward”.—[

Official Report

, Commons, 9/7/14; cols. 282-83.]

We have already had reference to the NSPCC and I agree with the critique of the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, though welcoming Peter Wanless and the NSPCC’s move.

I therefore support the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, in tabling this amendment and urge the Government to do likewise. We cannot continue to fail the most vulnerable in our society. If our country is to grow and thrive, we must act now and ensure that we establish a culture that will not tolerate abuse. Mandatory reporting of such crimes will assist us in that task. Hearing far too many stories of unreported behaviour has led me seriously to change my mind in the past two years and is why I support this amendment.

Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, I feel some trepidation in challenging some of the issues about mandatory reporting, although I think that we need to find a different language. I do not think there

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is any difference between me and the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and the right reverend Prelate in what we want to find at the end of the day. However, I want to caution them and the Government to ensure that they look at this in great depth—I know that they are doing so in other places—and that there are no unintended consequences from the action that is taken.

I do not have a prepared speech, but I would like to make three points. Of course, it is wrong for anyone in a position of authority or in a church or neighbourhood community to turn a blind eye to known abuse. If abuse is clearly there, then that must be reported. If we have to have a law that says that there are circumstances in which people abused their position and did not come forward, the Government should look at that.

In the work that I am doing, the helpline for the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, in the Stop it Now! programme, has hundreds of people telephoning who are not sure about what they are seeing. I have talked to social workers who have great professional expertise about their not being certain what they are seeing. It is quite clear that we need to continue the professional development of staff in local authorities who work with the police, and also the community programmes which I have mentioned earlier, where children’s services, parents and schools have all been involved in the local community in developing understanding of these issues and therefore are clearer about what action they may or may not take.

I do not have a speech because I spent the morning chairing a conference that included people from Australia and the chair of an international protection of children organisation, looking at eradicating child sexual abuse. There were a lot of experts there. The message that they asked me to bring was that we should not simply bring in this sort of reporting without looking carefully at it. The statistics across the world vary according to whom you listen. I ask the Minister to talk to some of the people I know as well as to those whom the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, knows, because they have different views. Presumably, the Government have it within their powers to get the information pretty clearly from Governments in other parts of the world. I am not making any judgment about the outcome, except to say that people tell me that it has really interfered with good preventive work, because resources have been diverted into investigating hundreds of cases that turned out not to be prosecutable.

I understand why there is a wish, particularly in the church, to get this sort of prosecution. I say to the right reverend Prelate that I have probably talked to more victims than most in my 50 years, many of them children; I know the victims’ groups and I know the pain that they have experienced. But it is crucial that we base whatever we do in the future on what is happening now, and that we prevent children being abused in the present, and learn from those people in the future. They have a lot to offer but sometimes it can be clouded by pain, which I understand.

What we want to do, particularly in churches and similar organisations, is to develop a culture of openness. We know of a recent investigation into a particular area in the Church of England, where misogyny was rife and women’s views—never mind children’s—were not tolerated. I am a member of the Church of England

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so I say this in all good heart but that is one institution that really has to look at it itself—as I know it is doing because the right reverend Prelate is the chair of the committee looking at the issues within the church. There are other organisations that need to look at their culture because we are not going to change these issues by the law, although I think in some areas it will help. We need to get a cultural change in organisations and our nation.

The NSPCC has got itself in a bit of a twist, I think. Talking to some of the staff today, there is a very mixed view because they had always been against mandatory reporting—I think that is a very funny term. They run two helplines. They know the implications of blanket mandatory reporting. I have to say that I did not understand proposed new subsections (4) and (5) of the amendment. It just shows how complex this issue is because we are talking about people going for exemptions. I tend to think that you need an opt-in rather than opt-out situation here, and we need to be precise about those people who might come to be prosecuted if reporting is mandatory rather than having to exempt those people who are trying to be helpful.

