HL Deb 04 October 2000 vol 616 cc1535-49

(" .—(1) This section applies where the Tribunal has directed under the provisions of section 31 that a disqualification order is to cease to have effect in respect of an individual.

(2) A relevant person may at any time apply to the Tribunal for the reinstatement of the disqualification order.

(3) An application under subsection (2) may only be granted if the Tribunal is satisfied, having regard to all the circumstances, that it is likely that the individual will commit a further offence against a child.

(4) Where the Tribunal reinstates an order under this section, it must state its reasons for doing so and cause those reasons to be included in the record of the proceedings.

(5) In this section. "relevant person" means—

  1. (a) the Secretary of State;
  2. (b) a superintendent of police;
  3. (c) the director of social services of a local authority.").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment will test how serious the Government are about disqualification orders and about ensuring that people who are unsuitable to work with children are prevented from doing so. The amendment would allow the Secretary of State, a superintendent of police or the director of social services to seek a reinstatement of a disqualification order from a tribunal if it is believed that, following revocation of a disqualification order, a person poses a further threat.

The introduction of disqualification orders is welcomed. However, where a tribunal under the Clause 30 powers directs that a disqualification order ceases to exist and the individual concerned subsequently displays threatening behaviour, it is also important that the tribunal should be free to reinstate that order so as to protect children. At that point, the person will have spent his sentence and, therefore, he will have to commit another crime before the courts can intervene for a second time.

The amendment would allow the courts to make a determination that such is the behaviour of someone who has had an order revoked that it qualifies him for reinstatement of the order. It is a reserve power and one that we all hope will be used infrequently. Nevertheless, these are potentially dangerous situations. We believe that such a provision would prove to be a serious child protection measure. I beg to move.

The Earl of Erroll

I believe this amendment to be most sensible for the simple reason that we always have this difficulty of the police saying, "We can't do anything because no offence has been committed". If used with extreme discretion, such a power would be useful.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

I am intrigued by the noble Baroness's remarks. However, the record of this Government in trying to sort out what was something of a hotchpotch of legislation in this field of protecting children is of the highest order. The measures that we have brought forward have now begun to provide a consistent and coherent framework for protecting children; and, indeed, for driving home that important range of arguments, as well as ensuring that the public are aware of the importance of protecting children. Although there may have been some very good intentions in the area prior to this Government coming into office, coherent provisions such as those contained in the framework of this Bill were not available.

This amendment, a proposed new clause, would allow a disqualification order that had been removed by a tribunal to be reinstated by it. As the noble Baroness said, it would allow the Secretary of State, a superintendent of police or a director of social services to apply to the tribunal for the order to be reinstated.

The review process is strict. Reinstatement of the ban would constitute an additional penalty. The amendment adds nothing to the force and rigour of any of these processes and could in some circumstances undermine them. I fully understand why the noble Baroness moved the amendment. As I have argued, the Government share, and have done much to champion, the need to protect children and to ensure that those who should be disqualified remain so if any risk to children remains.

It is for that reason that once a person has been disqualified the process is heavily weighted so that he or she can achieve a lifting of the ban only if they can positively satisfy the tribunal that they no longer pose a risk to children. This is a strong and stern test and a substantial safeguard within the scheme. To allow the tribunal to reimpose the ban would not add to the safeguards for children. Moreover, it could potentially weaken the scheme. I am sure that that is not the noble Baroness's intention.

The amendment properly sets a high criterion for reimposition of the ban. Such a high criterion would indeed be necessary in the circumstances envisaged. However, the reinstated disqualification would appear to be a new penalty and Article 6(2) protections under the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Convention on Human Rights seem properly justified.

But this statutory route to reimpose the ban could limit the ability to reimpose the ban through other routes such as by the Secretary of State. This is because the high criterion, which would rightly be essential for the tribunal to reinstate the disqualification order, might be read across to the other ways in which the person might be banned a second time without recourse to the reimposition of the order.

