HC Deb 03 March 2004 vol 418 cc978-1007
Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal)

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

On the question relating to Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism, the Ayes were 370, the Noes were 49, so the Ayes have it.

[The Division List is published at the end of today'0s debates.]

5. 9 pm

The Minister for Children(Margaret Hodge)

I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to insert instead thereof: welcomes the fact that this Government acknowledged the importance of children's issues by appointing the first ever Minister with responsibility for children and young people; congratulates the Government's commitment to Lord Laming's report on safeguarding children, shown in the Green Paper Every Child Matters, and its determination to turn words into action by publishing the Children's Bill in the other place today; acknowledges that the £885 million Quality Protects Programme is already improving the, life chances of vulnerable children; commends the Government for the 8. 7% increase in funding for children's social services in the next financial year; and is alarmed by the Opposition's proposals to freeze spending on children's services. I am delighted that we have the opportunity today, in a debate called at the very time when the Children's Bill is being presented for its First Reading in the House of Lords, to set out both the Government's considerable record on safeguarding vulnerable children and our plans to reform and transform children's services. Ours are plans that will support our ambition to enable every child, including the most vulnerable, to fulfil their potential and to ensure that no child slips through the net. Ours are plans that give us all a once-in-a-lifetime Opportunity to reform services so that all children, but especially the most vulnerable, can achieve better outcomes. Ours are plans that are designed to maximise the opportunity for every child and to minimise the risk for every child.

The Bill that has been presented in the House of Lords today, about which I will say more tomorrow, sets out a legislative framework for children's, services and places the well-being and safeguarding of children and young people, particularly the most vulnerable, at its heart. The Bill supports a much wider programme of reform, which I want to touch on in my contribution, but I have to say that it is a bit rich for this Conservative Opposition to try to claim the protection of the vulnerable as central to their political concerns and spending priorities.

I do not understand, nor will any rational person listening to the debate be able to begin to understand, how the Opposition can say that they care about vulnerable children, yet make public spending cuts the central theme of their political programme. We are determined to invest in the vital services that will better safeguard and protect the most vulnerable children, but they want to slash public spending and destroy our public services in the name of an ideological obsession with cutting taxation.

Tim Loughton

I am sorry that the Minister did not listen to the point that I made earlier, because what she is saying is complete and utter garbage. Will she confirm what she has said and is quoted as saying—that all the proposals in the forthcoming Bill will be cost-neutral?

Margaret Hodge

I have to say first that what I said is not garbage, because the commitment made by the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin), the shadow Chancellor, is simply to protect health and schools, not education. The hon. Gentleman should go away, re-read the speech and come back to the Chamber better informed for the debate.

Jonathan Shaw

A central agency involved in protecting children is the police, in respect of whom the Opposition have said they will make dramatic cuts.

Margaret Hodge

My hon. Friend is right to draw to the House's attention the impact that cuts in police spending would have on the police's ability to protect vulnerable children.

We are determined to invest in the vital services—

Tim Loughton


Margaret Hodge

I will deal with that point as well: over time, if I may say so, we have increased spending year on year on social services and children's social services, whereas the Opposition year on year when they were in government, cut expenditure on and investment in children's social services, which protect vulnerable children.

Mrs. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest) (Con)

Will the Minister give way?

Margaret Hodge

May I make a little progress? I will give way to the hon. Lady in a while.

I do not understand how the Opposition can claim to want to protect vulnerable children when the shadow Chancellor—I say again what he has clearly and unambiguously stated—says that he will freeze spending on all but schools, and therefore on children's services, in cash terms for two years.

The shadow Chancellor says that he will allow only a 2 per cent. increase in expenditure after that point, so where will the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) find the money to protect vulnerable children when the Opposition would cut services by £100 million in the first year? Where would he be when that figure rose to £230 million in the second year? What does he intend—9,000 fewer social workers or 3,000 fewer Sure Start programmes? Is that where the cuts would fall? How would those cuts, in the terms of the Opposition's own motion, give vulnerable children the priority they need and deserve?

Mrs. Laing

Is the right hon. Lady aware of the enormous cuts in Government grant to Essex county council last year, which meant that in my constituency, and throughout Essex, social services, which were trying hard to provide services for children, including vulnerable children, had to be cut, directly because of the red pen of the Deputy Prime Minister?

Margaret Hodge

That is arrant nonsense. I am aware that Essex social services, along with every other social services department, will get an almost 9 per cent. increase in its spending on children's social services, so it will continue to do the effective job that it is currently doing, building on it and showing the way on the reforms that we want to provide a better chance for vulnerable children.

Mr. Mark Francois (Rayleigh) (Con)

I thank the Minister for her courtesy in giving way, but I must tell her that she is incorrect. There has been a large movement of resources away from local authorities in the home counties towards local authorities in the midlands and the north of England. When the change was made last year, Essex county council had the lowest grant increase of any authority in the entire country, and it suffered badly because of it. That is the reality, not the spin that the Minister is giving out.

Margaret Hodge

There has been a year-on-year increase in expenditure across the board on local authority services. That has been coupled with a proper and totally appropriate redistribution so that areas that suffered from lack of investment because they were mainly Labour-controlled local authority areas got a proper slice of the cake in the distribution of local authority resources.

Mrs. Humble

On the Labour Benches, the increase in resources for social services departments has been very much welcomed. Will my right hon. Friend address the issue that I do not recollect that the Opposition mentioned: child mental health services? Vulnerable children often have behavioural and mental health problems. Is she liaising with her colleagues to ensure that mental health services, as well as social services departments, have additional investment that helps those young people and their families?

Margaret Hodge

I concur completely with the important point that my hon. Friend makes. Indeed, the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Dr. Ladyman), who has responsibility for children's mental health services, will reply to the debate, which shows how closely we work across Government, and he will reflect on the 10 per cent. increase year on year that we are investing in children's mental health services.

Mr. David Amess (Southend, West) (Con)

Is the Minister telling the House that for purely party political reasons this rotten Government have given Southend children's social services department only a 2. 4 per cent. increase, which is way below the national average? Is she saying that that is just because we have Conservative MPs in Southend? That is what she has been telling the House.

Margaret Hodge

I am telling the hon. Gentleman that this good Government have put right the rotten actions of the previous Conservative Government in deliberately —[Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. The Minister was replying to an intervention.

Margaret Hodge

I will now make some progress.

I want to go further, because I do not believe that the Opposition begin to understand what we need to do to provide a stronger framework to support children and families. Let me give some instances. While we want to use the public purse to build a quality child care infrastructure, which will support choice for children and their parents and which will enhance the opportunity for families to climb out of poverty, the Opposition want to use the money to give mothers no choice but to stay in the home. While we understand that we can safeguard vulnerable children and enhance their opportunity only by ensuring that all our mainstream services deliver effectively for children—as well as strengthening the targeted services—they want only to offer the specialist services that families and children see as stigmatised and paternalistic. Poor services for poor children: that is the Conservative mantra. While Labour Members understand that parents want and need support to bring up their children throughout their lives, particularly at key transition points in their development, the Conservatives believe that parenting should always remain the private concern of individuals, with the state intervening only when things go wrong.

Tim Loughton

This really is rubbish. So far we have heard nothing but attacks on Conservatives for policy that we have never announced—policy that would never be ours. The Government have let it out of the bag that they have shifted funding up north to suit their own political ends.

Before the Minister starts berating us about fantasy figures that do not exist, she should tell us how she expects social services departments to cope with all the extra responsibilities she has given them on the very small increases that they received? Most of the money has gone to education. We are not suggesting slashing any provision; we are suggesting increasing provision.

The Minister has been decreasing the portion that goes to social services departments for children's services, particularly in the south of England, and she knows it.

Margaret Hodge

I suggest that the hon. Gentleman read the shadow Chancellor's speech on public spending cuts.

Jonathan Shaw

The Tory council in Kent, which is most certainly in the south-east of England—there is no disputing that—asks d the Government for a 5 per cent. increase and received, I think, 5. 4 per cent. The idea that all the money is going north is a fantasy.

Margaret Hodge

My hon. Friend, who works very hard on behalf of his constituents, understands what we are doing much better than some Conservative Members.

Jim Knight

Is it not the case that next year Labour councils will receive a. 5. 9 per cent. increase overall, while Tory councils will receive 6. 1 per cent? Meanwhile, council tax is going up by more in Tory areas than in Labour areas. The truth is that Tory councils, most of which are in the south, are receiving more from the Government than Labour councils. That is ridiculous.

Margaret Hodge

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that important point.

Central to this debate is the fact that the Government are committed to year-by-year investment so that—most important—we can abolish child poverty. The Conservatives, whether they talk of one area or another, are committed to year-by-year cuts. That will only increase poverty, and will only widen division. For me, it is the worst and most destructive feature of the Thatcher legacy.

Let no one forget that it was under the last Conservative Government that child poverty more than doubled, with a third of all children living in poverty when we took office. That was the largest increase in child poverty in any industrialised nation. Those are the facts; that is the Conservatives' record. They created more vulnerable children, and they never delivered for vulnerable children.

Mrs. Lorna Fitzsimons (Rochdale) (Lab)

My constituents, who suffered for 18 years under the Conservative party, will take the Conservatives' crocodile tears for what they are, given the criminal underfunding of child and adolescent mental health services in the north-Nest. Where was the money? The Conservatives took it away from the north to subsidise the south. They did not care about our children—the most vulnerable children in the country.

Margaret Hodge

I entirely agree. I can tell that my hon. Friend feels as strongly as I do.

The Children's Bill and the reform programme on which we are embarked build on our considerable achievements for vulnerable children since 1997. It is this Government who, through reforms to the tax and benefits system, have lifted more than 500,000 children out of poverty—children who were condemned to a vulnerable start through no fault of their own. Would that investment survive the Tory public spending cuts?

It is this Government who have increased maternity pay, introduced paid paternity leave, increased maternity leave and improved rights, to flexible working, so that parents can balance their working lives with their child care responsibilities, thereby helping all children, particularly vulnerable children. Will the Conservatives now support those moves and work to improve them? It is this Government who have created and funded more than 500 Sure Start programmes in the most deprived communities in our country. They have to be long-term investments, but we are already getting evidence that Sure Start is creating massively better opportunities for our most vulnerable children. Through one programme in Leicester, referrals to emergency social services have been cut by 40 per cent. Through another programme in Corby, the number of children being assessed as having a special educational need when going to school has been cut by 10 per cent. Would the Conservatives not just applaud our Sure Start programme, but sustain and expand this initiative?

It is this Government who have delivered free nursery education for every three and four-year-old—six months sooner than we said we would. That investment supports every child, but in particular it supports opportunity for the most vulnerable in our community. Will the Conservatives now support an investment that they failed to make during the 18 long years in which they had the power to do so? And it is this Government who will increase spending for children's social services by nearly 9 per cent. in the next financial year. Would the Conservatives, who are committed to cuts in spending, keep our investment in children's social services going?