I am usually briefer than this but your Lordships can see that I feel as passionately as most—

Baroness Walmsley: Perhaps I might provide some clarification. When giving the Secretary of State the opportunity to exempt certain groups, I very specifically had in mind exactly those groups that the noble Baroness is worried about. Childline and Stop it Now! need to be exempted because they will have disclosures made to them and we cannot expect them to go to every local authority-designated officer throughout the country. Children need to be able to disclose to them but when they encourage the child to disclose also to a trusted adult, as they often do, the child needs to know that that trusted adult will do something about it and report it to the right people. I hope that clarification helps.

Baroness Howarth of Breckland: I thank the noble Baroness but I think she knows that I know that pretty well. My point is that we need to be more precise the other way round and be clearer about those people who will be prosecuted rather than those who will be exempted. That is the way that I would rather see it because otherwise you are going to catch all sorts of groups. There are groups in the Catholic Church that listen. Without doubt, the helpline should be seeing a child through a referral. If they are going to have a referral, that helpline really should ensure—I know that the NSPCC does this with Childline—that at the end of the day someone takes action at that point.

The Lucy Faithfull helpline for Stop it Now! is more difficult because that is where men are coming forward about thoughts that they have had that they do not understand. I am very fearful that many of those men will not come forward if they think there is a likelihood that they are going to be reported even before they have committed an offence. Some people who have committed offences will come forward to us and we will help them to go to the next stage.

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There could be a range of unintended consequences. However, I say what I said at the beginning, which is I think that we are all on the same page. What is important is that time is spent—not a lot of time; I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, is impatient—ensuring that we have it right in detail and that we listen to all the parties who have got evidence, because there is a lot of evidence. There is also new evidence about what works and it is not always the old patterns of intervention that work. The Government might do well to listen to some of the people I listened to this morning.

5.15 pm

Baroness Butler-Sloss: My Lords, the proposal to have mandatory reporting has many attractions. I think, however, that even with the exceptions that the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has suggested, it may be too simplistic. There are already many organisations involved with children that have the obligation to report. For instance, the safeguarding of the Church of England requires people to report. The safeguarding of the Roman Catholic Church certainly does. I was vice-chairman of the Cumberlege Commission, in which we advised the then Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster how the clergy and members of the diocese of the Roman Catholic Church of England should be reporting, among other things. Our report was approved by the Vatican.

Obviously, there are the police, social services, the health services and so on. As the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, said—and I endorse her words of wisdom—we need to look at this with a great deal of care because it is the issue of culture as much as the issue of prosecuting for failure to report which lies behind the problems we have. I hope the Minister will go away taking with him not only the understandable suggestions of the right reverend Prelate and the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley but also the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, as to what really needs to be looked at. I hope he will take all that away before coming to a decision on whether there should be mandatory reporting. I strongly support the caution that the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, has put forward.

Lord Rosser: I will raise one question, to which I hope the Minister will be able to respond. The right reverend Prelate has referred to the indication given in the Commons last week by the Prime Minister that the Government were looking at whether we should change the law so that there will be a requirement to report abuse and it will be a criminal offence not to report it. Can the Minister be more specific than he appeared to be on the last group of amendments about the timescale within which the Government expect these deliberations to be concluded?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, this has been a very high-value debate whose contributions inform the Government. I will try to make sure that all colleagues in government with an interest in this matter are sent a copy of our debate.

I cannot give the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, any details of the timescale. If, in the course of time, I have more information, I will try to tell him in good time,

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but at the moment I cannot. In a way, this debate needs to be taken in conjunction with the one we had on my noble friend Lady Brinton’s debate; it covers very similar territory but it goes just that little bit further. I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Walmsley for tabling this debate to enable us to look at this particular aspect.

There is a significant difference between the amendments. Amendment 40BZEA would place a duty on those working in regulated sectors, who are in a position of trust in relation to children or vulnerable people to report suspicions of abuse to the appropriate local authority within 10 days. Breach of that duty would be a criminal offence punishable by up to three years in prison. This would mean essentially that anyone who works with children or vulnerable adults would commit a criminal offence if they did not report suspected abuse of any kind.

