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Commons Chamber

Volume 450: debated on Monday 23 October 2006

House of Commons

Monday 23 October 2006

The House met at half-past Two o’clock

Prayers

[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions

Home Department

The Secretary of State was asked—

Police

2. If he will make a statement on the relationships between community wardens, police community beat managers and police support officers in helping to combat crime and antisocial behaviour. (95419)

Police community support officers, community beat managers and neighbourhood wardens all have complementary roles in combating crime and tackling antisocial behaviour. In partnership and in isolation, each role is crucial to delivering the Government’s commitment to provide local, visible and responsive neighbourhood policing in all our communities.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. He obviously recognises the importance of not transferring the work of neighbourhood wardens across to the police support officers. Does he agree that we would be better off increasing the visible support in all areas, rather than reducing it? That is the best way to fight antisocial behaviour and crime. Does he agree that it is better to have a greater volume of visible support?

Yes, indeed. Neighbourhood wardens—sometimes referred to as community wardens—are an important resource in the fight against crime. They are part of a neighbourhood policing team that includes beat managers, police constables and police community support officers as well as neighbourhood wardens, all of whom complement each other and provide a visible presence on the ground, which reassures people that this is helping to bring down crime and that the crime statistics—which show that crime is falling overall—are being borne out on the ground.

Does the Home Secretary agree that we need the active support and co-operation of the community, and all the individuals within it, to make the neighbourhood policing teams work more effectively? Has he seen today’s report that individuals in this country are much less likely to get involved in tackling antisocial behaviour than people in other countries across Europe? Why does he think that that is the case, and what is he going to do to tackle the political correctness that is causing it?

The hon. Gentleman’s points about the requirements for successful policing on the ground in our communities are partly correct. It is not only about the involvement of the local community, necessary thought that is, but about the support of central Government, who provide the resources. We have made about £220 million available, outside the normal police funding, to ensure that we could have neighbourhood policing teams. Quite how that kind of money—or the necessary resources on the ground—would be provided by a Government committed to cutting £21 billion from public expenditure is not obvious to me. It is obvious, however, that such cuts would deeply affect the presence of policing on the ground.

Last Thursday, an unholy alliance of Lib Dems and Tories on Wrexham council voted to scrap the neighbourhood warden scheme in Wrexham. Will my right hon. Friend advise me of whether he will consider the provisions of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, to determine whether it is possible for him to intervene to ensure that neighbourhood wardens are not removed from the policing family in boroughs across the country, and that their complementary role is reinforced? There is an increasing tendency for neighbourhood wardens to be left out by local government, even though they play a vital part in policing and are a true sign of the success of the Crime and Disorder Act.

As I have already said, I regard neighbourhood wardens as a complementary element to police community support officers and the police themselves in the fight against crime. If what my hon. Friend says is true, it is deeply regrettable that an alliance of Conservatives and Liberals in his constituency has reduced the number of neighbourhood wardens, because they are important. That is what we have come to expect, however, from the Opposition parties, who talk tough but vote soft, and who back down on every major decision on fighting crime.

Will the Home Secretary give the House an absolute undertaking that the rumour that the Government are set to abandon their target of recruiting 24,000 police community support officers by March 2008 is without foundation? Will he explain how he proposes to recruit that number, given that he is only half way to meeting his target of 16,000 by next March?

We fully accept that those targets are challenging; we have never said otherwise. However, we are committed to attaining those targets, including the very challenging one of recruiting 16,000 police community support officers by next April. To that end, we have made available an extra £220 million. I can give the hon. Gentleman the absolute assurance that he will never attain anything like those targets if his party cuts public expenditure by £21 billion.

The latest crime statistics for Cheshire show that neighbourhood policing is really working. There has been a 6 per cent. reduction in the crime level. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating the city centre police and particular Chester Pubwatch? Working together in partnership, they have done a fantastic job to ensure the successful implementation of the new licensing laws.

I agree with my hon. Friend on the first point and I join with her on the second point in congratulating the police. I know that there is a particularly successful scheme in that area to counter antisocial behaviour, and particularly drink-related behaviour, by ensuring that the clubs, as well as the pubs, in the local area join the police in taking action against those who are involved in antisocial behaviour after consuming alcohol. That is a good example of the way in which local communities, the police and local proprietors can work together.

The 2006 police officer pay award is now subject to arbitration. The police arbitration tribunal is considering the matter following the hearing that it held on 18 October.

If the official side wants to move away from the Edmund-Davies formula, why did it not announce that in September last year and seek to renegotiate a new formula? How was it that its members were unable to articulate their position at the meeting in July of the police negotiating board? They had a year’s notice of that meeting.

I simply repeat that the matter is now subject to arbitration. There was a hearing on 18 October and the outcome will be considered in due course.

During the past two years, one in four police officers has been personally threatened by someone with a knife and one in 20 by someone with a gun. Does the Minister think that policing has become easier over the past 28 years; and will he consider whether this is the right time to move away from a clear, fair and transparent pay formula for the police?

On the latter point, even the Police Federation agrees that greater simplicity and transparency may well be put into the whole negotiating system, to the benefit of all sides. On the first point on gun and knife crime, I simply say: “Look to the mote in your own eye and how you voted on the Violent Crime Reduction Bill.” The hon. Gentleman will have a chance to correct that opinion as and when the Bill comes back to the House.

Does the Minister recall that, the last time that there was a significant disagreement between the Government and the Police Federation about pay, as a consequence there was a serious shortage of police officers in areas on the boundaries of the Metropolitan police, such as mine? What can he do in the present circumstances to make sure that we do not repeat the migration from the relatively low pay of the Thames Valley police to the higher pay of the Met?

I take my hon. Friend’s point that there is some migration from the home counties to the Met, but equally, each home county has a record level of police officers, so the effect has clearly not been that great. However, perhaps that should be considered within the wider parameters of the pay board.

The current police magazine suggests that the problems arise from the Treasury-imposed efficiency savings and that chief constables face a stark choice between reducing the number of police officers and reducing the level of police pay. Will the Minister comment on that and reassure the House that any arbitration settlement will be backdated to 1 September?

On my hon. Friend’s latter point, without pre-empting the outcome of the arbitration panel, there are set parameters in terms of time for the pay deal and any subsequent agreement will be suitably backdated. He will forgive me if I do not comment on his wider points because they relate, at least in part, to the matters before the arbitration panel at the moment. It is simply not my job to wax lyrical while the arbitration panel is still meeting and determining its outcome—[Hon. Members: “Go on!”] Once the panel has done so, I may.

Does the Minister agree that it is more difficult to argue for pay restraints in the police when 80 per cent. of senior officials in his Department, which has been declared unfit for purpose, have recently been given generous bonuses on top of their pay?

I would have thought that, on a matter as serious as police pay and the future of policing, the hon. Gentleman would resist making such a fatuous statement, but I was wrong.

Alcohol Exclusion Zones

No research has been undertaken on the impact of designated public place orders—DPPOs—as they tend to form just one part of a wider local strategy for tackling alcohol-related antisocial behaviour. However, the fact that 184 local authority areas have adopted DPPOs—some of them have more than one DPPO in place—suggests that they are a useful tool in helping police deal with the problems of alcohol misuse behaviour.

Although DPPOs may be a useful tool in town centres and areas where there is a major problem, I draw my hon. Friend’s attention to the problem of small convenience stores, where young people under 18 get access to alcohol. Rather than the draconian measure of a DPPO, would not a better solution be to increase the on-the-spot fine when people are caught by the police or trading standards officers to approximately £1,000 or £2,000 if they admit guilt, and if not, to let them opt to go to a magistrates court, where they risk a higher fine under the new legislation?

I know that my hon. Friend has worked hard to tackle the issue in his constituency and that several hon. Members suffer from the same problem. The fixed penalty notice is the first option that we would expect to be used when there is a problem. However, if it is persistent, the DPPO may be appropriate even in the sort of case that my hon. Friend mentions, and the local authority could introduce it. It increases the amount of the fine available when the case goes to court. The Violent Crime Reduction Bill introduces a new offence of persistent selling to children, because they are clearly getting their alcohol from somewhere. The new offence will increase the fines on stores such as those that my hon. Friend mentioned. Not only that, it will lead to the possibility of their being closed for up to three months. If he wishes to meet me, we can discuss the matter further, but I hope that those measures reassure him to some extent.

On 22 September, Scarborough council extended its already successful alcohol exclusion zone to cover 150 streets, including the Falsgrave park area. At the same time, Conservative-controlled Scarborough, in conjunction with local company Electric Angel Design, rolled out a range of new, funky, lime green signs, which are hard to miss and designed to be eye catching for younger people. Will the Under-Secretary look at those signs, and if he agrees with me that they are not only well cool, but stand out from the morass of other street furniture, suggest that other local authorities adopt similar signs?

My briefing does not cover that point so I do not know what to say about funky signs. We believe that DPPOs are an important measure that local authorities can introduce. One hundred and eighty-four local authorities throughout the country use them—that is 396 DPPOs. They increase the powers of the police, who can confiscate alcohol from people who are drinking inappropriately on the street. If they refuse to hand over the alcohol, the police can arrest them. The message is: use DPPOs because they can be appropriate in many areas.

