HL Deb 27 October 1992 vol 539 cc1027-39

3.56 p.m.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie)

My Lords, with your Lordships' permission, I should like to repeat a Statement about child care in Scotland which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has made today in another place. The Statement is as follows:

"I have today published as a Return to an Address of the House the report which Lord Clyde prepared of the inquiry which I asked him to undertake into the removal of nine children from South Ronaldsay to a place of safety on 27th February 1991. I have also published as a Return to an Address of the House Sheriff Brian Kearney's report on child care policies in Fife following the inquiry which my predecessor asked him to undertake. I am also placing in the Library later today letters I am sending today to the chief executives of the two authorities concerned and also letters to the chief executives of all regional and islands councils about the action to be taken on the two reports.

"These are two important reports which have major implications for child protection and for the management of child care policies.

"Dealing first with the Orkney inquiry, I am grateful to Lord Clyde for completing such a full and clear report into circumstances which were both difficult and complicated. He has not only set out very clearly the facts of the handling of a difficult episode but has also drawn helpful conclusions and made positive recommendations which have major implications for child care law and practice. I am also grateful to the expert assessors who supported Lord Clyde in carrying out his task, Miss Ann Black and Dr. Hugh Morton.

"The report identified significant failings on the part of Orkney Islands Council social work department, the Northern Constabulary and the Royal Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, not only in the way in which the decision to remove the children was reached but also how it was implemented and how the interviews were carried out with the children. The House should be in no doubt that this is a report which is justifiably critical of the way in which this affair was handled.

"However, Lord Clyde goes beyond immediate criticisms to make positive recommendations designed to prevent situations of the kind arising again in the future. At the same time he recognises the way in which agencies, and in particular social workers, have to face up to very difficult decisions in carrying out their duty to protect children. In this case in particular he notes that all those involved acted in good faith.

"I have examined the 194 recommendations of the report with care. Action is needed and I am anxious to see early progress. Some recommendations can be implemented without undue delay whereas others require primary legislation or further consideration and consultation. A number fall directly to the Scottish Office for action, but others affect other agencies: local authorities, the police and the health service. I am minded to accept the great majority of these recommendations and to take them forward in consultation with the agencies involved as a matter of priority. Some recommendations will require further consideration, and my officials will be contacting the organisations concerned to follow these up.

"I have in mind to make changes, broadly along the lines which Lord Clyde has recommended, on emergency protection of children and their removal to a place of safety. These would be implemented principally by primary legislation and I will include my detailed proposals for change in a White Paper on Child Care Policy and Law which I shall publish early next year. I am also minded to accept certain changes proposed for regulations and revised regulations will be issued for consultation in the usual way. These changes will be designed to increase the safeguards for children and parents involved in child protection investigations and procedures.

"A considerable number of the changes recommended relate to central guidance. We are committed to revise the central Scottish Office guidance on "Effective Intervention" and this will be done in the light of Lord Clyde's recommendations. At the same time we have established with the Association of Directors of Social Work a working party which will produce new practice guidance for social workers engaged in child protection. I shall ask the working party to embody Lord Clyde's recommendations in this guidance. One recommendation I would particularly highlight, and which I endorse, is Lord Clyde's recommendation that removal of a child should be recognised as a course to be considered only where no alternative exists and the urgency of the risk requires it, and that caution must be exercised.

"I have also established along with the Lord Advocate a working party to draw up guidance on joint working and the interviewing of children. This involves the police, the Crown Office, social work and other expert interests. I shall direct them to Lord Clyde's recommendations as the basis for their work. I intend all of this work to be carried out as a matter of urgency.

"Training for child protection is identified as an area of major importance. This has already been recognised by the significant commitment to various initiatives, notably support of the development of courses at Dundee University and the introduction in 1992– 93 of the new specific grant to help local authorities develop social work training. I propose immediately to increase substantially the amount available for specialist training for social workers in the Islands this year and to give close attention to the need to improve training in the current public expenditure round.

"The report provides an invaluable basis for moving ahead to improve child care. It not only analyses events within Orkney but draws conclusions and makes recommendations which should improve the way in which we afford protection to children in future. I also support what Lord Clyde says at the conclusion of his report that at the end of the day the welfare of the nine children involved should not be overlooked and every opportunity should be taken to overcome any effects of the inquiry and the incidents which prompted it. I am sure the House would want to endorse these sentiments. I also endorse his plea for action to re-establish relationships between Orkney Islands Council social work department and the local community. There will be an inspection next year in Orkney by the Social Work Services Inspectorate which I established earlier this year.