It is this Government who introduced the quality protects programme—a five-year investment of nearly £900 million to improve the life chances of some of the most vulnerable children in the country.

Mr. Dawson

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the quality protects programme did extend as far as Essex, and that the money was used very well? In fact, Essex social services developed a pioneering family group conferencing system. Opposition Members would do well to celebrate that fact, rather than constantly denigrate their local services.

Margaret Hodge

I should tell those Opposition Members who have constituencies in Essex that much very good, innovative and effective practice is being developed by—[Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order.If the hon. Member for Rayleigh (Mr. Francois) has a comment to make, perhaps he could make an intervention.

Mr. Francois


Madam Deputy Speaker


Margaret Hodge

If the hon. Member for Rayleigh (Mr. Francois) had been listening, I was responding—in a way in which I would have thought he would welcome—to all Members who represent the county of Essex. Essex county council is developing much excellent, innovative and effective practice, particularly in respect of children's social services. Those Members should be applauding and encouraging that practice, not denigrating it.

Mrs. Laing

I agree with the Minister unreservedly—the social services department of Essex county council is doing an excellent job. Putting everything in one department under one person was an excellent idea, and the newly appointed director of learning services and social services is doing an excellent job. I have spoken to her about it many times in great detail, but it must be recognised that she and her colleagues are doing that excellent work under the great constraint of the massive budget cuts that the Deputy Prime Minister imposed last year.

Margaret Hodge

I have to tell the hon. Lady that, when in government, her party cut spending year on year, while we are increasing spending year on year.

It is this Government—

Mr. Francois

Will the Minister give way?

Margaret Hodge

One final time.

Mr. Francois

I thank the Minister for her courtesy in giving way again. For the avoidance of doubt, Conservative-controlled Essex county council has an excellent social services department. I have been briefed on the value of family group conferencing, which can be extremely valuable. I have great praise for Essex county council social services department, which does a very good job, particularly given the financial pressures that it is under because of this rotten Government.

Margaret Hodge

Perhaps after that lengthy exchange we can now all agree on the good work being done by the county represented by a number of hon. Members.

I want to describe our record. The Government have enacted a raft of legislation better to safeguard vulnerable children, from the Care Standards Act 2000 to the Adoption and Children Act 2002 and the Protection of Children Act 1999. It is this Government who have increased investment in our schools year on year, so that all our children, but particularly the most vulnerable, can achieve more and realise their potential.

It is this Government who are developing the extended schools programme so that, by 2006, every authority will have at least one extended school, where all the services that vulnerable children in particular need—from study support to sporting facilities; from children's mental health services to advice about drugs—can be accessed in one place, where children are and where they feel safe.

It is this Government who have funded and created the first programme of preventive services for vulnerable children in every community through the children's fund. The Opposition sought to criticise the Government because, as a result of the programme proving so successful, we have had to identify new and extra money to keep projects funded. Far from cutting these preventive services for children, we have put an additional £20 million into sustaining them. What hope would those programmes have under a Conservative Government ideologically fixated on cutting public spending?

It is this Government who have invested in preventive and restorative youth justice programmes, which have cut reoffending rates by 20 per cent. It is this Government who have virtually eradicated youth unemployment and introduced educational maintenance allowances to support vulnerable young people to stay in education and training. It is this Government who have developed the modern apprenticeship programme, with a record 230,000 young people now taking part in a modern apprenticeship course.

That is the record on which we want to build; that is a record that only a Labour Government can achieve. That record gives us a sound basis on which to build a further programme of reform, which we heralded in our Green Paper, "Every Child Matters", and which we are putting into practice in part through the Bill we are introducing today.

Tim Loughton

Before the Minister gets completely carried off to fantasy island, will she confirm that, to make up the cuts that she was proposing in the children's fund, the Government will take money from the youth offending teams programme? Will she confirm also that the budget for children's fund projects in 2005–06 has not been confirmed and is still vulnerable? Will she confirm that all the programmes she is looking at go only to 2006? There has been no commitment from the Government—we have not had the next spending review—on any of the funding being sustained beyond 2006. Before accusing us of cuts that we have never proposed, will she give us guarantees that these schemes will continue after the next election, in the unlikely event that she is still in a position to do something about it?

Margaret Hodge

The hon. Gentleman must read speeches that are put into the public domain on behalf of the Conservative party so that he is clear on what his party is committed to. I can confirm that we have not cut the youth offending teams programme in any way; I do not know where he got that idea from. He is correct that we will settle the 2005–06 funding for the children's fund programme once we have the outcome of this year's spending review.

Virginia Bottomley (South-West Surrey) (Con)

Much of this debate has been about funding, but I am not clear whether there is a relationship between child abuse and funding. There are two key issues: data sharing, and how one requires a child to be seen whose parents are not producing the child. Will the Minister require a child to be produced for a school nurse or health visitor when there is concern about its well-being?

Margaret Hodge

The right hon. Lady is correct to draw attention to those two very important points. I shall cover them as I move on. I wanted to set a context, because vulnerable children will be supported to develop their opportunities only if their lives in the round are supported by action from government in the round.

Since we launched our Green Paper we have seen the richest and most significant debate on children's services for over a generation. I in no way apologise for having engaged in that debate and having had a wide consultation, which enabled us to listen to many voices as we formulated the Bill that we presented in the other place this afternoon. We received 4,500 responses to our consultation. Most gratifyingly, two thirds of the responses were from children and young people themselves. That, I hope, reflects the way in which we intend to work over the coming period.

We are dealing with vital but difficult issues. We shall succeed only if we ensure that children's voices are at the heart of our endeavours and if we work closely in partnership with all our stakeholders, so that together we can build on what we learn works to improve the outcome for all our children, particularly vulnerable children. That approach, of working in partnership and having children's interests at the centre of our concerns, will inform all our reforms.

Social services departments have not, as the Opposition suggest, been kept in limbo, waiting for the Children's Bill. They have been fully engaged in working with us to make sure that our proposals are soundly based, workable and right, and that they will help to bring about a step change in the opportunities for the safeguarding of all children.

I accept that we have much left to do. Lord Laming's report on the events leading up to the death of Victoria Climbié and the joint chief inspectors' report, "Safeguarding Children", set out a number of challenges. However, we have not, as the Opposition suggest, failed to act since Lord Laming published his report. Indeed, of the 708 recommendations, only one has been rejected. We have fully implemented 60 and we have started work on all the others, but I accept that we need to go further.

We need to tackle the issues identified in both reports, of ill-trained and overworked staff, often not properly supported by their managers. We need to do more to recruit, retain and train good-quality staff to work throughout the children's work force. We need to ensure that senior managers, right up to chief executives, accept responsibly and accountably for the actions of their staff. We need to address the weaknesses identified in the way in which area child protection committees work, with insufficient authority and few resources to carry out their functions. We need to become better at sharing information across professional boundaries and within professional organisations, and across local authority boundaries, so that children are less likely to fall through the net.

Mrs. Laing

Given what the Minister has just said about sharing information, on which I entirely agree with her, do the Government propose to amend the Data Protection Act 1998?

Margaret Hodge

We shall ensure that, as we have laid out in the Green Paper, there are no inhibitions within the Act that will prevent the necessary sharing of information between professionals and across local authority boundaries

We need to develop the very difficult multi-agency working that we know makes sense, and we need to ensure that individual agencies are clear about their roles and responsibilities in protecting children. We need further to shift from intervening after things have gone wrong to supporting children and their families to prevent things from going wrong.

Most important, we need to make sure that the well-being and welfare of children are at the centre of the assessment process and the decision-making process. Nobody asked Victoria Climbié what she wanted or how she was. That must not happen again.

Our Children's Bill sits within a much wider context of reform. As part of that work, we are preparing the budgets for the next spending review period, and we will sharpen accountability with a more coherent system of targets and a better performance management system with stronger inspection levers. We are creating much simpler and more flexible funding mechanisms, with decisions being taken as close as is practicable to the front line. We will ensure investment in the skills, leadership and motivation of all who work with children, young people and their families. We are strengthening partnership working by developing the children's trusts, children's centres and the extended schools programme and by legislating on duties to co-operate.

Mrs. Annette L. Brooke (Mid-Dorset and North Poole) (LD)

I understand that some children's trusts are now in operation. Given sufficient time, will a full evaluation of their work be published?

Margaret Hodge

It is extremely important that, throughout the reform programme, we evaluate all the initiatives as they move forward and learn from that evaluation. However, it would be dilatory to wait until we have a full evaluation before moving on to the next step and it might lead to accusations of not working in the best interests of children as quickly as possible. We will continually evaluate and amend what we do to in the light of what the evaluation tells us.

We shall also support the culture change and the improvement that we want with a programme of support, coupled with proportionate intervention in areas where children's services fall below acceptable standards. As we have already outlined, the Bill will support our reform agenda.

In a historic move, we intend to establish a children's commissioner for England, and children will help us to choose the first one. The commissioner will be independent of both Parliament and the Government, ensuring that the views of all children, particularly the most vulnerable, are gathered and that they influence the development of policies for children, young people and families.

Our Bill will ensure that all the agencies that are important in children's lives work together to improve children's well-being and safety. We shall strengthen the safeguarding of children by creating statutory local safeguarding boards with specific duties on the key agencies both to safeguard and protect children within their own organisations and in partnership with other local agencies. The Bill establishes clear accountability for children's services with the appointment of a single director for children's services and a lead member in every local authority, building on the good practical experience on the ground in counties such as Essex.

Our Bill not only introduces statutory duties on organisations in the public, private and voluntary sector to work together, but removes the barriers that prevent them from doing so. We are legislating to establish an integrated inspection framework so that services are judged against common standards and are assessed on how well they work together to achieve better outcomes for children. We are providing for new intervention powers for children's social services to bring them into line with the powers that we already have for education. We are also legislating in the difficult area of establishing a framework to enable better sharing of information across all services. Finally, the Bill also contains proposals to improve the educational attainment of looked-after children and to beef up and improve the regulation of private fostering.

The Bill is a crucial piece in the jigsaw of reform. It stands alongside the development of children's trusts, which will provide a joined-up approach to the planning, commissioning and delivery of children's services. It stands alongside our commitment to create more extended schools, providing a range of services—often beyond the school day—for children, families and the wider community. We see the development of such structures as supporting our standards agenda and our social inclusion agenda. Only by supporting every child can we raise achievement levels in every school, and only by raising the educational achievement of vulnerable children can we help to ensure that they are given an equal opportunity in our society.

The Bill stands alongside our work force strategy. We have already raised the number of people choosing to train as social workers. We are looking at new routes into working with children, and are developing training programmes so that all professionals share a vocabulary and an understanding of child development, which will enable them to fulfil their statutory duties properly. We are developing leadership programmes and establishing sector skills councils to help us drive our reforms forward.

Our programme for change is wide in its range, strong in its component parts and innovative, exciting and important in what it means in terms of better outcomes for children and their families. It is not a hotch-potch of unrelated and opportunistic points to be scored in the comfort of a debating chamber. It is not an incoherent set of gripes cobbled together to little purpose. It is not a less than honest statement that pretends to care about vulnerable children, while being intent on cutting investment in the very services we have to protect and safeguard the future of children.