Does my hon. Friend know that the Government are investing more than £3 million in regenerating St. George’s square in the centre of Luton in my constituency? Does he also know that Liberal-Tory-controlled Luton council refuses to reapply for an alcohol dispersal order zone, forcing the police to do that? Will he examine councils such as Liberal-Tory Luton to ensure that they do not waste Government resources but improve our constituents’ quality of life?

I thank my hon. Friend for drawing our attention to that. Clearly, Liberal-controlled Luton council should learn from examples throughout the country, where DPPOs are successfully tackling the alcohol-related disorder in our streets. My message to all local authorities is to consider using those measures if they have a problem.

The exclusion zones are clearly effective because a neighbouring town to my constituency introduced one, thus shunting the problem into three villages in my constituency. They then also introduced exclusion zones, but there was clearly a problem this summer when I visited one of my villages because many constituents told me that they were experiencing problems. We do not have funky signs—maybe they are the answer—but does the Under-Secretary agree that policing the exclusion zones must be effective and equal throughout the relevant areas, including rural areas? Will he ensure that the guidelines are sufficient to meet the task?

When a local authority chooses to set up a DPPO, it has to take account of the impact on neighbouring areas. The answer is that people should talk to each other. However, the DPPO is only one answer to the problem of alcohol-related disorder—for example, fixed penalty notices can be used alongside it. If under-age drinking is a problem, it means that off-licences, supermarkets, pubs or clubs are selling inappropriately to children. In those circumstances, other measures should be used to tackle the problem.

Offending Reduction

The criminal justice review, “Rebalancing the criminal justice system in favour of the law-abiding majority”, published in July this year, sets out how we will improve the effectiveness of the criminal justice system to cut crime and reduce reoffending. Our aim is to reduce reoffending by 10 per cent. by 2010 through rolling out a new system of managing offenders to protect the public, and helping ex-offenders to reintegrate successfully into society.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. There is strong evidence that children who run away from home or from care are targeted by predatory adults who are trying to groom them into criminal activity. Will he work with the Department for Education and Skills and with other agencies to ensure that those children have a safe place to go to and a safe person to talk to, and that they do not become perpetrators or victims of crime?

I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend, and I offer her, as chair of the all-party group on runaway children, my congratulations on the excellent work that the group does on this matter. She is quite right that we need to work with the DFES and across Government to ensure that we support young people. That is what we are trying to do with the introduction of systems, working with Education and Skills and other Departments, to ensure that we deliver for young people so that they feel safe and secure in their environment and that there is a friendly voice to speak to if they have any problems.

During my time with West Yorkshire police on the parliamentary police scheme this summer, local police officers in Keighley division told me that if the top 10 persistent offenders were in jail, they would cut crime by about 50 per cent. straight away, and that if the top 20 were in jail, they would cut it by more than 90 per cent. Does the Minister agree with that sentiment, and will he therefore ensure that those people serve their sentences in full and are not let out on licence?

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on attending the police scheme in West Yorkshire, which I read about in our local newspaper just recently, but he has to speak to his Front Benchers, rather than to me. He talks about being tough on persistent offenders, and his Front Benchers have the opportunity to vote on that. He is right that it is important that dangerous and persistent offenders should be kept in prison—that is what we need to do—but we also have to manage the whole prison population. He needs to speak to his Front Benchers: they talk tough but vote soft.

During the summer, I was able to attend the pre-release fair at Parc prison in my Bridgend constituency. The fair brings together voluntary organisations, statutory organisations and local authorities to give advice, information and guidance on housing, jobs and benefits prior to release, in an effort to reduce reoffending. Sadly, the one organisation that did not attend is my local authority, which is a Conservative/Liberal Democrat organisation. Will the Minister join me in encouraging Bridgend county borough council to aid the work of that fair so that offenders can receive appropriate guidance?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her remarks, and there seems to be a consistent theme running through today’s Question Time in terms of Conservative and Liberal local authorities failing to be tough and failing to take the tough decisions. I pay tribute to her, because she is quite right that we need to get alliances together—whether they be faith groups, the voluntary sector or the business alliances—to work to reduce reoffending, which costs the economy a large amount of money. It is important that we get together, so I would encourage Bridgend county borough council to work with my hon. Friend to try to cut reoffending.

Two weeks ago, the Home Secretary claimed that the reoffending rate for home detention curfew was 4 per cent., and the Minister implied on Radio 4 that that was a massive improvement in reoffending rates from prison. Professor Sheila Bird, the vice-president of the Royal Statistical Society, said that

“the only thing that’s massive is the Minister’s misuse of statistics”.

When the Home Secretary quoted those statistics and the Minister talked about them, was he aware that a direct consequence of the scheme was that five people were killed by convicts on tag?

Anybody reoffending and any offence involving such reoffending has to be deeply regretted, but may I make it clear that I did not try to mislead anybody on the statistics, and nor did the Home Secretary? The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that the reoffending statistics were over a two-year period—67 per cent., which I made clear in the interview. On home detention curfew, the reoffending rate is 4 per cent., and I am happy to discuss that—[Interruption.] Not over two years, and I made that point on the programme. The shadow Home Secretary has to answer on why he is against home detention curfews. Where would he find the money to pay for those people who would otherwise be in prison?

I hate to remind the Minister that Ministers are accountable to Parliament, not the other way round. He has already given us one confession, as it were, on reoffending rates. Now can we get a straight answer from him on prisons? In the nine years since his Government have been in power, reoffending by prisoners has increased from 58 to 67 per cent. That is the largest increase since records began. What is the reason for it?

What the shadow Home Secretary did not mention is that prison places and the capacity in prisons have increased—[Interruption.] It is all part of the equation, and the shadow Home Secretary picks figures to the benefit of his argument and does not give the whole picture. We must make sure that dangerous and persistent offenders are in prison, which is what we are doing. That is why we have increased prison capacity by 19,000 since 1997, with 8,000 places announced in July. We are serious about tackling reoffending, and it will be interesting to see whether the shadow Home Secretary supports us when we introduce the national offender management Bill. Will he try to tackle reoffending? [Hon. Members: “What are you doing?”] What we are doing is trying to tackle reoffending through various alliances, and tackling persistent and dangerous offenders by putting those people in prison and increasing prison capacity. We are also introducing the national offender management scheme. I hope that the Opposition will support us on that.

The feedback from my constituents in Milton Keynes is that neighbourhood policing is one of the most effective ways of reducing offending. Is the Minister aware that Milton Keynes council is cutting the number of community wardens from seven to four, and taking them out of neighbourhoods and putting them in civic offices? As Milton Keynes council is Liberal Democrat-controlled, does he think that there is a pattern?

When it comes down to the reality of doing something, the Government want to do it, whereas the Opposition are not bothered. That is a consistent theme.

The Minister will no doubt be aware of the Home Office’s statistics showing that violence in our prisons has risen sixfold since 1997, such that an incident of violence occurs in our prisons every 30 minutes. Does he agree that violence inside our prisons begets violence outside prisons, committed by those who reoffend on release?

What we must do is protect the public by making sure that sufficient prison places are available for the increase in the prison population. Clearly, I am concerned about violence in prisons, which is why we need to examine the nature of the prison population and what we can do—[Interruption.] It appears that the Liberals do not want to hear the answer, and just want to pursue a particular track. We are keen to make sure that we tackle reoffending through a variety of means and protect the public from dangerous and persistent offenders, and we will continue to do so.

To reduce drug-related crime, the Government introduced drug treatment and testing orders, but those were a failure because of a reoffending rate of more than 78 per cent. over two years, and because most of the orders were either breached or revoked. The Government have moved on from drug treatment and testing orders to drug rehabilitation requirements. What is different about those sentences from the earlier failed ones that gives the Minister confidence?

I am confident that more than 13,000 offenders are completing drug treatment in prison and in the community. We are considering anything that we can do to try to get people off drugs, because we know that those who take drugs are more likely to reoffend. The programmes are in place, and I am happy with what we are trying to achieve. Despite the capacity problems in prisons, we are trying to tackle drugs.

Prisons

7. What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of measures to prevent prisoners from absconding from open prisons. (95425)

Public safety is paramount, and despite the current population pressures I can provide assurance that it will not be compromised. The requirement for prisoners to pass a robust and rigorous risk assessment to qualify for open conditions is the most effective way of ensuring that.

I thank the Minister for that answer. What steps has he taken to ensure the capture of those who have absconded from open prisons? For example, of the 393 prisoners who have escaped from Leyhill open prison since 1999, 25 remain on the run, including three murderers, one of whom has been on the loose for the past eight years.

I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman was able to attend the Adjournment debate in Westminster Hall last week in which we discussed Leyhill open prison and issues to do with it. Clearly, the police try to recapture people who abscond. He will know that the absconding rate has fallen from 1,115 in 1997 to 709 last year, even though there has been a change in the prison population, which has increased from about 60,000 people in 1997 to 70,000. The indications are that this year, we are again heading for an all-time low in the absconding rate.

I know that the Home Office is seeking to take pressure off open prisons by building new prison places. When my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary published his forward strategy in the summer, he drew attention to the number of prisoners with mental health problems. Are the Government considering building purpose-built places for those prisoners suffering from mental health problems, as part of their future prison strategy?

First, I congratulate my right hon. Friend, who is the Chair of the Select Committee, on having raised the issue on numerous occasions. We certainly are considering the issue of mental health, and we hope that there will be a forthcoming mental health Bill, but we are considering what we can do in the short term, too. He will be aware that the contingency plans that we put in place to deal with the issue of prison capacity are for the short term, but in the longer term we need to address the issue, and we will talk to colleagues from the Department of Health about it.