I hope that I can provide some reassurance to my noble friend Lady Walmsley and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham about the current process of referrals to social services. The noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, referred to this. It is important to recognise that existing statutory guidance is already crystal clear that professionals should refer immediately to social care when they are concerned about a child or vulnerable adult. Many thousands of referrals are made to children’s social care each year. In the year ending March 2013, there were 593,500 referrals—that is nearly 600,000. I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Walmsley for offering to provide me with figures that she has available, but I think that we need to bear that figure in mind and appreciate the scale of situation that we are seeking to engage in.

The most important thing is that people understand how to spot abuse and neglect and the impact that it has on children and vulnerable adults. While we are continuing to review the evidence for the specific case of reporting in regulated settings, we are also continuing to take action to improve the knowledge and skills of professionals working with children and other vulnerable people.

As I indicated in my response to the previous group of amendments, the Government fully understand the public’s anxiety about the potential underreporting of abuse, particularly sexual abuse. I can wholeheartedly support my noble friend’s objective with this amendment; we all want to see improved safeguarding for all children and vulnerable adults. As I have said, we are actively considering the case for a mandatory reporting duty, but the issues are complex, as the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth of Breckland, pointed out. As the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, said, we need to consider what form such a duty might take, to whom it would apply and in what circumstances, and what the sanction for failure to comply should be. This amendment offers one approach, but we have just debated an alternative, more focused proposal, and the NSPCC has suggested a third model. Other organisations working to safeguard children and vulnerable adults will have ideas of their own as to how a mandatory reporting regime should be structured, as will other noble Lords. I have sought to encourage noble Lords to make sure that those conducting such investigations are aware of their views.

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I can only again seek to reassure my noble friend and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham that we are actively examining the options and treating the matter with the urgency that it deserves. While I cannot undertake to bring forward government amendments on this issue on Report, I certainly expect that, by then, I will have more to say on where we have reached in our consideration of this important matter. Having put the issue firmly on the table as my noble friend has done, I hope that she will now be content to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I thank all those who have taken part in this debate. I thank the Minister for his reply and the right reverend Prelate for his support.

There has been some discussion about terminology. Noble Lords might have detected that I did not use the phrase “mandatory reporting” in my introduction, because I know that it causes some people some difficulty. I have also avoided using the word “professionals” in my amendment. We may not want to call a school secretary or a dinner lady a professional, yet they would need to have a CRB check to work in a school and they are specified in Schedule 4 to the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, which is in my amendment. When my noble friend asks to whom the duty should apply, my reply is that it is those people. So it is already in law.

I agree that the issues are complex and that we should approach the whole thing with a great deal of caution. I agree that there are different systems across the world and we need to find out which system suits this country best. I also agree that we need a culture change; I am pretty sure that I said so. We need training, not just for the professionals, but for the children, so that they understand how to protect themselves. We probably need more resources as well because, as I said, there is an awful lot of undetected child abuse out there which has never been treated, and it never goes away. There is no such thing as historic child abuse; it is always current in the lives of the victims, who never lose it.

With that, I have done my very best to persuade you all; I will have to leave it at that for the moment, but I suspect that I may come back to it at the next stage of the Bill. We shall see. I shall watch with great interest what happens with the terms of reference of the new inquiry committee, the personnel and how they go about their job. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 40BZEA withdrawn.

Clause 63: Possession of paedophile manual

Amendment 40BZF

Moved by Lord Dholakia

40BZF: Clause 63, page 46, line 41, leave out paragraph (a) and insert—

“(a) to prove that D’s reason for being in possession of the item was necessary for a purpose related to the prevention or detection of crime”

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Lord Dholakia (LD): My Lords, Amendment 40BZF is grouped with Amendments 40BB and 40BC. The amendments are in the name of my noble friend Lady Hamwee who unfortunately is not well and cannot be here. I step into her shoes in order to put forward the views she would want to express if she were here. Amendment 40BZF relates to possession of paedophile manuals and seeks to explore the defences that may be available. At the moment the Bill allows a defence where the person has a legitimate reason for possessing a paedophile manual. The amendment changes this to allow possession only where it is necessary for the prevention or detection of crime. We question whether there are ever any other circumstances in which possession would be legitimate. For example, is research included? Is the defence currently included in the Bill too wide? Could it give rise to a defence where the intent of the person was to use a paedophile manual to aid them in committing or facilitating further offences?