HC Deb 16 July 2003 vol 409 cc357-402
Mr. Deputy Speaker

I have now to announce the result of the Divisions deferred from a previous day.

On the motion on Immigration, the Ayes were 376, the Noes were 52, so the motion was agreed to.

On the motion on Social Security, the Ayes were 270, the Noes were 52, so the motion was agreed to.

[The Division Lists are published at the end of today's debates.]

4.49 pm
The Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Mr. Charles Clarke)

I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: welcomes the Government's commitment to children's services as evidenced by the appointment of the Minister of State for Children; congratulates the Government on its Quality Protects initiative, which provided £885 million to improve children's social services; supports the action the Government is taking to legislate to establish an independent inspectorate to inspect local authority children's services and social care provided by the private and voluntary sector; notes that the Government, local authorities and other statutory bodies are already taking further action to improve services for children, in the light of the Victoria Climbié Inquiry Report; congratulates the Government and local services on the announcement of the 35 Children's Trusts Pathfinders on 10th July; and looks forward to the publication of the Green Paper on children in the autumn. We welcome the debate. I shall begin by addressing aspects of common ground before exploring points of difference. We all welcome Lord Laming's report and its recommendations. We also all regret that the time scale is so long, although the reasons for that are understandable. Victoria Climbié tragically died on 25 February 2000. Two individuals were convicted of her murder on 12 January 2001; Lord Laming's inquiry was established on 20 April 2001; the evidence was finished on 31 July 2002; and the inquiry reported on 28 January 2003. The period is too long. I agree with the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) that that is a matter of concern which we need to address.

The truth is that we have a long history of sad inquiries. Since about 1980, there have been more than 50 inquiries into child deaths and child abuse, of which five, including the Laming inquiry, were statutory inquiries. The others were serious case reviews of high-profile cases, including some in my county. As an aside, I pay tribute to Conservative Secretaries of State during that time who tried to address those matters in a principled way. That is how we should address politicians who tackle such problems; we should not cast slurs.

Equally, there have been inquiry reports—17 in the same period—into the abuse of children in residential care. We all know that there is too long a history of a children's social services profession that has been blown about by difficult sequences of appalling tragedies and their consequent inquiries. Sometimes the profession has been accused of intervening too much, and at other times of intervening too little. It has been difficult to get stability in those circumstances. I agree with the hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) that getting a sense of proportion and balance is extremely difficult but also extremely important. So another aspect of common ground is the need for stability and confidence in the profession so that people can proceed with their professional duties in a positive and strong way that deals with the interests of the child.

The third element of common ground, on which the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham concluded, is linked to the second. The child's welfare must be at the centre of everything that we do. We are not interested in the welfare of particular professions, institutions or whatever.

Mrs. Joan Humble (Blackpool, North and Fleetwood)

The Secretary of State rightly starts by referring to social services, and many earlier reports concentrated on that agency. A key aspect of the Victoria Climbié report, however, is that the recommendations cover not just social services, but a raft of other agencies—the health service, the police, voluntary organisations and the local church—which shows that we all have a responsibility to make child protection a priority. The message must go out that all statutory agencies and all individuals should look out for the needs of children.

Mr. Clarke

I could not agree more. My hon. Friend puts that well. I only add to her list the responsibility of schools and the education profession. Her remarks are a key part of what I am about to say about steps that have been taken to deal with the recommendations of the Laming inquiry.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire)

In the past, the Secretary of State for Health would probably have been at the Dispatch Box to respond to such a debate, as some of the questions asked by my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) implied. Do the changes mean that future funding for children's services through social services will come via the Department for Education and Skills as opposed to other Departments? With the Secretary of State's known love of local education authorities, how will he ensure that the money is available to front-line services?

Mr. Clarke

The answer to the first question is yes. We are also bringing together the children's services at the Home Office and the Lord Chancellor's Department to get the coherence that Lord Laming recommended. That is another aspect of common ground. The House knows that Lord Laming recommended that a Cabinet member be responsible for the services. I am that Cabinet member in those circumstances and I take that responsibility extremely seriously.

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman raises the concern in the social services world that schools might gobble up resources that would otherwise go to social services—I put it more strongly than he did. I am happy to give an assurance that that will not happen. Whether through the ring fencing that exists in, for example, the quality protects arrangements or through other means, we will continue to fund children's services at current or better levels. The coherence of the arrangements that Lord Laming commended ought to bring together different funding streams to deliver support for children that is better than previous arrangements.

David Wright (Telford)

I think that we will hear quite a bit of knocking of local authorities in our debate, but we ought to give credit where credit is due. Has my right hon. Friend seen the excellent initiative in Telford and Wrekin, which uses new technology, including a traffic light system, to track child safety issues? All the agencies are working together so that they can pinpoint whether children are moving into a vulnerable situation, then intervene. We should back local authorities that are doing such excellent work.

Mr. Clarke

I very much agree with my hon. Friend. I was going to come to the question of children's trusts and co-operation. I have not seen what is taking place in Telford and the Wrekin, but I am aware of it and have been briefed on it. It illustrates the important role of local government and the key role of integration, as my hon. Friend said.

Ms Shipley

I welcome both the appointment of a Minister for Children and the fact that my right hon. Friend is the Cabinet link for the Government, but who has key overarching responsibility at local level for bringing together all local services, including the police, health and social services?

Mr. Clarke

My hon. Friend has a tremendous record in this area. I shall not tell her to wait for the Green Paper, but if she will permit me, I shall come to that issue later.

There is common ground, and it is important to take a co-ordinated approach and have a Minister for Children. I am glad that the Opposition motion praises and supports that development. However, I thought that the aside of the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham about delay was unfair, especially as the right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard)—she has a distinguished record on these matters and I am delighted to see her in the Chamber—was cited in the Eastern Daily Press, which usually, but not always, reports things accurately, as welcoming the proposal. According to the newspaper, she welcomed the joining-up of responsibilities, saying it was something she had proposed in 1999. I do not know whether she was reported accurately, but no doubt she will tell me.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard (South-West Norfolk)

I am grateful to be able to put the record straight. I did indeed publish a pamphlet in 1999 proposing exactly that, but I shall not bore the House with that now or, if I am called to speak, later. The right hon. Gentleman may not be here if I am called, so I should like to pay tribute to him for his support for the work of the all-party group of Norfolk MPs on integration, accountability and transparency. I hope to hear more about those proposals in his remarks.

Mr. Clarke

I am grateful to the right hon. Lady, who has confirmed that we have worked together in Norfolk, as well as in other areas—there is important common ground among political parties about many of the points that we are debating. I am delighted that the Opposition support the development in the machinery of government, but I thought that the reference to the time that we had taken to set up a ministerial post was a little unfair, given that no progress was made on that during their time in office.

I had not intended to address this but, in light of the highly personalised remarks by the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham, I should like to place on record my view that the Prime Minister made an inspired and strong choice in the appointment of my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Margaret Hodge) as Minister for Children. She has a long and distinguished record in this area, and she will put together the cross-governmental approaches that are important in making improvements a reality. My cordial advice to the Opposition is that if they decide to personalise the issue they will be going down a blind alley instead of debating the important issues on which we share common ground.

Mrs. Lorna Fitzsimons (Rochdale)

Everyone in the House attaches importance to Lord Laming's report and the protection of the most vulnerable children, so I hope that we do not obfuscate our responsibilities by playing a game of personality politics.

Mr. Clarke

I very much agree. There is common ground and a genuine record. That is why I paid tribute to Conservative politicians who had held responsibility in this area. They tried to carry out their responsibilities properly, as colleagues in my party have also sought to do.

My final point of common ground is on the need for co-ordinated provision locally. My hon. Friend the Member for Stourbridge (Ms Shipley) asked about local responsibility. We believe that the children's trust approach is important, with the key responsibilities held by education, social, health, police and other services, as she described. The central relationship is that between schools and children's social services. The extended schools approach that we have adopted has been widely welcomed and is constructive. My hon. Friend the Minister for Children recently announced 35 pathfinder children's trusts to go down that course.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stourbridge also asked the important question who bears final responsibility. I confess to the House that there is something of a dilemma in that regard. Of the existing office holders, there are three alternative candidates: the director of social services, the director of education and the chief executive. Strong representations have been made to me and to my hon. Friend the Minister for Children that we need to be careful about saying that for all local authorities there is one solution—one of those three candidates—in every situation. There are different local circumstances in each area.

The Green Paper will not say that one of those three people should operate in that way. We will say that there must be local determination, but the key element is that one person must be chosen to bear overall responsibility. The way in which that is done will be set out in the Green Paper. In a moment, I shall deal with the points made by the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham, but I acknowledge my hon. Friend's point that there must be one person who is responsible. However, I will not say that that should always be the director of education, the director of social services or whatever.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Clarke

I shall give way to a sequence of hon. Members and then respond.

Mrs. Humble

I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way a second time. When considering the arrangements for the official in charge, will he ensure that appropriate structures are in place? When joint working works well, it often does so because of the personalities involved. When it fails, it is because people committed to doing the work are not there. Although a different approach may be taken in different areas, there must be something in writing to ensure that the scheme does not fail.

Mr. Clarke

There must be not only something in writing, as my hon. Friend describes, and I agree with what she says, but clear responsibility under statute to place the responsibility in the way described. In addition to the different natures of different local authorities with different circumstances, I would add the factor that my hon. Friend identifies: different personalities. For the state centrally to stipulate that ultimate responsibility should always rest with one particular role is not necessarily the right way to proceed. That is an important aspect of the Green Paper consultation that will take place.

Tim Loughton

I want to add to the consensus on that important point, which I mentioned when I said that the buck must stop with somebody. I agree that it should be left to local determination and horses for courses as to who that person is. Can the Secretary of State give an undertaking that whether it is the director of education, the director of social services or a newly created director of children's services, it should be a person at chief executive level or, at a minimum, at director level with whom the buck stops?

Mr. Clarke

I agree. I am prepared to give the assurance that the Green Paper will contain that commitment. As Lord Laming identified in his report, it is critical that there should be a senior level personal responsibility for these matters. However well intentioned and committed individuals lower in the hierarchy may be, the buck must stop at a senior level.

Mr. Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire)

Further to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), the key recommendation of the Laming report is not simply, as the hon. Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood (Mrs. Humble) made clear, that we and all the agencies have a responsibility, but that we should know who is in charge and who is accountable. In recommendation 7, Herbert Laming made it clear that he wanted each local authority within six months to have a management board responsible for these matters and chaired by the local authority chief executive, so that there was no question even of a director-level appointment being distracted by other priorities. Will the Secretary of State accept recommendation 7 or, by implication, not accept it?

Mr. Clarke

The hon. Gentleman was correct to use the word "accountable", as the key to this matter is an accountability that is not only formal, but genuine in terms of the individual in question feeling that they are responsible. I shall come in a moment to the Laming recommendations, including the one that he mentioned. The fact is that the most important thing that we can achieve in that regard is a clear individual senior board-level responsibility in every local authority, and that is what we will achieve.

The areas of common ground that I have sought to set out represent important common ground across the House generally. On at least three important issues in the motion, there are differences that I hope are not simply about party political point scoring or game playing. The first point of difference is the suggestion that the recruitment of social work professionals has not been proceeded with. That point is set out in the motion and the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham addressed it in his speech. I rebut absolutely the allegation that we have not made progress in this area. Strong steps have been taken and will continue to be taken.

In October 2001, the release of £1.5 million was announced for the first ever social work national recruitment and retention campaign. Over the 12 months to October 2002, the number of applications for social work training increased by at least 6.5 per cent., so an increase was coming through. Since then, new specific grants to councils have been established for human resources development. The grants are of £9.5 million in 2003–04, and there will be £25 million in training grants in 2004–05. Those grants will lead to more appropriate use of staff, ensuring that highly trained workers are used only where their skills are essential. We aim to raise the number of people applying for social worker training by 5,000 by 2005–06, to inform the public about what social workers and social care workers do and make existing social workers and social care workers realise that their work is valued. In the 18 months after the campaign was launched, there were more than 50,000 calls to the helpline and hits on the website.

I rebut the charge made by the hon. Gentleman. Of course, I will always acknowledge that we need continually to do better and that important recruitment and retention issues remain, and those will be addressed in the Green Paper. However, the charge in the motion tabled in the name of the Leader of the Opposition is false and I rebut it entirely.

Tim Loughton

I remember the speech made by the Secretary of State for Health at the Local Government Association conference. In announcing that £1.5 million would be provided for a training programme, he pointed the finger of blame at many of the social services employees, councillors and representatives who were present at the event. What the Secretary of State cannot tell us is how many people have been recruited as social workers. Many people may have rung the hotline or applied for training places, but how many are ending up as social workers in key positions? His own Department cannot produce those figures, but it is they that matter.