The Home Secretary said that he was prepared for an increase in the number of absconds. He was prepared to take that risk arising from the use of the open estate, but is it not the law-abiding public that will take the hit, rather than the Home Secretary?

The hon. and learned Gentleman refers to a leak, but the leak was wrong, and the Home Secretary said no such thing. We must manage the open prison estate in the way that we have outlined, and we have not compromised the categorisation or allocation processes to achieve our aims. If we had not tried to maximise use of that estate, I am sure that Opposition Members would have criticised us for not trying to use the capacity of the open prisons.

Reconvictions

9. What assessment he has made of the reconviction rate of former prisoners; and if he will make a statement. (95427)

Reconviction statistics for adult offenders are published annually. They include an assessment of offences committed during a two-year period after release from prison. The latest results from the 2002 cohort were published in December 2005 as national statistics, and were made available to the House.

I am grateful to the Minister for that informative reply. Given that approximately 60 per cent. of adult offenders are reconvicted within two years of release from prison, and that high-quality education in prisons is vital to the prospects of rehabilitation, does he not agree that it is a manifest disgrace that almost half of prisons pay less for education than for work, and what will he do to try to improve that highly unsatisfactory state of affairs?

First, I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on taking a close interest in the issue of reoffending and the prison population; I know that he has asked questions relating to reoffending in many different ways. He will be pleased to hear that more than 10 per cent. of adults who gain basic skills qualifications now gain them in prison, and that the Prison Service is one of the key deliverers in enabling basic targets to be met. He will also be happy to learn that the rate of employment on release from prison is up from 10 per cent. some 10 years ago to 37 per cent., and that more than 13,000 offenders have completed drug treatment in prison and in the community.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that there is a debate to be had about the prison population and what we do with people who are in jail. First, we have to protect the public, and that is why we must have adequate places. Secondly, we need to consider what employment opportunities there are in prisons. Some interesting initiatives are taking place across the country, and I would be happy to write to the hon. Gentleman and engage him in discussion on those projects, because I am sure that his support will help them to develop further.

Is the Minister aware of the work being done by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (John Battle), in his local prison? He has been looking into the idea of incentivising prisoners to improve their literacy by allowing them visits from their children. There is an obvious correlation between improvement in literacy and family responsibility—and, in the long term, of course, employment possibilities on leaving prison. Will my hon. Friend look at those schemes to see whether they can be more widely used by the Prison Service.

I thank my hon. Friend for raising the subject of the work that my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (John Battle) has done at Leeds prison. The Home Secretary paid tribute to that work at the last Home Office questions, and it is clearly the way forward. Many of those prisoners, having learned to read, then read to their children for the first time, and sent tapes home to their families. Reading builds up their confidence and self-esteem, so we need to support such schemes. It is clearly a priority to reduce the number of people aged 21 to 35 in the prison population who lack essential skills.

The Minister will be pleased to learn that it is not all doom and gloom. I should like to advise him of a success story in today’s Colchester Evening Gazette:

“Just one serious sexual or violent offender has reoffended in Essex in the past five years, thanks to a revolutionary scheme”.

The multi-agency public protection arrangements are provided by the police, probation officers, social services and the Prison Service. Will he join me in congratulating those agencies, and will he accept my suggestion that the scheme be rolled out across the country?

Again, I am grateful that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned the multi-agency public protection arrangements. Today we have issued information on the annual report, to maximise its availability and public understanding of the scheme. The MAPPA arrangements are unique to the United Kingdom, and they help to achieve public protection by ensuring that serious offenders are properly managed. I add my congratulations to those that the hon. Gentleman expressed for the MAPPA work in his area.

Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating organisations such as National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders on their work on the care and the rehabilitation of offenders? What is the current level of expenditure by the Home Office on such organisations, and will my hon. Friend give the House an assurance that, because of the work that they do, he will consider increasing the sum available, as that will obviously help to decrease the prison population?

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his work with NACRO in his constituency. I do not have to hand the figures for the amount of money that we give NACRO, but we also give money to Rainer and a number of other voluntary agencies that work with prisons on the problem of reoffending. That is the direction of travel, as we want to find the best providers of services to tackle the problem. I am sure that my right hon. Friend agrees that we need to look at what public services and the public-private sector can provide to ensure that we cut reoffending rates.

Prospects for offenders are bleak in my constituency, as nearby Pentonville prison is nearly full, so there is little opportunity for prisoners to follow detoxification or drug rehabilitation programmes. Drugs are rife, so what are the prospects for prisoners at our local police stations, which have been called on to house them, given that there is no opportunity for the drug rehabilitation that they desperately need?

I would not like the hon. Gentleman to run away with the idea that we are not achieving the education targets that we have set, as many of the schemes are on course. However, he is right to say that there are pressures on the prison population. In his recent announcement to the House, the Home Secretary said that the use of Operation Safeguard was “not ideal”, but was better than releasing prisoners. We want to protect the public, and we must balance that aim against what can be achieved in education programmes. We keep under review the effect on the prison population of the various schemes that take place in prisons.

Police

Under the Police Regulations 2003, the Secretary of State issues determinations setting out the pay of members of police forces. Before making such a determination, the Secretary of State must take into consideration any recommendation of the police negotiating board and supply the board with a draft of the determination. The police negotiating board has its own constitution which sets out the procedure for its reaching agreement on a recommendation to be made by the board. If agreement cannot be reached, the matter can be taken to conciliation and then arbitration.

I am grateful to the Minister for laying out in clear terms the workings of the Edmund-Davies formula, but I and many other hon. Members have received representations from officers who feel severely let down that their anticipated pay increase is not going to be made. One wrote to me and said:

“I hope I have managed to convey how let down officers feel, at a time when our job has never been more difficult or dangerous.”

What words of certainty can the Minister give to officers about planning their domestic finances, given that this year the Government have chosen not to implement fully the Edmund-Davies formula?

As I said, that remains a matter for the arbitration panel. What I can say to the right hon. Gentleman’s constituent, the police officer, is that having met on 18 October, we are assured, as far as we can be, that the panel will report in two to three weeks. I can also say to his constituent that what we will not do is go down the road taken by the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron), who, in one of his more recent “fluffy bunnies and sunshine for everyone” speeches, said among other things that first he would smash the national pay negotiating bodies by affording local flexibilities to chief constables; secondly, he wanted modern employment contracts so he could sack more officers; thirdly, he wanted seniority to be—[Interruption.]

Does my hon. Friend agree that special constables throughout the country do a fantastic job in local communities? Will he join me in congratulating the chief constable and Durham police authority on recently introducing a scheme to pay special constables £1,500 a year? That has increased the number from eight to the target of nearly 140. Will the Minister also see what other lessons can be learned from that initiative for other forces throughout the country?

I am more than happy to congratulate Durham constabulary on what it has done with the special police force, and I take this opportunity to congratulate the specials on their 175th birthday, just last weekend. Specials are often overlooked in what constitutes the growing police family these days, but up and down the country they play a very important role alongside police community support officers, warrant officers and police staff in doing what we need our police forces to do. I shall certainly take away the point about the stipendiary paid to specials, and see whether that can be put into the overall mix of police pay generally.

11. What steps he is taking to reduce the time police officers take to return to their beat after making an arrest. (95429)

The Home Secretary announced on 20 July our intention to consult on a possible review of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. This is part of our ongoing programme to look at custody and related processes, a key objective of which is to simplify and streamline procedures to free up police officer time for operational activity outside the police station. That is why, for example, we have enabled the arresting officer to grant street bail, and use street disposals such as fixed penalty notices and penalty notices for disorder; and why, in 2002, under the work force modernisation programme, we allowed chief officers to designate civilian staff to carry out functions previously performed by the arresting officer, such as escort, detention and case preparation tasks.

I thank the Minister for that answer, but what progress has been made on work force modernisation to release officers from the burden of paperwork and get them back on the street tackling crime, arresting criminals and cracking down on antisocial behaviour, which is what my constituents want them to do?

I share my hon. Friend’s concerns. We are having discussions with the Association of Chief Police Officers and are about to move to the next phase of work force modernisation. I think everyone would agree that having a record number of police is not sufficient if more and more are not out on the streets. I know that the right hon. Member for Witney agrees with that, because he referred to that, too, in one of his speeches. The use of civilian staff and the serious consideration that chief constables are giving to the role played by warrant officers, whether on the streets or in police stations, are important factors. Chief Constable Bob Quick is considering those, and will report to us shortly.

I welcome in principle the Government’s review of PACE, but does the Minister accept that the key to it is finding ways of altering the law so that less paperwork is required, not simply finessing the current situation and handing tasks over from experienced custody sergeants to civilians, which, because of inexperience, may result in acquittals?

I am afraid I do not agree with that. We must get the balance right between the bureaucracy and paperwork and the policing, but policing does not stop with the arrest and placing in custody of individuals. There is then the evidential trail, and all that follows in the criminal justice system. The hon. Gentleman is right: the key is the balance. If that requires more civilians to do some of the back-office and preparatory case work, that is entirely right, but this is not as simple as clicking your fingers, twisting your heels and going off to Kansas, and bureaucracy disappearing.