Ours is a radical and coherent set of policies and programmes that will help to ensure that every child in our country enjoys the opportunity to realise their potential and really grows up safely to be healthy, to enjoy their childhood, to benefit from a good education, to contribute positively to their community and to find economic well-being. Ours are policies that will ensure that children do not fall through the net.

All Members who sincerely wish to protect the most vulnerable children in our community have no option but to reject the ill-thought-out proposition put forward by the Opposition and to support the amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and other members of his Government.

5. 47 pm

Mr. Phil Willis (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (LD)

I congratulate the Conservatives on choosing this important subject for debate. However, as the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) and the Minister for Children were making their speeches, many Members may have been recalling meeting constituents who had been the subject of abuse and for whom the Bill has probably come too late.

I recall three young men who were systematically abused in a children's home in Harrogate—the life of at least one of them has been blighted by those experiences. If they have been watching the Parliament channel this afternoon, I wonder what they make of a debate that has been nothing but a party political wrangle about who did what to whom and how much each party intends to spend. It is a shame when debate on such an important subject is brought down to no more than a party political wrangle—[Interruption] I can assure the Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for South Thanet (Dr. Ladyman), that I have no intention of joining in such wrangling but that I shall address the subject of the debate.

The debate would have had far greater relevance if the Bill had been published in this place and we had read it. We could then have held an informed debate with the Minister, which would have been incredibly useful. Instead, we hear that the right hon. Lady will make a statement tomorrow; presumably, she has chosen to launch the Bill elsewhere in London rather than in the House. If that is not the case, I shall of course be happy to take an intervention from her. We did not have the way forward report, either; if we had, we would have been far better informed about the consultation exercise and its aftermath.

Ironically, the Conservative party failed, in choosing the wording of the motion, to mention the crisis in two very important areas—the youth justice system and refugee children. During the Queen's Speech, the Leader of the Opposition tramped round the television studios in Westminster, condemning the Government for threatening to remove benefits from children and condemning the fact that they would be incarcerated. It is the height of hypocrisy that he marched his troops into the Lobby in favour of the Bill when it came before the House this week.

There can be few groups of children in the United Kingdom who suffer more from racial and institutional abuse than refugee children. What other group of children can be detained without limit, without excuse and without having committed any crime other than to be the children of parents who have come to Britain seeking asylum? So far, those in that group can be detained by as much as 20 weeks, simply because they are the children of asylum seekers.

Following an inspection of the Dungavel immigration and removal centre in October 2002, Her Majesty's chief inspector of prisons said that the positive development of children was compromised by the secure nature of the facility and the uncertainty surrounding the length of stay Why are those children not important? Thirty-five children are currently being detained under these laws, yet there is not a word about them from Ministers or the Opposition.

Mr. Dawson

I agree with everything that the hon. Gentleman has said on this subject. Does he, like me. look forward to the day when the areas of youth justice and asylum and immigration currently under Home Office control might fall within the remit of my right hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for children and families?

Mr. Willis

I say to the hon. Gentleman, who has a proud record in defence of children's rights, that I do, with one proviso: that the Minister have an independent portfolio, because without that independence it will make little or no difference.

If the Conservaties are serious about the protection of vulnerable children—I believe that the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham is, because he asked a significant number of questions on that and we were all informed as a result of those questions—I hope that they will join the Liberal Democrats in pressing for an end to the detention of innocent refugee children in secure prisons, because that is a blight on anything that we do to achieve a better position for vulnerable children. I hope that the hon. Gentleman at least will do so.

Interestingly, too, the motion makes no reference to children involved in the youth justice system, despite the successive criticisms of Her Majesty's chief inspector of prisons and the damning comment in the joint chief inspectors' report in January 2003, which found that the welfare needs of children and young people who commit offences were not being adequately addressed by those responsible for their welfare".

Mrs. Brooke

Will my hon. Friend join me in asking the Minister to consider extending the Children Act 1989 to the Prison Service? A recent High Court judgment found that local authorities have responsibility for children in prison. Given all the terrible tragedies in our prisons, it would make a big difference if the Prison Service were to apply the Act.

Mr. Willis

I thank my hon. Friend for that comment. Let me say to the Minister in all sincerity that if we discover, when the Bill is published tomorrow, that the Children Act 1989 will not be extended to prisons and young offenders institutions, she will have a case to answer, and in Committee we shall make a good argument for its extension. The Minister cannot say now whether that is in the Bill, because the Bill has not been published; that is fair enough.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has repeatedly criticised successive Governments—both Conservative and Labour—for the way in which children in trouble with the law are treated and for our failure as a nation to integrate the UN convention on the rights of the child into juvenile justice. Under article 40, we are expected to separate the system for dealing with children from that for adults. Again, that may well be proposed in the Children's Bill, but it is a sadness that that has not yet occurred. Article 3 of the convention says that we should ensure that the interests of the child are a primary consideration in all decisions about them. Article 37 says that custody should be used only as a last resort.

Those principles are important because, despite the numerous criticisms and child protection failures in the youth justice system, the Government have not set out a clear role for youth offending teams or the Prison Service when dealing with the child protection system. As a distinct group, children in the care of our youth justice system are more likely to die, self-harm and face serious risk to their well-being and future success than almost any other group of children. It is a pity that the Minister does not take on board that powerful statement, which is borne out by all the evidence.

Although many people are delighted when some young people end up in custodial institutions, we have failed to realise that the vast majority of cases involve highly damaged young people and that the system that operates does absolutely nothing to support them. They are the group most likely to come from homes where abuse is common, neglect is the norm and other systems of care and protection have failed.

The hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham is right about the delays and confusion in introducing not only the Bill but other commitments, following the tragic death of Victoria Climbié and the Laming inquiry. He is right to point to the appalling debacle of the Minister's handling of the children's fund. The Minister proudly said that she had got £20 million more for the fund as a result of its success. That is stretching credibility. What actually happened is that she stopped the fund. She told groups all over the country—they were sometimes in the middle of three-year contracts—"You aren't getting any more money. "

The hue and cry of right hon. and hon. Members and voluntary groups throughout the country forced the Minister to reconsider and provide additional money. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that those projects have no guarantee of funding even in their third year—never mind beyond that—and the Minister should state in summing up the debate that every current three-year contract will be honoured. If that is the case, I shall feel that at least one successful thing has come from the debate.

Mrs. Brooke

Does my hon. Friend agree that the apparent lack of consultation before and during the cuts has affected the relationship with voluntary organisations and that a commitment to greater consultation is needed, as well as the pledge of money?

Mr. Willis

The hon. Member for Sure Start—the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Jonathan Shaw)—said that the voluntary sector is crucial. I am sorry to refer to a Committee in-joke that relates to the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs. Laing), who has now left the Chamber. My hon. Friend is right to suggest that the voluntary sector is crucial in terms of the proposed Bill and supporting vulnerable children, and the removal of funding from the children's fund was a devastating blow to many of those organisations.

The hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham made a brief reference to the national service framework for children. The motion refers to the delay in producing that framework, which was announced in 2001 as a huge leap forward. After reading the motion, I was interested about what had happened to the national framework. We know, and it was said earlier, that children's mental health services are in a mess—and were in a mess 10 or 20 years ago. Children's mental health services are one of the absolute disgraces of our health service.

Three years after the organisation was announced, its director, Professor Aynsley-Green, said in his December newsletter to its staff, who had all been appointed: There are of course many milestones which have been met along the way"— he did not mention one— in particular the recognition of the importance of children's mental health services and neo-natal care". If, after three years, the organisation's only claim of success is a recognition of what it knew three years previously, my goodness, it is not much of a success. That is one reason why we will support the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham in the Lobby tonight.

I have much sympathy with the Government's desire to create a lasting framework to address the long history of high-profile abuse cases that have blighted young people's lives for far too long. If the delays are an attempt to get things right and to address the difficult matters of prevention, identification, information collection, transfer and, above all, action, the wait will be worthwhile. If, however, when we see the Bill tomorrow it fails to address those complex issues, the Government will be rightly condemned.

We have always supported the aims of the Green Paper and have been as one with the Government in welcoming a commitment to a children's commissioner, a single support structure in local authorities and, crucially, direct responsibility for the protection of vulnerable children. A situation such as that in which the former chief executive of Haringey excused failures of child protection because he was not clear in his own mind as to where the line of responsibility lies must never be accepted in the future. The Minister and the Government are absolutely right to say that somebody in every local authority must have ultimate responsibility. I hope that the Bill will make it clear not only that such blatant buck-passing will not be accepted, but that it will be treated as a criminal offence. We will give the organisation teeth by making it clear that the person in charge is responsible under the law, as well as on paper.

Jonathan Shaw

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Willis

No, I am trying to get on because I want to allow others to speak.

One important benefit of the delay that appears to have taken place is the acceptance by the Minister that there must be a director of children's services and that the integration of services will be obligatory. Local authorities will be allowed to develop their own structures and build on what is often excellent practice. The Minister rightly said that many local authorities have first-class structures that integrate children's and education services, and it would be wrong to dismantle those structures for a one-size-fits-all approach. I applaud the Minister for listening to the Local Government Association and local authorities, and changing her mind—if that is what we discover when the Bill is published tomorrow.

The hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham was right to be concerned about the interrelationship between the proposed legislation and the Data Protection Act 1988. We have given a cautious welcome to a national children's database and recognise that if information is to be shared, it must be collected—there is little point to the system unless information can be collected, stored and made available. How that will be done, to whom information will be made available, when it will be removed, and when it will become the responsibility of the individual are complex issues. It was sad that the Minister said absolutely nothing about that, despite the fact that several hon. Members intervened on her. If the Under-Secretary's excuse is simply that "the Bill will not be published until tomorrow", that is not good enough. Professionals have been asking about the issues every day since publication of the Green Paper, and the issues have been the subject of much of the correspondence that the Minister has received on the Green Paper.

As a former head teacher, I would be uneasy to have or to pass on information about a child that was not available to that child or to his or her parents, yet that is precisely the scenario envisaged under the proposed arrangements. I have no answer to that complex problem. Sometimes it is desirable not to hand on such information. People working in the field need clarity so that what happened in relation to the Soham case—an extremely serious issue—is not repeated. Clear guidance must be issued on what information can be released, to whom, and when.

Jonathan Shaw

I can understand why the hon. Gentleman did not want to give way when he was talking about criminal offences and directors of social services. He turned crimson, so I presume he realised that it was a stupid thing to say.

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that a head teacher who had information would be in a difficult position, but can he help the debate by giving an example in which he, an experienced and distinguished head teacher, had information that he would not have chosen to pass on?