It may be helpful if I set out what these other ways would be. If a person from whom a disqualification order has been lifted gives further cause for concern there are three possible avenues of action. First, if he is working with children in the areas covered by education or health department bans, a ban could be reimposed by the same route as before if his conduct was sufficiently serious to merit his dismissal or removal from work with children.

Secondly, if he is a sex offender and begins to fall into his former ways, a sex offender order could be applied for; this could include a ban on working with children. Finally, if he were a violent offender, the precursor activity might itself be criminal; alternatively, an antisocial behaviour order might be sought.

Baroness Blatch

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. Do the three examples he has mentioned pertain if a person's sentence is completely spent?

Lord Bassam of Brighton

The answer is "Yes". Thus we see no need for the new clause proposed by the noble Baroness. As I said, by setting in statute such a high criterion for reimposition it could make protection more difficult by these other routes.

I fully understand the noble Baroness's reasons for proposing the new clause. However, we cannot accept it. We believe that we have a robust framework. I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Blatch

Before I do so, I press the noble Lord further. A person may have a completely spent sentence but a social services director, a superintendent of police or the Secretary of State may believe that that person is displaying behaviour that gives cause for concern. Under the terms of my amendment they would apply to the tribunal and the latter would decide whether the person constituted a threat. I believe that the noble Lord is saying that a ban can be imposed on a person whose sentence is completely spent without that person attending a court proceeding. On what basis could a court proceeding take place if the person concerned had not committed an offence?

Lord Bassam of Brighton

I confirm that it would be possible to apply a ban.

Baroness Blatch

But what procedure would be invoked and on what basis would that person be further punished? The noble Lord states that my amendment constitutes a further punishment. However, he has read out three further punishments that could be imposed on an innocent person in the sense that he or she has a spent sentence. Will the noble Lord explain why my amendment constitutes a punishment and is unacceptable when he has given three examples of punishment for a person who is innocent at that point?

Lord Bassam of Brighton

The person may be innocent at that point but, as the noble Baroness said, they may well exhibit peculiar behaviour. Sex offender orders and anti-social behaviour orders are awarded by the civil court on the grounds of new risk. That is how the scheme works.

I believe that we have a perfectly practical and workable method of dealing with this matter. The key point is that the tribunal should only ever lift a disqualification order in exceptional circumstances. Being able to reimpose it might make tribunals more generous in that they might consider they could afford to take risks. However, we do not want them to take risks. They must be satisfied that a person is positively suitable to work with children. That is an important part of the way in which our scheme works.

Baroness Blatch

I need to press the noble Lord further. He says that a sex offender order can be imposed on someone with a spent conviction who is at that point innocent. All I am saying is that they should be deemed unsuitable to work with children. The noble Lord said that one cannot impose a disqualification order on such people—in other words, reimpose a revoked order—but one can impose a sex offender order. Will the noble Lord explain why they can continue to work with children in those circumstances?

Lord Bassam of Brighton

We are trying to create a coherent system. I believe that the noble Baroness does not understand the way in which we see the system working. Perhaps that is because I have not explained it as well as I could, or perhaps the noble Baroness's understanding is incomplete. I believe that we have designed a robust and effective system. I suggest that the way in which the noble Baroness seeks to reintroduce a disqualification order is not workable. We want to see a workable scheme. I believe that the scheme we have offered is workable. I believe that the explanation I have given for ways in which a ban could be reintroduced is coherent. We do not think that it is necessary to do what the noble Baroness seeks. In any event, we feel that a disqualification order should be lifted and set aside only in exceptional circumstances. I hope that the noble Baroness will read what I have said and reflect further.

Baroness Blatch

The noble Lord just mentioned a ban being reintroduced. I am suggesting that a ban should be reintroduced where someone is displaying the behaviour we have mentioned. If the noble Lord is saying that there is a system for reintroducing a ban, I should like to know what it is. I understand that the noble Lord is saying the following. Someone who has committed a serious offence against a child is convicted and a disqualification order is imposed. At some point a tribunal has deemed that that person is reformed and fit to work with children. Subsequently, a director of social services, a superintendent of police or the Secretary of State have reason to believe that the person is beginning to pose a threat to the public. They believe that a reinstatement of the order would be appropriate. I believe that the noble Lord is saying that it would not be appropriate and that the person in question could continue to be deemed fit to work with children. That is unacceptable. I shall return to this matter. If the noble Lord is not prepared to reflect further on the matter at the next stage of the Bill I shall seek the opinion of the Chamber.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

Perhaps I may clarify the position. The behaviour that the noble Baroness describes is precisely the behaviour which would lead to reoffending. Then the situation would revert to where it was before.