"I turn now to the report of Sheriff Kearney's inquiry on child care policies in Fife. This inquiry was established because of issues which were brought to the attention of my predecessor about the child care policies pursued by Fife Regional Council. As a result of his inquiry Sheriff Kearney has reached the conclusion that,

very serious cause for concern exists as to the implementation of the Regional Council's social work department's child care policy". "I accept this view. Sheriff Kearney makes a number of recommendations directed to Fife Regional Council to rectify these matters. I also accept his view that the implementation of the recommendations of the report will not remove the deficiencies described by Sheriff Kearney until and unless the region and the Director of Social Work are prepared to accept that these deficiencies exist. I have today written to the council asking it to let me have a report within eight weeks on how it proposes to implement the recommendations specifically addressed to it and what action it proposes to take on the issues of concern highlighted in the conclusions of the report. In particular I have asked what action it is taking to improve working relationships within the child care system in Fife. My officials will meet with regional council officials to discuss implementation and there will also be an inspection next year in Fife by the Social Work Services Inspectorate.

"As far as the general recommendations are concerned, I am minded to accept the great majority of the recommendations subject in some cases to consultation and I am writing today to a wide range of interests to draw some recommendations to their attention for immediate action. Other recommendations will be incorporated in guidance to be issued by me or in primary legislation in due course.

"I am grateful to Sheriff Kearney and his social work assessor, Professor Mapstone, for the care which they have given to this complex remit.

"I am very conscious of the difficult nature of the important task which confronts social workers, the police, and other agencies over the whole field of child care. The dilemma they face in deciding whether, when and how to intervene is often acute. But I am also conscious of the importance of public confidence in this work, which has such a major impact on the lives and well-being of children and their families. Above all there is the overriding obligation to ensure that in every action by the many bodies with responsibilities in this field, decisions are taken with care and that the best interests and welfare of the children remain paramount at all times.

"These detailed and substantial reports address very serious issues to which all concerned must respond. The action that I have announced today will be carried forward urgently by the Scottish Office in consultation with all the relevant agencies. It is my firm intention that it will result in improvements in procedures and the quality of practice for the future."

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

4.6 p.m.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made in another place relating to the two inquiries involving the protection and care of children at risk of sexual and other abuses. I also welcome the caring and constructive approach of the Government as outlined in the Statement to this difficult area of human, or perhaps I should say inhuman, relationships.

I deal with the reports in reverse order. The Kearney Report unfortunately took three-and-a-half years to complete but I am sure that the conclusions and recommendations it makes will be of considerable value to the Government and the regional authority in the reappraisal of all the issues raised, which involve not only the children but their parents and guardians and sometimes close members of the family. I concur with the Minister in thanking Sheriff Kearney and his assessor for the meticulous care which they have taken in preparing the report.

Likewise, Lord Clyde deserves the thanks of the community for his typically fair and painstaking conduct of a very difficult inquiry in Orkney which was subjected to continuous media attention over a period of eight months. The report reaches almost 400 pages and makes almost 200 recommendations. On the content of the report I reserve judgment as, despite my efforts to obtain a copy, at this stage I have not had a proper opportunity to consider the report, although parts of it—many parts in fact—have been leaked by the media since last Friday both on radio and in the press. Presumably, members of the press were in possession of embargoed copies of this very important report but just ignored the embargo. Indeed, I have a cutting from a newspaper yesterday which is headlined: Blame cast on police and social workers. Clyde Report highlights the lessons of Orkney". If we are to have a system of giving reports to the press with embargoes on them, then it is the duty and responsibility of the press to pay attention to that embargo and not leak on a daily basis right up to the publication of the report.

I wish to raise several matters arising out of the report. One issue which arises in particular is the format of this type of inquiry. I should like to ask whether the Government agree that the procedures involved require to be urgently reviewed to ensure that any other such inquiry, if we have the misfortune to have one, is completed with minimum delay while doing justice to the issues and parties involved. Every day lost in such reports will almost certainly be another child or many other children being abused unnecessarily and without the protection of the community.