Does the Minister share my concern at the amount of handwritten documentation that must be produced by police officers following arrests? Surely we should consider the use of information technology. Police officers could use laptops to record information, or, if they will not do that, they could simply dictate their reports into a machine.

I agree. IT is one of the matters being examined as part of the work force modernisation programme, including the increasing use on the streets of hand-held computers that can be plugged in for downloading purposes on return to the office. This too is about getting the balance right, but it costs money. Perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who I believe is one of the tax cutters, will tell me how it could be achieved when £21 billion had been taken from the public purse by his party.

The Minister seems to ignore the reality of what happens with our police. A few weeks ago I was doing what Members in all parts of the House do—accompanying a police patrol on a Friday night. The police were confronted by an abusive and potentially violent young man. After they had settled the incident, I asked them why they had not arrested the young man, as they certainly could have done. They said that if they had arrested him, it would have taken the whole three-person patrol out of action for three hours—the crucial period for patrolling the town centre. Is the Minister not worried about the fact that after nine years of government by his party, the police are afraid to use their arresting powers because if they do they will be prevented from doing their real job of protecting the public?

With respect, they are prevented in part from implementing legislation passed by this Government in the teeth of opposition from the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends. Of course we need the balance between paperwork and bureaucracy, and proper policing. Along with ACPO and the Police Federation, we are trying to ensure that that balance is maintained and to enhance the modernisation that has already taken place. However, the hon. Gentleman is living in cloud-cuckoo-land if he thinks that that is all that happens in policing—and I would not believe “PC David Copperfield” either, because that is more of a fiction than Dickens.

Antisocial Go-ped Riding

12. What action is being taken to reduce the antisocial riding of go-peds and other motorised two-wheel vehicles. (95430)

Tackling antisocial behaviour is among the Government’s highest priorities, and the antisocial use of mini-motorbikes remains a nuisance and a danger to many people. That is why the Government's Respect taskforce has led the way in addressing the misuse of mini-motos and go-peds. We recently published a step-by-step guide for practitioners, and provided additional finance for communities affected by the problem. Those initiatives have helped the police and local authorities to pursue robust enforcement measures such as immediate seizures, destruction, noise abatement notices and antisocial behaviour orders.

I welcome the Home Secretary’s response, but can he tell me whether the summer campaign to seize mini-motorbikes was a success? Despite all the enforcement measures that he has listed, it concerns my constituents in Leek, Biddulph and other areas that the issue of antisocial behaviour is not high enough on the list of police priorities.

My hon. Friend makes a good point. There are powers for the tackling of go-peds and mini-motos, which are a danger and a chronic nuisance to many people not just in her constituency but elsewhere, but she is right to say that enforcement of those powers is patchy throughout the country. That is one of the reasons why we spent some £200,000 over the summer on an information campaign to try to heighten the awareness of practitioners such as local authorities and police forces—as well as that of the public—of the ways of tackling the nuisance that lie in their own hands.

The campaign has been a success in many areas, although it has been used to a limited extent in my hon. Friend’s area. I believe that there has been one seizure and five warnings, which is a relatively small result compared with that in many other areas. However, I hope that the increasing availability of information will encourage local authorities and police to take action against something that is becoming a terrible nuisance for many people.

Three years ago, I spent some time dealing with the tragedy of a youngster who was killed as a result of a collision caused by another youngster on a motorcycle. This weekend I spent some time with a family that had lost a 19-month old youngster as a result of a four-wheeled vehicle that was apparently stolen and driven by other youngsters. I accept that the figures show that the number of such crimes leading to fatalities has, happily, gone down considerably. However, will the Home Secretary review the way in which young people are educated so that they understand that potential fatalities can be caused by that sort of behaviour? The best way is to show them the results, to persuade them that their own younger brothers or sisters, or they themselves, could be the next victims, as opposed to the people who cause the deaths.

The hon. Gentleman makes a very pertinent and important point. While these vehicles can legitimately be used off the road on controlled tracks and areas, when they are used on the roads in a haphazard fashion they are dangerous not only to other people but to the lives and limbs of the young people who are driving them. I was recently in Manchester and saw some examples of what can happen. The unguarded chain on those vehicles, for instance, can be a lethal weapon. And everything sits on top of a plastic fuel container—which is a fireball just waiting to happen if used in the wrong circumstances. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, which is why we ran the campaign over the summer months to inform local authorities and the police as well as the public about the problem. In Manchester, I believe that there have been about 116 seizures of mini-motors, and many of them were destroyed. I agree that it is important to send out the information, and I can also inform the hon. Gentleman that we will keep the matter under review.

Rape

13. What plans he has to set national targets for local crime and disorder partnerships for detection and reduction in the incidence of rape. (95431)

Tackling sexual crimes—above all, rape—is and always has been an important priority for the Government. Over the past three years, we have made nearly £6.7 million available to support victims. Specific targets on rape have so far been set at local level within the crime and disorder reduction partnerships. I can tell my hon. Friend that we shortly hope to publish an action plan on sexual violence and abuse.

I appreciate and welcome the finance and support given to rape victims so far, and I accept that targets have been set locally through the local partnerships. However, there is enormous variation in the rate of convictions—from 0.86 per cent. in Gloucestershire, through 6 per cent. in the west midlands where my constituency is located, to nearly 14 per cent. in Northampton. Surely such variation suggests that a stronger lead is needed on the conviction targets.

We think it right to set targets locally, and I would ask my hon. Friend to reflect on how we have dealt with domestic violence, where targets are also set locally. There, we have increased the conviction rate and we are replicating some of the methods that we used for domestic violence to deal with sexual violence. In particular, funding was made available this year for the first time to set up independent sexual violence advisers. We have also adopted some important measures, introducing specialist rape prosecutors in every crime prosecution area. Certainly the conviction rate for crimes such as rape, at just below 6 per cent., is unacceptably low. We are working with the Association of Chief Police Officers on the production of guidance for the police and we have overhauled the law on sexual offences. We are also introducing procedures to make it easier for victims of sexual crimes to give evidence.

I entirely agree with what the Minister has said about many of the issues relating to targets, but one of the real obstacles is the lack of a common approach from police forces across the country to the victims of rape. We need a properly resourced programme to ensure that all victims of rape are given equal opportunity to receive the support, advice and guidance that they need to pursue prosecutions.

I take the hon. Gentleman’s point. We have issued guidance to local crime and disorder reduction partnerships on how to tackle sexual violence, and how to develop a local strategy for doing so. We are also working with ACPO to produce guidance for the police. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that support for the victims is one of the most crucial parts of the process. That is why the independent sexual violence advisers—who work so well in the context of domestic violence, as I have said—can make such a difference. They work with the victim from beginning to end of the process. The victim will be supported more fully, whether they decide to report the offence or not. If they do report the offence, we hope that that will lead to an improvement in the conviction rate.

Antisocial Mini-bike Riding

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave some moments ago.

No one wishes to prevent the safe use of mini-motorcycles—my three sons were taught by their father, who was an RAC Auto-Cycle Union instructor—but we must be concerned about young people who cause a danger not only to themselves but to many other people on our streets and in our parks and open spaces. Is there anything further that we can do to help Sussex police, who are taking an active role in dealing with the problem, to tackle that antisocial behaviour?

As my hon. Friend says, the legitimate use of such vehicles in controlled circumstances is broadly supported by the Government. Well-managed legal sites can divert people away from the illegal use of go-peds and mini-motos. She is also right to say that we need more information and guidance. The Respect taskforce, which is addressing this and other issues of antisocial behaviour, is committed to supporting any area experiencing problems with mini-motos. The taskforce has produced guidance for practitioners on tackling misuse, a public information leaflet has been produced for retailers, and workshops were run for practitioners at the September academy events this year. The taskforce also runs a website and hotline for anyone who is interested in the issue. I commend all those to my hon. Friend as means by which information on this disturbing antisocial trend can be made available to her constituents, and to the authorities.

What recent discussions has the Secretary of State had with his colleague in the Department of Trade and Industry about introducing stricter controls on the sale of mini-motorbikes, and with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency about their compulsory registration?

I believe that the existing controls are sufficient. As I pointed out earlier, the present powers stem from at least two Acts—the Police Reform Act 2002 and the Road Traffic Act 1988—and include powers of seizure, powers to destroy, warning letters, acceptable behaviour contracts, parenting contracts, dispersal powers, noise abatement powers and antisocial behaviour orders. As well as that range of powers, we also encourage legitimate use. At this stage, we are not of the opinion that mini-motorcycles should be banned completely, but where they are being misused we have made available a range of powers. Those are being used throughout the country, albeit patchily, and we are attempting to spread their use more widely.

Asylum Applications

18. What the average time taken was to reach an initial decision on an asylum application (a) in respect of people held at (i) Harmondsworth and (ii) Oakington and (b) overall in the latest period for which figures are available. (95436)

The time for initial decisions at Harmondsworth and Oakington was 14 days and 12 days respectively. Overall, 76 per cent. of initial claims are decided within eight weeks, compared with 20 months in 1996. My briefing then reads: “These figures are taken from internal management information and may be subject to change prior to publication in official Home Office statistics”.

If it takes only 14 days at Harmondsworth and far longer for asylum seekers in the community, does not that show that it is in the interests of asylum seekers for the Government to have reception centres so that asylum seekers can sort out their right to stay much more quickly, and be allowed to work more quickly? That will help refugees do what they what to do, which is to pay their way; it will also, incidentally, save the taxpayer money.