The noble Baroness needs to reflect carefully on the amendment. I think that we are trying to achieve the same objective: to ensure that people who are unsuitable to work with children do not work with them in the future. That is why we have such a hard-nosed and rigorous disqualification scheme, and I think that in very few cases would anyone manage to achieve a revocation of that disqualification. That is the important point on which to focus.

Baroness Blatch

This is my final word on the matter. The noble Lord has made my case. Yes, of course, that kind of behaviour leads to re-offending. My amendment is about preventing re-offending, not leading to it. I am in the business of preventing children being at risk. The noble Lord says that the ban cannot be reinstated and that the person displaying such behaviour can continue to work with children. That is unacceptable. However, at this stage I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 32[Conditions for application under section 31]:

Baroness Hanham moved Amendment No. 98: Page 15, line 40, leave out ("he is released") and insert ("the sentence passed on him expires").

The noble Baroness said: Under Clause 31 a person who has been disqualified from working with children may apply to a tribunal for a review of the order. Clause 32 states that for those under the age of 18 this could be made five years after release from custody, and for those over 18 10 years after release from custody.

The amendment proposes that the application should not be made five or 10 years from release from custody but from the time the sentence expires. While it is for the tribunal to decide whether an application can be considered, the tribunal will act in the terms of legislation as well as on its own guidelines. But it would be difficult, if the legislation allows for applications on the basis of Clause 32, for this to be rejected without other good reasons.

The time that an offender is released from custody can depend on a number of factors. Some will have quite short terms, in particular if the Home Office detention curfew scheme is imposed. That would mean that those could become an option. We feel that it is better to strengthen the Bill now to make sure that the timescales are those of the full term of the sentence before the disqualification application can be made. I beg to move.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

As I have said several times today, the Government bow to no one to explain and make clear their concern to ensure that those who are disqualified should remain so, if there is any risk to children. It is for that reason that once a person has been disqualified the process is heavily weighted so that he can achieve a lifting of the ban only if he can positively satisfy the tribunal that there is no longer a risk for children.

I wish to reassure noble Lords that the review process is very rigorous.

Baroness Hanham

Perhaps the Minister is reading from the wrong brief. I am raising the question of when an application can be made to a tribunal for disqualification, not for review.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

I thought that we were discussing Amendment No. 98.

Baroness Hanham

It is the application for the review of a disqualification order.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

I apologise for the delay. The reason for the present wording is in order to consider whether or not this leave should be granted. On any demonstration of suitability, the tribunal must consider the individual's record in the community. There is no value in considering the period when an offender might have been imprisoned, especially when one considers that many sex offenders in prison are exemplary prisoners. It is their record in the community that we feel must count. With her experience in these matters, I am sure the noble Baroness will understand that. Equally, there is no reason to limit the period to exclude the time the offender may spend, for example, on supervision. This will be time in the community and should be counted as such. However, the tribunal might be aware that the offender might be on his best behaviour during such a time and might take this into account.

The purpose of the disqualification order is not primarily to punish the individual but, as we all accept, to protect children. For that reason there is no requirement to tie the date on which an offender is able first to approach the tribunal to the date on which their sentence expires. The relevant period is from the date when they were first released into the community. If during that period they have returned to prison for a different or even similar offence, or perhaps had been recalled for breach of licence conditions, those circumstances would be extremely telling, perhaps even conclusive in the deliberations of the tribunal.

A further difficulty with the amendment would be that some offenders who receive life sentences could never be considered for review. There could be cases where a review for someone serving a mandatory life sentence was appropriate and it would be wrong not to allow this possibility, remote thought it may be. For those reasons, we do not feel able to accept these amendments.