Specifically arising out of the Orkney inquiry, where solicitors and counsel seem to be the main beneficiaries, will the Government in their review of child care and law consider whether the adversarial approach is suitable to establish the facts in this type of inquiry? It may be a contradiction in terms to appoint an inquiry, announce the terms of reference and then turn that inquiry into what amounted in some cases to almost a criminal trial in respect of some of the principal people involved. I ask the Government to consider that suggestion.

That is only one option. But perhaps I may suggest one way in which it might be better dealt with as one option. A more suitable and swift system would be for the inquiry, once it has been set up, to ask for representations in writing for anyone with an interest. The inquiry could then analyse those representations and issue a preliminary report focusing on the main matters for consideration and inviting further comment all within a tight time-scale. Thereafter, the inquiry could invite witnesses that it considers necessary to attend and supplement the evidence which they may have already given in writing, with the proviso that if any other person not invited considered that his oral evidence and testimony was vital to the inquiry he could make application to it and then, cause shown, be allowed to give evidence to the inquiry.

The format at Orkney as it developed—and I do not blame anyone for this; I am not trying to allocate blame anywhere because it would be inappropriate—was viewed by many members of the public (and was, indeed, expressed in some newspapers) as a gravy train for lawyers. As I was not a passenger on that train I cannot comment with authority, but even the estimated costs of £ 5 million surely demand that that form of inquiry should be reviewed.

Unfortunately, child abuse is a desperately sad area of life for all those involved, whether that abuse be physical, sexual or a combination of both. Like industrial law and unfair dismissal, which started out to be a simple and readily understandable branch of the law to the layman, child abuse in itself has almost become an industry. Lawyers, solicitors, social workers, sociologists, medical men, and so on, are necessarily involved to get to the root of the cause of the abuse. However, some control must be taken over such matters.

We took the Statement in your Lordships' House because, although these are two Scottish inquiries, sexual abuse of children is not a parochial matter; it is a universal matter and, indeed, a United Kingdom matter. Cleveland, Rochdale and Orkney will all go together in the roll of sexual abuse. The dilemmas faced by all the parties involved—and I believe that this fact was recognised by the Minister—arc the same whether you are in Glasgow or in London. Social workers, doctors, the police and others all have the same problems in this very difficult task. If they move too soon they are criticised; but if they move too late they are also criticised. On occasions, some of them have been quite justifiably criticised and even verbally abused in various quarters.

The main problem in child abuse cases is the close involvement of other members of the family. Experience has shown that child abuse has not come from outsiders; it comes from other members of the family, close relatives and sometimes trusted babysitters. I wonder whether it is time for the Government to take a look at the situation and pool the resources we have from all the various people interested in child abuse into a UK pool of knowledge. It is no use someone in Glasgow doing one thing and someone in Portsmouth doing another. Let us have a universal approach to the matter. A child in Orkney is no different from a child in Oldham or a child in Orpington. To implement the report as proposed is all very well, but the knowledge should be passed to the South and to other countries.

I look forward to reading the White Paper on child care and law which, again, was no doubt delayed by the system of the two inquiries. The longer the White Paper is delayed, the longer proper legislation will he delayed. That underlines the plea I make for swifter procedures to be involved. If it cuts out the lawyers, well, so be it. It may be for the benefit of the community. All the matters raised in the inquiries are important and will no doubt be taken into account by the Government.

Finally, as part of the overall review of child care and social work, will the Government consider whether the time has come to carry out a complete review of the operation of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968, soon to have its 25th birthday. It covers a wide, time-consuming and very costly area of public life. No parliamentary Act is perfect. A review of that Act would be welcomed in many quarters. In closing, I repeat my gratitude to the Minister for repeating the very full Statement on the two matters. However, I hope to bring all those issues back to the House for a full debate at the earliest possible date.

Lord Grimond

My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. I should also like to thank Lord Clyde for what I am sure is a most excellent report, though I have not had the opportunity to read it. This was a tragedy for all Orkney. It caused great unhappiness, especially to children and it certainly shook our faith in the social services. I believe that the Statement will do something to reassure people that action is to be taken on what the Minister himself described as a "justifiably critical" report.