We use detained fast track when we are certain that there is a high likelihood of removal. It is one of a range of tactics. On the continent, of course, tactics are different; there is much greater use of reception centres. The important point for my hon. Friend is that when we look across Europe we see that the UK is now 14th for asylum applications per capita. In the last quarter for which data are available the fall in applications in the UK was 24 per cent., while the fall in the EU was just 11 per cent. When we look at the range of tactics deployed in the UK compared with many other countries we can see how far ahead we are.

Points of Order

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your guidance in relation to the Department of Health’s major policy announcement made through the newspapers after the House rose in July that it is out-sourcing to DHL NHS Logistics and most of its purchasing and supply operations worth about £4 billion per annum. The policy was implemented on 1 October, while we were still in recess but was not announced or debated on the Floor of the House. I wrote to the Secretary of State for Health on 16 August raising questions of policy and parliamentary accountability, eventually to receive a reply from her Minister of State, the hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham), dated 16 October—two months later—in which he relied on, and attached a copy of, a letter from his predecessor to the hon. Member for Amber Valley (Judy Mallaber) dated 9 July 2005, saying that a copy could be found in the Library. The Library confirms that a copy of that letter was placed there only on 16 September 2006—a full 14 months after it was written and, intriguingly, a month after my letter and the press coverage in the early part of the most recent recess. I am sure that the House will draw its own conclusions from that, Mr. Speaker, but far from deterring me from smelling a rat, could you advise me as to whether it is for you to investigate the quality of ministerial responses or whether it is a matter for the Leader of the House, in the light of his recent pronouncements about the quality of ministerial responses? I am grateful that the right hon. Gentleman is in the Chamber today.

It is certainly not a matter for me. The quality of reply is a matter for departmental Ministers themselves, and I am sure that they will take note of what the hon. Gentleman said.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Last week, a Member of the House of Lords used parliamentary privilege to name an alleged victim of rape, despite the fact that the law guarantees any such alleged victim anonymity for life. Regardless of the circumstances of the particular case, surely that will hardly help more rape victims to come forward. If a Member of this House were to use parliamentary privilege in the same way, Mr. Speaker, can you advise whether you would rule him or her out of order?

The hon. Gentleman is raising a hypothetical matter and I do not give rulings on hypothetical matters. I will also not be drawn into the proceedings of the other place.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will be aware of the importance of scrutiny, one of our basic jobs in the House of Commons, so I seek your guidance as to whether there is a printing error in the second item of business listed on the Order Paper. I see that consideration of the amendments on report of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill is to be concluded, according to the Order Paper, at 9 pm, which allows the House less than a minute per item to consider the amendments. Surely, Mr. Speaker, there must be an error.

There is no error. If the right hon. Gentleman has any complaint he should take the matter to his Whip who will take it up with the usual channels.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your guidance. On Friday I received a holding answer from the Minister of State for the armed forces to a straightforward question about the payment of separation allowances to our troops. You can imagine my surprise when I discovered that the very information that I had requested had been given to a Sunday newspaper by the Ministry of Defence. Although I realise that the Government are rightly embarrassed about the fact that at a time when they are keen to announce operational service bonuses to troops, they are cutting their separation allowances by an even greater amount, is it right that that information should be given to a Sunday newspaper, rather than in answer to a parliamentary question?

I hope that when a Member of Parliament puts down a parliamentary question, it is answered, if the answer is available in the Department. From what the hon. Gentleman says, it was available and it was given to a newspaper. I would rather it was the other way round—that the information was given to an hon. Member. Of course, all questions are then put in the public domain for every newspaper to look at.

Further to the point of order raised by the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Mr. O'Brien), I am grateful to him for alerting me to it, albeit in the Corridor a little earlier. I will follow the matter up with the Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham). I do not know the precise circumstances of the point that has just been raised, but I will also follow that up on your behalf, Mr. Speaker, and that of the hon. Member for North-East Milton Keynes (Mr. Lancaster).

Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill [Lords] [Ways and Means]

I beg to move,

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Safeguarding Vulnerable

Groups Bill, it is expedient to authorise—

(1) the charging of fees in respect of functions carried out under the Act; and

(2) the payment of sums into the Consolidated Fund.

The Bill provides for a fee payable by applicants for monitoring in the vetting and barring scheme. The fee must be regarded as a charge on the people for the purposes of the House. That is sufficient to trigger a Ways and Means resolution. The fee may be considered a charge on the people, in part because the fee income will be applied to fund the independent barring board, which will benefit the vulnerable groups and the public at large, rather than providing a direct service to the applicant.

The motion covers functions carried out under the Act—that is, the functions of the IBB and the Secretary of State in operating the vetting and barring scheme. These are the functions in respect of which a fee may be prescribed under clause 21. The motion enables us to charge a fee, as provided for in clause 21. In the conventional way, it also authorises the payment of fee income into the consolidated fund.

We have tabled Government amendments in relation to the fee-setting provision in order to provide flexibility for the Secretary of State in setting the fee and to give the Secretary of State a power to fund the IBB directly. We need that because the fee income will be paid to the Secretary of State, and there must be a mechanism for transferring the money to the IBB.

Can the Minister give the House some indication of how the Secretary of State might use the power if it were granted? What level of fee are we discussing? What are the review arrangements? How will it be set? The House should know how high a fee might be imposed for the purpose.

I thank the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) for those questions. We will have a detailed debate about those matters, which are covered by amendments to be discussed over the coming hours on Report. I commend the motion to the House.

I shall not detain the House long, not least because of the enormous number of amendments—some 207 amendments and 23 new clauses have been tabled by the Government, and nearly all were tabled during the past few days, despite the fact that the Bill completed its Committee stage some months ago. The short time available raises questions about the ability of the House properly to scrutinise the radical amendments submitted by the Government.

The Minister has not moved a Ways and Means motion before, but I assume he is able to respond. It would be useful if he could give us some assurances about the extent to which increases may take place. According to the notes accompanying the proposals, the capital start-up costs are likely to be £7.58 million in the financial year 2006-07, and £6.92 million in the financial year 2007-08, which is an estimated £14.5 million in capital start-up costs.

Given the record—the form—of the Government in respect of overshooting by large margins estimates for the sums that they are spending on computer projects across a number of Departments, let alone their inability to stay within set dates, I ask the Minister to give us his view as to how realistic the estimates I have just mentioned are, because they will, of course, impact on the charges that the ways and means motion gives rise to.

In the covering notes, it is stated that the Government anticipate that there will be an operating cost of between £16 million and £18 million per annum over the first five years, on top of the costs of the current work of the Criminal Records Bureau. It is stated that that might lead by 2008 to an increase in the fee charged to applicants, which this motion will give rise to. Can we have some greater clarity as to how likely such an increase will be?

We are told that an extra 200 staff will be required in the CRB and the IBB. We are not told how many of those staff are likely to be retained within the public sector, or how many are likely to be contracted out—using a company such as Capita, which I gather was closely involved in the original CRB contract, only for long delays to transpire and for part of the contract to have to be subcontracted out to Bombay, which caused a number of further problems. Given that the CRB is still operating under a deficit—although it aims to have a surplus in the current financial year—this House has concerns, and it needs to be assured in respect of how realistic the level of fees that are set now will be by the time that this legislation comes into force.

My hon. Friend is right to be circumspect about the motion. Its terms might prove to be innocuous; but, on the other hand, they might prove not to be. On the strength of his perusal of its details, does my hon. Friend think that an increase in fees would necessitate a decision on the part of the Government to pursue the affirmative procedure, or would it be possible for the Government to go about such an increase, possibly of an unspecified character, without further consultation with the House?

The suspicion underlying my hon. Friend’s surmise is true, in that the current discussion is the only opportunity that the House will have to challenge the validity of the fee. The fee can be raised in future years, without it being necessary to come back for further permission from the House.

It is also worth pointing out that the costs of CRB checks have been increased by an inflation-busting £2, with effect from 6 April 2006, so that a standard check now costs £31 as against £29 last year, and an enhanced check costs £36 as against £34 last year, which in themselves are very large rises on the original sums charged for CRB checks. I am raising many issues that I had not intended to raise.

I have some concerns that if there is not a degree of transparency in terms of the fee structure, so that it is perfectly obvious what the applicants are being asked to pay for, this could end up being a tax on job applications.

This is another form of tax by different terminology, because the sums will all go into the Consolidated Fund for the Chancellor to do with as he wishes. I do not wish to prolong this debate, but it must be said that there is some opaqueness in the language used in new clause 2 and amendment No. 109, which form the basis of the ways and means motion. New clause 2(2) refers to the costs that the Secretary of State

“thinks will be incurred, by him before the end of that period (taking one financial year with another)”.

I am not entirely sure what that means either.

Before we proceed in nodding through this motion, the House is entitled to further clarification in respect of realistic assessments of the amount of money involved at this time—let alone the Government’s ability to be able actually to complete such a project so that it comes into force on time. Is this going to be another opportunity for the Government, and particularly the Chancellor, to increase the figures disproportionately, compared with the increase in inflation? It would be useful if the Minister provided further clarification, because there is very little to the basic motion.

I have declared my interest in the Register of Members’ Interests; I am a company director, but I am obviously not pursuing its interests in this debate. I am worried about the resolution’s proving to be a tax on jobs—the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Anne Main). It is a great pity that the original system has not worked as well as planned, and that we now need this expensive new one to try to ensure that people are properly protected.