Baroness Hanham

Can the Minister tell me the likely earliest possible date on which an offender could make an application for revocation?

Lord Bassam of Brighton

I shall have to take advice on that point. I shall be happy to share that information with the noble Baroness. I am advised that it would be 10 years after release for an adult.

Baroness Hanham

I think that we are getting the Minister into a muddle. I had understood that. My proposal—the Minister rejected it—is that the revocation, which could not be applied for until five or 10 years respectively, should be after the expiry of the sentence not after the end of the time of the sentence served. I believe that that has been rejected. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment and will consider our position after reading Hansard.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 32 agreed to.

Clause 33 [Persons disqualified from working with children: offences]:

Baroness Hanham moved Amendment No. 99: Page 16, line 25, at end insert ("or performs on a casual basis (whether for financial reward or not) any functions which would constitute work in a regulated position").

The noble Baroness said: The amendment would ensure that the Bill encompasses casual work—the work that people undertake in a voluntary sense which brings them into close contact with children. This work could be paid or unpaid and would cover youth groups, adventure playgrounds, church groups and so on. The amendment would toughen the existing provision, making it clear that there are no doors open to disqualified people.

As has been well recognised in previous discussions on the issue, child sex offenders are devious and cunning. The possibility of having any access to children in the groups and organisations that I have mentioned would present great opportunities to them. Further jobs could be added to the list, such as child minding and other situations in which children need to be looked after.

The clause is deficient because it does not cover those who seek casual labour. The amendment is designed to remedy that. I beg to move.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

Like the noble Baroness, we are determined to ensure that individuals who pose a risk to children are prevented from obtaining positions in which they are able to prey upon children. I fully understand the noble Baroness's point that we are dealing with devious and sly criminals. That is why we have sought to ensure that disqualified individuals are banned from a comprehensive range of defined regulated positions. We are seeking to establish a new offence as a powerful disincentive to breaching a disqualification order.

The definitions in Clause 37 cover work of any kind, whether paid or unpaid. Any casual work that falls within the regulated positions defined in Clause 34 will be covered. I hope that the noble Baroness will accept my assurance that there is no need for the amendment.

It has been suggested that we should go further and undermine the concept that such work should be regular. The noble Baroness may want to include truly one-off casual work, such as a builder who would normally work on any number of sites being asked on a one-off basis to mend the roof of a school. We believe that that would go beyond what is justified by the overriding need to protect children.

There are a number of factors to be taken into account in ensuring the protection of children. Not least is the need to ensure that offenders are not completely ostracised from society and treated as utter pariahs. Part of that consideration requires that the disqualification order does not prohibit them from taking on work that would not cause a potential risk to children. We think that the current definition of working with children, using the framework of regulated positions, will achieve the right balance. It will prevent disqualified individuals obtaining work that would give them the access to children that might enable them to abuse a child in any sense. The key consideration is whether the normal duties of the individual provide him with the kind of access to, or authority over, children that the Bill is designed to preclude.

The current definition will catch any casual worker who comes into regular contact with children. For example, it will catch an individual who offers his services to a catering firm one of whose primary functions is the provision of meals in schools. However, it will deliberately not catch the street cleaner who occasionally tidies up a public park, unless the normal duties of the post involve regular work in or around areas set aside for the use of toddlers or small children.

The current definition provides sufficient protection against those who might be a threat to children, but it rightly does not prevent them from taking work of any sort that might occasionally bring them into contact with children, but would not give them the sort of access that would pose a threat to children's safety.

The amendment might make an unreasonably vast sector of the jobs market out of bounds to the disqualified individual. We see no great merit in that, although we fully share the concern to provide the maximum possible protection to children. We believe that our definition achieves that.

Lord Dholakia

I thought that the noble Baroness was talking not just about casual work, but about work for which no payment is made. Will that be covered?

4.45 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

I thought that I had made it clear that the work would be caught whether it was paid or unpaid.