Mr. Clarke

Those figures form part of the figures that matter, but only part. The number of people going into training, the quality of the courses and so on are also important. That is why the fact that we are training people is important in achieving precisely the end to 'which the hon. Gentleman refers.

The most important allegation that the hon. Gentleman made, which I rebut and is a point of difference between us, is the suggestion that we have done absolutely nothing to implement the Laming report over this period. That too is untrue. [Interruption.] He is demurring, but his motion says that the House should note that, of the 108 recommendations by Lord Laming, 82 were recommended to be acted upon within six months". It goes on to say that we have not been doing the work that we need to do in those areas. Does he accept that we are implementing Laming?

Mr. Loughton

The point is that we do not know, as we have no evidence. That is what we are waiting for. It was promised that the Green Paper would provide the evidence about what the Government were doing, choosing not to take up from the Laming report and so on. That is why the motion is there—we do not know and we are waiting for the evidence.

Mr. Clarke

I shall come to the Green Paper, but I want to answer the hon. Gentleman's helpful question by telling him what we are doing to implement the Laming report.

On self-audits and inspection activity, Ministers set out, on the day of publication of the Climbié inquiry report, a checklist covering 56 of its recommendations on basic good practice. That was followed up with self-audit tools whereby social services, health services and the police were asked to guarantee that those recommendations were put in place within three months. My Department has received all the responses, which are broadly positive and indicate that most services are following the basic good practice recommendations of the Laming report. Those who are riot will be followed up by the relevant inspectorate. The responses are being analysed fully to provide the information that the hon. Gentleman wants. We have been proceeding in accordance with Laming and shall continue to do so.

As regards the services in north London, the health, police and social services inspectorates are undertaking joint monitoring of the local services that failed Victoria Climbié. Haringey was inspected in March 2003, Brent was inspected in May 2003, and Ealing and Enfield will be inspected in July 2003. Full reports of the findings for those four boroughs will be published in due course and followed up as necessary in each area to ensure that local services are satisfactory and have addressed the various issues raised by Lord Laming.

All the relevant inspectorates have reviewed their planned individual and joint inspection activity. The chief inspectors concerned have met to consider the outcome of those reviews and to plan for the next triennial joint chief inspectors' children's safeguards report. There will be an integrated inspections framework for children and a lead inspectorate for children's services—namely, the Office for Standards in Education, or Ofsted—to assess joint working and the achievement of outcomes and standards.

Mr. Paul Burstow (Sutton and Cheam)

I want to clarify the Secretary of State's intentions on inspectorates. Is he saying that the lead responsibility for co-ordinating joint inspections of children's services will be held by Ofsted, and not by the Commission for Social Care Inspection?

Mr. Clarke

I am saying that the lead responsibility will be with Ofsted and that it will be an integrated approach. The Green Paper will set out the precise process by which we get to that point.

On training, a review is being undertaken involving all the relevant bodies in health, social care, education and the police. The initial stage of that review identified current standards for inter-agency training. The second stage, which is to report by the end of this September, will make recommendations on the changes that might be implemented to improve inter-agency training. The Government are in the process of commissioning training materials to accompany the booklet, "What To Do If You're Worried A Child Is Being Abused". Social work training has recently undergone reform, with the new three-year social work degree from September 2003, new funding of £7 million in 2003–04 for practice learning to support individual students, and the creation of learning resource centres and skills laboratories.

On guidance, on 19 May the then Health Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Redditch (Jacqui Smith), launched a clear and concise booklet for people working with children and families—"What To Do If You're Worried A Child Is Being Abused". It is designed to be clearer than existing guidance in order to help people get to grips with the best-practice approach for safeguarding children. By publishing a single set of guidelines for all those working with children and families, we intend to eliminate any need for local bodies to produce their own. That is in direct response to Lord Laming's concern about the amount of out-of-date local guidance that he found in the services involved with Victoria Climbié. We will also update the guidance on the Children Act 1989 to make it shorter and clearer.

Ms Shipley

I welcome the guidance, but is my right hon. Friend aware that it often does not reach people on the ground? Can he give me an assurance that sampling will take place across the country to find out whether the guidance is being disseminated and acted upon?

Mr. Clarke

I agree with my hon. Friend. Indeed, Lord Laming dealt with adequacy and the extent to which it informed the way in which professionals operate. I can give the assurances that my hon. Friend seeks: we are simplifying the guidance and ensuring that it reaches every professional through training, and that we will test whether we are succeeding through the statistical techniques that she mentioned.

Mr. Burstow

I want to emphasise a question that Conservative Members have already asked and that I raised during the statement on the Laming inquiry: when does the Secretary of State expect to issue the overdue and much-needed guidance on sharing confidential information between agencies? The lack of clarity causes grave anxiety for many agencies and gets in the way of good, integrated childcare practice.

Mr. Clarke

I cannot give a firm date, but I shall ask my hon. Friend the Minister for Children whether she can provide further information when she responds to the debate.

I do not want to spend much time considering children's trusts, because we dealt with the point in earlier exchanges. However, many recommendations in Lord Laming's report relate to the lack of co-ordination and communication between the relevant agencies. We believe that children's trusts are the way forward; they are already being established to help tackle such issues. They are intended to bring together some or all of the services that local education authorities, social services, health or criminal justice services commission and/or provide for children. They may also include other services for children up to the age of 19. Local authorities will be the lead organisations. We believe that such integration is the way forward, so we held a bidding process that led to the announcement of 35 pathfinder projects to establish the best way in which to proceed.

Let us consider the national service framework and the way in which hospitals deal with children who need protection. All health and social services bodies should work to common standards, and on 10 April 2003 the Government published the first part of the national service framework for children, young people and maternity services, including a standard for hospital services. The full framework, to be published in 2004, will set standards for child protection services against which health and social care organisations will be inspected. We have a 10-year programme for improving health and social care services for children and young people. The standard takes account of Lord Laming's recommendations that apply to children in hospital.

Andrew Selous

Will the Secretary of State tell us his views on the balance between prevention and cure, especially in the context of couple stability and parenting courses? What are his views on mainstreaming some of that activity?

Mr. Clarke

My thinking was pre-echoed, if such a scientific concept exists, by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood (Mrs. Humble). We must move from saying that social workers are the only people responsible for children's protection and security to a position whereby a wide range of professionals and their communities believe that that is part of their overall responsibility. We believe that the different professional structures, funding and bidding regimes have not fostered that necessary sense of mutual and collective responsibility. The Green Paper will be centred on tackling that point. It will stress that social workers alone cannot bear all the responsibility. The teams and approaches and the collaborations between that profession and others are vital.

Mr. David Kidney (Stafford)

Although it is understandable that today's focus is on intervention when things go wrong, does my right hon. Friend accept that investment in promoting positive parenting means that things will go right most of time?

Mr. Clarke

Absolutely. One of the aspects of which the Government can be most proud is the sure start programme, which has tried to make my hon. Friend's point central. If I can use jargon, mainstreaming the sure start approach is important for everything that we must try to achieve. Many Labour colleagues are keen for that to happen and I hope that that applies to colleagues in other parties.

A further recommendation by Lord Laming referred to the review of private fostering. We have noted the recommendation in his report that the law on the registration of private foster carers should be reviewed. Consequently, the Social Care Institute for Excellence was commissioned to undertake a study into the effectiveness of child-minding registration and its implications for private fostering. The report is due for publication shortly and it will inform our conclusions.

So, I reject the charge that we have not been active enough in acting on Lord Laming's recommendations. My colleagues in the Department of Health and in my own Department who have taken on these responsibilities have been energetic and vigilant in seeking to make progress on the approach set out by Lord Laming, and I emphasise that they will continue to be so.

Mr. Lansley

Given what the Secretary of State has just said, is he in a position to say how many of the 82 recommendations in Herbert Laming's report that were intended to be implemented within six months have been so implemented? Perhaps the Secretary of State can also now answer my question on recommendation 7.

Mr. Clarke

I am advised by my hon. Friend the Minister for Children that about 83 of the 108 recommendations have been partially or fully implemented at this stage. I have tried to set out as clearly as I can that we have made major progress.

The final point of difference—an important one—is the suggestion that the delay in the publication of the Green Paper on children is a key problem. The Opposition put that point at the core of their motion, and it was also a central part of the speech made by the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham. The delay is of one parliamentary week. We shall publish the Green Paper in the week in which the House comes back after the recess.

We have delayed the publication by one parliamentary week for two reasons. First, the recommendations of the Green Paper—I acknowledge that it is a Green Paper and not a White Paper—are very far-reaching in a great many respects. We want to ensure that, when we publish it, we take full account of the changes in the machinery of government to which I have referred, and of the informal conversations that we have held with interested organisations in the field, such as professionals and representatives of local government. The exchange that we had a few moments ago about the appropriate person to be the named individual with the right level of responsibility illustrates how difficult and delicate that issue is. I want to ensure that the Green Paper reflects those dilemmas in the best way possible.

The first reason for the delay is, therefore, that the Green Paper is a far-reaching document, and I want to ensure that I get it right. We also want to take full account of the machinery of government changes that we have made, and of the initial responses that we have received.

Tim Loughton

Before the Secretary of State tries to convince us that this is a delay of only one parliamentary week, will he acknowledge that that delay will involve children not getting for two months the attention from the Green Paper that we were promised? This is not the first delay but the second. The Prime Minister promised us last October—a promise that the Secretary of State reiterated in January—that the Green Paper would be published in the spring, which is now some months behind us.

Mr. Clarke

I do not accept that for a second. It might be an illusion that is current in the Conservative party. Publishing a Green Paper is not the same as doing something. To publish a Green Paper is to get to the policy decisions that we have to take. The protections that we are applying and the work that we are doing are going on in precisely the way that I have described, and they would go on regardless of when or in what way the Green Paper was published. I have outlined in some detail the work that is going on. The suggestion that professional social workers in social services departments are stopping doing their work of protecting the people in their care because they are waiting for the publication of a Green Paper is simply wrong. Equally, the legislation that we prefer is in place.

Tim Loughton

Listen to the Local Government Association.

Mr. Clarke

I listen to the LGA in a number of ways, Put I do not accept its assessment of every issue.

The second reason for the delay is that the Prime Minister associates himself with this initiative, as we made clear at the time. That is because the seriousness and scale of it will require commitment right across government to ensure that it will work. We wanted to make sure that that could be the case.

It is always possible to score political points on these questions, although I advise the Opposition against so doing.

Mrs. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest)

That is what we are here for.

Mr. Clarke

The hon. Lady says that we are here to score political points.

Mrs. Laing

What we as an Opposition are here for is to hold the Government to account. It is right for us to ask questions—lots of questions—which should be answered by a Government who are not doing enough.

Mr. Clarke

I agree with every word that the hon. Lady has said, although it is an interesting elaboration of what she said about scoring political points. At our last education Question Time, when my hon. Friend the Minister for Children was present, there was not a single question from the Opposition about how we would implement our proposals. By all means let them ask questions, but they should ask about the substance of what we are doing and how we are doing it, rather than scoring cheap political points. The hon. Lady has been scoring them ever since my hon. Friend's appointment. She is wrong to do so; she should talk about the substance.

What is important about the Green Paper is what it says and the policies that it sets out. This historic step builds on what the Government have already achieved with, for instance, provision for children aged three and four and the sure start programme, but for the first time allows us to make a major advance in providing for the welfare and protection of children. My party and I will be happy to be judged on the basis of the Green Paper, and the stability that I believe it will offer the entire profession. I hope that Members will support the amendment.

5.26 pm
Mr. Paul Burstow (Sutton and Cheam)

First, I should like to record the fact that I act as a parliamentary ambassador for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and I am grateful for the opportunity of doing so.

I congratulate the Conservatives on choosing this as the subject of one of their Opposition day debates, for it is important. It is only sad that, since the publication of the Laming report through a statement in the House on 28 January, we have not had a debate in Government time that would have allowed issues raised by Members on both sides to be put to the relevant Minister. It would have been useful to learn the extent to which 83 of the 108 Laming recommendations, to which the Secretary of State referred, had been met. It would be helpful if Ministers felt able to write to Members who have taken an interest today about what progress is being made.

What we should be saying is that what counts is the protection of vulnerable children from harm, and giving them an opportunity to thrive and develop. We are glad that the Government have drawn together all the threads of their policy on children in a single Minister and a single Department. This should not be about personalities; it should be about the substance of policy, and whether that policy turns into practice that makes a real difference to the lives of not just vulnerable children, but every child in the country. That should be the litmus test against which we judge this or any other Government.