Given the phenomenal improvements of modern technology, in most parts of the world and in most cases the application of such technology cuts the cost of doing things and makes it easier to do them. But in the case of this Government, we often seem to find that the application of new technology makes it more difficult to do things, that they are done less well, and that a large amount of money has to be spent on remedial action. Indeed, I find it disappointing that the Minister did not give us some financial information when initiating this short debate. This is not an aperitif to the main meal: it is a very important subject in its own right.

As my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans said, in effect, we are talking about taxing institutions and people who are trying to do their best in public service, for example, and it is very important that the Minister and his colleagues have proper controls over the setting up and efficiency of this operation, how it controls its costs and how it uses new computing systems to lower those costs. There should be no automatic assumption that when the costs and fees are reviewed in subsequent years, they are going to go up. It would be quite nice to have an assumption that they will be coming down because computing and efficiency measures will be applied to reduce them, as happens in the competitive market in comparable service areas outside this Government’s dream world, in which they can always claim more money from the taxpayer to do such things.

So although the Opposition do not wish to detain the House unduly or to stop the benign intentions behind the underlying measure, the Government should take much more seriously the question of how much all this is going to cost, how they are going to ensure that this board keeps its costs under control, and whether it could surprise us all in two or three years’ time by announcing that it has got better at doing these things and could have a fee cut, rather than an increase. I fear, however, that we are going to have more of the same. We have had an inflation-busting fee increase recently and unless the Minister gets a grip, we will have the same again in a few years’ time. So I hope that he will look again at this issue.

This motion has initiated an interesting debate. It would be impolite of me to initiate now the debate on the funding and establishment of the independent barring board, because we will have that debate when we consider the second group of amendments and we will be making the same points then. However, I am happy to take on some of the issues that have been mentioned. The intention is that the scheme will pay for itself over the next five years through the fee. It was interesting to hear the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) say that the existing system has failed. It has not; however, the system being set up will be stronger and better and will introduce online checks, for example.

I do not want to go too far now into the debate on the scheme, but I should correct what the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) said about the need for 200 additional staff. The intention is that the IBB will have some 120 staff to help it with its work. It will not be a profit-making organisation—the money coming in from fees will be put back into it to make it work.

The right hon. Member for Wokingham made an interesting point about advances in technology and whether they could make the scheme more efficient. I am sure that he was referring to identity cards, which he will doubtless support to help make this system more efficient.

Orders of the Day

Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill [Lords]

As amended in Committee, considered.

New Clause 1

Fostering

‘(1) Despite section 43, this Act applies to activity that is regulated activity by virtue of paragraph 1(5C) of Schedule 3.

(2) Subsection (1) does not affect the operation of this Act in relation to any other activity that is carried out in connection with a foster child.

(3) Subsection (4) applies if a person (P)—

(a) makes arrangements for another person to foster a child as a private foster parent, and

(b) has power to terminate the arrangements.

(4) P is, if he would not otherwise be, a regulated activity provider in relation to fostering carried out by the foster parent in pursuance of the arrangements.

(5) The following provisions of this section apply for the purposes of this Act.

(6) A person fosters a child if he is a foster parent of the child.

(7) A person is a foster parent if—

(a) he is a local authority foster parent within the meaning of section 23(3) of the Children Act 1989;

(b) he is a person with whom a child has been placed by a voluntary organisation under section 59(1)(a) of that Act;

(c) he is a private foster parent.

(8) A person is a private foster parent if he falls within subsection (9) and looks after a child—

(a) for reward, or

(b) in pursuance of an arrangement made by someone other than a member of the child’s family.

(9) A person falls within this subsection if—

(a) he fosters the child privately within the meaning of section 66(1) of the Children Act 1989,

(b) he would be so fostering the child but for subsection (2) of that section (minimum period of 28 days), or

(c) (in the case of a child who has attained the age of 16) he would fall within paragraph (a) or (b) if the child were under the age of 16.

(10) A person’s family includes—

(a) the person’s foster child;

(b) the foster child of any member of the person’s family;

and references to a family relationship and family member are to be construed accordingly.’.—[Mr. Dhanda.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: Government new clause 21—Crown application.

Government amendments Nos. 206, 207, 20 and 21.

Amendment No. 192, in clause 6, page 3, line 34, at end insert

‘Unless P has been authorized to act under the relevant provisions of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, or appointed by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.’.

Government amendments Nos. 22 to 25 and 32.

Amendment No. 258, in clause 16, page 6, line 16, leave out ‘has reason to believe’ and insert ‘suspects’.

Government amendment No. 40.

Amendment No. 259, in clause 10, page 6, line 20, leave out ‘has reason to believe’ and insert ‘suspects’.

Government amendment No. 41.

Amendment No. 260, in clause 10, page 6, line 23, leave out ‘has reason to believe’ and insert ‘suspects’.

Government amendments Nos. 44 to 47 and 50.

Amendment No. 193, in clause 14, page 10, line 12, leave out paragraph (h).

Government amendments Nos. 51, 58 to 63, 65 to 67 and 76.

Amendment No. 194, in clause 35, page 24, line 41, column 1, at end insert—

‘The register of attorneys and deputies maintained under the provisions of the Mental Capacity Act 2005

The Register of appointees authorised by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions under regulation 33 Claims and Payments Regs 1987’.

Amendment No. 195, in clause 35, page 24, line 41, column 2, at end insert—

‘The Office of the Public Guardian The Department for Work and Pensions’.

Government amendments Nos. 237, 92, 238, 144 and 147.

Amendment No. 242, in schedule 3, page 46, line 35, at end insert—

‘(f) providing information on the past or present whereabouts of any legal minor where that information is derived from any electronic communications network within the meaning of section 32 of the Communications Act 2003 (c. 21).’.

Government amendments Nos. 148, 151, 152, 154, 155 and 160.

Amendment No. 196, in schedule 3, page 50, line 8, after ‘Wales’, insert—

‘(d) The Office of the Public Guardian,

(e) The Court of Protection’.

Government amendments Nos. 161 to 168 and 181.

The coverage of the new vetting and coverage schemes is at the heart of how the scheme will work. The amendments improve the definition of both regulated and controlled activity, and they also clarify how the scheme will work for regulated activity providers and personnel suppliers.

On the amendments to the definition of regulated activity, new clause 1 and amendments Nos. 21, 144 and 181 ensure that it is an offence for a barred person to foster or provide care and accommodation to children for a ward or through arrangements made by an organisation. Any organisation that arranges a placement will be required to check and ensure that the carer is subject to monitoring and is not barred. That will include language schools arranging host families for students and local authorities placing children with foster carers, which is a point that the Liberal Democrats mentioned on Second Reading. The amendments also ensure that a foster carer can take day-to-day decisions concerning their foster child like any parent without being required to check every individual who helps to care for that child.

Amendments Nos. 147 and 154 ensure that school bus and minibus drivers who take vulnerable adults on day trips will be subject to the scheme, putting beyond doubt an area of uncertainty in the current arrangements—I know that that has recently become a live issue in some parts of the country.

Amendments Nos. 152 and 167 ensure that an individual on either barred list will be prevented from working as a member of staff for the independent barring board. Following discussions with representatives from the industry, we have amended the Bill to ensure that while chatroom moderators will be subject to the scheme, IT staff who do not see the content of the messages and who do not contact service users will not.

Given the complicated and non-exhaustive list of people who will be barred, should there not be an onus on the employer to make it clear in the job description that the job is subject to barring, because people could inadvertently criminalise themselves by applying for jobs that they do not know are on this extremely long list?

The hon. Lady has made an interesting point, and I shall return to the issue in discussing the amendments in terms not only of how we can get that information across to barred individuals, but of the fact that barred individuals will no longer be able to participate in activities on an infrequent basis, which is an issue that she raised in Committee.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on adopting my ten-minute Bill on moderators and incorporating it in the Bill and on introducing this group of sensible amendments. However, the issue of moderators who are based overseas remains unaddressed, and child protection agencies are concerned that moderating firms will seek to use overseas workers and thus escape the protections afforded by the Bill.

My hon. Friend has made a fair point, and I pay tribute to her work, which has helped us. She knows about the issues surrounding overseas vetting, which we shall discuss later today.

In line with the arrangements for the children’s work forces, amendments Nos. 159 to 163, 166 and 167 ensure that regulated activity relating to vulnerable adults includes local councillors who have responsibility for social services, trustees of vulnerable adults’ charities, the Commissioner for Older People in Wales and all Commission for Social Care Inspection inspectors.

Amendments Nos. 206 and 207 allow the definition of “regulated activity” for the purpose of barring to be amended by the affirmative resolution procedure, which I am sure that the House will welcome. That is in line with the power in clause 5 to keep the meaning of “regulated activity” up to date.

We have made important amendments to the requirements to check. Amendments Nos. 32, 44, 46, 47, 50, 52 and 76 clarify the commitment that we made in Committee that all prison and probation officers will be subject to the requirements of the scheme.

Amendments Nos. 40 and 41 ensure that a personnel supplier will commit an offence if they knowingly supply an individual who is barred or not subject to monitoring. In response to points made in the other place, we have also tabled amendments to the scope and mechanics of controlled activity.