As for the report's 194 recommendations, I welcome the statement by the Minister that he intends to take action. However, I should like to be reassured that the action will not seem too remote or too professionally oriented. To my mind, one of the things that went wrong was that the community which used to look after a great many matters concerning children, family life, and so on, became divorced from what were its responsibilities. It felt that it was going to be taken over by social workers. But social workers cannot take over those responsibilities. Least of all, they cannot take them over in a scattered, island community. A limited number of career social workers simply cannot compete with the problems which may arise in such scattered communities and which used to be dealt with by the family—that is, aunts, uncles, cousins and so on.

I read that the working party involves the police, the Crown Office, social workers and other expert interests. But, above all, it involves the local people and their families. I hope that their interests will be represented on it. I also hope that they will have every opportunity to make their views known. I have always had doubts about these inquiries. As has been said, this one went on for eight months and cost £ 1 million. In it, as always, allegations were made against individuals to which they could not reply. That is an old and justifiable complaint. I would much rather that, wherever possible—I agree that it may not always be possible where children are concerned—the normal procedures of law should apply. If crimes have been committed (and there were allusions that they were committed) they should be prosecuted in the courts where proper procedures are enforced. If public servants or the police have trespassed under the law, they too are subject to it and action should be taken against them.

The allegations made against the people who cannot answer back are very serious. The problem has existed for a long time. I hope that some attention will be paid to it. I understand that a review of local government is taking place at the Scottish Office. I hope that that review will not be solely concerned with local government finance or local government areas. I hope that it will look at the responsibilities of local government and the ability of the local authorities to discharge those responsibilities.

It is not only the career civil servants, the social workers, who are involved; it is the senior officials and the elected representatives of the local authority. It is time certainly in small communities, and I think probably in all communities, that we looked at the responsibilities that we are constantly placing on local authorities and their ability to discharge them, or indeed to recruit adequate staff to do so. With those reservations I welcome the report as far as I am able.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, I am grateful for the response and the welcome that has been extended to the publication of these reports, and indeed for the statements by both noble Lords. Perhaps I may deal first, as did the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, with the Kearney Report. Indeed it took a long time to reach its conclusion, but as the noble Lord will see, when he has the time to study it, it involves the detailed examination of a large number of cases.

I regret to say that it included some rather worrying conclusions. For example, it says at one point: The central impetus in implementation of policy which we found to exist was the tendency to over-simplify the approach of the social worker to the intricate and difficult discipline of child care and to impose this simplified approach in a rigid and dogmatic manner which, thus imposed, alienated others involved in child care such as, on the one hand the Children's Panel and the Reporter, parts of the hearings system and on the other hand, other professionals directly involved in child care such as teachers, guidance teachers, educational psychologists, child psychiatrists, clinical child psychologists and health visitors. The noble Lord will appreciate that in bringing it together he had a major task in attempting to redress what he saw as a serious imbalance in the way in which social service policy was being taken forward.

I agree with the noble Lord that there has certainly been some considerable publicity in the Scottish press about the reports, but I would indicate to him that there were no leaked reports. None was given out, under embargo, until about an hour ago, so their speculations are not on the basis of the actual reports. I think that the noble Lord will be aware that criticisms of the police and the social workers were widely known as the evidence was reported from Orkney itself.

While the noble Lord's concern about the format of the inquiry is one that I readily understand, and it did take a long time, this was against the background of the circumstance where, following on a decision by a sheriff, it was not possible to take the case forward in the court to see if the grounds of referral were established, nor indeed in my capacity then as Lord Advocate did I think that there was a possibility to take the matter forward then to see if there might be any basis for criminal proceedings. Although Lord Clyde's remit was quite clear that he was not in a position to examine whether or not the allegations were true, as the inquiry developed there were not surprisingly attempts made from all quarters in one way or another to establish whether the underlying allegations had any truth in them.

The inquiry cost a lot of money. I think that the figure of £ 5 million that the noble Lord gives is, so far as we yet know, on the high side. We have paid out some £ 2.25 million so far. The noble Lord is right to draw this into the context of the other major inquiries that there have been south of the border. In particular, in one matter, the Cleveland inquiry concluded with an indication that social workers should have careful regard to what children said without necessarily believing them. Lord Clyde has found it necessary to repeat that recommendation.