As the Secretary of State said, Victoria Climbié died on 25 February 2000. It was a tragic death, and we need only turn the pages of the Laming report to see that it was a preventable death. Poor practice on the part of social workers, police and medical staff let Victoria slip through the net. As others have said, the key feature of the Laming report was its acknowledgement that the problems could not be laid just at the door of social workers and social services, and that responsibility was shared by a range of agencies. This was, perhaps, the first time that that had been acknowledged.

It is to the Government's shame that, three and a half years later, the country is still waiting for a definitive response to Laming. It is a damning indictment that we have not had an opportunity during Government time—there has been time during the months that have elapsed since the statement—to have an Adjournment debate that would inform the Government's own thinking during the development of their Green Paper. That, surely, would have been a useful part of the consultation process.

As we have heard today, the long-awaited Green Paper on Children at Risk has already been delayed, and has now been postponed again. In early November last year we were told that the Green Paper would be published in early 2003. That was later refined to spring 2003. By January this year, the talk was that publication was imminent—in the next few weeks. Then everything went quiet. The Laming report was published and we learned that the Green Paper would contain the Government's response to Laming's 108 recommendations. In May we were told that the Green Paper would be published "any time now". By mid-June, the message was that it would published before the House rose on 17 July. It is not here, and we now hear from the Secretary of State that it will be delayed by only one week.

Mr. Charles Clarke

One parliamentary week.

Mr. Burstow

Well, of course "parliamentary" is the important word. While that might be a semi-persuasive argument for some of the right hon. Gentleman's Back Benchers, it would be difficult to try to spin that argument to those outside the House who have been waiting and waiting for the definitive response. That is not a credible argument to answer the accusation that the report has been delayed. Now we learn that one of the reasons is that the Prime Minister's diary is too full before the summer recess and, therefore, it seems that the needs of vulnerable children are to take second place to the Prime Minister's need for a good news story.

Mrs. Claire Curtis-Thomas (Crosby)

That is a disgusting thing to say.

Mr. Burstow

It is disgusting, and that is why I made the point. If that is why publication has been delayed, it is outrageous.

The Secretary of State has told us that the Green Paper will be a pivotal and essential document, and that that is why the Government are taking time to review it carefully and ensure that it fits in with all the other changes of which he spoke. If it is such a substantive change, how can he then say that it is only a Green Paper that will not make much difference? That would seem to be the conclusion that we should draw from his concluding remarks. When the Minister replies to the debate, perhaps she can tell us what will happen in those weeks that do not exist in parliamentary terms—the summer recess. Will she take the draft report with her on her summer holidays to revise it and rewrite it—yet again? It has already been many months in production.

The Conservative motion rightly points to the Government's failure to address the issue of social work recruitment. Last August, the chief inspector of social services commented on the impact of staffing shortages. She said: In the councils inspected an average 3 per cent. of cases of children on the child protection register were not allocated and an average 5 per cent. of looked after children were not allocated to a social worker. From a sample of case files, doubts were raised about arrangements to protect one in eight children. Inspectors took the view that the welfare of children was adequately safeguarded in only 21 out of 32 councils. A particular area of concern was staff recruitment which was insufficiently robust to ensure adequate safeguards. Those percentages sound small, but the detail shows that for looked-after children alone, that adds up to 4,000 children without an advocate, or even a safety net. If the arrangements for safeguarding children are poor. that means question marks over the safety of a further 11,250 children.

The latest figures from the Local Government Association paint a sorry picture of staff issues. For example, high vacancy rates stand now at 9.8 per cent. and turnover rates are even higher, at 15.3 per cent. Those figures mask marked regional variations, with the south-east, south-west and London having particular difficulties. As a result, social services departments have to place great reliance on agency staff.

According to the latest figures published, there are some 376,000 children in need in England alone. They are some of the most vulnerable in our society. Ensuring that each and every one of those children, and their families, gets the right support, at the right time and in the right place, is a complex and demanding job. Its success hinges on the actions of a host of different agencies, each with its own values, personalities, priorities, performance targets, skills and resources.

The need to weld those agencies together to ensure that they deliver a seamless response, tailored to the needs of children and their families is obvious in theory—we have debated the theory for years and years—but it often does not turn out right in practice. Fine judgments have to be made about hard cases, in which none of the options is perfect. Decisions have to be taken with limited opportunity for reflection and limited access to specialist advice and consultation. Child deaths can, and do, occur when the professionals involved—from health, social care, education or the police—are inexperienced, poorly trained, overloaded and under-supervised. In the context of the Laming findings, it seems that they are also poorly led by those at the top of the organisations for which they work.

The hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) intervened earlier to note that the language used in this House and in the media about the quality of social work in this country denigrates and devalues that work. He said that it puts people off going into the profession. I agree with him, and with the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton). We need to raise the status of social work and make working in it an attractive proposition.

For that reason, I was surprised when I read last September's Community Care magazine interview with the Leader of the Opposition. He chose to talk about how social workers always take time off for courses, as though that were a problem. Yet one of the key issues to emerge from inquires into child deaths has been the inadequacy of training across professions that would allow them to work more effectively together. That was a sad message for the right hon. Gentleman to give to social workers.

The death of Victoria Climbié at the hands of her aunt and her aunt's boyfriend was a tragedy, but it was not an isolated one. From the death of Maria Colwell in 1973 to the present day, many of the issues to emerge from the inquires have stayed the same. Unfortunately, however, riot every child registers on the child protection radar screen. Most abuse in this country goes unreported. Every week, one to two children die following abuse or neglect.

Home Office figures show clearly that child homicide rates have not fallen for 25 years or more. We have cut child deaths on our roads, and reduced the risk of disease and illness in children, but child death rates as a result of neglect or abuse have remained unchanged. There is still no system in this country for the systematic follow-up of child deaths, nor one that gives a clear picture of both individual cases and the flow of cases. We need a clear picture so that we can use it to develop policy and, more importantly, practice on the ground. As a result of the lack of a clear picture, the full extent of child death in this country remains largely hidden.

Last year's report from the UN committee on the rights of the child expressed alarm at the lack of a co-ordinated strategy to reduce child deaths. When the Green Paper is finally published in one parliamentary week's time, I hope that it will set out a strategy for bearing down on the problem of child deaths in this country. Indeed, I hope that it will set out clearly how the Government will translate the principles enshrined in the UN convention on the rights of the child into policy, law and practice.

One reform that is long overdue, and which has aroused press speculation in recent days, is the establishment of a children's rights commissioner for England. The Select Committee on Health and the Joint Committee on Human Rights have very recently recommended that such an office be set up, and I recently introduced a private Member's Bill on the same subject. It is an issue that hon. Members of all parties have championed and campaigned for for many years.

A children's commissioner would be a guardian of the human rights of all children, not just those within the care system. A children's commissioner would not be the manager of child protection services, or of a Government welfare or quality assurance programme. I hope that the Green Paper will contain the good news that the post will be part of the Government's programme, and that the Government will learn the lessons both from what has happened in Wales already and from the recently established commissioner post in Northern Ireland.

So far, the Government have focused more narrowly on the rights of children in regulated care services. The children's rights director is a valuable post, but it is limited. Indeed, the new health and social care commissions mean that the director's writ will not extend to children in the NHS, private health care or hospices. That is an omission that I hope that the Green Paper can address, so that the children's rights director has a right to be consulted by the Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection. There is no such provision at the moment.

The Conservative motion is also right to point to the difficulties that delaying the Green Paper's publication has caused. I intervened earlier on the Secretary of State to raise recommendation 16 of Lord Laming's report, which states: The Government should issue guidance on the Data Protection Act 1998, the Human Rights Act 1998, and common law rules on confidentiality. The Government should issue guidance as and when these impact on the sharing of information between professional groups in circumstances where there are concerns about the welfare of children and families. Surely, that is a critical recommendation. The ability to pass information freely but confidentially between agencies to protect the welfare of children is vital, yet confusion still reigns, so I hope that when the Minister for Children comes to the Dispatch Box she will bring clarity where currently there is none.

I hope, too, that, in her reply to the debate, the hon. Lady can clear up confusion on another point. The Children's Act annual report, published last week, refers to the Munby judgment. The Prison Service and the Home Office had argued that the Act did not apply in full to prisons. The court held that it did and required that guidance be changed to reflect that. The annual report states that the Department of Health is working with the Home Office and others to consider the implications of the judgment. Can the Minister tell us whether the Department of Health will still undertake that task or is that another of the issues that she will take forward? It would be useful to know to whom one should address questions about the outcome of the Government's review.

I raise the issue because, last year, the UN committee on the rights of the child expressed serious concern about the Government's approach to the high and increasing number of children in custody at earlier ages for lesser offences. In addition, I am concerned about the increasing use of restraint in custody. Figures in the UN report highlight the fact that, in two years, 296 children sustained injuries following restraint and control in prison.

The joint chief inspectors' report "Safeguarding Children" revealed that the weaknesses in the Government's current arrangements for the protection of young children are letting children suffer serious harm, or even die, in custody. The report states: An analysis of surveys undertaken of young people in Young Offenders Institutions revealed that 24 per cent. reported incidents of assault by other young people, 14 per cent. reported that they felt unsafe some of the time and six per cent. felt unsafe often. In one Young Offenders Institution, there were over 700 reported incidents of injuries to young people over an eight-month period. That is a huge number, but I am concerned not only about injuries but also about deaths.

Since 1997, 93 young people have committed suicide while in custody. Detention and training orders seem to have led to an increase in jail sentences, apparently in the mistaken belief that that would result in more rehabilitation. Many children in custody should not have been put there in the first place. Half of them are casualties of an under-resourced and over-pressured child protection system. So far, the Government have refused to lift their reservation on the UN convention in respect of the detention of children in adult prisons. The UK locks up more children than any European country, which is a scandal.

The Government amendment talks a lot about more resources, but, interestingly, not much about outcomes and delivery. Can the Minister be more specific about outcomes and delivery? On resources and the budgetary pressures faced by local authorities, 60 per cent. of the overspend on social services budgets is accounted for by children's services. How will the Government address the constant pressure, year after year, on resources that were intended for adult social services but are being redirected to fund children's services? Extra resources are having to be brought in due to inadequate funding of such services.

Last year, the Government published the Wanless report on health care funding. Throughout that welcome report, it was recognised that health and social care were two sides of the same coin. The report recommended that further work should be carried out on social care funding. Can the Government tell the House whether such work will be commissioned? As well as the important Green Paper that we are expecting in due course, we need some indication of the long-term funding that will achieve the step change that the Government and the Liberal Democrats want to see.

The Secretary of State referred to children's trusts. On behalf of the Liberal Democrats, I want to make it clear that we support the pathfinder project on children's trusts. We welcome an approach that Governments do not always follow—learning from experimentation before rolling out a particular model. That is undoubtedly the right way forward. We especially welcome the fact that it will offer an opportunity to explore and learn about the benefits of integration in the commissioning of health and social care—albeit only for children, but it is a good step in the right direction. Liberal Democrats can certainly make common cause with the Government on that point.

The Secretary of State mentioned the national service framework and said that the first standard was published in April. A second standard has already been published, but it now appears that the rest of it will be published on a piecemeal basis. Will the Minister tell us at the end of the debate whether all the other standards will be published at some point next year? Is it to be a part-work, like some of those dreary publications produced by national publishers, or will the Government produce one single document?

Will the Minister tell us whether the social exclusion unit report, which was due out last October, will be subsumed within the Green Paper? That is not clear. We understood that a paper was to be published last year, but it has not been published.

There are some concerns about the Green Paper, which have been echoed by a number of the professional organisations and others outside this place, in particular the worry that the Government may in some way confuse accountability with management and that, as a result of the Green Paper, there will be more proposals for organisational change—functional change—rather than cultural change throughout these organisations, which is what we really need.

When the Secretary of State answered a question earlier, he acknowledged that that should be a matter for local determination. It should not be for this place or for Ministers to say that local authorities will have a specific person to take on the lead role at a local level, but that person should be at a senior enough level to have the clout and ability to get things done. That is the key point that I hope will come out of all the recommendations in the Green Paper.

However, there needs to be a clear duty not only on local authorities but on all the agencies that work at a local level, to come to the table, contribute and play their part in child protection and children's services. That does not happen at present. Area child protection committees are not on a statutory basis—some are good, some are excellent and some are totally useless. We need to get that right. I hope that the Green Paper will deal with that and that the Minister will be able to tell us whether that is what is intended for the future.