Baroness Hanham

I was interested to hear the Minister's definitions of those seeking casual labour. He referred to catering work and street cleaners. That is not what I was getting at. Such jobs would be casual labour, but people would probably not come into direct contact with children in those circumstances. We are more concerned about voluntary organisations and groups in which people come into direct contact with children. I gave some examples, including youth groups, adventure playgrounds, Church groups or scouts. There are many areas in which people can take up work for a short period.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

I understand that. I thought that I had made that plain. I am more than happy to take further advice. I believe that the Bill covers those positions, but I shall be happy to clarify the matter further at a later stage if the noble Baroness withdraws her amendment.

Baroness Hanham

I should be grateful if the Minister would clarify the situation. In the meantime, we shall revisit our legal advice, which is that such positions are not covered. Perhaps we can come to an amicable conclusion between us. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 100: Page 16, line 28, at end insert (", or (b) fails to remove such an individual from such work.").

The noble Lord said: This is a minor amendment that closes a potential loophole in the offences provided in Part II. Clause 33 provides two new offences. The first occurs when a disqualified individual knowingly applies for, offers to do, accepts or does any work in a regulated position, as defined in Clause 34. The second offence occurs when someone knowingly offers work in a regulated position to or procures such work for a disqualified individual.

It is conceivable that someone already working in a regulated position could be disqualified. It would obviously be an offence for them to work in such a position again, but the Bill would not currently make it an offence for someone knowingly to hold open a post or keep that disqualified person in employment. Strictly speaking, to hold open such work or otherwise to ensure that work is available is neither to offer nor to procure work in a regulated position.

We intend to ensure that someone who is identified as a risk to children is prevented from being in a position to cause further harm and is removed from any such position they already hold. Such an individual forfeits the right to hold positions that grant them the access to children that might give an opportunity for abuse of any kind. A disqualification order would justify the dismissal of a person from a regulated position under Section 98(1) of the Employment Rights Act 1996.

The amendment does not contravene the sprit of the Bill. It ensures that our aim of protecting children from those who might abuse them is more thoroughly met. I beg to move.

Earl Russell

I am sorry to delay proceedings, but I should like to ask one question by way of clarification about the interlocking of the amendment with the rules about actively seeking work, as applied by the Department for Education and Employment. I should be distressed to think that anybody was to be disentitled to benefit for not actively seeking work because he refused to apply for a job that he was very properly not allowed to hold. On the other hand, if information is to be shared with the Employment Service, as it would need to be, there could be a question of confidentiality. I should be grateful if the Minister could tell me, now or at a later stage, how the Government intend to tackle that practical issue.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

I shall be the first to admit that my brief does not cover that issue. I understand the point that the noble Earl has raised. I believe that it is an interesting point and one which we shall obviously need to think through carefully. I can give an assurance that the individual would not be deprived of benefit for such a reason. However, if the noble Earl is content for me to do so, I shall be happy to provide him with as full an explanation as I can at a later date.

Lord Thomas of Gresford

I want to refer simply to a matter of drafting. I notice that Clause 33(1) makes it an offence if a person, knowingly applies for … any work in a regulated position". Under subsection (2), which we are considering at the moment: An individual is guilty of an offence if he knowingly offers work in a regulated position". and so on. Now there is to be added, or (b) fails to remove such an individual from such work". The mens rea appears to be absent from that provision. I wonder whether the draftsman can have a look at it.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

I am grateful to the noble Lord for raising that point. I am not sure that I necessarily agree with him that mens rea is absent. The clause refers to "procuring". However, I shall take away the matter and examine it further.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 33, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 34 [Meaning of "regulated position"]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 101: Page 17, line 25, at end insert— ("(i) a position whose normal duties involve the provision of youth justice services as defined in section 38(4) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 101, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 102 and 103. With regard to Amendment No. 101, the Youth Justice Board was set up under the 1998 Act. Therefore, it is odd that the provisions of the Bill do not include someone who is involved with the board as such work, almost on a daily basis, involves contact with children or young people. I believe that that is a serious omission from the Bill and, given the intentions of the Bill, I hope that the noble Lord will agree.

