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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend Lord Cledwyn that time will need to be allocated to consider the report in full. However, we shall waste no time in looking at the detail. Many of the conclusions are directed at Wales and at the National Assembly for Wales, which received the report only this afternoon and will decide how best to take it forward. However, the most immediate action that needs to be taken is to ensure that every means available is used to trace those who may still be working with children and who need to be prevented from doing so.
Lord Hooson: My Lords, although the report is largely a matter for the Welsh Assembly as it was commissioned within Wales, nevertheless its implications are great and the subject is of importance to everyone. Will the Minister bring all her influence to bear on the Leader of the House and on the Chief Whip to enable an early debate to be held on this subject?
I have a summary of the document which is about a quarter of the size of the report itself. All of us who know Sir Ronald Waterhouse will be aware of how thoroughly and how conscientiously he will have gone into the whole subject. However, two points stand out. These complaints were probably ignored for years because of the cloak of respectability that surrounded the headmasters and some of the foster parents who may have been regarded as respectable people. Complaints were made by children which were
My next point has appeared several times in the past few days in various articles. I have had some dealings with children in the course of my life. It is important that every child should have someone in whom he or she can confide and who can offer them the love and the care to permit that to occur. Often the bureaucratic organisations that we set in train to deal with these kinds of problems select the wrong people to establish contact with the child. Much thought will have to be given to the best means of appointing a children's friend, as it were. That may be a good natured, entirely trusted mother in the neighbourhood who has children of her own and the necessary patience to listen when a child has something to impart and wants to confide in someone.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: No, my Lords. The inquiry found that, because of its nature, it was totally inappropriate for the report to be published. Detailed work is being carried out with the Local Government Association in order that any future local authority inquiry is established in such a way that its report will be in a form that can be published. The ministerial task group on children's safeguards will be discussing this matter at its next meeting on the 13th.
Lord Laming: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made in another place. It is particularly helpful to have the Statement repeated because, as other noble Lords have said, this is by any standards a substantial document to read and to study. It will no doubt require careful consideration by all.
The Statement confirmed what many of us feared--that many children in North Wales experienced a dreadful catalogue of abuse and exploitation. All noble Lords will recognise that many of the children who come into the care of local authorities have already experienced considerable disadvantage in their young lives. Many will have had disturbing and destructive experiences; many will have had their confidence and self-esteem seriously undermined; and many will have been let down by the very adults they had a right to look to for their care and protection. Because of this, many of these young people will crave
Does the Minister agree that we should bear in mind the key points in the report: that this was essentially a failure of management; a failure to set and uphold good standards of practice; a failure to properly monitor performance; a failure to provide proper safeguards; a failure to be vigilant; and, most of all, a failure to listen to children and young people?
Does the Minister agree that one of the lessons we should learn is that we need to persuade all those who have a responsibility for the services which look after children and young people to have the courage to tackle inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour?
Lord Crickhowell: My Lords, I join in the expressions of gratitude to the noble Baroness for making this horrific Statement. She will understand that I feel extremely uncomfortable about it because it states that the first complaints emerged in 1986, some months before I left the Welsh Office. Therefore I am clearly concerned about the criticisms made about the Welsh Office.
Does the Minister agree that one benefit has come out of this appalling tale, and that is that we have brought the situation into the open? It is clear that if Ministers and leaders of local government had had at the time even an approximation of an understanding of the facts, action would have been taken much sooner. We now have the opportunity to move forward on the basis of knowledge.
Perhaps the Minister can answer one specific point. We have had quite a lot of information about those who have been named in the report and the actions being taken. The noble Baroness said that some alleged abusers who had not been named had given evidence. Can the Minister say whether they have not been named because they are innocent? If that is not the case and some of them may have been abusers, can I have the Minister's assurance that appropriate action will be taken to ensure that no further abuse takes place from that source; that action will be taken to ensure that those people do not take up positions; and that, in appropriate cases, prosecutions will take place.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, there is a detailed analysis in the report as to why the tribunal felt it should take a particular line and policy with regard to names. It was unable to interview some of the
Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend and the Government on the Statement and on the steps that they have taken on this vital issue. Does not my noble friend agree that the nub of the problem is this: we are issuing mandatory requirements, we need more mandatory requirements, but the mandatory requirements of the Children Act 1989, to which my noble friend referred, have been neglected and not implemented by many councils? Does she not agree that the challenge now is to ensure that the new legislation and the existing legislation are fully implemented? If that does not happen, the whole thing falls to bits.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, that is one of the problems with all legislation. In this case, my noble friend has made an extremely important point. For example, not only are local authorities now responsible for risk assessment when they identify individuals, but that process is to be monitored--in the case of Wales by the Assembly. I understand many local authorities have already commissioned the NSPCC to undertake that work on their behalf.
Lord Carlile of Berriew: My Lords, I apologise to the noble Baroness for my negligent discourtesy earlier. As someone who has had the unhappy experience of examining witnesses in North Wales, Cheshire and Liverpool institutional child abuse cases on behalf of the prosecution and, in other cases, on behalf of the defence, perhaps I may offer two important practical conclusions from the Waterhouse report.
First, the observation by those who have experience of these cases that there is far less danger of abuse--and of false accusations of abuse, which do occur--if children in institutions at any given time are under the supervision of both men and women working together, rather than men, or for that matter women, working alone.
May I also offer the observation for the Minister's consideration that a modern disciplinary code is needed as a matter of urgency, which would include as a specific disciplinary offence the failure of a professional carer to report sexual abuse by another carer in the same institution.
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