At the centre of what Lord Clyde has said is that Section 37 of the 1968 Act should be amended so that children should only be removed from their homes on a test along the lines of when they are likely to suffer imminent and significant harm. Obviously we hope that if such a change were to be incorporated into primary legislation the likelihood of such removals would be reduced in the future.

I turn to the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Grimond. I think that I have covered what he had to say in terms of a criticism that proper legal procedures should have been followed. I entirely agree with him. As a former Lord Advocate may I say that it would have been much more desirable if that had been possible, but the circumstances made it almost beyond it. The noble Lord made some observation with regard to drawing members of the community into a working party. As large parts of the report indicate, great regard must be had, particularly in Orkney, to the views of the community. The particular working party was a specialist one on developing proper techniques with regard to the questioning of children. Lord Clyde has a number of significant criticisms to make about the way that was done in this case.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, in setting up the working party that my noble and learned friend has just announced, will he bear in mind that among children's rights must be the right to be children? Being asked by whatever means to expose the truth of what their parents or other adults have, or have not, done to them can be a burden for children which is often quite out of proportion to the usefulness of the facts that emerge. Should not more of that burden be put upon adults and greater effort put into finding more successful ways of getting the truth out of them?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie ;

My Lords, a significant part of the report by Lord Clyde is devoted to an examination of what might be the best ways of discovering from children just exactly what the truth of the situation may be. He also reflects carefully on whether in all circumstances the most appropriate way to respond to the paramount needs of the child is always that of removing him from his parents, and indeed goes on to offer some observations as to whether in such circumstances it is always appropriate to prosecute a parent if there is an allegation that might be supported by evidence of sexual abuse. These are extremely difficult areas, and areas that ought to he discussed carefully, but I have no doubt that there are quite sharply conflicting views on whether prosecution is or is not always appropriate.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar

My Lords, may I say, with the leave of the House, that in the light of the assurances that the noble and learned Lord has given me that no embargoed copies of the report were released to the press, I unreservedly withdraw any comments criticising the abuse of the system. However, clearly information leaked from somewhere to the press.

Lord Stodart of Leaston

My Lords, is my noble friend aware of the perplexity, if not the certain anxiety, of the general public about the way in which the police appear to have been involved together with the social services in the early morning raid, particularly as no subsequent prosecution was mounted? Are the police bound to answer the call of the social services in matters of this kind without first perhaps investigating what the social services fear has been happening?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, there are a number of criticisms by Lord Clyde that the Social Work Services Department and the police and others failed to consider the position of the children, and failed to keep an open mind as they considered these allegations before they took steps to remove the children from their homes. I should make it clear that in the report in relation to what are described in the popular press as the "dawn raids" Lord Clyde said: The timing of the removals was beyond serious criticism. The time for the removal of a child must depend upon the whole circumstances of each particular case, but the prime consideration must be the welfare of the child. Although he makes that observation in his report with regard to the particular circumstances of the Orkney case, he also quotes from a policy document prepared by the directors of social work in which they indicated that in a planned intervention, such as the intervention of the type we saw in Orkney, removal of children who are sleeping in their homes or have just risen from their beds cannot be supported as a form of intervention centred on the interests of the children concerned. With respect, I agree with that.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, my noble and learned friend will recall that for some four years I had responsibility for social work at the Scottish Office. That, I hasten to add, was before any of these issues arose. However, I certainly recall some of the issues mentioned in the Statement today and the need to address them. I welcome the news that there will be regulation in this area and that a White Paper will be published that addresses the issues and considers how we might improve both regulations and legislation with regard to children and child care. When is the White Paper likely to emerge?

Will my noble and learned friend also tell me whether we are likely to have the opportunity of a debate in this House once we have had a chance to digest what must be detailed and full reports? Will he comment in general terms on the fact that the two reports cost a great deal of money and took a great deal of time to be produced? That was also the case with other similar inquiries. Is it not time the Government took a look at how they run inquiries of this nature so that they cost less and take a lot less time? My noble and learned friend will know that during the course of the Lord Clyde inquiry there was a great deal of adverse publicity in Scotland directed at the legal profession and at the very nature of these inquiries. I hope that my noble and learned friend will agree with me when I say the one thing that is left hanging in the air over the Orkney case is the truth or otherwise of the allegations. Many of us feel that situation is totally unsatisfactory.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, I shall respond to the noble Lord's final point first. I understand why the noble Lord should consider the state of affairs unsatisfactory. However, as I have sought to explain, once a sheriff had indicated that he considered there was a fundamental flaw in the procedures which had been followed—that decision was subsequently reversed in the Court of Session—the children were returned to their families immediately. That course having been followed, it was thereafter effectively impossible to determine whether or not the allegations that had been made were true or false. The parents and others, who were the subject of these allegations, enjoy, along with every other citizen in this country, the presumption of innocence. None of them has been brought before a criminal court and none of them has been found guilty of any offence. There the matter must rest.