Amendments Nos. 58 to 63 and 66 ensure that those with access to specific records on matters such as social services and education will be covered by the definition of “controlled activity”.

I am aware of a case in which my local education department passed to the local authority’s tendering department a comprehensive list of children with disabilities. The tendering department then distributed the list to several taxi operators, many of whom had gone out of business. Would the department be covered by such barring, and would it be required to restrict the information that it passed on?

My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. A taxi firm working with children or vulnerable adults would certainly require to be checked. A local authority that is providing lists of children needs carefully to consider what it is doing. As I say, those in local authorities who are responsible for such lists will be covered by the definition of “controlled activity”.

In line with our commitment in the other place, we have brought the provision of direct payments within the definition of “controlled activity”. That meets our intention to cover all social care staff. Amendments Nos. 60 and 65 reflect the fact that at least one local board in Wales provides in-patient and out-patient hospital services.

The hon. Member for Bridgend (Mrs. Moon) referred to tendering departments. I may or may not be on the same page as her on this subject, but, for the avoidance of doubt, is the hon. Gentleman telling the House that the responsibility for safeguarding or distributing information will be incumbent not only on local authorities but on any organisation that is contracted by a process of market-testing to work for it?

The holder of the list and people who have access to it will be part of the scheme. In the case cited by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mrs. Moon), the information was passed on by the person who held the list. It is fair to question whether that should have happened in the first place. The Bill will require the person with control of the list to be cleared in relation to controlled activity.

In response to previous debates in this House, we have sought to strengthen the provisions on controlled activity. Amendments Nos. 232 and 238 help to do that, but I will speak to those when we reach the debate on offences.

These amendments are very important to the Bill. We have tabled them in response to issues previously raised in debate to ensure that the scope of the scheme is appropriate and that it is clear how it will work. I appreciate that hon. Members on both sides of the House may say, “My goodness, there are a lot of amendments”, but I hope that the example of this group shows that we have listened to previous debates. I commend the amendments to the House.

The Bill was first introduced in the other place in February, but, before that, about two years’ worth of consultation took place on its provisions. All the amendments that have been tabled today, however, amply illustrate that the Government have yet to complete their thinking on this important measure. The Minister says that there are so many amendments because the Government have been listening to the points that have been raised. I hope that he will remain in listening mode, and that he will take up many of the excellent points that my hon. Friends and I, and other hon. Members, will raise today.

The Bill as drafted will result in almost 10 million people being vetted, and under the amendments that we are considering today a great many more people would be covered. We hope that the Minister will follow the principle set out by the Minister for Children and Families, the right hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Beverley Hughes)—who is on the Front Bench with him—that the breadth of the bar is proportionate to the risk that is posed.

The amendments cover matters that have not been included in the Bill before. Given the lateness of their tabling—which has been pointed out not only by my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) but in points of order—will the Minister assure us that there is broad agreement among the interested groups in the proposals that have been tabled? It has been pointed out that there has been no time at all to consider the amendments in the detail that they deserve. New clause 1 will introduce fostering to the Bill for the first time. Under Government amendment No. 20 vulnerable adults’ accommodation is also included, while Government amendment No. 67 will bring local authority health boards into the Bill for the first time.

This group of amendments seeks to address the wide range of issues that we have debated in Committee and in the other place, and I hope that I shall be able to do them justice. We are pleased to see Government amendment No. 50, which brings prison officers within the terms of the Bill. I pay tribute to my noble Friend Baroness Buscombe for raising this issue in the other place and for pressing the Government to remedy that rather large omission from the original Bill.

Under amendments Nos. 168 and 162 the Secretary of State will be able to specify the activity to be regulated, in relation to children and vulnerable adults. Government amendment No. 26 will allow the Secretary of State to determine who is a regulated activity provider. In Committee, the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Skills, the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Dhanda) said that, over time, the Government would like to see as many people as possible being monitored in vetting and barring schemes. In the light of that, and of the amendments, and of some of the contributions to our debate on the ways and means motion, will he outline what criteria will be used to decide how to increase the number of regulated activity providers who are subject to monitoring, and to decide who is to be monitored? We need to understand better the Government’s thinking on these matters.

Throughout the debate on the Bill, we have all agreed with the Government’s intention that the breadth of the bar should be proportionate to the risk involved. Indeed, that is one of the Government’s key principles. The amendments, however, give almost unfettered power to the Secretary of State to extend the Bill’s scope in a way that would require very little debate on the Floor of the House. The Minister owes it to the House to explain that.

I fully understand the need to make provision for the future so that the Bill can keep pace with what is happening in the world. Indeed, developments in technology often make it very difficult to do that in many areas of our work. I hope, however, that the Minister will be able to give details of when he would bring the provisions into play, and when he would not. A Back-Bench amendment—unfortunately, I do not think it has been selected—referred to the implications of technology and would have ensured that the matter was specifically covered in the Bill. Is that the sort of issue that the Government are thinking about in including these quite broad provisions in the Bill? We need clarification on that.

There are a number of other amendments that introduce new concepts, which we have not debated before, into the Bill. I thank the Minister for taking the time to meet me and other colleagues to talk through some of the amendments. As he pointed out, we met twice, but with more than 200 amendments and 25 new clauses, there should probably have been a number of other meetings.

Following on from earlier comments about the Secretary of State and the possibility of the list changing, and about the provision of information, will my hon. Friend tease out how that additional information will be communicated—not only to Members, who may not have any further debate on the matter, but to everybody who takes an interest in the list being extended? Since we will not all have meetings with the Minister, it is extremely important that we make sure that there is fair, transparent and obvious communication for the benefit of all those who wish to make sure that they do not fall foul of any regulations.

I thank my hon. Friend for her contribution. As a Member who served on the Committee, she is knowledgeable about the Bill. I am sure that she will contribute to the debate that we will have on communication. We have tabled further amendments to pick up on that very issue. We need to make sure that there is a clear line of communication and that both employers and employees understand the true implications. If the Secretary of State is able to vary those who are covered by the Bill and extend the Bill’s remit, we need to make sure that it is clear how that is to be communicated to those who may already have been included on the barred list. We will pick up on that issue.

Amendment No. 45 introduces an interesting and new concept to the Bill, perhaps clarifying further the way in which the Bill will work. However, I would appreciate hearing the Minister’s thoughts—particularly in relation to where the courts are being invited to consider how an individual has attempted to interpret the issue of frequency when any judgment is being brought to bear as a result of a misdemeanour. Perhaps he could take the time offered by the debate to explain why that has been proposed at this stage and what has provoked the inclusion of amendment No. 45.

Amendment No. 59 introduces a closer definition of frequency, which my hon. Friends and I welcome inasmuch as that has been talked about from the beginning of the debate on the Bill—particularly by Lord Adonis in the other place. Bringing in some clarification at this point is useful. However, although amendment No. 59 contains a definition of frequency that involves the same person carrying out an activity

“on more than two days in any period of 30 days”,

it also still includes the term “frequently”, almost as if that were a separate issue. I would welcome clarification from the Minister on whether the Government intend to have two meanings for the word “frequently”: the tighter meaning of

“more than two days in any period of 30 days”,

and also an alternative meaning. If the Government do not intend there to be two meanings, why are both terms referred to quite specifically in the same amendment? We would have hoped to tease that out in Committee, but the provision was not in the Bill at that point.

Finally, amendment No. 92 gives the Secretary of State the ability to define by order what is or is not a family relationship or a personal relationship. That is quite a new area of discussion and I would welcome the chance to hear the Minister’s thoughts on it. To revert to the original statement by the Minister for Children and Families, the Bill should not intrude on family relationships. Conservative Members are therefore puzzled by the need for the Secretary of State to have the flexibility to move an order that would define a family or personal relationship.

In the interests of time, those are the only amendments that I will cover because we need to debate several others further down the selection list. However, I would welcome the Under-Secretary’s response to them.

I shall speak about amendment No. 242, which is in my name and that of seven other hon. Members, most of whom sponsored my ten-minute Bill on licensing child location services. The amendment would add to the list of activities relating to children that the Bill regulates the providing of information on the whereabouts of a legal minor that is derived from any electronic communications network.

I set out the arguments in detail in my speech in March on my ten-minute Bill. I shall not, therefore, go into them all again but set out the background briefly. Twenty years ago, the internet was perceived as a plaything for boffins, not as something that would mushroom so amazingly. We regard it now as a force for good but we also understand that it can be a force for evil through the mushrooming of distribution, for massive profits, of, for example, child pornography and abuse and the distribution of criminal funds. We are running to catch up with ourselves to keep control of it.

Mass surveillance of people through electronic means, sometimes without their knowledge, and potential electronic surveillance of children without the necessary controls to ensure that information does not get into the hands of people who would harm them, is another aspect of technology that is escalating. It is important to get to grips with the matter now and I hope that the Bill can be amended to do that, or that we can find some other mechanism for starting to license that development.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on championing the matter. As she said, technology is advancing fast and, although a voluntary code currently covers the matter, even those in the industry acknowledge that it does not apply to the latest satellite technology. Does she agree that we need urgently to cover that to safeguard our children?

I agree. The matter came to my attention through coverage of one of the big CeBIT international fairs in Hamburg. In the massive exhibition, someone had surveillance products, especially child location products. He said, “I can’t understand why every parent hasn’t rushed to pick up my teddy pack. You can just pop it in your child’s rucksack and have peace of mind.” How can there be peace of mind if we do not know whether the person who provided the equipment and popped it into a child’s rucksack was a parent or a paedophile? How does the organisation selling the product know whether parents or paedophiles have bought it?

