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Lord Waddington: Perhaps I may take this opportunity of mentioning a matter which has concerned me throughout the Bill. Very often government spokesmen speak of the Bill as one which, somehow or other, extends the rights of young people. Frankly, I do not imagine that very many young people aged 16 or 17 who, if they were involved in some kind of sexual relationship with another young person, would run the risk of prosecution. The truth of the matter is that if the Bill bestows rights on any particular class of person, it bestows rights on older people who may be minded to prey on young people. That is the problem with the Bill.
I would not mind if the Bill dealt with that situation--I am sure that, with some ingenuity, it could have done--but it riles with me that time and time again people get up and say "This is all about the rights of people aged 16 and 17". It has nothing whatever to do with that. What makes me such a fervent opponent of the Bill is that it confers rights on those who may be minded to prey on young people, and prey on young people who, as I said earlier, are mere children in terms of international law and the international documents which control these matters.
What is wrong with the clause is that it is not as wide as it could be. People like myself could be completely mollified. If the Government were to take the view that, in every case where there could be the opportunity of someone taking advantage of young people, the young people were protected, I would be a happy man. We do not get that attitude from the Government; instead, we get exactly the opposite and they say, "No, no. It is far too difficult. There is no real position of trust there. We cannot accept this amendment, we cannot accept that amendment".
If they were prepared to face the concerns of the public, the Government would be willing to extend the abuse of trust provisions as wide as possible in order to prove to the public that they were giving new rights to young people while at the same time protecting them against those who might be minded to prey on them. That is what has worried me throughout the whole of the Bill and why I have taken this opportunity on clause stand part to say these few words.
The Lord Bishop of Winchester: Perhaps I may put again in summary the point I made earlier, although at the wrong moment, to the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General by reference to something which the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle, said. If I heard aright, he summarised the Minister's insistence on four conditions only by saying that the gravamen of all four of them was that they had to do with young people who were committed to particular institutions by the action of a court or within the law. But it seems to me that only the first two of the conditions in the Bill fall under that head and that the third and fourth, set out in subsections (4) and (5) at the top of page 4, are more general.
I hope it is reasonable to raise again the question that I put to the Minister at a less opportune moment earlier. Why should there be an absolute distinction between the Government's commitment on the one
I hope that, before Report stage, the Government will take a clear look at how many of the proposals on which we have not been able to vote today can be written on to the face of the Bill. I have heard no clear reason why the distinction that the Minister drew should be drawn and why as many as possible of these proposals should not be included in the Bill.
Earl Russell: I shall detain the Committee only briefly. I am glad that Clause 4 is in the Bill. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, will remember that right from the beginning I supported her suggestion that some such clause should be included.
As the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle of Bucklow, explained with numinous clarity, we are dealing with a situation where there is an abuse of power. There is a situation of unequal power; therefore, there is an unequal relationship which gives rise to a serious possibility of oppression. It is right that we should deal with such situations.
We are, however, attempting something of extraordinary difficulty in the drafting. We have here a grey area. We have relationships that we clearly wish to prohibit and relationships that are on the edge of what we wish to prohibit. I take the courtship of Othello and Desdemona as an example of what I have in mind--where there is clearly an inequality of power and estate. I think it is just outside the scope of what we want to cover in the clause.
We have also a whole series of problems about the drafting of legislation. First, there is the problem to which the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General has constantly, and rightly, drawn our attention: the problem of single issue legislation, which needs to be interlocked with the greatest of care with other legislation in the field. Listening to the noble and learned Lord, I was again reminded of a work on criminal legislation in the 18th century when there was a proliferation of criminal offences because everyone got angry about one thing in turn and legislated about it in isolation. As the author of that book put it, a member who was robbed of his turnips introduced a statute for the death penalty for stealing turnips, never thinking that the catastrophe that happened this year to his turnips might happen next year to his potatoes. So we need to be sure that we interlock the legislation with other provisions.
We need to be aware also of the dangers of single purpose legislation. Very often, in any Parliament, in any century, we get into a general state of strong feeling about one particular issue. We have usually identified a genuine mischief, but we never think that when the statute is used in court it will be applied to a case that is almost certainly oblique to our original
In the case of abuse of trust, there are clearly relationships that we wish to prohibit. It is also clear that a relationship of trust and a sexual relationship cannot exist concurrently. However, there are cases where they have existed sequentially with, perhaps, a period of some length in between the two. I can think of many businessmen who have married their secretaries--in fact, that is a position of trust--where what has ultimately resulted has been a genuine loving relationship of a sort that we would not wish to see harried by the criminal law. Getting that boundary right is something of quite extraordinary difficulty.
Therefore, when we deal with amendments that define a position of trust, we need to be certain of the following factors: how long the trust goes on; when it is terminated, which is not clear in the draft of the Bill now before us; and how long a relationship creates a position of trust, which is why the amendments here regarding the words "full-time" and "regularly" raise questions that go a good deal deeper than we realise. I am glad that this provision is in the Bill, but I am not yet sure that we have got it right. Although we are, rightly, concerned about one particular issue, we must avoid the risk of single purpose legislation blinding us to its possible consequences in other areas.
Lord Northbourne: As I understand it, Clause 4 is about the question of who is in a position of trust. It seems to me that the definition of "a position of trust" will, inevitably, sooner or later become an issue that has to be thought about and settled. That is particularly so in the context of those categories of young people and of adults who do not fall neatly into the categories of one or other kind of employment, activity or status in the family.
In my view, a position of trust comprises two elements, which the Bill perhaps does not make quite clear. There are two kinds of trust: first, there is the trust placed by the child in an adult. Such a person may be in a position to influence the child for one reason or another; for example, he may have the child's admiration through hero worship, he may have lived in the same household as the child for 10 or 15 years and, indeed, may be able to frighten or threaten the child or be able to flatter him with compliments, presents and treats. In that context, we must remember not only the bright, street-wise kid. We must also remember the kid with learning difficulties and the one who is on drugs and, therefore, desperate to get money. There are also other categories of vulnerable, young people.
Secondly, there is the trust placed by the state in an adult who is put in a position to look after children. Indeed, parents, guardians or the state may put you, me or someone else in a position of responsibility for a child. That is a position of trust. My Amendment No. 37, which I hope to have the opportunity to speak to at a later stage of the Bill's proceedings, suggests
I turn for a moment to the matters discussed under Amendment No. 24; namely, sexual abuse within the family. The noble and learned Lord was kind enough to arrange for me to receive a chapter from the Home Office paper, Setting the Boundaries. Having studied the text, I think that all noble Lords who are interested in this debate should take the opportunity to study it carefully before the next stage. It seems to me to consider the issues most sensibly and to come forward with very sensible solutions. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will be able to give us an assurance at some stage that it is the Government's intention to put as many as possible of the paper's proposals on the statute book as soon as possible.
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