The matter of the length and the cost of an inquiry is always a difficult one to consider. My noble friend may like to consider what Lord Clyde said when he embarked on this inquiry. He certainly attempted at the outset to keep the inquiry short. He attempted as best he could to pursue it in what might broadly be described as an inquisitorial fashion. However, for the reasons I have just outlined—that is, that there were those who felt they had their own serious interests to protect—it became difficult for Lord Clyde to deprive various parties of their rights to examine matters fully. I offer no criticism whatsoever of Lord Clyde in that regard.

The White Paper will be produced in the early part of next year. It will cover the reports of the Orkney inquiry and the Fife inquiry. A review of child care was published in 1990. There is a further report that discusses the role and functions of the reporter. It is time for us to reconsider much of the 1968 material. We await only a review of residential accommodation in Scotland. Once all those aspects have been studied the White Paper will be published.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, I hope I may intervene in connection with the portion of the Statement which deals with the issue of the White Paper to which the noble and learned Lord has just referred. In the course of a discussion on these serious matters it has been stated that these are problems that concern the whole of the United Kingdom and not just Scotland. I understand that the White Paper will be produced by the Scottish Office. I hope we may take it that the paper will constitute an accumulation of the wisdom of the department of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor with all that department's experience of the Children Act—the Act was brought before this House with great distinction by the noble and learned Lord—and that of the Home Office as regards the whole of the United Kingdom. I hope we may take it that the White Paper will constitute a unified representation of all the wisdom that could be assembled and that it will benefit all our children, whether they be Scots or not.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, the noble Lord is perfectly correct to say that children at risk are often at risk for much the same reasons in Scotland as they are south of the Border. As I believe I indicated when replying to the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, it is disappointing that Lord Clyde should criticise the fact that notwithstanding that a document had been issued by the Scottish Office entitled Effective Intervention, which relied heavily on some of the recommendations of the Cleveland report, those recommendations were not followed through or observed. Sometimes we in Scotland tend to be chauvinistic as regards our law, but I am sure there are some worthwhile lessons to be learnt from some unhappy experiences south of the Border and from the legislation which my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor introduced some time ago.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, is the noble and learned Lord aware that many of us welcome the additional resources that are to be made available for social worker training in Scotland? Is the noble and learned Lord also aware that there are clear indications that the training of police officers for conducting inquiries of this kind should be reviewed? What discussions are taking place with the chief inspector of constabulary in Scotland to ensure that the training processes are now reviewed?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, criticisms are made of the training of social workers but there are also indications that police officers who were engaged along with social workers and officials of the Royal Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children lacked a sufficient degree of skill as regards their training and expertise when interviewing children. The recommendations that Lord Clyde made are all accepted by the Secretary of State and those that relate to the training of police officers in this difficult and complicated area of investigation will be implemented as vigorously as those that relate to the training of social workers.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy

My Lords, the Statement said that the social work inspectorate would make thorough inspections of the Fife and Orkney social work departments. Can the noble and learned Lord assure us that those inspections will take place without any notice being given to the social work departments involved because if inspections are notified in advance they become virtually useless?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, I appreciate that in certain circumstances it is desirable to conduct inspections without any notice being given so that those who are being inspected will have no knowledge that an inspection is about to take place. However, the type of inspection that is envisaged here aims to ensure, following on the criticisms made in the report, that social work departments have in place a number of officials who are qualified and expert in the area of child abuse, or whatever. In those circumstances I do not envisage that people from the independent inspectorate will suddenly emerge from a plane in Orkney without warning. However, in spite of that, I can assure the noble Lady that the inspection will be most thorough. It is important that social work matters on the island of Orkney are improved and also that they should return to some degree of normality.