Mr. Willis

On occasion, social services gave me information on what was happening in a child's extended family. On another occasion, a child was involved in explicit sexual activities, but there was a problem with the parent: the parent was violent toward the child and had, in fact, burnt the child with a poker. In such cases, there can be difficulties in releasing information that one would normally have given to a parent or a third party. Head teachers will be in the position of having to make extremely difficult decisions. There is no easy answer to such problems, and I was honest enough to say that.

The concept of information being given on a need-to-know basis might satisfy the spirit of the proposals, but it is wide open to misinterpretation. I hope that the Minister for Children will clarify how and when she proposes to give guidance to head teachers and others who might need to know. Will the right hon. Lady or the Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for South Thanet, who will sum up the debate, let us know their thoughts about the disclosure to a young person of information held on that young person? At what point will young people have an automatic right to the information held on them? At what point will a young person aged under 16 have a right to that information? If our aim is to implement the UN convention on the rights of the child, giving information to children is crucial.

The Conservative motion is slightly misleading, in that it gives the impression that local authorities have not responded to the Laming recommendations and that the process of improving child protection services is simply waiting for the Children's Bill to be published. It would be wrong to leave the House with that false impression. We have some excellent social services departments and some brilliant professionals in the field. The hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham is right to point out the shortage of professional staff—whether the damage would be repaired by Conservative spending cuts or Government support is a matter for political debate—but that does not resolve the problem that the vast majority of those professionals, who are brilliant at what they do, are overworked and underpaid. The Liberal Democrats take this opportunity to put on the record our congratulations and thanks to them.

I wish to draw the Under-Secretary's attention to a specific commitment regarding the protection of children who are looked after. The Minister for Children made only a fleeting reference to such children, and although I understand that she could not say everything in her speech, we should not forget that, in practice, Victoria Climbié was a looked-after child. She was sent from the Ivory Coast to be looked after by her aunt and her aunt's boyfriend. In effect, she had little protection under the existing law, and it is crucial that such private fostering arrangements are effectively covered in the future. Surprisingly, the Green Paper does not refer to private fostering—if I am wrong, the Minister will correct me when he replies.

The vast majority of looked-after children are not privately family fostered; they are the 60,000 children who at any one time are the responsibility of the state. That group of children is without doubt the most vulnerable and the most complex to support. They do not fall into an easy single category, but have a number of common features: two years ago, a massive 96 per cent. of looked-after children had behavioural or emotional difficulties; 27 per cent. had a physical or mental impairment; 41 per cent. had been abused or neglected, and many will go on to live in abusive relationships; 10 per cent. had been taken into care through family dysfunction; and 31 per cent. had not received basic health screening, dental checks or inoculations. Life holds out no great hope for looked-after children.

Mr. Dawson

I appreciate the spirit in which the hon. Gentleman makes his remarks, but I hope that he will refer to work by Mike Stein of York university, which indicates that the future for young people in care is much brighter than he suggests. Young people leaving care are, in the main, extremely resilient, and a fairly small proportion of care leavers have the sorts of problems that he describes.

Mr. Willis

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that there is hope, but we must recognise that a significant number of young people—55 per cent—leave care without a single GCSE between them, and that 26 per cent. of them have statements of special educational needs. One in three of our current prison population was a looked-after child. The statistics are chilling, and that so many youngsters who are looked after succeed is an enormous credit to the people who looked after them, our social services and our care homes. It will be desperate if the Children's Bill does not address the minority of youngsters who do not succeed.

Thank God that many children in care do not catch the headlines like Victoria Climbié Maria Colwell, Jasmine Beckford and Lauren Wright, and the Bill will change the lives of many looked-after children. The real issue is to make sure that the 60,000 children in care have a rosy future free of abuse. Hopefully, tomorrow's Bill will set them on the right path.

Several hon. Members


Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. Several hon. Members are trying to catch my eye If their comments are brief, all may be successful.

6. 13 pm

Jonathan Shaw (Chatham and Aylesford) (Lab)

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis). We have spent quite a lot of time together on the Higher Education Bill.

I shall begin by quoting the in roduction to Lord Laming's report, which concerns little Victoria Climbié: The food would be cold and would be given to her on a piece of plastic while she was tied up in the bath. She would eat it like a dog, pushing her face to the plate. Except of course that a dog is not usually tied up in a plastic bag full of its excrement. To say that Kouao and Manning treated Victoria like a dog would be wholly unfair; she was treated worse than a dog. That is chilling, but when we debate such sensitive issues it is important that we remind ourselves of the horror that such children experience. Time and again, such reports are presented to Parliament. My hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe) mentioned Maria Colwell, and I am sure that after that inquiry hon. Members said, "Never again. " Unfortunately, children will die again, but our responsibility as policy makers, citizens, councillors, neighbours and people involved with children is to put our hand on our heart and ask whether we have done our very best. Have we done our best to ensure that mechanisms are in place to protect children like Victoria Climbié, to intervene and save their lives? If we have, we will be able to say that we have done the right thing when future inquiries take place. I am sure that when those inquiries are conducted, people will reflect and fingers will be pointed. It is important to learn lessons and continue to improve services.

Of fundamental significance are Lord Laming's comments on organisational failings, principally in communication between people with responsibility for Victoria Climbié. In paragraph 1. 21 on page 4 of the report, he said: Having considered the response to Victoria from each of the agencies, I am forced to conclude that the principal failure to protect her was the result of widespread organisational malaise. Like the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough,I welcome the fact that the Opposition have chosen to hold a debate on an extremely significant issue for vulnerable children. Children should always be at the top of the political agenda if we are to learn lessons and shape services appropriately so that we can make sure that children do not die in the circumstances in which Victoria Climbié died, when there was organisational malaise and dysfunction.

As has been said, there is a general consensus about child care legislation. Having worked in child protection for 10 years, I find it satisfying to have been involved in the passage of legislation over the past few years, including the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 and, particularly, the Adoption and Children Act 2002. The hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) served with me on the Special Standing Committee that considered that measure, and it was stimulating to hear the evidence of 29 agencies, which helped us to formulate a good Bill. There were controversial provisions, not least adoption by unmarried couples, an important issue about which we had a vigorous and passionate debate, but the measure is a good one. We hope that many of the 54,000 children who are in foster and residential homes can find permanent, loving families, and we should all strive for that goal. That is what vulnerable children want us to talk about, and that is what we should endeavour to pursue in the House of Commons.

There are, however, always lessons to be learned. The Government have been criticised for the delay in the publication of the Green Paper, but I hope that the reason for that delay is their wish to get it right. Something to emerge from all the inquiries is the need to get things right, and taking time over the Green Paper is important, as it will include far-reaching organisational changes. We hope that we can put our hand on our heart and say that it provides the necessary structures so that we will not have in future to read comments like those made by Lord Laming.

It is vital that proper procedures be in place for people at the coal face and in supervisory positions to follow. We can provide the framework, but the solutions must be delivered at the local level. We must do everything that we possibly can to ensure that that process is inspected rigorously to ensure that lines of communications are clear to all the agencies and individuals involved in working with children.

We should not lose sight of the fact that the front-line job of child protection is not easy. I can think of mistakes that I made as a social worker and of the consequences for the children involved. Were they my fault or the fault of someone supervising me? Yes, they probably were. However, serious pressures and strains are placed on social workers who deal with very complex cases involving very complex families. I remember a situation that arose when I was 23 and a newly qualified child protection social worker. One cold, damp night, I had to visit a family where the stepfather was a huge man who was extremely aggressive and always chose to speak to me at great volume about an inch away from my nose. I went to the tower block where they lived and rang the doorbell of their flat. As I did so, two thoughts went through my mind: "I hope they're not in", because I knew what I would have to endure from that individual; and, "I hope they are in, so I can see that the child is still safe. " On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays one worries oneself sick—I remember those sleepless nights. That was not the most extreme of cases, but it is a common experience that social workers face every day of the week. It is important to remember that as we discuss this sensitive issue.

The Government can stand on a proud record in terms of the legislation that they have introduced. I well remember the passage of the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000, because my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Wyre (Mr. Dawson) and I—the old former corduroy wearers—served on that Committee. It raised the age of leaving care to 21, or 24 for youngsters who stay in education and training, which took a lot of persuasion from many hon. Members and care organisations. It sent an important message, especially in light of the fact that 75 per cent. of young people leave care without educational qualifications —I mean, no qualifications at level 1, not grade A to C GCSEs. It is appalling that education has failed so many children in care.

I remember taking part in meetings with children who were being excluded from school. Such a child might have had a whole series of foster carers and schools, and was being excluded again. What would the prognosis be in those cases? The most important thing that has changed since I sat in those meetings is that the issue has been given a much higher priority. We now have not only the quality protects programme, but the code of admissions for oversubscribed, popular schools, the main criterion of which is that children in public care should go to the very best schools—the popular schools—not those that have huge numbers of surplus places for the reasons that we all know about. That is important.

I congratulate the BBC. I watched one of its plays recently and thought that the portrayal was realistic. I was worried that it would be filled with doom and gloom. That is obviously the experience of some, but not all young people. It is important to remember that. When those young people are achieving and feeling positive about their lives, they do not want to be associated simply with being a child in care and the 75 per cent. statistic. We must bear it in mind that many achieve much, through the work and efforts of social workers, teachers and foster carers, but mostly through their own efforts.

The Government have made considerable advances through legislation and they have changed the atmosphere. However, we are considering vulnerable children, and I welcome the choice of debate by the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham. I am sure that that also applies to many vulnerable children and those working in the field.

6. 25 pm

Charles Hendry (Wealden) (Con)

Given the amount of time remaining, I shall curtail my remarks to ensure that colleagues have a chance to speak.

There can be no greater indictment of any Government than failing vulnerable young people who are entrusted to their care, and are taken into care, which is when they most need support. That is a criticism not of the Government but of the care system, and it stretches back many years. I acknowledge the comment of the hon. Member for Lancaster and Wyre (Mr. Dawson) that many people come out well from care, but the examples that my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) and the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis) presented so clearly show that far too many people are left behind and suffer badly from being in care.

For some young people, life is even worse and they cannot cope with their problems. I therefore want to speak about children and young people who commit suicide. It is one of the most frightening issues that the Government and the country face. In 2002, some 886 children and young people committed suicide. They were overwhelmingly young men; three quarters were male. Suicide accounts for 16 per cent. of deaths of males aged 15 to 19, and 23 per cent. of deaths of those aged between 20 and 24. It is the biggest single cause of death for young people in this country. We need to establish a system to ensure that we do everything possible to prevent such suicides.

There is an additional problem of self-harm. It is frightening that 20,000 young people engage every year in deliberate, serious self-harm. That should cause us terrible anxiety.

Sixty-nine per cent. of suicidal children have suffered violence from an adult and 60 per cent. perceived the seeking of help from parents, teachers or anyone else as a sign of weakness. Nearly 90 per cent. of suicidal young people experienced bullying at school and three quarters suffered bullying outside. The figures for homophobic bullying are even worse. One third of young gay men have considered taking their lives.

Voluntary organisations such as the BE-Foundation, do marvellous work but receive no funding through the Government suicide prevention strategy. I hope that the Government can ensure that those organisations, which work with some of the most vulnerable children in our society, can be helped and supported.