Reference has been made to the need to integrate services. Undoubtedly, that is a key part of how we can make a difference to all children and to those who may be at risk or who are vulnerable to harm and abuse. However, we need more than a whole-systems approach; we need a whole-society approach. That is fundamental. We all have a responsibility for the safety and well-being of our children and that needs to be a key part of any strategy that emerges from this or any other Government. We need an approach to children—all children—that values them, does not stigmatise them., and is ambitious for all of them and protective of those who need extra support.

I have referred several times to the UN convention on the rights of the child, which I hope will be a key part of the document that is to come out later this year. Those rights are critical to how policy and practice should be shaped: the right to life and maximum development, the right to protection from torture and inhumane or degrading treatment, and the right that all actions involving children should have their best interests as the primary consideration. Those are clear rights that provide clear purpose and direction for the development of public policy and practice.

Child protection is not the preserve of any single profession. Local government may have its lead responsibility in that area, but if its partners in health and elsewhere are not fully engaged it cannot succeed.

In the past 30 years, public policy has failed to reduce the number of child deaths in this country. Too many of the milestones in the development of child protection policy and practice in those years have been the gravestones of dead children. We can all agree on the goals, and many of those that the Secretary of State set out are the common ground on which we should build a good policy that makes a real difference for all our children, not just a few of them.

5.48 pm
Mr. Shaun Woodward (St. Helens, South)

I welcome this debate, as do all hon. Members. It is terribly important. As someone who has been the deputy chairman of ChildLine and remains a trustee, I know that the debate will be keenly followed there and throughout all the children's charities.

My only regret is that I suspect that while this may be one of the most important debates that we have, the pretext for having it was probably not so well intended. For us to debate this subject on a motion that probably has a lot more to do with personality politics does no credit to the House and little credit to the Conservative party. The debate has provided an opportunity—some would describe it as opportunism—to attack the Minister. It has provided an opportunity for the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) to talk about his party's belief in arguing for a Minister for Children.

Well, I have a little experience of the Conservative party, and I do not remember the creation of a Minister for Children being party policy at the 1997 general election. Indeed, before a small incident led to my departure from that political party, I remember making a speech at the Social Market Foundation in 1999 in which I argued for a Minister for Children, and my then boss, who should perhaps remain nameless, told me that creating a Minister for Children would certainly not be a policy of the Conservative party. So we are talking about short-term memories here. It ill behoves Conservative Members to remind of us such things, because we can remember quite a lot as well—and I will have a little pleasure in remembering one or two things during my remarks.

I looked at the press releases from the Leader of the Opposition about the appointment of my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Margaret Hodge) to her Front-Bench job. It is unfortunate that they were so personality-driven. The House could achieve extraordinary consensus on this issue and a great deal for children in this country, but that requires us to lay aside the kind of differences that have given rise to the debate today.

The fact of the matter is that there is no magic fix, and if we are not careful, we set ourselves up for failure for one very simple reason: whatever the Green Paper may produce in a few weeks' time, it will not end child abuse or child deaths by the end of the year. Since 1973, there have been 35 reports on child protection. Since 1945, there have been 70 reports on severe child abuse. Not one of those reports—some were produced under Conservative Governments, supported by the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs. Laing)—ended child abuse or the deaths of children in terrible circumstances. We must be sensible about the idea that the Green Paper is somehow a piece of magic that will end child abuse— at will not—but it may make things better.

The excellent recent report by the Select Committee on Health very sensibly considers some of Lord Laming's proposals, and it says that we need to be careful; we could get things wrong. No hon. Member on either side of the House wants us to get anything wrong an respect of protecting vulnerable children. The idea seems to be that, somehow, all we need to do is produce the Green Paper as quickly as possible and all will be well, but the opposite could be true; we could make mistakes, and I hope that we all want to avoid doing so.

ChildLine—an organisation with which I have been Involved for a long time—counsels hundreds of thousands of kids every year. Last year alone, We counselled nearly 30,000 children who were in need of 'protection. Mercifully, that protection was given, but in some cases things go wrong and a child slips through the net, with one agency or another. That is very clearly what happened with Victoria Climbié.

There are many lessons for all of us to learn. They are not just about social workers, but about the culture in which we operate. Again, the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham, the Conservative Front-Bench spokesman, rightly said that we should be very careful about laying the blame on social workers. Of course we should not do that—but again, if we are not careful, the idea may be that the Green Paper will solve all those problems.

Victoria Climbié was not murdered by a social worker. She was not murdered by a Member of Parliament. She was murdered by people who were supposed to be looking after her. That culture goes to the heart of things. Interestingly, Lord Laming's report and the Select Committee on Health report cite the cultural background of such things and what we learnt from the Stephen Lawrence case. There are cultural issues to do with colour, race and ethnicity, and those issues must also be considered. Such problems will not be solved by referring them to one department. With all due respect to my hon. Friend the Minister for Children, even if she were the best thing since sliced bread—as I am sure she is—the truth is that she will not solve all the problems either. We might just make them a bit better.

At ChildLine, over nearly 20 years, we have learned a great deal about what needs to be done. One of the things that we learned about was the importance of tackling bullying, which was a terribly important issue. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Epping Forest, who, with me, when I was in the Conservative party, recognised the damage that something like section 28 did to young people. She knew that there was a culture of bullying with it. It is a difficult issue, because it drives some division within her party. None the less, she was ahead of her party on the issue and she rightly campaigned for reform. To hear her colleague, the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham talking about campaigning on children's issues—I seem to remember that he was not exactly in the forefront in campaigning for the reform of section 28—beggars belief. Given the motion that we are debating today, I can only expect that, if the Opposition continue in this direction, they will shortly be tabling a motion complaining about the Government's failure to reform section 28 quickly enough. If they do so, I will welcome it, because it will be great if reform can be driven further and more quickly on these matters, which is important.

Bullying remains a problem. We do not solve it simply by introducing a bullying code into schools. It is not solved overnight. Only a week or so ago, in Merseyside, a young lad of 11 died, having been bullied at school. That is an appalling, unnecessary death. God forbid, there will probably be more. But if we work together, we might make the climate better.

Another big issue on which the hon. Member for Epping Forest might like to take the lead with her party would be, for example, the ending of the defence of reasonable chastisement. Sadly, at the moment, the Government clearly feel that they need to be cautious on this issue. Yet domestic violence is no longer tolerated, and we are not happy to see two men coming out of the pub on a Friday night thumping the heck out of each other—we think that they should be arrested and punished. We do not tolerate men and women hitting each other inside the home—we think that something should be done about it. Again, the Government will be taking steps over the next few months to do more to deal with domestic violence. Yet, bizarrely, we find ourselves saying that it is okay to thump a child.

This seems to me to create an extraordinary climate. What we are saying to people—I know that this will not make me very popular with the Daily Mail, but I have not been popular with that paper for a number of years now—is that we are sanctioning violence. We need to tackle a culture of violence which, at its most ruthless end, has dire consequences. Again, I ask the Daily Mail please not to make a travesty of what I am saying. I am not suggesting that ordinary parents who give their child a clip behind the ear are indulging in anything that relates to what happened to Victoria Climbié. Of course I am not saying that. But it helps to create a culture in which we can somehow tolerate violence.

Again, the hon. Member for Epping Forest may want to take the lead in her party on these issues, because it seems to me that continuing to sanction with the defence of reasonable chastisement the hitting of children is something that, sooner or later, the House will be brave enough to deal with. In a similar way that, I suppose, people look back on wife beating now, in 100 years they will look back and say how ridiculous it was that, in 2003, we had a society that still allowed children to be hit.

Like many Members, I am sure, I have four children, and I have once in my life hit one of them. Tom was four years old, and he had shut the door on his younger sister's fingers and had really hurt her. I did not know what to do, and, like lots of parents, I am afraid, I lost it. I gave him quite a hard smack. The story is legendary in our family—the kids say, "Do you remember the time Daddy smacked Tom?" I thought to myself afterwards, that if he was shocked, I was much more shocked. It was not a particularly hard hit, but it shocked me that I could lose my temper and hit a child whom I loved so much. I realised, of course, that the next time, to achieve any effect, I would have to hit him a bit harder, and then, perhaps, a bit harder. Probably, what ends up happening is what happened to me when I was a kid, which was that I started getting hit with implements. People might ask whether that is the reason why I am as I am—it did not do me much good and I am sure that it would not do my kids any good.

I pay tribute to the work of Esther Rantzen and charities such as ChildLine for taking a brave stance and recognising ahead of their time that smacking ultimately contributes to a violent culture, which is a problem that we must tackle. That is another issue on which the hon. Member for Epping Forest may lead her party.

We should appreciate the steps that have been taken regarding the Laming report. The announcement of the establishment of children's trusts last week is important. Again, there is no magic involved. We are at the beginning of a process that will hopefully allow us to do more.

I want to refer several important pieces of information from ChildLine to my hon. Friend the Minister because they arise from listening to children. First, excellent research done by the charity shows that children aged over 16 are often passed from one authority to the other, and that no authority is prepared to take responsibility for them. It is important to address that. Secondly, getting help for children and young people, which is a serious issue, appears to be more difficult in February and March—toward the end of the financial year—than at other times. That is an important consideration when we make decisions on resources.

Thirdly, little support is available for homeless 16 and 17-year-olds who live on the streets to enable them to try to escape from abusive home situations.

Fourthly, there is a serious concern about the lack of safe houses for young people throughout the United Kingdom. Such facilities do not provide long-term solutions for young people but they are needed to offer respite and assessment for vulnerable young people.

ChildLine has identified a further problem from its night service. Children who ring at night in need of help often find it difficult to get help because social services are more overstretched at that time. That fact is not a condemnation of social services or social workers. I tell Conservative Members—their motion is pretty condemning of the Government—that the only years since the early 1990s between which the number of social workers went down were 1995 and 1996. The number has increased in every other year. It is difficult to accept a Conservative motion that condemns the Government for doing insufficient to protect children given that the number of social workers reduced under the Conservative Government. I say that only to illustrate the danger of getting into point scoring. The right hon. Member for South-West Surrey (Virginia Bottomley), the former Secretary of State for Health, is sitting on the Conservative Benches and I know that she cares passionately about working for children. There is a danger of getting into petty political point scoring when we could do more than that, which is why I regret the fact that the debate has been personalised around my hon. Friend the Minister for Children.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights, of which I am a member, has rightly argued for a children's commissioner for England, as have hon. Members. Children need not only a Minister hut an independent voice that is above party politics so that important points may be made regardless of the political party in power. Children are too important for us to play politics with. I hope that the delay to the Green Paper will give my hon. Friend the Minister and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister the opportunity to announce that the children of England will finally have a children's commissioner when the Green Paper is published.

6.3 pm

Mrs. Gillian Shephard (South-West Norfolk)

I am really pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to this extremely important debate, not least because it is clear that no hon. Member could fail to be moved by the fate of Victoria Climbié. No one could fail to be impatient for action some six months after the publication of the distinguished and comprehensive inquiry into her death. As the Secretary of State said, I also have a constituency interest. Several hon. Members will know that I had the opportunity to make a presentation to the Climbié inquiry on behalf of an all-party group of Norfolk MPs. I must place on record my gratitude to the Secretary of State for giving his unreserved support to our conclusions when he was in his former post. The presentation detailed some of the lessons that were drawn from the harrowing case of my six-year-old constituent Lauren Wright, who died after months of abuse at the hands of her stepmother on 6 May 2000—about the same time as Victoria.

I shall be very brief as others wish to speak. I shall give the bare facts about the circumstances of Lauren's death and then, equally briefly, lay out some of the conclusions that the all-party group drew from that sad affair. It was characterised, like the case of Victoria, by a series of errors, muddles, communications failures and general professional sloppiness—the same sort of failures that. all too often, are revealed by the cases of the 80 or so children who die each year in this country from abuse or neglect.

Lauren Wright, my constituent, died from a blow to her abdomen, with extreme bruising all over her body, on 6 May 2000, two days before the date of the case conference that Norfolk social services had finally organised to discuss her plight. From her birth she had been known to Hertfordshire social services. She was known to Norfolk social services for the three years before her death. For the 16 months before she died she was at primary school—a two-teacher, 29-pupil primary school in which she could hardly get lost. During that time, aged six, she lost four stone in weight. She was seen by a community paediatrician and a general practitioner, and again by a paediatrician just a couple of months before she died. She was visited by social workers. Too late they alerted the area child protection committee, and too late the case conference was finally convened for a date after her death.

