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Criminal Records Bureau

Volume 405: debated on Thursday 22 May 2003

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If he will make a statement on Criminal Records Bureau checks for teachers. [114996]

The average turnaround time for Criminal Records Bureau checks on teachers is less than five weeks. Head teachers have discretion to allow teachers to start work before receiving their disclosure, provided that they have been checked against list 99 and all other relevant pre-employment checks have been carried out.

I thank the Minister for his answer. I am sure he will recall the chaos into which the CRB descended last year, when many thousands of teachers were awaiting checks, schools were in limbo, and children were left wondering whether there would be a teacher in their classroom. Will the Minister confirm that it would be wrong for the CRB substantially to increase its charges for disclosures well above the rate of inflation to make good the cost of its cock-ups? Would it not be wrong for teachers, local education authorities and children to have to pay more to make good the errors of the CRB?

The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to hear that the CRB is now processing 40,000 disclosures a week, and the backlog to which he referred is all but cleared. The full operation of the CRB is obviously a matter for the Home Secretary, and I understand that he has the various issues under review.

If the backlog is all but cleared, why does Essex county council have 400 applications outstanding, 50 of which were made a year ago? That is spectacular incompetence, even by the Department's standards. When will Essex's outstanding applications be cleared?

The honest answer is that Essex is part of the "but" rather than the "all" in my earlier description of the CRB's activities. It is processing 40,000 applications a week, and I am sure that it will come to the Essex disclosures as soon as possible.