Voluntary organisations also do fantastic work. The system has not crumbled further partly because of such national and local work. Let me draw attention to one organisation, Kids Company, which is based not far from here. The Minister kindly attended a reception that it held here recently. Day after day, it works with hundreds of young vulnerable people in Lambeth. It gives them a safe place to go where they can do their homework and get a proper meal, which they often do not get at home. It provides care and support for those whose parents cannot do that because either they are not around or there is at use, drugs or other issues.

National organisations, such as Weston Spirit, the NSPCC. Barnado's and the Children's Society, also do wonderful work. If the Minister has not already done so, I urge her to read the Prince's Trust report "Reaching the Hardest to Reach", which provides remarkable case studies of young people who have been helped in the voluntary sector. However, those organisations face problems. First, they are starved of funds. Too often, they feel that they are not in partnership with Connexions, but in competition with it. We need to find a more structured way of getting money through to those organisations. Secondly, there must be a simplified way for them to apply for funding. At the moment, the forms are far too complicated and put off many organisations. They find that they are up against professional form fillers and application makers, which means that they do not end up getting the grants.

Thirdly, the funding system needs to give greater recognition to the core costs that the organisations incur. They cannot for ever be running projects if they do not have the core services to enable them to operate those projects. Finally, we need to move away from the obsession with new projects. At the moment the system is so crazy and barmy that, if an organisation has a project that has worked successfully for three years and could carry on doing marvellous work, it has to reinvent it because money is available only for new projects. There has to be a better way of funding these organisations.

I do not think that the Minister is the right person to be doing that job. because her track record in Islington precludes her doing it properly. I say that with some sadness, but I feel that it was shown by her speech, which was one of the most offensive, unpleasant and negative that I have ever heard in the House. It contrasted sharply with that of the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Jonathan Shaw), which was extraordinarily mature and dignified. I hope that she will carefully consider what lessons can be learned on this matter. If she can provide a care system that does not let young people down and does not lead to far too many of them ending up homeless, on the streets or in prison, and if she can provide a system that works genuinely in partnership with the voluntary sector rather than making that sector too often feel excluded, then perhaps—just perhaps—she will justify the trust that the Prime Minister has put in her, in giving her responsibility for the hopes of young children across this country.

6. 31 pm

Mr. Hilton Dawson (Lancaster and Wyre) (Lab)

I shall be very brief, and try to keep my speech to four minutes to allow Opposition Members to contribute.

I do not know what that last comment was about, but it gives me great pleasure to follow the speech of my right hon. Friend the Minister. It reminds me of why I am so pleased to be leaving the House at the next election: I shall take, I hope, a very active part in the transformation of children's services that will develop from this Government's legislation and policy.

I am sorry that the debate opened, and to some extent continued, with glib negativity from the Opposition. These are incredibly important issues, and the Government are addressing them fundamentally and significantly. Members on both sides have mentioned the future of the national service framework for children, and I fully agree that that is extremely important. I have met Professor Aynsley Green on several occasions, and I have great respect for his work. In the massive changes that are taking place in government and across Departments, I desperately hope that that work, far from being lost, will be brought back into the mainstream of integrated developments.

At the moment, we have an Opposition who are, quite honestly, unable to oppose. They tell us that they welcome the prospect of a children's commissioner, but they have done absolutely nothing to bring that about. They have done nothing on serious issues relating to asylum, nothing on the fact that one or two children in this country die at the hands of parents or care givers, and nothing to deal with the fact that children in this country have less protection under the law than adults do from assault. The Conservative home affairs spokesman speaks of the virtues of parenting time, but says nothing about the 25 children in this country murdered during contact visits in recent years. The Conservatives approve of custody, so they have nothing to say about the plight of young people in our prisons.

I have great confidence in the Government, and I am confident that they will address those extremely important issues in the near future, in the way that they have addressed the issue of the children's commissioner. I criticise the Government a lot, but I think that they are doing extremely well. In fact, they are doing far better than I would have believed possible when I came to the House in 1997. They are dealing with poverty, bringing in fine legislation and making good investments. They have introduced proper registration and greatly improved training courses for social workers. They have increased participation and we now have the prospect of a children's commissioner in England, just as we already have in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. I salute the efforts that the Government have made, and I urge them on to improve even more.

6. 35 pm

Mr. David Amess (Southend, West) (Con)

Looking after vulnerable children is certainly a very serious matter, and Southend council takes it very seriously. However, as the Minister will hear when she meets a delegation from the local authority on 1 April, because of the financial settlement, it is going to be very difficult to meet her aspirations, which are also the aspirations that Southend councillors hold.

The Health Committee took evidence from Lord Laming on 27 March 2003. It was an excellent session, and the whole Committee was shocked by the evidence that we were given. Peter Beresford said of Victoria Climbié: Her death has become one of those major modern occasions where there seems to have been a collective sense of empathy for a stranger's fate. She has become an embodiment of the betrayal, vulnerability and public abandonment of children. The inquiry must mark the end of child protection policy built on a hopeless process of child care tragedy, scandal, inquiry, findings, brief media interest and ad hoc political response. There is now a rare chance to take stock and rebuild. The Committee heard that there had been: Failure of communication between different staff and agencies. Inexperience and lack of skill of individual social workers. Failure to follow established procedures. Inadequate resources to meet demands. Lord Laming said that what happened to Victoria, and her ultimate death, had resulted from an inexcusable gross failure of the system. His report expressed amazement that nobody in the 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. The Select Committee shared Lord Laming's amazement.

On average, 80 children die every year as a result of abuse. To date, there have been 70 public inquiries into such cases since 1945. I gave some examples in the Select Committee:

We have Dennis O'Neil in 1945, Maria Colwell in 1973, Jasmine Beckford in 1984, Tyra Henry in 1984, Kimberley Carlile in 1986, Doreen Mason in 1987, Leanne White in 1992, Rickie Neave in 1994, Chelsea Brown in 1999, Victoria Climbié in 2000, Lauren Wright in 2000, Ainlee Walker in 2002. I asked Lord Laming whether he was optimistic that, as a result of his inquiry, there would never have to be such inquiries in future into the abuse of our vulnerable children. He very much hoped that the Government would act on his recommendations.

I shall end with some observations about Southend borough council. Its leader, Councillor Howard Briggs, has expressed concern on behalf of the local authority about the proposed amalgamation resulting in a children's department. He believes that it will be an administrative nightmare both for officers and for members of the local authority. He wondered whether the Government were aware that, at the moment, it is very difficult to recruit people in this field because of the blight. I must say to the Minister, who is to receive the delegation on 1 April, that when Southend council got the local government settlement, it could not believe it. In the formula spending share, the average increase for England to be spent on children's social services was 4. 9 per cent., but for Southend, it was only 2. 4 per cent.

The number of children in the care of our council has increased from 265 to 293—an 11 per cent. rise. Younger adults, who need considerably more support in social care, gained a 4. 1 per cent. increase nationally, but in Southend they got only 1. 4 per cent.

A similar authority—Hammersmith and Fulham—has 30,000 children, while Southend has 35,000, so it is very unfair that Hammersmith and Fulham gets £33 million while Southend gets £30 million. Unfortunately, we have heard from the Minister for Children and from this rotten Government that it is all done on party political grounds—Southend has two Conservative Members of Parliament—which is an absolute disgrace for our vulnerable children in Southend.

6. 40 pm

Mr. Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire) (Con)

I am glad to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess) who continues to advocate the interests of children—not least through his membership of the Health Committee—and who does so very well in relation to the interests of children in Southend, as evidenced by his remarks.

My hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), who opened the debate, reminded us of the circumstances in which Victoria Climbié was treated and died. Indeed, the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Jonathan Shaw) reminded us of the true horror of those circumstances. My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West referred to the fact that if agencies had done their job and done many of the things that constitute good practice—in fact, not even good practice but basic practice—circumstances might have been different. As the Minister said, however, many agencies that encountered the family did not necessarily speak to Victoria. It is in that context that we have returned to the subject.

As my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham made clear, we initiated debates in our own time last year and we have also used the medium of Back-Bench debates. We have initiated this debate and we will continue to do that, because of the centrality of Parliament's responsibility to ensure that the many resources and the obligations that we place on agencies across the country are being properly discharged.

That returns us to the point made by my hon. Friend in his opening speech: it is not good enough simply to have checklists and guidance. There are organisations—not just central Government—that issue internal guidance and, in theory, require people to behave responsibly. That is not enough. We must ensure that people are behaving responsibly. There are people in the social services system who find it tough. Following the publication of Herbert Laming's report, Cambridgeshire social services has given a great deal of time and attention to the improvement of children's social services in recent years, not least in the wake of the tragic Rikki Neave case.

Of course, social services said, "We've gone through a major audit to show ourselves that we are meeting basic practices. " "Irritation" is too strong a word, but there was sometimes resentment at resources having to be consumed again by social services doing what they believed they were doing properly. None the less, they accepted that, and people have to accept it time and again. The Government issuing checklists and guidance is not the end of the story—nor did Herbert Laming ever intend it to be. That is why he said that such things could be done within three-Months. The point is that we have to know that the report is being followed up. That is the purpose of our debate.

Roger Casale (Wimbledon) (Lab)

I welcome the cross-party spirit of the debate, but surely the hon. Gentleman recognises that Government intervention—[Interruption] At least there was a consensus when the debate started. Surely he recognises the fact that Government intervention can make and is making a difference. That is certainly the case in my local authority area, when' children's social services were threatened with special measures. Government support and Government intervention, as well as strong local leadership, have helped to turn things round. We should recognise and celebrate examples of such positive intervention where we find them and seek to build on that best practice. Surely the hon. Gentleman recognises that such intervention is succeeding.

Mr. Lansley

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who is clearly talking about his constituency's set of circumstances. Of course, intervention can be necessary, and resources are necessary, but resources are not sufficient. What Laming also made perfectly clear is that in the central Government context within which resources were being determined, many local authorities were spending over the standard spending assessment, while Ealing, Haringey and Brent were not. They were making their own choices, and, to an extent, they were making the wrong choices. It is not just the central Government context for resources that is relevant but the conduct inside local government

I have only a few minutes left, and I want to be clear about some of the issues that have arisen from the debate. Unfortunately, because of time, there have been too few contributions to the debate. and I wish we could have had more. I know that other Conservative Members would have spoken had we had longer. The hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis) did, however, contribute, making a point about the detention of refugee children on which no one else really touched. There is a problem. Oakington immigration reception centre, which is situated in my constituency, has children accommodated in it, and it is perfectly proper that they should be accommodated there. Legally, however, those children are accommodated in the detention state. It is therefore not simply a case of removing that from the legislation but of checking the circumstances. Alternatively, legislation could be introduced that is designed to make it clear that Oakington is an immigration reception centre rather than a detention centre, which has not happened.

The hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough also made a point about delays in the national service framework. I was not aware that the Minister referred to the national service framework for children, because she is in the Department for Education and Skills, and apparently the Under-Secretary of State for Health is going to talk about the national service framework. My hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) and I have a more joined-up approach to these matters, as do the Liberal Democrats, clearly, as there are not enough of them to be disjointed. Although we have had the acute hospital services segment of the national service framework, more is to come, and it is much delayed compared with what we had hoped for. There is everything to be said for some of these issues being brought together at the same time. As we are creating a legislative framework and putting in place children's trusts, clearly, we must know what sort of standards we are aiming to meet, because structure follows function. We therefore need to know what functions are to be met in local authorities to be sure that local authorities are putting in place the right kind of children's trusts.

The Minister said, and reiterated in an intervention, that there was somehow no planning blight—local authorities and the Government have been working in a seamless fashion towards the introduction and presentation of the Bill being introduced to the House of Lords today. Well, local authorities have been working hard to persuade against what the Minister originally intended to do. It is simply not true, however, that there are not local authorities which for a considerable period—more than a year—have been having to decide whether to do what they think is right in terms of integrating services in their area while trusting that they will not be told to put a one-size-fits-all solution in its place and pick it all apart or whether to wait. Some have been waiting, so there has been planning blight in some respects, and it would be proper for the Minister to accept that.

In relation to the children's fund, I am astonished that the Minister can admit in the privacy of Westminster Hall that the Government got it all wrong but can come to the Chamber and pretend that it was a triumph and that they put in extra money. They put in extra money because the Department—of course, as the Minister explained in Westminster Hall, the mistakes were made by the Department, not by Ministers—permitted "over-programming" of expenditure, which is the polite word used in the Department, and the carrying forward of underspends. The net effect is over-commitment, so she is now having to cut in the first instance and then put in extra money. The Minister pretends that the money is not going to be reduced, but it is £160 million in 2003–04 and £110 million in 2004–05. It is perfectly clear from evidence that is now emerging that the Department is including in the amount for 2004–05 money originally promised for projects that will now not be provided. The Minister who is to reply certainly ought to be able to reply to that.

The point that we have made time and again is that the necessity of implementing Herbert Laming's report, as well as information, referral and tracking pilots and many other things, requires action. Lord Laming had a timetable for action, which needed not just a checklist and the issuing of guidance but legislation, enforcement and audit to follow that up. We will press the Government to deliver those until the happier day when we can take responsibility for such matters, and deliver the services that children need and deserve.

6. 50 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Dr. Stephen Ladyman)

I shall begin at the end. I agreed with one or two things in that speech, but I disagreed with one or two others. For instance, the suggestion that the Liberal Democrats were "joined up" simply because there were so few of them was a mistake: it takes only one Liberal Democrat to be disjointed, as the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis) has demonstrated on many occasions.

I did agree with one thing that the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) said, or at least implied—that three elements are involved in protecting vulnerable children: resources, powers and best practice. We must ensure that all three work together. No doubt we shall deal with the powers in many debates in the coming months following tomorrow's publication of the Children's Bill. We have already begun to identify best practice, and to roll it out around the country.

The hon. Gentleman was also right to say that issuing checklists was not the end of the story. We never suggested that it was. That is why we have worked so hard: that is why we have produced a Green Paper and a Bill; that is why we have had a thorough consultation; and that is why we are going to publish a document on the way forward. We realise that getting all those three elements right is the way to improve services, and to secure the level of protection that we seek.

The hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess) mentioned funding, as did the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton). Conservative Members really should not debate the funding of children's services with us, because they start from a weak position. It is all very well for them to come up with sophistry in their recently published document suggesting that under a future Tory Government education, for funding purposes, will somehow apply to children's social services. That is not what the shadow Chancellor said by any manner of means. What he said would, in fact, lead to a cut of some £2. 5 billion in local government funding, the brunt of which would fall on children's social services. If that is not the case, I look forward to the next time we debate older people's services, because it will have to fall on those.

Let us compare the records of the two parties. Personal social services funding has increased by 30 per cent. in real terms since 1997; in the last period of Tory Government, it increased by 0. 1 per cent. But the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough should not be too smug. His party has not committed a single extra penny to children's social services. Indeed, its leader has specifically excluded any such increase, although he has managed to find £1. 8 billion for free personal services for pensioners with savings. The Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives entered into a battle of wits to see who could portray their party as the one that will support children, but it was a battle of wits fought by unarmed opponents.

Mrs. Laing

Will the Minister give way?

Dr. Ladyman

No, I am afraid that I have little time.

The hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough asked some specific questions, one of which concerned the application of the Children Act 1989 in prisons. A recent judgment found that the Act did apply within the constraints of imprisonment. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Children is considering that judgment, and whether we require any further guidance in order to extend the Act's provisions to prisons. It may well be that sufficient provisions are already in place.

The hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough also discussed Victoria Climbié and suggested that, in essence, she was a looked-after child. She was never a looked-after child. Technically, she was being privately fostered: that is, she was in the care of someone who was not a close family member, for more than the period defined in law; but that was not known at the time because Marie Therese Kouao pretended to be her mother. However, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that notwithstanding that, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Children is already committed to tightening private fostering, and to ensuring that there are much firmer controls.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Jonathan Shaw) is a fellow Kent Member, and I am proud to call him that after his excellent contribution. What he said was very important in terms of Laming and the identification of organisational malaise; indeed, that is exactly the issue that we are trying to address. He described the mistakes that he made as a social worker, but as I frequently tell social workers, although we often concentrate on their mistakes, it would surely be fairer now and again to concentrate on the tens of thousands of children and vulnerable people Whom they keep out of harm's way. Despite his acknowledging that he occasionally made mistakes, I am sure that he made many more good decisions.

The hon. Member for Wealden (Charles Hendry) introduced the subject of suicide to the debate, about which I entirely agree with him. Suicide is now the leading killer of young people, and we must do something about it. Bullying is a very important issue, and one of the Ministers in the Department for Education and Skills has already put together a multimillion pound strategy, which includes a charter for action on bullying and work across the voluntary and public sectors, to really do something about bullying. Although the hon. Gentleman began very fairly, he lapsed into a disgraceful attack on my right hon. Friend the Minister for Children. Let me tell him that she is the most dedicated person whom I have met in government, and she is determined to put things right for vulnerable children and to make sure that protection is in place for them. It is a continuing disgrace that the Conservatives keep making these unfounded attacks, in the face of her proven record.

Mrs. Laingrose

Dr. Ladyman

My hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Wyre (Mr. Dawson) told us that he is leaving the House to return to social work, and I congratulate him on his commitment to such work. In my campaigns as the Minister with responsibility for a large part of the social work industry, I have done a great deal to try to encourage people to return it. I never intended for that to apply to him; none the less, I welcome his returning to social work.

Mr. Lansley

Will the Minister give way?

Dr. Ladyman

I am sorry but I do not have time. I need to deal with the national service framework for children, which is. a very important part of our philosophy. Those Opposition Members who tried to imply today that we have forgotten about that framework—and that the director of services who provides the official lead, Professor Al Aynsley-Green, has been dilatory—were making disgraceful comments. We have worked very hard on that framework, and we have already published a document on hospital standards and on the emerging findings of that framework. We will publish the remaining findings later this year.

Mr. McLoughlin

rose in his place and claimed to move,That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided:Ayes 189, Noes 329.