The real concerns about this case are that Lauren's treatment at the hands of her stepmother, who was eventually convicted of her manslaughter, took place in public, observed by the local community, and under the supervision of doctors, social workers and teachers. Trial evidence revealed that the stepmother was seen hitting the child and screaming abuse at her; that she fed her pepper sandwiches; that she put bugs from the garden in her food; and that she turned off the taps so tightly that the child could not get a drink of water.

Lauren's class teacher said at the trial that she saw marks on Lauren lots of times, often she was covered with lots of small bruises and with major bruises about once a month. These included black eyes, bruising on her face and scratches across her back. As I said, at the time of her death, she weighed little more than two stone. In the words of her head teacher, her physical deterioration had been apparent for at least five months before she died. Of course, Lauren was killed by her stepmother. The hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Woodward) rightly makes it clear that not all blame can be placed at the door of professionals, and that is definitely so. The stepmother was clearly very plausible. The trial was told that she had an IQ of 78. She certainly deceived doctors, teacher and social workers, and Lauren died as a result. But from this sad case we see illustrated a number of the same failures shown in the Victoria Climbié case.

As Lord Laming said in the introduction to his report: I recognise that those who take on the work of protecting children at risk of deliberate harm face a tough and challenging task. Staff doing this work need a combination of professional skills and personal qualities, not the least of which are persistence and courage. I agree. We should not underestimate the difficulty and sensitivity of the work undertaken by social workers, police, medical professionals and teachers. But of course when decisions and judgments are so difficult, procedures are more, not less, important. As Lord Laming said about the Victoria Climbié case: Even after listening to all the evidence. I remain amazed that nobody in any of the key agencies had the presence of mind to follow what are relatively straightforward procedures on how to respond to a child about whom there is concern of deliberate harm. I agree with that too, in the case of Lauren. The investigations that I undertook on behalf of the Norfolk all—party group of MPs leave little room for doubt.

In a letter to MPs, the director of Norfolk social services, Mr. David Wright, admitted There were failings in other agencies but I believe that our Department should have been able to intervene to save her". It was only after a great deal of pressure from Norfolk MPs, the public and the media that the Norfolk health authority agreed to mount an independent review of its role in Lauren's case. The review's findings were shattering. The Eastern Daily Press reported on 26 March 2002 that there had been a series of errors and poor NHS management which culminated in a failure to safeguard the little girl. There was also the role of the education service. The Minister will want to take careful note, given her background in the Education Department. Lauren attended a 29-pupil school. She presented at school with bruising. She lost four stone in weight. She was listless and tired. Despite all that, as far as we know her teachers did not report to the education welfare service concerns that they might have had about her health, as they were required to do under local education authority guidelines. 1 say "as far as we know" because the Norfolk local education authority declined to make public any inquiries it might have made in the wake of Lauren's death. She was therefore failed by no fewer than four chief officers and professionals in social services, the health service and the education service, just as Victoria Climbié was failed by a multiplicity of professions.

The all-party group suggested to the Climbié inquiry that the following issues should be tackled. The first was accountability, which the Secretary of State touched on in his remarks. The Norfolk MPs concluded that a statutory duty should be placed on the chief executive of each local authority to convene the area child protection committee in cases of repeated child abuse and neglect, and that he or she should have a statutory duty to ensure that appropriate action is taken. If it is not, the chief executive should ensure that disciplinary action follows. We thought that a similar duty should also be placed on health authority chief executives. To ensure that professional staff are not unduly put at risk from that arrangement or structure, we also decided that the same chief executive should have a statutory responsibility to ensure that all staff have clear information about exactly what is expected of them in a given child abuse situation.

The group also felt that authorities should have more regard to transparency in their conduct of such matters. As Members of Parliament representing all the people of Norfolk we had difficulty in getting information out of the authorities concerned. We were greatly helped by the energies of local media and by public support, but it should not be so. Paradoxically, professionals get more blame from the public if there is less transparency about what happens in a given case. Trade unions and professional organisations understandably worry about witch hunts. Everyone can see that. The public, equally understandably, know only what the media tell them. They cannot understand why child abuse tragedies continue to occur while no one is ever seen to be blamed. We all thought that there should be more transparency and an open and public debate about responsibility and blame in society. We thought all those things important.

I add this plea. I ask the Minister to pay attention to the problems of rural isolation with respect to professional agencies. In particular, there could be a reluctance in a small rural school that is close to its community to suspect—let alone denounce—people in that community of child abuse. In such areas, there could be a series of different solutions, such as a special unit at the LEA, or even—I hesitate to suggest this because I think it is a generational point—a return to the old-fashioned role of the school nurse. If the school nurse had gone in and out of that school to examine the children regularly, professionally and objectively, Lauren Wright would not have died, because her injuries would have been uncovered. I understand that school nurses do other things now. I know that my suggestion may seem old-fashioned, but it is a practical idea that might help in future. I am grateful that last summer Ministers accepted amendments to the Education Act 2002 which, in effect, made statutory for teachers, school governors, local education authorities and further education colleges the observance of child abuse guidelines.

It is truly inexplicable that, when there is agreement among Members on both sides of the House, policy and practice changes should be urgently required to reduce an unacceptable number of child deaths. The Government themselves announced that the Green Paper would be issued in spring, but changed that to before the summer recess. However, today we are not much nearer to knowing what they have in mind. The Secretary of State, rather skilfully, I thought, said that there was a delay of one parliamentary week, but in fact it is a delay of several months on the date announced by the right hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Milburn), then Secretary of State for Health, on 28 January. The Minister for Children is a former local authority leader and has experience of these matters. I hope that she agrees that the Government should not have spent three years since the appalling death of a helpless, hapless and innocent child considering what should be done. They should not be obfuscating the reasons for the delay in their action. The hon. Lady has only just begun her important job. In the name of all the Victorias and all the Laurens, we want her to get on with it.

6.16 pm
Mrs. Claire Curtis-Thomas (Crosby)

I rise to defend the Government's actions on the protection of children, specifically in my capacity as chair of the all-party group on abuse investigations.

In the past five years, 35 police authorities throughout the UK have conducted more than 80 extensive inquiries into historical cases of sex abuse in care homes. Many hon. Members will know of my concerns about those inquiries, but it cannot be denied that energy, time and money that has been spent on them. I estimate that perhaps as much as £500 million has been spent investigating complaints involving thousands of cared-for young people throughout the UK in the past five years. Under the previous Administration things were not perfect, and many children living in children's homes were neglected. We need to understand what it was like then for children in care homes who were preyed on by abusive carers. Young people attempted to complain, but whether or not the complaint was acted on was at the discretion of the person they spoke to. The lack of prosecutions over a long period was indicative of the collective failure of the agencies responsible for the care of vulnerable young children.

We must be realistic and fair about the reasons for the failure of the agencies that care for children. We have already acknowledged that the vast majority of professionals working in this area do so because they are passionately concerned about the welfare of the children. However, historically, they have worked with administrations that were procedurally inadequate, and those inadequacies militated against the effective management of complaints. Significantly, there was no statutory relationship to bring the agencies working with vulnerable children together. That serious omission invariably meant that agencies receiving complaints were completely unaware of complaints made in other areas.

Those omissions were partly addressed by the Children Act 1989, but until then, a child making a complaint could have spoken to a significant number of people, none of whom were connected together administratively. Hence there was no collective understanding of the extent of abuse endured by a child. The Children Act sought to address that administrative failure, but it took years to implement. Crucially, it was introduced at a time when social services budgets stood still at best, and in many cases were being dramatically eroded. The measures detailed in the Children Act called for funding, which simply did not exist. It was all talk, and the lack of funding left the vulnerable, vulnerable.

That huge funding omission was addressed in September 1998, when nearly £1 billion—£880 million, to be precise—was invested in the quality protects programme to improve children's social services, sure start and the Connexions service. I could speak at length about those additional services, which meant a great deal to vulnerable children. Many authorities throughout the country, including my own, desperately needed the money. It was not the lack of concern in social services departments that led to complaints being ignored, but lack of funding to pay for an adequate number of appropriately trained staff who could respond comprehensively to complaints.

Cash was needed not only in social services departments, but in all the other major public sector agencies involved in child care, to allow them to support joint agency approaches and resolve complaints by children effectively. The police needed further funding, and the enormous children's fund has allowed them to do much good work. The education departments needed huge amounts of funding to employ appropriately qualified staff to work in schools. Health care providers and all the other agencies working with children received dramatic funding uplifts. The Government continue to invest substantially in those areas.

Now, when a child makes a complaint the public authorities have a duty to refer the complaint for investigation. The environment in which looked-after children live has changed radically in the past six years. The Government have passed—and, crucially, funded—a raft of legislation designed to protect vulnerable young people, including the Care Standards Act 2000, to improve the inspection and regulation of children's care services, and the Protection of Children Act 1999, which strengthened safeguards against unsuitable people working with children. The Sexual Offences Bill currently going through the House creates a new range of offences designed to offer children under 13 the maximum protection. I can also give testimony to the good work of my hon. Friend the Member for Stourbridge (Ms Shipley) in introducing the child protection register.

The situation is still not perfect, but the system now not only reacts to complaints made by looked-after children but is proactive, recognising that many of those children may not have the confidence to make a complaint of their own volition. If the police receive a complaint from a looked-after child, they will interview that child and all the other children who have ever lived in the home, irrespective of their age—an extraordinary commitment to the vulnerable.

I was especially pleased when the Government made the decision to continue to care for children after the age of 16. The acknowledgement that children over 16 still need care was such an important and long-awaited move. They are now looked after, and I am delighted with that measure. There is still a great deal to be done, but we have introduced measures that adequately demonstrate our commitment to children and the vulnerable.

6.23 pm
Virginia Bottomley (South-West Surrey)

The House will be aware that this place legislated for the protection of animals several decades before there was legislation to protect children. It is appalling that in this day and age children are still so cruelly treated.

I welcome the contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton). His enlightened and principled approach was enormously heartening. It took me back to the speech by the late Lord Joseph to the Pre-School Playgroup Association on the cycle of deprivation, when many of my own thoughts about child care began. I speak as someone who for many years was chairman of a juvenile court, and I have a mental health background rather than a local government background. nave been involved in the Children's Society and, as the Register of Members' Interests shows, now spend a great deal of time trying to bring effective good managers who are committed to the cause into many of our leading charities and public services.

It is a serious matter that we have not seen more action following the Laming report. The report is, as all would expect, outstanding. Lord Laming is one of a number of extraordinarily eminent inspectors of social services. We have been well served by their contribution, including those of Sir William Utting and now Denise Platt. The contribution that they make must be heard. It is pragmatic, sensible and to the point.

What so many people forget is that dealing with child abuse is one of the most difficult things for any professional worker. If children are removed needlessly, as they were in Cleveland, social workers will receive abuse for getting the decision wrong. If children are left in a home or a children's home where they lose their lives, the social worker is all too easily blamed. Social workers, unlike doctors, are more likely to leave the front line the more experience they get, so the least qualified and least experienced people will be doing the most difficult jobs, exercising the judgment of Solomon and facing the rage of the parent or carer if anyone dare suggest that they might be injuring their child. That is no excuse, but people need to understand the enormous pressures that social workers face.

The crisis regarding child care professionals is very serious. I looked up the figures. In 1995 there were 11,500 applicants for social work places, but by 2001 that figure had fallen to 4,000. That is very serious. The subject of child abuse and neglect also suffers various fads and fashions, such as satanic abuse, and I have to say that the whole issue of politically correct behaviour is also important. We need to learn the lessons about how many of the children who are affected come from ethnic minority homes. I well remember—as will my noble Friend Baroness Howarth, from her Lambeth days—the concept that a child from an ethnic minority family should expect a different sort of chastisement from that which a child from a white family should expect. That is unacceptable in this day and age, and we must consider all the aspects of practice. I also want to mention data protection problems. Too often people are afraid to record on file that injuries are suspicious and may relate to non-accidental injury or child abuse, because the files are open. We must look very seriously at that matter.

It was my privilege to take part in the implementation of the Children Act 1989. In that regard, I pay the greatest credit to the former Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, who undertook the most detailed consultation with the different agencies in a very open spirit before implementing the legislation. The programme of training was phenomenal. In particular, it involved the judges and the legal profession, as well as social services and social workers.

I want to make two further points. This debate is about vulnerable children. It is appalling that a child a week should die as a result of injury caused by adults, but three times that number die on the roads, and many more die by taking their own lives. If we want to get our priorities straight about the problems faced by young people in our generation, child mental health is critical. I urge the Minister for Children, in her new role, to look into child mental health and at the work of Young Minds, and to understand the suffering and pain caused to young people and the epidemic of suicide among them. The suicide rate among young men has almost doubled in the past 20 years.