Amendment No. 102 brings the Bill into line with some of the changes which are taking place in local government. If the Minister looks at Clause 34(5)(b), he will see that there is reference to a, member of a social services committee established by a local authority". Now one has to add, "or any associated sub-committee". Committees as we knew them—education committees, social services committees and so on—are all disappearing under the new structural arrangements. Therefore, I believe that the inclusion of "or any associated sub-committee" would be a harmless addition. It would provide a catch-all for whatever the structural arrangements were in any local authority.

Amendment No. 103 adds a list of regulated positions held by individuals who would be disqualified from working with children if they were convicted. The list in the Bill relates strictly to child-related positions. However, my amendment broadens the list to include positions that may involve contact with children. I cannot believe that the noble Lord will accept any of them, but certainly I believe that some of the items in my list are debatable. They are there for that purpose. However, if the noble Lord is not prepared to accept some or all of the items, I believe that he should give some clarification to the Committee as to why they are not appropriate in this part of the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

I turn, first, to the inclusion of the youth justice service as a whole. That matter was considered very carefully as a result of discussions in another place. All people who provide youth justice services and who regularly supervise, train or care for or are in sole charge of children are already covered by the definition in the Bill. That should cover all front-line staff who have contact with children as part of their normal duties in any of those capacities.

Thus, youth justice workers whose positions need to be covered are already within the definition. We do not accept that the definition should be extended to cover ancillary staff, such as secretarial and administrative staff, who, after all, have no direct contact with children. In some areas, such as schools and children's homes, we believe that exceptionally that should be the case. That is because the degree of trust placed in such institutions in respect of caring for children is at its very highest.

If we extend more widely the position from which offenders under Part II are disqualified, there is a real risk that we shall create an unemployable class of people. Whole areas of local authority or health service employment would become completely out of bounds, far beyond what is needed to protect children.

I turn to the list of positions set out in Clause 34(6). This is a crucial part of the definition of regulated positions. It denotes positions where a particular position of trust and respect is afforded to the holder. It covers roles in which, for example, postholders have the right to go into schools or voluntary groups without supervision as a privilege of their position. The children and their parents might look up to such individuals and respect them as "safe" members of the local establishment.

However, the list specifically and rightly is limited to positions of that kind in relation to children's services and not to general positions which may happen to relate to children. The only justifiable exception is directors of social services where, even if children are only a part of their responsibility, the role is so crucial and the possibility of abuse or cover-up where things go wrong so great.

The new positions suggested by the amendments do not fall into the child-related category. I accept that they are all positions of importance in the community. However, I believe that their inclusion here goes beyond what is necessary to ensure the protection of children.

Amendment No. 102 takes the positions below the highest level of authority and responsibility. It goes beyond the top-level boundary that we have set. Although it is important to be a member of a sub-committee to a social services committee, we do not consider that such a position should be dealt with at the same level as a member of the committee itself. We believe that, if we begin to break down those positions beyond the level of highest responsibility, the scheme may lose its coherence.

Of course, this is a matter which we can continue to review and which at some future date we may wish to revisit. Essentially, in our view the extra positions and services go far too wide. We believe that we have the balance right in this area as currently drafted in the Bill. For those reasons, I trust that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Blatch

I am grateful for that explanation. I am entirely culpable in relation to the wording of Amendment No. 102. It is my own wording and I realised, almost as the noble Lord was describing why it was not acceptable, that he was absolutely right.

However, neither is the wording on the lace of the Bill, as it stands, acceptable. Local authorities are changing dramatically as the result of an Act passed by both Houses of Parliament. Such things as social services committees may not exist. In fact, I suspect that within a short time they will not exist at all. Therefore, a form of words needs to be found.

I believe that the word that was offensive (in a mild sense) was "sub-committee" because it rather denoted that I was talking about a spawned sub-committee of a main social services committee. I was trying to say that under the new arrangements a member of a social services committee will be something else, and a description needs to be found to convey that it is the appropriate local government committee with the responsibility for social services, or some such wording. If the Minister is able to find a form of wording that better reflects what I am talking about, I shall be grateful.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

Perhaps the noble Baroness will kindly give way. I said that we would keep the positions under Amendment No. 102 under consideration. I am quite prepared to take away the matter and give it further thought. I see some merit in the point that is being made. I suspect that the noble Baroness is right: sub-committees may well in time become things of the past. We are changing local government for the better and we may need to have a look at that issue more closely. With her agreement, I shall be happy to take away the matter and give it consideration.