division No. 73] [6:59 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Allan, Richard Goodman, Paul
Amess, David Gray, James(N Wilts)
Ancram, rh Michael Grayling, Chris
Arbuthnot, rh James Green, Damian (Ashford)
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E) Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Bacon, Richard Greenway, John
Baker, Norman Grieve, Dominic
Baldry, Tony Gummer, rh John
Baron, John (Billericay) Hague, rh William
Barrett, John Hammond, Philip
Beggs, Roy(E Antrim) Hancock, Mike
Beith, rh A. J. Harvey, Nick
Bellingham, Henry Hawkins, Nick
Bercow, John Hayes, John(S Holland)
Blunt, Crispin Heath, David
Bottomley, Peter(Worthing W) Heathcoat-Amory, rh David
Bottomley, rh Virginia(SW Hendry, Charles
Surrey) Hoban, Mark(Fareham)
Brady, Graham Hogg, rh Douglas
Brake, Tom(Carshalton) Horam, John(Orpington)
Brazier, Julian Howarth Gerald(Aldershot)
Breed, Colin Hughes, Simon(Southwark N)
Brooke, Mrs Annette L Hunter, Andrew
Browning, Mrs Angela Jack, rh Michael
Burnett, John Jenkin, Bernard
Burns, Simon Johnson Boris(Henley)
Burnside, David Jones, Nigel(Cheltenham)
Burstow, Paul Keetch, Paul
Burt, Alistair Key Robert(Salisbury)
Butterfill, Sir John Kirkbride Miss Julie
Cable, Dr. Vincent Kirkwood, Sir Archy
Cameron, David Knight, rh Greg(E Yorkshire)
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies(NE Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Fife) Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Carmichael, Alistair Lamb, Norman
Chapman, Sir Sydney(Chipping Lansley, Andrew
Barnet) Laws, David(Yeovil)
Chope, Christopher Leigh, Edward
Clappison, James Letwin, rh Oliver
Clarke, rh Kenneth(Rushcliffe) Lidington, David
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Lilley, rh Peter
Collins, Tim Llwyd, Elfyn
Conway, Derek Loughton, Tim
Cotter, Brian Luff, Peter(M-Worcs)
Cran, James(Beverley) Mclntosh, Miss Anne
Curry, rh David Mackay rh Andrew
Davey, Edward(Kingston) Maclean, rh David
Davies, Quentin(Grantham& McLoughlin, Patrick
Stamford) Malins, Humfrey
Davis, rh David(Haltemprice & Maples, John
Howden) Mawhinney, rh Sir Brian
Djanogly, Jonathan May, Mrs Theresa
Dodds, Nigel Mercer, Patrick
Doughty, Sue Moore, Michael
Duncan, Peter(Galloway) Moss, Malcolm
Duncan Smith, rh Iain Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Evans, Nigel Norman, Archie
Fabricant, Michael O'Brien, Stephen(Eddisbury)
Fallon, Michael Öpik, Lembit
Field, Mark(Cities of London & Osborne, George(Tatton)
Westminster) Ottaway, Richard
Flook, Adrian Page, Richard
Forth, rh Eric Paice. James
Foster, Don(Bath) Portillo rh Michael
Francois, Mark Price, Adam(E Carmarthen &
Gale, Roger(N Thanet) Dinefwr)
Garnier, Edward Prisk, Mark(Hertford)
George, Andrew(St. Ives) Pugh, Dr. John
Gibb, Nick(Bognor Regis) Randall, John
Gidley, Sandra Redwood, rh John
Reid, Alan(Argyll & Bute) Taylor, John(Solihull)
Rendel, David Taylor, Sir Teddy
Robertson, Angus(Moray) Tonge, Dr. Jenny
Robertson, Hugh(Faversham & Tredinnick, David
M-Kent) Trend, Michael
Robertson, Laurence(Tewk'b'ry) Tyler, Paul(N Cornwall)
Rosindell, Andrew Tyrie, Andrew
Ruffley, David Viggers, Peter
Russell, Bob(Colchester) Walter, Robert
Salmond, Alex Waterson, Nigel
Sanders, Adrian Watkinson, Angela
Sayeed, Jonathan Webb, Steve(Northavon)
Selous, Andrew Weir, Michael
Shephard, rh Mrs Gillian Whittingdale, John
Simmonds, Mark Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Simpson, Keith(M-Norfolk) Wiggin, Bill
Smyth, Rev. Martin(Belfast S) Wilkinson, John
Soames, Nicholas Willetts, David
Spelman, Mrs Caroline Williams, Roger(Brecon)
Spicer, Sir Michael Willis, Phil
Spink, Bob(Castle Point) Wilshire, David
Spring, Richard Winterton, Ann(Congleton)
Stanley, rh Sir John Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Streeter, Gary (Macclesfield)
Stunell, Andrew Wishart, Pete
Swayne, Desmond Younger-Ross, Richard
Swire, Hugo(E Devon)
Syms, Robert Tellers for the Ayes:
Tapsell, Sir Peter Gregory Barker and
Taylor, Ian(Esher) Mr. Peter Atkinson
Abbott, Ms Diane Casale, Roger
Adams, Irene(Paisley N) Caton, Martin
Ainsworth, Bob(Cov'try NE) Cawsey, Ian(Brigg)
Allen, Graham Challen, Colin
Anderson, rh Donald(Swansea E) Chapman, Ben(Wirral S)
Anderson, Janet(Rossendale & Chaytor, David
Darwen) Clapham, Michael
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary Clark, Mrs Helen(Peterborough)
Atherton, Ms Candy Clark, Dr. Lynda(Edinburgh
Atkins, Charlotte Pentlands)
Austin, John Clarke, rh Charles(Norwich S)
Bailey, Adrian Clarke, rh Tom(Coatbridge &
Baird, Vera Chryston)
Banks, Tony Clarke, Tony(Northampton S)
Barnes, Harry Clelland, David
Barron, rh Kevin Coaker, Vernon
Battle, John Coffey, Ms Ann
Bayley, Hugh Cohen, Harry
Beard, Nigel Coleman, Iain
Beckett, rh Margaret Colman, Tony
Benn, rh Hilary Cook, Frank(Stockton N)
Benton, Joe(Bootle) Cook, rh Robin(Livingston)
Berry, Roger Cooper, Yvette
Betts, Clive Corbyn, Jeremy
Blackman, Liz Cox, Tom(Tooting)
Blears, Ms Hazel Cranston, Ross
Blizzard, Bob Crausby, David
Borrow, David Cruddas, Jon
Bradley, rh Keith(Withington) Cryer, Ann(Keighley)
Bradley, Peter(The Wrekin) Cryer, John(Hornchurch)
Bradshaw, Ben Cunningham, Jim(Coventry S)
Brennan, Kevin Cunningham, Tony(Workington)
Brown, rh Nicholas(Newcastle E Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Wallsend) Dalyell, Tam
Brown, Russell(Dumfries) Davey, Valerie(Bristol W)
Browne, Desmond Davidson, Ian
Bryant, Chris Davies, rh Denzil(Llanelli)
Burden, Richard Dawson, Hilton
Burgon, Colin Dean, Mrs Janet
Burnham, Andy Dhanda, Parmjit
Byers, rh Stephen Dobbin, Jim(Heywood)
Cairns, David Dobson, rh Frank
Campbell, Mrs Anne(C'bridge) Donohoe, Brian H.
Campbell, Ronnie(Blyth V) Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W) Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Drew, David (Stroud) Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Drown, Ms Julia Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston) Jones, Martyn (ClwydS)
Edwards, Huw Jowell, rh Tessa
Efford, Clive Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W)
Ellman, Mrs Louise Kaufman, rh Gerald
Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley E) Keeble, Ms Sally
Etherington, Bill Keen, Alan (Feltham)
Farrelly, Paul Khabra, Piara S
Fisher, Mark Kidney, David
Fitzpatrick, Jim Kilfoyle, Peter
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna King, Andy (Rugby)
Flint, Caroline King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green &
Flynn, Paul (Newport W) Bow)
Foster, rh Derek Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings Kumar, Dr. Ashok
&Rye) Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Foulkes, rh George Lammy, David
Francis, Dr. Hywel Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Gapes, Mike (liford S) Laxton, Bob (Derby N)
Gardiner, Barry Lazarowicz, Mark
George, rh Bruce (Walsall S) Lepper, David
Gerrard, Neil Leslie, Christopher
Gibson, Dr. Ian Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Gilroy, Linda Liddell, rh Mrs Helen
Godsiff, Roger Linton, Martin
Goggins, Paul Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E) Love, Andrew
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Luke, Iain (Dundee E)
Grogan, John Lyons, John (Strathkelvin)
Hain, rh Peter McAvoy, Thomas
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale) McCabe, Stephen
Hall, Patrick (Bedford) McCafferty, Chris
Hamilton, David (Midlothian) McCartney, rh Ian
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE) McDonagh, Siobhain
Hanson, David MacDonald, Calum
Harmaa rh Ms Harriet McDonnell, John
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart) MacDougall, John
Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil & McGuire, Mrs Anne
Rhymney) Mclsaac, Shona
Healey, John McKechin, Ann
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N) McKenna, Rosemary
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich) Mackinlay, Andrew
Hendrick, Mark McNamara, Kevin
Hepburn, Stephen Mactaggart, Fiona
Heppell, John McWalter, Tony
Hesford, Stephen Mahmood, Khalid
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia Mahon, Mrs Alice
Heyes, David Mallaber, Judy
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Mandelson, rh Peter
Hinchliffe, David Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Hodge, Margaret Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall) Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Hoon, rh Geoffrey Marshall, David (Glasgow
Hope, Phil (Corby) Shettleston)
Hopkins, Kelvin Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Howarth, rh Alan (Newport E) Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Martlew, Eric
Sefton E) Meacher, rh Michael
Howells, Dr. Kim Meale, Alan (Mansfield)
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford & Merron, Gillian
Urmston) Michael, rh Alun
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Milburn, rh Alan
Humble, Mrs Joan Miliband, David
Hurst, Alan (Braintree) Miller, Andrew
Hutton, rh John Moffatt, Laura
Iddon, Dr. Brian Mole, Chris
Illsley, Eric Moonie, Dr. Lewisr
Ingram, rh Adam Moran, Margaret
Irranca-Davies, Huw Morgan, Julie
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough) Morris, rh Estelle
Jenkins, Brian Mountford, Kali
Johnson, Alan (Hull W) Mudie, George
Munn, Ms Meg Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe &
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck) Lunesdale)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood) Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Murphy, rh Paul (Torfaen) Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Naysmith, Dr. Doug Spellar, rh John
Norris, Dan (Wansdyke) Squire, Rachel
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton) Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Olner, Bill Steinberg, Gerry
O'Neill, Martin Stevenson, George
Organ, Diana Stewart, David (Inverness E &
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr) Lochaber)
Owen, Albert Stewart, Ian (Ecc/es)
Perham, Linda Stoate, Dr. Howard
Picking, Anne Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Pickthall, Colin Stringer, Graham
Pike, Peter (Burnley) Stuart, Ms Gisela
Plaskitt, James Tami, Mark (Alyn)
Pollard, Kerry Taylor, rh Ann (Dewsbury)
Pope, Greg (Hyndburn) Taylor, Dari (Stockton S)
Pound, Stephen Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
E) Thomas, Gareth (Harrow W)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle, Timms, Stephen
Prescott, rh John Tipping, Paddy
Primarolo, rh Dawn Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
Prosser, Gwyn Touhig, Don (Islwyn)
Purchase, Ken Trickett, Jon
Quin, rh Joyce Truswell, Paul
Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N) Turner, Dennis(Wolverh'ton SE)
Raynsford, rh Nick Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
Reed, Andy (Loughborough) Twioo, Derek (Hdlton)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry
NW) Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Vaz, Keith(Leiceter E)
Roche, Mrs Barbara Vis, Dr. Rudi
Rooney, Terry Walley, Ms Joan
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Ward, Claire
Roy, Frank (Motherwell) Wareing, Robert N.
Ruane, Chris Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
Ruddock, Joan Watts, David
Russell, Ms Christine (City of White, Brian
Chester) Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Salter, Martin Wicks, Malcolm
Sarwar, Mohammad Wills, Michael
Savidge, Malcolm Winnick, David
Sawford, Phil Woodward, Shaun
Sedgemore, Brian Woolas, Phil
Shaw, Jonathan Worthington, Tony
Sheridan, Jim Wright, Anthony D.(Gt
Simon, Siôn (B'ham Erdington) Yarmouth)
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S) Wright, David (Telford)
Singh, Marsha Wyatt, Derek
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, rh Andrew (Oxfordt E) Tellers for the Noes:
Smith, rh Chris (Islington S & Mr. Fraser Kemp and
Finsbury) Mr. Nick Ainger

Question accordingly negatived

Question, That the proposed words he there added, put forthwith, pursuant to standing Order No. 31(Questions on amendments):—