I am sceptical about the nature of the hon. Lady's role, and troubled by the fact that her post is within the Department for Education and Skills. The group that nobody has mentioned today is health visitors, who have greater licence to enter a home and ask a family to remove a child's clothes than those in any other professional group. It has to be said that teachers are not the most skilled in this area. Their record on truancy and casting difficult children into sin bins, getting them out of their way so that they can teach the main cohort, does not make them the people who are naturally most alert to child abuse and neglect.

As often as not, the issue is about the relationship between social services departments and health-related departments. They are both Department of Health responsibilities. It is hard enough persuading Health Ministers to fight for the social services budget, but it is very difficult to understand how a junior Education Minister will fight for the social services and health budgets. I remain to be convinced.

There is no simple answer—and for the children whom we are talking about, cost shunting is often at the heart of the problem. They are expensive children with needy, difficult families. It does not matter whether it is the Home Office, the Department for Education and Skills, the Department of Health or a social services department that ends up funding their care—we believe in joined-up Government—but there is a cost at the local level, and we must look very carefully at how that works in practice.

I wish the Minister for Children well with her responsibilities: I cannot stress their importance strongly enough. We have to learn the lessons of this appalling latest episode. To err is human, to fail to learn is unacceptable, and to cover up is unforgivable. We have to be open and diligent in working to ensure that every child has as stable and happy an upbringing as possible.

6.30 pm
Mrs. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest)

It is a pleasure to follow my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Surrey (Virginia Bottomley), who has tremendous experience in these matters.

This has been a serious debate because it is about serious, often sad and upsetting, issues. I commend the eloquent speech of my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), who has done a great deal of work on child protection for many months. I shall not repeat all his points in the short time available, but of course I agree with every one of them.

The Secretary of State urged me to accept a cross-party consensus, so I shall begin by agreeing with the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Burstow). I do not often agree with a Liberal. He made some good points, but, most importantly, he took up the Secretary of State's remarks about the delay in the Green Paper on children at risk. The Secretary of State says that that delay is only one parliamentary week. What ridiculous spin gone mad. Strictly speaking, we know that that is true, but it is months—many weeks—since January in the real world. Does the Secretary of State think that cruelty to children stops because the Houses of Parliament are not sitting? I do not know why the Minister for Children is laughing; it is not funny. Children continue to be at risk in the course of one parliamentary week.

I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard) for her wise words. She, like my other colleagues, knows the subject well; she has been steeped in it because of the sad case in her constituency.

I commend much of the speech by the hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Woodward). His work on ChildLine has been very successful over the years. I take his point about reasonable chastisement. I undertake to consider that, but I sincerely hope that the Minister will also do so.

The Secretary of State, in urging me to accept a cross-party consensus, wants to pay homage to those who have worked on the subject in the past; I join him in doing so. I show respect for Ministers of all parties who have done something about trying to improve child protection. I have a lot of respect for the former Secretary of State for Health, the right hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Milburn), and the way in which he handled the Laming report when he presented it to this House. Indeed, I commend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills for the progress that has been made so far.

The hon. Member for Stourbridge (Ms Shipley) made the excellent point that we need to know who will be the one person who is responsible locally; we have to wait for the Green Paper to deal with that. While we are waiting, I commend Essex county council—my county—for its pioneering attitude in bringing together the departments of education and social services. We have some excellent people in Essex who will make that work.

I remain seriously concerned about the delay in the publication of the Green Paper and the consequent delay in improving services for vulnerable children. As other hon. Members said, the former Secretary of State for Health clearly stated in January that the Green Paper would be published in the spring. When it was not, the former Leader of the House assured us in good faith that it would be published before the summer recess. That was not unreasonable; things were going well, the Government were taking the necessary action and we agreed with them. However, the Prime Minister threw a spanner in works by appointing the hon. Member for Barking (Margaret Hodge) as Minister for Children.

We welcomed the creation of the post of a Minister for Children that would bring together cross-departmental functions. That was practical and good, and many hon. Members from all parties agreed with it. I believed that that new post would mean more Government attention on the issues that Lord Laming's report identified. Far from providing a focus on vulnerable children, the hon. Lady has simply provided a focus on herself and no action on the Laming report. She devised three different excuses for not publishing the Green Paper; the Secretary of State came up with even more today.

The first excuse was the Prime Minister. Two weeks ago, his official spokesman said that the Prime Minister wanted to be present at the Green Paper's launch and that he had no time in his diary to undertake such an engagement until the autumn. What is the Prime Minister doing between two weeks ago and the autumn that is more important than the protection of vulnerable children? It is extraordinarily difficult to find out. I wrote to ask him, and his office replied that his diary cannot be published for security reasons. That is fair enough but I wonder whether the reply refers to security from international terrorists or whether he would prefer that his Back Benchers did not know where to find him. The Prime Minister is probably too busy to bother about a mere Green Paper because he has to practise his Pinocchio performances in front of Commons Committees and the BBC.

Let us be fair to the Prime Minister. It is not his job to publish a Green Paper on children at risk; that is why he has a new Minister for Children. She came up with two further excuses. She says that she wants to be Minister not only for children but for young people and their families. As a sort of tsarina for everyone, she wants to expand the Green Paper's remit. That is not a good excuse. She can produce pages of glossy waffle about her politically correct ideas if she wishes, but she should deal with Lord Laming's recommendations now. We do not mind waiting until the autumn for the waffle.

David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire)

Perhaps it would help hon. Members if, as well as giving us a tirade against the Minister, the hon. Lady would outline some of Her Majesty's Opposition's options, policies and priorities on the most important topic of child abuse.

Mrs. Laing

The hon. Gentleman has been absent for the debate. It has been serious, and we are tackling the issue of child abuse. [Interruption.] I cannot hear the hon. Gentleman; he is murmuring. We do not mind waiting until the autumn for the rest of the Minister's ideas, but we should have the Green Paper now.

The Minister's third excuse is that it is only a Green Paper or discussion document, not a statement of Government policy and therefore not urgent. However, it is not only a Green Paper. The document was promised as the Government's response to Lord Laming's report on the Victoria Climié inquiry. Lord Laming recommended action within six months. Local authorities have done all that they can on the Laming recommendations, as far as we know. We went into that in great detail during the Secretary of State's speech. We do not know, but we believe that they have done all that they can so far. They need to know the Government's response before they can go further. Local authorities are in limbo, time is being wasted and children are at risk.

I know that the Minister has been under pressure because of her past record of failure to protect children in Islington. It was, of course, the first London borough to ban fox hunting, but it was not very good at paedophile hunting. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Whatever happens, hon. Members should not shout at the hon. Lady. She has been called to speak and she should be allowed a hearing. Sometimes insulting hon. Members is all right, provided that it is within the rules of the House.

Mrs. Laing

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I do not intend to insult anyone but to put before the House the facts about what is really happening. That is what we are here to do.

Mrs. Fitzsimons

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Laing

I do not have time to give way.

The Minister for Children said that she had learned from her mistakes, and I hoped that she had, because it is quite reasonable to do so. But the facts that have emerged in the last few weeks show that she has not. Surely the main lessons to be learned from her past must be that words are not the same as actions, and that producing politically correct speeches does not bring results. That is why she was criticised before, but she is now doing exactly the same things again.

The underlying theme of this Government is that image is more important than reality. No wonder no one can trust them. No wonder no one believes a word that they say. [Interruption.] I am not scoring political points. I am doing my duty, which is to hold this Government to account for their mistakes, their failures and their negligence. [Interruption.] Labour Members ought to get their priorities right. The duty of this House is not to protect a discredited Minister, but to protect vulnerable children.

6.41 pm
The Minister for Children (Margaret Hodge)

Apart from the opening and closing speeches, we have had a lot of thoughtful contributions from both sides of the House today on this central issue of concern, which should be above party politics. The final contribution from the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs. Laing) demonstrated that, to the Conservatives, children are nothing more than a convenient political tool to be exploited to narrow political advantage.

Mrs. Laing

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Hon. Members

Sit down!

Mr. Speaker

Order. I call for calm. We are about to have a recess: we should be happy. We should not be so angry with one another.

Margaret Hodge

My final comment on the speech made by the hon. Member for Epping Forest is that I agree with her that actions are more important than words. Certainly, my actions have done—and will do—more for children than her words ever could.

Let me deal with the contributions of the Back Benchers, who have said some important things. I agree with the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Burstow) and others on the importance of social workers. One of my key ambitions in my new role is to raise the status of social workers in our society. We all value teachers, police officers and doctors, but we do not give the same value and credence to those utterly key workers who do such a lot for children at the most vulnerable stages of their lives. One of the things on which we should be judged after our time in office is whether we have raised the status of social workers.

The hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam asked specific questions about the guidance on information sharing. I can tell him that on 19 May we issued guidance on the interpretation of the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Human Rights Act 1998, which we sent to the chief executives of all councils, to NHS bodies, to the police and directly to all doctors and nurses. The hon. Gentleman also asked who would be taking forward the implications of the Munby judgment. That has now been transferred as part of the responsibilities of our Department, working with colleagues across government.

The hon. Gentleman also talked about the cultural change that we need to achieve if we are to be effective in putting children at the heart of the way in which we deliver services. That theme ran through a number of speeches. I agree that cultural change is absolutely imperative, not only among the professionals but in society. It will be a very tough task, and it will not be easy to achieve.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Woodward), who made an excellent speech, on his work as deputy chairman of ChildLine. I agree that the best that our past and future actions can achieve is to make things that much better for children. It should not be thought that in such a difficult area, in which difficult judgments must be made, we can ever get it right all the time—however well people are trained, and however experienced they are in any of the spheres involved in working with children. Nevertheless, our duty and our endeavour must be to make things better.

Mr. McLoughlin

Can the Minister confirm that the only reason for the delay in the Green Paper's publication is the Prime Minister's diary?

Margaret Hodge

There is no single reason for the delay; there are several reasons, and if the hon. Gentleman will be patient I shall come to them in due course. Anyone who is concerned about children, especially vulnerable children, surely accepts that further consultation is as important as ensuring that the Prime Minister launches—

Mrs. Laing

Will the Minister give way?

Margaret Hodge

Not at this stage.

David Taylor

Could not the delay be used for reflection on more recent incidents, such as the internet seduction involving the 13-year-old from Lancashire, now happily restored to her parents? Is that not a further example of "children at risk", and an emerging vulnerability in a changing society?

Margaret Hodge

Over time we need to consider anything that happens, and things happen day by day. We need to reflect, listen and learn from every single incident that places a child at risk of abuse, or endangers that child.

My hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, South mentioned a number of issues that ChildLine wished to raise with me, some of which I believe are extremely important. I am delighted to be meeting Esther Rantzen next week to discuss several of them, and I should be happy to meet my hon. Friend and others as well.

The right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard) gave a harrowing description of the errors and muddles that led to the tragic death of Lauren Wright in her constituency. She said that judgments were difficult, so procedures were important. I agree with that, but I hope that she agrees that procedures will not make a difference unless they are accompanied by a range of measures, such as the training of all who will have an impact on children's lives. Account should be taken of common assessments and the tracking of information. Procedures are important, but we need to do far more to strengthen the infrastructure in which we can then protect children and young people.

Mrs. Shephard

Surely the Minister agrees that in the case of Lauren Wright, and indeed in the case of Victoria Climbié and many others, ignoring and disregarding procedures proved fatal. That was my point, that is why the Green Paper is important—I hope it will emphasise the need for new procedures—and that is what we want the Government to accept this evening.

Margaret Hodge

I agree with the right hon. Lady that procedures are important. I hope that she agrees that the legislative framework established by her party in the Children Act 1989 specified a number of procedures on which we now need to build.

I pay tribute to the work done by my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mrs. Curtis-Thomas) as chair of the all-party group on abuse investigations. She said a great deal about information sharing, which I too consider important. She also acknowledged the money that we have provided to support children and prevent them from being subjected to abuse or danger, through quality projects, sure start, Connexions and the children fund—as well as the extra money that we have provided for mainstream education services, the police and the Youth Justice Board.

The right hon. Member for South-West Surrey (Virginia Bottomley) stressed the importance of the social work profession, and I agree with her on that. She talked about work force problems, and I share her concern. We need massive reform of how we recruit, train and retain people to work in the range of childcare professions. The right hon. Lady also questioned whether locating the joined-up services in the Department for Education and Skills was appropriate. If we are trying to build stronger preventive services so that we can target the appropriate action to protect children, it is important to put those services in a Department that provides a universal service to all our children and young people. The trick that we shall have to perform—the right hon. Lady will need to watch us on it—is that as we bring together all the professions that work with children, we must value the contribution of each and ensure that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts in its impact on children's lives.

