HC Deb 16 February 2000 vol 344 cc934-5
3. Ms Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North)

What discussions he has had with the First Secretary about children in care in Wales. [108911]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. David Hanson)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has regular discussions with the First Secretary, and I have had discussions with Jane Hutt, the Assembly Health and Social Services Secretary, about children in care. Following the publication yesterday of the North Wales child abuse report, we will, of course, be discussing with the Assembly, in the coming weeks and months, the report and the recommendations that it contains.

Ms Morgan

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. Will he assure the House that every means will be used in the legislative process to ensure that a children's commissioner for Wales is set up; that the commissioner's remit will cover every aspect of children's lives, and all children, including children in care; and that the necessary legislation will not preclude any children in Wales?

Mr. Hanson

I welcome my hon. Friend's commitment to a children's commissioner in Wales and her campaigning work on that. She knows that the Labour party went into the Assembly election with a commitment to establish a children's commissioner, as did other parties. We now await considered Assembly deliberations on the role and scope of the children's commissioner. In due course, the Government, through the ministerial task force, will examine the Assembly's recommendations and those of Sir Ronald Waterhouse. I hope to make an announcement shortly.

Mr. Robert Walter (North Dorset)

The House was appalled yesterday at the report by Sir Ronald Waterhouse. As a member of the Select Committee on Health looking into abuse of child migrants, I know from personal experience how harrowing it is to take evidence from the victims of child abuse.

The House will welcome the tight deadline set for locating the 28 missing child abusers, but can the Under-Secretary assure the House that, if those individuals have not been located by the deadline, he will make available the extra resources needed to carry out a search? Can he also assure the House that, if the abusers are employed in local authority child care posts, he will not tolerate any concealment or cover-up by those authorities—as happened in Clwyd—to protect the interests of insurance companies?

Mr. Hanson

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, the Department of Health and the National Assembly today issued a list of names to local authorities and health authorities in England and Wales, to ensure that, by 5 pm tomorrow in the case of the Department of Health and by 5 pm on Friday in the case of the National Assembly, all those names have been checked against employees. That has been done to protect children who are potentially at risk because those people may be working in local authorities and health authorities. Matters of resources are for the Department of Health and the National Assembly, but the hon. Gentleman can be assured that the Government intend to protect children. We will take the necessary action vigorously, and we will ensure that the recommendations are examined vigorously also.