The House divided: Ayes 364, Noes 141

Division No. 74] [7:13
Abbott, Ms Diane Atherton, Ms Candy
Adams, Irene (Paisley N) Atkins, Charlotte
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE) Austin, John
Alexander, Douglas Bailey, Adrian
Allan, Richard Baird, Vera
Allen, Graham Baker, Norman
Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E) Banks, Tony
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Barnes, Harry
Darwen) Barrett, John
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary Barron, rh Kevin
Battle, John Dean, Mrs Janet
Bayley, Hugh Dhanda, Parmjit
Beard, Nigel Dobbin, Jim(Heywood)
Beckett, rh Margaret Dobson. rh Frank
Berth, rh A. J. Donohoe, Brian H.
Benn, rh Hilary Doran, Frank
Benton, Joe (Bootle) Doughty, Sue
Berry, Roger Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Betts, Clive Drew, David (Stroud)
Blackman, Liz Drown, Ms Julia
Blears, Ms Hazel Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Blizzard, Bob Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Borrow, David Edwards, Huw
Bradley, rh Keith (Withington) Efford, Clive
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Ellman, Mrs Louise
Bradshaw, Ben Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley E)
Brake, Tom (Carshalton) Etherington, Bill
Breed, Colin Farrelly, Paul
Brennan, Kevin Fisher, Mark
Brooke, Mrs Annette L Fitzpatrick, Jim
Brown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Wallsend) Flint, Caroline
Brown, RussellBrowne, Desmond Flynn, Paul (Newport W)
Bryant, Chris Foster, rh Derek
Burden, Richard Foster, Don (Bath)
Burgon, Colin Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings
Burnett, John & Rye)
Burnham, Andy Foulkes, rh George
Burstow, Paul Francis, Dr. Hywel
Byers, rh Stephen Gapes, Mike (llford S)
Cable, Dr. Vincent Gardiner Barry
Cairns, David George, Andrew (St. Ives)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) George, rh Bruce (Walsall S)
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies (NE Gerrard, Neil
Fife) Gibson, Dr. Ian
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Gidley, Sandra
Carmichael, Alistair Gilroy, Linda
Casale, Roger Godsiff, Roger
Caton, Martin Goggins, Paul
Cawsey, Ian (Brigg) Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Challen, Colin Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Chaytor, David Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Clapham, Michael Grogan, John
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough) Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Clark, Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Pentlands) Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Clarke, rh Charles (Norwich S) Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Hancock, Mike
Chryston) Hanson, David
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Clelland, David Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Coaker, Vernon Harvey, Nick
Coffey, Ms Ann Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil &
Cohen, Harry Rhymney)
Colman, Tony Healey, John
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Heath, David
Cook, rh Robin (Livingston) Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Cooper, Yvette Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Corbyn, Jeremy Hendrick, Mark
Cotter, Brian Hepburn, Stephen
Cox, Tom (Tooting) Heppell, John
Cranston, Ross Hesford, Stephen
Crausby, David Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Cruddas, Jon Heyes, David
Cryer, Ann(Keighley) Hill, Keith(Streatham)
Cryer, John(Hornchurch) Hinchliffe, David
Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S) Hodge, Margaret
Cunningham, Tony (Workington) Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire Hoon, rh Geoffrey
Dalyell, Tarn Hope, Phil (Corby)
Davey, Edward (Kingston) Hopkins, Kelvin
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W) Howarth, rh Alan (Newport E)
Davidson, Ian Howarth, George (Knowsley N &
Davies, rh Denzil (Llanelli) Sefton E)
Dawson, Hilton Howells, Dr. Kim
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford & Marshall, David (Glasgow
Urmston) Shettleston)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N) Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Humble, Mrs Joan Martlew, Eric
Hurst, Alan (Braintree) Meacher, rh Michael
Hutton, rh John Meale, Alan (Mansfield)
Iddon, Dr. Brian Merron, Gillian
lllsley, Eric Michael, rh Alun
Ingram, rh Adam Miliband, David
Irranca-Davies, Huw Miller, Andrew
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough) Moffatt, Laura
Jenkins, Brian Mole, Chris
Johnson, Alan (Hull W) Moonie, Dr. Lewis
Jones, Helen (Warrington N) Moran, Margaret
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Morgan, Julie
Jones, Kevan (N Durham) Morris, rh Estelle
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak) Mountford, Kali
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S) Mudie, George
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Munn, Ms Meg
Jowell, rh Tessa Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W) Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Kaufman, rh Gerald Murphy, rh Paul (Torfaen)
Keeble, Ms Sally Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Keen, Alan (Feltham) Norris, Dan (Wansdyke)
Keetch, Paul O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Khabra, Piara S. Olner, Bill
Kidney, David Ö pik, Lembit
Kilfoyle, Peter Organ, Diana
King, Andy (Rugby) Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Owen, Albert
Bow) Perham, Linda
Kirkwood, Sir Archy Picking, Anne
Pickthall, Colin
Knight, Jim (S Dorset) Pike, Peter (Burnley)
Kumar, Dr. Ashok Plaskitt, James
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen Pollard, Kerry
Lamb, Norman Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)
Lammy, David Pound, Stephen
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham
Laws, David (Yeovil) E)
Laxton, Bob (Derby N) Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Lazarowicz, Mark Prescott, rh John
Lepper, David Primarolo, rh Dawn
Leslie, Christopher Prosser, Gwyn
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S) Pugh, Dr. John
Liddell, rh Mrs Helen Purchase, Ken
Linton, Martin Quin, rh Joyce
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C) Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)
Love, Andrew Raynsford, rh Nick
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham) Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Luke, Iain (Dundee E) Reid, Alan (Argyll S Bute)
Lyons, John (Strathkelvin) Rendel, David
McAvoy, Thomas Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry
McCabe, Stephen NW)
McCafferty, Chris Roche, Mrs Barbara
McCartney, rh Ian Rooney, Terry
McDonagh, Siobhain Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
MacDonald, Calum Roy, Frank (Motherwell)
McDonnell, John Ruane, Chris
MacDougall, John Ruddock, Joan
McGuire, Mrs Anne Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Mclsaac, Shona Russell, Ms Christine (City of
McKechin, Ann Chester)
McKenna, Rosemary Salter, Martin
Mackinlay, Andrew Sanders, Adrian
McNamara, Kevin Sarwar, Mohammad
Mactaggart, Fiona Savidge, Malcolm
McWalter, Tony Sawford, Phil
Mahmood, Khalid Sedgemore, Brian
Mahon, Mrs Alice Shaw, Jonathan
Mallaber, Judy Sheridan, Jim
Mandelson, rh Peter Simon, Siôn (B'ham Erdington)
Mann, John (Bassetlaw) Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW) Singh, Marsha
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S) Skinner, Dennis
Smith, rh Andrew(Oxford E) Truswell, Paul
Smith, rh Chris(Islington S & Finsbury) Turner, Dr. Desmond(Brighton Kemptown)
Smith, Geraldine(Morecambe & Twigg, Derek(Halton)
Lunesdale) Twigg, Stephen(Enfield)
Smith, Jacqui(Redditch) Tyler, Paul(N Cornwall)
Smith, Llew(Blaenau Gwent) Vis, Dr. Rudi
Spellar, rh John Walley, Ms Joan
Squire, Rachel Ward, Claire
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis Wareing, Robert N.
Steinberg, Gerry Watson, Tom(W Bromwich E)
Stevenson, George Watts, David
Stewart, David(Inverness E & Webb, Steve(Northavon)
Lochaber) White, Brian
Stewart, Ian(Eccles) Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Stoate, Dr. Howard Wicks, Malcolm
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin Williams, Roger(Brecon)
Stringer, Graham Willis, Phil
Stuart, Ms Gisela Wills Micheal
Winnick, David
Stunell, Andrew Woodward, Shaun
Tami, Mark(Alyn) Woolas, Phil
Taylor, rh Ann(Dewsbury) Worthington, Tony
Taylor, Dari(Stockton S) Wright, Anthony D.(Gt
Taylor, David(NW Leics) Yarmouth)
Thomas, Gareth(Clwyd W) Wright, David(Telford)
Timms, Stephen Wyatt, Derek
Tipping, Paddy Younger-Ross, Richard
Todd, Mark(S Derbyshire)
Tonge, Dr. Jenny Tellers for the Ayes:
Touhig, Don(Islwyn) Mr. Fraser Kemp and
Trickett, Jon Mr. Nick Ainger
Ainsworth, Peter(E Surrey) Flook, Adrian
Amess, David Forth, rh Eric
Arbuthnot, rh James Gale, Roger(N Thanet)
Atkinson, David(Bour'mth E) Garnier, Edward
Atkinson, Peter(Hexham) Gibb, Nick(Bognor Regis)
Bacon, Richard Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Baldry, Tony Goodman, Paul
Baron, John(Billericay) Gray, James(N Wilts)
Bellingham, Henry Grayling, Chris
Bercow, John Green, Damian(Ashford)
Blunt, Crispin Greenway, John
Brady, Graham Grieve, Dominic
Brazier, Julian Gummer, rh John
Brown, Russell(Dumfries) Hague, rh William
Burns, Simon Hammond, Philip
Burt, Alistair Hawkins, Nick
Butterfill, Sir John Hayes, John(S Holland)
Cameron, David Heathcoat-Amory, rh David
Chapman, Sir Sydney(Chipping Hendry, Charles
Barnet) Hoban, Mark(Fareham)
Chope, Christopher Hogg, rh Douglas
Clappison, James Horam, John(Orpington)
Clarke, rh Kenneth(Rushcliffe) Howarth, Gerald(Aldershot)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Hunter, Andrew
Collins, Tim Jack, rh Michael
Conway, Derek Jenkin, Bernard
Curry, rh David Johnson, Boris(Henley)
Davies, Quentin(Grantham & Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Stamford) Knight, rh Greg(E Yorkshire)
Davis, rh David(Haltemprice & Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Howden) Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Djanogly, Jonathan Lansley, Andrew
Dodds, Nigel Leigh, Edward
Duncan, Alan(Rutland) Letwin, rh Oliver
Duncan, Peter(Galloway) Lidington, David
Duncan Smith, rh Iain Lilley, rh Peter
Evans, Nigel Llwyd, Elfyn
Ewing, Annabelle Loughton, Tim
Fabricant, Michael Luff, Peter(M-Worcs)
Fallon, Michael Mcintosh, Miss Anne
Field, Mark(Cities of London & Mackay, rh Andrew
Westminster) Maclean, rh David
McLoughlin, Patrick Spicer, Sir Michael
Malins, Humfrey Spink, Bob(Castle Point)
Maples, John Spring, Richard
Mawhinney, rh Sir Brian Stanley, rh Sir John
May, Mrs Theresa Streeter, Gary
Mercer, Patrick Swayne, Desmond
Moss, Malcolm Swire, Hugo(E Devon)
Murrison, Dr. Andrew Syms, Robert
Norman, Archie Tapsell, Sir Peter
O'Brien, Stephen(Eddisbury) Taylor, Ian(Esher)
Osborne, George(Tatton) Taylor, John(Solihull)
Ottaway, Richard Taylor, Sir Teddy
Page, Richard Tredinnick, David
Paice, James Trend, Michael
Portillo, rh Michael Tyrie, Andrew
Price, Adam(E Carmarthen & Viggers, Peter
Dinefwr) Walter, Robert
Prisk, Mark(Hertford) Waterson, Nigel
Randall, John Watkinson, Angela
Redwood, rh John Weir, Michael
Robertson, Angus(Moray) Whittingdale, John
Robertson, Hugh(Faversham & Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
M-Kent) Wiggin, Bill
Robertson, Laurence(Tewk'b'ry) Wilkinson, John
Rosindell, Andrew Willetts, David
Ruffley, David Wilshire, David
Salmond, Alex Winterton, Ann(Congleton)
Sayeed, Jonathan Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Selous, Andrew (Macclesfield)
Shephard, rh Mrs Gillian Wishart, Pete
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, Keith(M-Norfolk) Tellers for the Noes:
Smyth, Rev. Martin(Belfast S) Gregory Barker and
Spelman, Mrs Caroline Mr. Mark Francois

Question accordingly agreed to.

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


That this House welcomes the fact that this Government acknowledged the importance of children's issues by appointing the first ever Minister with responsibility for children and young people; congratulates the Government's commitment to Lord Laming's report on safeguarding children, shown in the Green Paper Every Child Matters, and its determination to turn words into action by publishing the Children's Bill in the other place today; acknowledges It at the £885 million Quality Protects Programme is already improving the life chances of vulnerable children; commends the Government for the 8.7% increase in funding for children's social services in the next financial year; and is alarmed by the Opposition's proposals to freeze spending on children's services.