The central contention in the motion tabled by the Opposition is plain wrong. It is simply not the case that the action that we need to take to implement many of the recommendations put forward by Lord Laming in his thorough and comprehensive inquiry has to await the publication of our Green Paper. Indeed, it is unbelievable and unimaginable to suggest that we would not want to make progress as soon as we could in every direction possible.

Tim Loughton


Mrs. Laing

Will the Minister give way?

Margaret Hodge

No. Every year—[Interruption.] Every year, between 50 and 100 children are killed by their parents or carers—

Tim Loughton

Will the Minister give way on that point?

Margaret Hodge

No, I want to make some progress. The names of children such as Darren Clark, who died in 1979, Maria Colwell, Jasmine Beckford, Kimberly Carlile, Paul Brown, Tyra Henry and Lauren Wright will always be embedded in our minds. The horrific life endured by eight-year-2014;old Victoria Climbié when she came to England stands as an indictment on us all. We must all do all that we can, as soon as we can, to put in place the structures, policies, programmes and people that will ensure that every child in our society is safe and protected from the dangers of abuse and injury—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Minister is not giving way. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I do not know why.

Margaret Hodge

Of course we have taken action to implement the recommendations of the Laming inquiry. Indeed, on the very day that the then Secretary of State got up in the House to present the report of the inquiry, action had already started. For instance, the Metropolitan police began restructuring its child protection services. On the very day that we published Lord Laming's report, we issued a checklist of those recommendations that we considered to be basic good practice. Since then, we have published the booklet for professionals, "What To Do If You're Worried A Child Is Being Abused", to simplify the procedures for people. We are reviewing training needs and we have increased resources for social work. We have introduced a new three-year social work degree. We have run a national recruitment campaign, and the number of applications to become a social worker has risen by 6.5 per cent.

Tim Loughton

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way at last. We are impressed by the number of checklists, booklet and reviews, but that does not constitute action. We still have no idea of how we can audit what action has been taken by bodies on the ground.

Margaret Hodge

I dispute the contention by the hon. Gentleman that the actions we have taken are not action. Of 108 recommendations in Lord Laming's report, 83 have been fully or partly addressed. The implied allegation in the Opposition motion that delayed publication of the Green Paper would stop us acting to protect children is plain wrong.

The Green Paper will contain further far-reaching proposals to continue and develop our programme of reform for children's services. My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has done a superb job, together with other Ministers, in formulating the strategy for the future. I, for my part, am proud that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is so committed to this issue that he has insisted on personally launching the Green Paper. This is unequivocally good news for children.

I am also pleased that I can use the extra time that we have to consult even more widely with, and listen even more carefully to, those at the front line who have the day-to-day experience of working with children. We shall put forward proposals that strongly reflect our vision and values for children and young people. They are that every child matters, and that every child must have the opportunity to fulfil his or her potential. We cannot allow children's life chances to be blighted by the age of five because of where they live or where they came from, and every child must be properly protected so that they are safe.

Tim Loughton


Margaret Hodge

In addition, we believe that no child should be denied the chance to make the most of his or her life.

Those are the values that underpin my approach and that will inform our policies. They are the values on which we shall build a coalition of support so that every child can grow up healthy, safe and fulfilled.

This is a really serious issue, and every hon. Member should engage seriously with the issues involved. I want to work with everybody on these difficult issues. They should be above party politics.

I wish that I could be grateful that the Conservatives had recognised how key child protection is and that it was this recognition that had led them to have the debate this afternoon. But no: this debate was put on the Order Paper not because of the Conservative party's interest in children's issues, but because of Conservative Members' crude pursuit of party politics—[Interruption.]

Mrs. Laing

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Before I take the point of order, I inform the House that I am chairing the proceedings. I tell hon. Members when to sit down, and I do it rather nicely.

Mrs. Laing

My point of order is that the reason that Opposition called the debate is stated clearly in the motion. It is because we care about children. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The debate was well within the rules. That is why I allowed the motion to go on the Order Paper.

Margaret Hodge

It is not children who are at the heart of the Conservatives' concern. It is shoddy opportunism.

Where was the Conservative party in the 1980s and 1990s, when local authorities were pleading for proper resourcing? [Interruption.]

Tim Loughton


Hon. Members

Sit down! Mr. Speaker: Order. Once again I ask for calmness. There is no need for this shouting across the Chamber.

Margaret Hodge

Where were the Tories when beleaguered social workers—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I say again that there is no point in shouting across the Chamber.

Margaret Hodge

Where were the Tories—

DAVID MACLEAN rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put, but MR. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the


The House divided: Ayes 179, Noes 316.

Division No. 295] [6:59 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Cotter, Brian
Allan, Richard Curry, rh David
Amess, David Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Ancram, rh Michael Davis, rh David (Haltemprice & Howden)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Bacon, Richard Djanogly, Jonathan
Baker, Norman Duncan, Alan (Rutland)
Barker, Gregory Duncan, Peter (Galloway)
Baron, John (Billericay) Duncan Smith, rh Iain
Barrett, John Evans, Nigel
Bellingham, Henry Fabricant, Michael
Beresford, Sir Paul Fallon, Michael
Blunt, Crispin Flight, Howard
Boswell, Tim Flook, Adrian
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Forth, rh Eric
Bottomley, rh Virginia (SW Surrey) Foster, Don (Bath)
Francois, Mark
Brady, Graham Gale, Roger (N Thanet)
Brake, Tom (Carshalton) George, Andrew (St. Ives)
Brazier, Julian Gibb, Nick (Bognor Regis)
Breed, Colin Gidley, Sandra
Brooke, Mrs Annette L. Goodman, Paul
Browning, Mrs Angela Gray, James (N Wilts)
Burnside, David Grayling, Chris
Burstow, Paul Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Burt, Alistair Greenway, John
Butterfill, John Grieve, Dominic
Campbell, rh Menzies (NE Fife) Gummer, rh John
Carmichael, Alistair Hague, rh William
Cash, William Hammond, Philip
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet) Hancock, Mike
Harris, Dr. Evan (Oxford W & Abingdon)
Chope, Christopher
Clarke, rh Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Harvey, Nick
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Hawkins, Nick
Collins, Tim Heald, Oliver
Conway, Derek Heath, David
Cormack, Sir Patrick Heathcoat-Amory, rh David
Hendry, Charles Randall, John
Hoban, Mark (Fareham) Reid, Alan (Argyll & Bute)
Hogg, rh Douglas Rendel, David
Holmes, Paul Robathan, Andrew
Horam, John (Orpington) Robertson, Hugh (Faversham & M-Kent)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Hunter, Andrew Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Jack, rh Michael Roe, Mrs Marion
Jenkin, Bernard Rosindell, Andrew
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Ruffley, David
Keetch, Paul Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Kennedy, rh Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness) Sanders, Adrian
Sayeed, Jonathan
Key, Robert (Salisbury) Selous, Andrew
Kirkbride, Miss Julie Shephard, rh Mrs Gillian
Kirkwood, Sir Archy Shepherd, Richard
Laing, Mrs Eleanor Simmonds, Mark
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Simpson, Keith (M-Norfolk)
Lamb, Norman Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns & kincardine)
Lansley, Andrew
Laws, David (Yeovil) Soames, Nicholas
Leigh, Edward Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Letwin, rh Oliver Spicer, Sir Michael
Lewis, Dr. Julian (New Forest E) Spink, Bob (Castle Point)
Liddell-Grainger, Ian Spring, Richard
Lidington, David Stanley, rh Sir John
Lilley, rh Peter Steen, Anthony
Loughton, Tim Stunell, Andrew
Luff, Peter (M-Worcs) Swire, Hugo (E Devon)
McIntosh. Miss Anne Syms, Robert
Mackay, rh Andrew Tapsell, Sir Peter
Maclean, rh David Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Taylor, John (Solihull)
McLoughlin, Patrick Taylor Sir Teddy
Malins, Humfrey Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury & Atcham) Thurso, John
Tonge, Dr. Jenny
Maude, rh Francis Trend, Michael
Mawhinney, rh Sir Brian Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
May, Mrs Theresa Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Mercer, Patrick Viggers, Peter
Mitchell, Andrew (Sutton Coldfield) Walter, Robert
Waterson, Nigel
Moore, Michael Webb, Steve (Northavon)
Moss, Malcolm Whittingdale, John
Murrison, Dr. Andrew Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Oaten, Mark (Winchester) Wiggin, Bill
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury) Wilkinson, John
Öpik, Lembit Willetts, David
Osborne, George (Tatton) Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Ottaway, Richard Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Page, Richard Willis, Phil
Paice, James Wilshire, David
Pickles, Eric Young, rh Sir George
Portillo, rh Michael Younger-Ross, Richard
Price, Adam (E Carmarthen & Dinefwr) Tellers for the Ayes:
Prisk, Mark (Hertford) Angela Watkinson and
Pugh, Dr. John Mr. Mark Field
Adams, Irene (Paisley N) Battle, John
Ainger, Nick Bayley, Hugh
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE) Begg, Miss Anne
Alexander, Douglas Bell, Stuart
Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E) Benn, Hilary
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Danwen) Bennett, Andrew
Benton, Joe (Bootle)
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary Berry, Roger
Atherton, Ms Candy Best, Harold
Atkins, Charlotte Betts, Clive
Austin, John Blackman, Liz
Bailey, Adrian Blears, Ms Hazel
Baird, Vera Blizzard, Bob
Banks, Tony Boateng, rh Paul
Barnes, Harry Borrow, David
Bradley, rh Keith (Withington) Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben Foulkes, rh George
Brennan, Kevin Francis, Dr. Hywel
Brown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E Wallsend) Gapes, Mike (Ilford S)
Gardiner, Barry
Browne, Desmond Gerrard, Neil
Bryant, Chris Gibson, Dr. Ian
Buck, Ms Karen Gilroy, Linda
Burden, Richard Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Burgon, Colin Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Burnham, Andy Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Cairns, David Grogan, John
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Hain, rh Peter
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Caplin, Ivor Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Casale, Roger Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Caton, Martin Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Cawsey, Ian (Brigg) Hanson, David
Challen, Colin Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Chaytor, David Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Clapham, Michael Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney)
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Healey, John
Clarke, rh Charles (Norwich S) Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston) Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hendrick, Mark
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Hepburn, Stephen
Clelland, David Heppell, John
Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V) Hesford, Stephen
Coaker, Vernon Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Coffey, Ms Ann Hinchliffe, David
Coleman, Iain Hodge, Margaret
Colman, Tony Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)
Connarty, Michael Hood, Jimmy (Clydesdale)
Cook, rh Robin (Livingston) Hopkins, Kelvin
Cooper, Yvette Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Cousins Jim Howells, Dr. Kim
Cox, Tom (Tooting) Hoyle, Lindsay
Cranston, Ross Hughes, Beverley (Stretford & Urmston)
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Ann (Keighley) Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch) Humble, Mrs Joan
Cummings, John Hurst, Alan (Braintree)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington) Hutton, rh John
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire Iddon, Dr. Brian
Dalyell, Tam Illsley, Eric
Darling, rh Alistair Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
David, Wayne Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Davidson, Ian Jamieson, David
Davies, rh Denzil (Llanelli) Jenkins, Brian
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C) Johnson, Alan (Hull W)
Davis, rh Terry (B'ham Hodge H) Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, rh John Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Dhanda, Parmjit Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Dismore, Andrew Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Dobbin, Jim (Heywood) Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Doran, Frank Jowell, rh Tessa
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W) Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W)
Drew, David (Stroud) Kaufman, rh Gerald
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey) Keeble, Ms Sally
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston) Keen, Alan (Feltham)
Edwards, Huw Keen, Ann (Brentford)
Efford, Clive Kemp, Fraser
Ellman, Mrs Louise Khabra, Piara S.
Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley E) Kidney, David
Farrelly, Paul Kilfoyle, Peter
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna King, Andy (Rugby)
Flint, Caroline King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow)
Flynn, Paul (Newport W)
Follett, Barbara Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Foster, rh Derek Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Foster, Michael (Worcester) Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, David Rammell, Bill
Laxton, Bob (Derby N) Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)
Lazarowicz, Mark Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Lepper, David Reid, rh Dr. John (Hamilton N & Bellshill)
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom (High Peak) Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Linton, Martin Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Love, Andrew Roche, Mrs Barbara
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham) Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Luke, Iain (Dundee E) Ruane, Chris
Lyons, John (Strathkelvin) Russell, Ms Christine (City of Chester)
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen Salter, Martin
McCartney, rh Ian Sarwar, Mohammad
McDonagh, Siobhain Savidge, Malcolm
MacDonald, Calum Sawford, Phil
MacDougall, John Sedgemore, Brian
McFall, John Sheerman, Barry
McGuire, Mrs Anne Sheridan, Jim
McKechin, Ann Shipley, Ms Debra
McKenna, Rosemary Simon, Siôn (B'ham Erdington)
Mackinlay, Andrew Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
McNamara, Kevin Singh, Marsha
McNulty, Tony Skinner, Dennis
MacShane, Denis Smith, rh Andrew (Oxford E)
Mactaggart, Fiona Smith, rh Chris (Islington S & Finsbury)
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Mahmood, Khalid
Mahon, Mrs Alice Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Mallaber, Judy Soley, Clive
Mandelson, rh Peter
Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW) Southworth, Helen
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S) Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Steinberg, Gerry
Marshall-Andrews, Robert Stevenson, George
Merron, Gillian Stewart, David (Inverness E & Lochaber)
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Alan Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Miliband, David Stinchcombe, Paul
Miller, Andrew Stoate, Dr. Howard
Moffatt, Laura Stringer, Graham
Mole, Chris Stuart, Ms Gisela
Moran, Margaret Sutcliffe, Gerry
Morgan, Julie Tami, Mark (Alyn)
Morley, Elliot Taylor, Dari (Stockton S)
Mountford, Kali Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Mudie, George Timms, Stephen
Munn, Ms Meg Tipping, Paddy
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck) Touhig, Don (Islwyn)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood) Truswell, Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton) Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Edward Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Olner, Bill Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr) Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Palmer, Dr. Nick Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
Pearson, Ian Vaz, Keith (Leicester E)
Perham, Linda Vis, Dr. Rudi
Picking, Anne Wareing, Robert N.
Pickthall, Colin Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
Plaskitt, James Watts, David
Pollard, Kerry White, Brian
Pond, Chris (Gravesham) Wicks, Malcolm
Pope, Greg (Hyndburn) Wills, Michael
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E) Wilson, Brian
Winnick, David
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn Wood, Mike (Batley)
Purchase, Ken Woodward, Shaun
Purnell, James Woolas, Phil
Quinn, Lawrie Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth) Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Noes:
Wright, David (Telford) Jim Fitzpatrick and
Wright, Tony (Cannock) Joan Ryan