Baroness Blatch

I am grateful for that response. Again—

5 p.m.

The Earl of Listowel

Before the noble Baroness decides whether to withdraw the amendment perhaps I can seek clarification on one point. I understand that paedophiles have a tendency to form networks. Is the Minister confident that the measures in the Bill as it stands are sufficient protection against infiltration of paedophiles into the higher ranks of organisations that may have some ability to show patronage to paedophiles?

Lord Bassam of Brighton

That is a pertinent question. The history of investigations into rings of child-abusing paedophiles within childcare organisations is known to all of us in the Committee. It is a matter of grave concern. One can never be 100 per cent certain about such matters. Since we have been in government, we have tried to introduce legislation that closes down all potential avenues to such infiltration. As is our aim, in large measure this Bill closes off many more of those opportunities. I am grateful for the support of the noble Earl.

Baroness Blatch

The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, is absolutely right. One has only to read the Waterhouse report or consider the case of Mr Laverack in my own local authority. There was a sophisticated network of paedophiles working right across local government in areas that did not have direct contact with children, but they had a real opportunity to create the kind of conditions where, at times, they came into contact with children. That is an important point that should be given some consideration. I am delighted by the way in which the Minister has taken that point on board.

I am sorry to be pedantic about my "sub-committee". I think it is a misleading statement and I want to expunge it from the minds of everybody. The issue that I rather clumsily attempted to resolve, but did not succeed in resolving, is the problem of there not being a social services committee. Therefore, a form of words needs to be found for a committee that has responsibility for social services.

I understand what the Minister said about my long list. However, it needs to be kept in mind and, as the Bill becomes an Act and is put into practice, it will be important to be able to revisit some of these matters, especially in the light of the network point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel.

I am sorry about the position of the Youth Justice Board. Again and again we come back to the nature of the paedophile. By nature the paedophile is a manipulative person. Paedophiles are accommodating; they appear to be nice people in a superficial way but they are deceptive. Those who worm their way into becoming members of the Youth Justice Board do not just become clerks and secretaries but those who are responsible for policy and overseeing what happens in the area in the youth justice services. It seems to me that the Youth Justice Board is an important addition.

I am not sure whether the Youth Justice Board is subsumed in the youth justice services. The Minister mentioned that the youth justice services will be incorporated in the Bill. If the board is subsumed in that, I would be reassured. If it is not, I may revisit the matter at later stages of the Bill.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

On this occasion I admit to being slightly confused by the general drift of the argument of the noble Baroness. In Amendment No. 101 she talks about youth justice services and there is a reference in her other list to the Youth Justice Board and a member of a local board. We believe that we have covered most of the instances in which someone working in a local authority will come into close contact with young people. We need to keep such matters under review continually. I am grateful for the way in which the noble Baroness raised the issue. We have had a constructive discussion. I am happy to reflect on the amendments. At this stage I do not promise to bring forward changes, but we shall have to revisit this subject in due course in judging the effectiveness of the legislation.

Returning to the sub-committee point, at some point in the future we may have to consider what it covers and whether it relates to the old chair of social services or to the new member of a local cabinet in local government. Those matters are also important as part of the changing pattern of local government service provision and the way in which people operate as politicians. I suspect that all these matters will come up for future consideration. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for raising these issues. Perhaps we are heading in a direction where, in the future, we may have a degree of consensus. I trust that she is happy to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Blatch

I shall withdraw the amendment. I am sorry about the confusion. In relation to the reference in the amendment to, youth justice services as defined in section 38(4)", my understanding is that the Youth Justice Board was set up under that Act. That is why the reference is there and why the board is mentioned. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 102 and 103 not moved.]

Clause 34 agreed to.

Clauses 35 and 36 agreed to.

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 104: After Clause 36, insert the following new clause—