HC Deb 25 November 1998 vol 321 cc2-3W
Mr. Ashton

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what conclusions were reached by the interdepartmental working group on preventing unsuitable people from working with children and abuse of trust on the need to protect vulnerable 16 and 17 year olds from sexual advances by those in authority over them; and if he will make a statement. [61127]

Mr. Boateng

The working group were asked to prioritise their work on abuse of trust. We have today placed a copy of their interim report on this in the Library.

The working group recommend a limited criminal offence to protect boys and girls of 16 and 17 from sexual advances by those in authority over them in specific circumstances. The circumstances would include young persons compulsorily detained; looked after by the local authority (whether in foster care, residential care, or semi-independent accommodation); receiving health and/or social care in a residential setting (including hospital); and receiving full time education. We accept this recommendation. As announced on 24 November 1998, Official Report, column 6, we will bring forward this Session proposals to implement it at the same time as we give Parliament an opportunity to vote on equalising the age of consent for boys and girls.

The working group also recommend a Government initiative to strengthen codes of conduct generally to protect young people from those in positions of authority over them. They are taking this forward as a matter of priority. The first step is a seminar involving outside organisations on 30 November, and work will continue on this throughout next year.