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order NO 31

(Questions on amenements):—

The House divided: Ayes 300, Noes 168.

Division No. 296] [7:16 pm
Adams, Irene (Paisley N) Cook, rh Robin (Livingston)
Ainger, Nick Cooper, Yvette
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE) Cousins, Jim
Alexander, Douglas Cox, Tom (Tooting)
Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E) Cranston, Ross
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen) Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Ann (Keighley)
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Atherton, Ms Candy Cummings, John
Atkins, Charlotte Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Austin, John Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Bailey, Adrian Darling, rh Alistair
Baird, Vera Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Banks, Tony David, Wayne
Barnes, Harry Davidson, Ian
Battle, John Davies, rh Denzil (Llanelli)
Bayley, Hugh Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Begg, Miss Anne Davis, rh Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Benn, Hilary Dean, Mrs Janet
Bennett, Andrew Denham, rh John
Benton, Joe (Bootle) Dismore, Andrew
Berry, Roger Dobbin, Jim (Heywood)
Best, Harold Doran, Frank
Betts, Clive Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Blackman, Liz Drew, David (Stroud)
Blears, Ms Hazel Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Blizzard, Bob Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Boateng, rh Paul Efford, Clive
Borrow, David Ellman, Mrs Louise
Bradley, rh Keith (Withington) Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley E)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Bradshaw, Ben Flint, Caroline
Brennan, Kevin Flynn, Paul (Newport W)
Brown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E Wallsend) Follett, Barbara
Foster, rh Derek
Browne, Desmond Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Bryant, Chris Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye)
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard Foulkes, rh George
Burgon, Colin Francis, Dr. Hywel
Burnham, Andy Gapes, Mike (Ilford S)
Cairns, David Gardiner, Barry
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Gerrard, Neil
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Gibson, Dr. Ian
Caplin, Ivor Gilroy, Linda
Casale, Roger Goggins, Paul
Caton, Martin Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Cawsey, Ian (Brigg) Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Challen, Colin Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Chaytor, David Grogan, John
Clapham, Michael Hain, rh Peter
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough) Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston) Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Hanson, David
Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V) Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Coaker, Vernon Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Coffey, Ms Ann Healey, John
Colman, Tony Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Connarty, Michael Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hendrick, Mark Mactaggart, Fiona
Hepburn, Stephen McWalter, Tony
Heppell, John McWilliam, John
Hesford, Stephen Mahmood, Khalid
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Mahon, Mrs Alice
Hinchliffe, David Mallaber, Judy
Hodge, Margaret Mandelson, rh Peter
Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall) Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
Hood, Jimmy (Clydesdale) Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Hopkins, Kelvin Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E) Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Merron, Gillian
Howells, Dr. Kim Michael, rh Alun
Hoyle, Lindsay Milburn, rh Alan
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford & Urmston) Miliband, David
Miller, Andrew
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Moffatt, Laura
Humble, Mrs Joan Mole, Chris
Hurst, Alan (Braintree) Moran, Margaret
Hutton, rh John Morgan, Julie
Iddon, Dr. Brian Morley, Elliot
Illsley, Eric Mountford, Kali
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate) Mudie, George
Munn, Ms Meg
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough) Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Jamieson, David Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Jenkins, Brian Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Johnson, Alan (Hull W) O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield) O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Edward
Jones, Helen (Warrington N) Olner, Bill
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak) Palmer, Dr. Nick
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S) Pearson, Ian
Jowell, rh Tessa Perham, Linda
Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W) Picking, Anne
Kaufman, rh Gerald Pickthall, Colin
Keeble, Ms Sally Plaskitt, James
Keen, Alan (Feltham) Pond, Chris (Gravesham)
Keen, Ann (Brentford) Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)
Kemp, Fraser Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Khabra, Piara S. Primarolo, rh Dawn
Kidney, David Prosser, Gwyn
Kilfoyle, Peter Purchase, Ken
King, Andy (Rugby) Purnell, James
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow) Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Knight, Jim (S Dorset) Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)
Kumar, Dr. Ashok Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Lammy, David
Laxton, Bob (Derby N) Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David Roche, Mrs Barbara
Leslie, Christopher Ross, Ernic (Dundee W)
Levitt, Tom (High Peak) Ruane, Chris
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S) Russell, Ms Christine (City of Chester)
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C) Ryan, Joan (Enfield N)
Love, Andrew Salter, Martin
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham) Sarwar, Mohammad
Luke, Iain (Dundee E) Savidge, Malcolm
Lyons, John (Strathkelvin) Sawford, Phil
McAvoy, Thomas Sedgemore, Brian
McCabe, Stephen Sheerman, Barry
McDonagh, Siobhain Sheridan, Jim
MacDonald, Calum Shipley, Ms Debra
MacDougall, John Simon, Siôn (B'ham Erdington)
McFall, John Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
McGuire, Mrs Anne Singh, Marsha
McKechin, Ann Skinner, Dennis
McKenna, Rosemary Smith, rh Andrew (Oxford E)
Mackinlay, Andrew Smith, rh Chris (Islington S & Finsbury)
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
MacShane, Denis
Soley, Clive Vis, Dr. Rudi
Southworth, Helen Wareing, Robert N.
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
Steinberg, Gerry Watts, David
Stevenson, George White, Brian
Stewart, David (Inverness E & Lochaber) Wicks, Malcolm
Wills, Michael
Stewart, Ian (Eccles) Wilson, Brian
Stoate, Dr. Howard Winnick, David
Stringer, Graham Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry Wood, Mike (Batley)
Tami, Mark (Alyn) Woodward, Shaun
Taylor, Dari (Stockton S) Woolas, Phil
Taylor, David (NW Leics) Worthington, Tony
Timms, Stephen Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
Tipping, Paddy
Touhig, Don (Islwyn) Wright, David (Telford)
Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown) Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield) Tellers for the Ayes:
Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S) Jim Fitzpatrick and
Vaz, Keith (Leicester E) Ms Bridget Prentice
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Francois, Mark
Allan, Richard Gale, Roger (N Thanet)
Amess, David George, Andrew (St. Ives)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Gibb, Nick (Bognor Regis)
Baker, Norman Gidley, Sandra
Barker, Gregory Goodman, Paul
Baron, John (Billericay) Gray, James (N Wilts)
Barrett, John Grayling, Chris
Bellingham, Henry Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Beresford, Sir Paul Greenway, John
Blunt, Crispin Grieve, Dominic
Boswell, Tim Gummer, rh John
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Hague, rh William
Bottomley, rh Virginia (SW Surrey) Hammond, Philip
Hancock, Mike
Brady, Graham Harris, Dr. Evan (Oxford W & Abingdon)
Brake, Tom (Carshalton)
Brazier, Julian Harvey, Nick
Breed, Colin Hawkins, Nick
Brooke, Mrs Annette L Heald, Oliver
Browning, Mrs Angela Heath, David
Burnside, David Heathcoat-Amory, rh David
Burstow, Paul Hendry, Charles
Burt, Alistair Hoban, Mark (Fareham)
Butterfill, John Hogg, rh Douglas
Carmichael, Alistair Holmes, Paul
Cash, William Horam, John (Orpington)
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet) Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Hunter, Andrew
Chope, Christopher Jack, rh Michael
Clarke, rh Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Jenkin, Bernard
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Collins, Tim Keetch, Paul
Conway, Derek Kennedy, rh Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness)
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cotter, Brian Key, Robert (Salisbury)
Curry, rh David Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Davey, Edward (Kingston) Kirkwood, Sir Archy
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice & Howden) Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Djanogly, Jonathan Lamb, Norman
Duncan, Peter (Galloway) Lansley, Andrew
Duncan Smith, rh Iain Laws, David (Yeovil)
Evans, Nigel Leigh, Edward
Fabricant, Michael Letwin, rh Oliver
Fallon, Michael Lewis, Dr. Julian (New Forest E)
Flight, Howard Liddell-Grainger, Ian
Flook, Adrian Lidington, David
Forth, rh Eric Lilley, rh Peter
Foster, Don (Bath) Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter (M-Worcs) Shepherd, Richard
McIntosh, Miss Anne Simmonds, Mark
Mackay, rh Andrew Simpson, Keith (M-Norfolk)
Maclean, rh David Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns & Kincardine)
McLoughlin, Patrick
Malins, Humfrey Soames, Nicholas
Maude, rh Francis Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Mawhinney, rh Sir Brian Spink, Bob (Castle Point)
May, Mrs Theresa Stanley, rh Sir John
Mercer, Patrick Steen, Anthony
Mitchell, Andrew (Sutton Coldfield) Stunell, Andrew
Swire, Hugo (E Devon)
Moore, Michael Syms, Robert
Moss, Malcolm Tapsell, Sir Peter
Murrison, Dr. Andrew Taylor, Ian (Esher)
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury) Taylor, John (Solihull)
Öpik, Lembit Taylor, Sir Teddy
Osborne, George (Tatton) Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Ottaway, Richard Thurso, John
Page, Richard Tonge, Dr. Jenny
Paice, James Trend, Michael
Pickles Eric Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Portillo, rh Michael Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Price, Adam (E Carmarthen & Dinefwr) Viggers, Peter
Walter, Robert
Prisk, Mark (Hertford) Waterson, Nigel
Pugh, Dr. John Whittingdale, John
Randall, John Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Reid, Alan (Argyll & Bute) Wiggin, Bill
Wilkinson, John
Rendel, David Willetts, David
Robathan, Andrew Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Robertson, Hugh (Faversham & M-Kent) Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Willis, Phil
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry) Wilshire, David
Roe, Mrs Marion Young, rh Sir George
Rosindell, Andrew Younger-Ross, Richard
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Sanders, Adrian Tellers for the Noes:
Selous, Andrew Angela Watkinson and
Shephard, rh Mrs Gillian Mr. Mark Field

Question accordingly agreed to.

MR. SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved, That this House welcomes the Government's commitment to children's services as evidenced by the appointment of the Minister of State for Children; congratulates the Government on its Quality Protects initiative, which provided 885 million to improve children's social services; supports the action the Government is taking to legislate to establish an independent inspectorate to inspect local authority children's services and social care provided by the private and voluntary sector; notes that the Government, local authorities and other statutory bodies are already taking further action to improve services for children, in the light of the Victoria Climbié Inquiry Report; congratulates the Government and local services on the announcement of the 35 Children's Trusts Pathfinders on 10th July; and looks forward to the publication of the Green Paper on children in the autumn.

    1. cc393-402
      1. cc401-2
        1. cc401-2
    1. c402
    2. Pharmacy Services 122 words
    3. c402
    4. Fair Trade 127 words