My hon. Friend the Member for Luton, South (Margaret Moran) is right that the escalation of the technology is getting grossly out of hand and we must take hold of it and regulate it somehow. The mass market is being bombarded with one product after another. It is getting bigger and bigger, with more and more different products. It begins with a simple Teddyfone, which is attractive to a child. It would be easy for someone to persuade a child to take one. One may know the location of the Teddyfone, but not necessarily that of the child or whether the child is with the Teddyfone. It should not give peace of mind. The person who has given it to a child could also be tracking it because it can act as a listening-in device. As soon as someone phones it, it states the child’s location. That is dangerous and we have not got the matter under control.

My hon. Friend is right that there is a code of practice, which was drawn up with the mobile phone networks, so it covers only that part of the technology—not new forms of satellite technology. That is great if people need to know where someone is if they have had an accident or if somebody wants to use the sat nav system in their car, but not so good if a child is being tracked through that technology, or a jealous stalker is chasing someone. We really do not have the way of controlling it that we need.

Although there is a code of practice, it has turned out to be woefully inadequate, and I gave some examples in my speech on my ten-minute Bill. Just in the previous couple of weeks, three journalists had managed to track people without their knowing, outwith the provisions of the code, and they did not meet the requirements of the code. Even in respect of the technology to which the code is meant to apply, it has not been operated properly.

We need to get to grips with this matter. Indeed, the person who put me on to looking at it was the adviser to the children’s charities on internet and technology issues, who himself was involved in drawing up the code of practice—he definitely knows about it. One of a number of organisations that have contacted me since I introduced my ten-minute Bill is a company, whose representative has

“sat on the Codes of Practice for Location Based Services since its inception and run what has been ‘audited’ by the networks as the best of the best. I strongly support licensing of this industry”.

That comes from within the respectable end of the industry.

Action on Rights for Children welcomes my Bill, saying:

“We are extremely concerned about the rapidly expanding market in devices to track the whereabouts of children and young people. We believe this to be a classic example of a technology looking for a market, which in this case has been created by the exploitation of parents’ understandable, though largely groundless, fears for their children’s safety.”

We need to manage—to regulate—this industry. What made me realise that we might be able to do that through this Bill was the welcome inclusion of the provisions on vetting those involved in moderating chat services, which already introduce an element of control of the use of technology on the internet. We have done extraordinarily well in the work that has been done in trying to control other areas of abuse on the internet, such as child pornography, although we are always running to catch up, but let us grab hold of this one before it is too late.

I suggested on Second Reading and in Committee that we should try to amend paragraph 2(1)(e) of schedule 3, which is about moderators of chat rooms, but my hon. Friend the Minister wrote to me to say that that would not work in terms of the wording. I accept that, which is why my colleagues and I have tabled an amendment proposing a separate paragraph 2(1)(f), which would make this an additional activity to be regulated. It would not have the same force and range of licensing measures, which I would like us to move towards, but at least it would ensure that those who are involved in providing devices that can be a force for good, but also a potential force for evil, are subject to checks to make sure that they are responsible enough to be allowed to do so.

We could then perhaps follow up from that and talk about what other provision we should have for licensing, which I would like to have, in ensuring that the products are given only to the right people, and that there are checks, proper regulations and a proper regime in force on the provision and use of such equipment.

We are walking into a world where we could each easily be subject to surveillance without knowing it. If we do not get to grips with that now, it will be too late, and perhaps in a year we will be asking, “Why didn’t we get to grips with it?” We have been very slow. The Department of Trade and Industry even gave an enterprise award to one of those products. When we queried whether it should not have checked that out with the children’s organisations in relation to child safety issues, it said, “Why should we?”

That product supposedly deals with child safety, but the DTI had not clicked about that. Often, there is no matching up between Departments on what should happen, so the DTI does not necessarily know about the good work and expertise that rest, for example, in the Home Office. The Department for Education and Skills does not necessarily know about some of that technology and some ways in which we need to control it.

I urge that we take this issue on board and include it as an activity in relation to which we at least ensure that the people providing such services are properly regulated and vetted. We should move to a system of proper licensing for this area of technology. Otherwise, we may just find, even in a year, that we regret not grabbing it early when we had the chance.

I endorse the comments of the hon. Member for Amber Valley (Judy Mallaber), whose amendment I support. Getting round to the introduction of adequate protection in relation to the internet has taken time, and we need to be proactive in that area. Without doubt, tracking devices have two aspects to them. The aspect that relates to parents getting information is entirely good. The downside, however, is that in the wrong hands such devices have potential for the setting up of some very unpleasant crimes. It is now time to introduce into regulations a process that, eventually, can be used for licensing.

Many amendments have been tabled for consideration today, and in so far as they respond to the points made on Second Reading and in Committee we must welcome them. Whether we have the time to scrutinise the brand new amendments, however, is a real issue. If it has suddenly been decided that we must consider foster parents, which sounds fairly obvious, what other groups have we forgotten? Can we really put the Bill to bed tonight and feel that we have done a thorough job? I do not think so, and I am very concerned about that. Getting to grips with the vast number of Government amendments has been an enormous burden for a relatively small party such as ours.

Having said that, I particularly welcome the amendment relating to language schools, on which my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Mr. Sanders) made an excellent contribution on Second Reading. I also have language schools in my constituency, and he and I will feel happier as a result of the amendment. There has also been responsiveness to the points made in Committee about prison and probation officers, which is important.

New clause 1 specifically mentions private fostering, which sounds good in theory. However, given that the Government have never conceded to amendments tabled by Front Benchers from both main Opposition parties that would require a registration scheme for private fosterers, how will the information about the Bill be communicated to those who are privately fostering? At the moment, there is no way of tracking down everybody who is involved in private fostering. Therefore, we have a Bill that puts an enormous burden on and potentially criminalises such people, but no way to ensure that they even know about the Bill. It leapt off the page to me that private fosterers were an obvious group for attention.

Does the hon. Lady share my concern that many private fostering arrangements are on an inter-country basis? People are often asked to foster children from impoverished countries who are members of, or seen to be members of, their extended family. The familial relationship is not formal, but such people are considered aunties and uncles. How are we to ensure that those people are correctly informed of their duty under the Bill as it stands?

I thank the hon. Lady for reinforcing my point. I do not see how the provisions can be communicated to everyone to whom they apply. I hope that the Minister will address that matter.

Amendments Nos. 258 to 260 were tabled by me and my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Sarah Teather), and I want to explain why it is necessary to delete “reason to believe” and instead insert “suspects”. The aim is to restrict the offence of use of a person not subject to monitoring to situations where it can be established that a regulated activity provider had actual knowledge or suspicion that someone was barred. We debated that many times in Committee. Given the decisions that will be made, we thought that precision was needed, and that we must not risk criminalising people in cases in which there might be genuine lack of knowledge.

There is a crucial difference between clauses 9 and 10, which is why our amendments address clause 10 in particular. Clause 9 relates to people who are barred, but clause 10 relates to the use of people who are not subject to monitoring. Using barred people for regulated activities is far more serious than using someone who is not monitored, as the use of the former obviously poses a greater risk to children and the vulnerable. That is not to imply that the use of a person who is not subject to monitoring is not a serious matter—it is. If a regulated activity is carried out by such an employee, severe disciplinary action, and even dismissal, may well result.

Our concern, however, is that the creation of offences targeted at people who make mistakes is excessive. Mistakes will be made, especially while the complicated system beds down. We suggest that, for a successful prosecution, the defendant must, at the very least, have some knowledge of the fact that someone is barred, but have failed to act on that knowledge. In other words, we would restrict criminalisation to situations in which, although the person “suspects”, rather than “has reason to believe”, that someone is not subject to monitoring, they still allow them to engage in regulated activity. I hope that the Minister will address that important point.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Burstow) will speak to the amendments that he tabled, which are supported by our Front-Bench team, but first I should like to make a few comments. The hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs. Miller) mentioned family and friends. Liberal Democrat Members think it important to make it clear that the probable regulations on powers of attorney and guardianship should be all-encompassing, because they involve the handing over of a great deal of power. For example, someone might name a person as their attorney long before that power is used, and of course things could change in the intervening period. A personal friend of 15 years ago may have been involved in unacceptable activity in the intervening period. I would particularly like the Minister to address that point of view.

As I said on Second Reading, we are concerned that there is an information flow, for example between the Department for Work and Pensions and the Office of the Public Guardian. If either of those bodies learns something about somebody—for example, if there is a revocation of the power of attorney—will that be conveyed to the independent barring board, and will the board transfer information? I leave it to my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam to lead a detailed debate on the amendments, but I hope that the Minister will pay particular attention to my point about new clause 1.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Amber Valley (Judy Mallaber) on her amendment. I support both the spirit and the letter of that provision, because it deals with an important issue that must be aired and resolved—if possible, by means of the amendment, or reassurances from the Minister.

I welcome the extension of the remit of the legislation to chat room moderators. A few years ago I was a member of the Home Office’s internet child protection taskforce, which was responsible for a number of issues, not least the drafting of those parts of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, considered by the House in the last Parliament, that created the new offence of grooming. It is an important subject, and I was determined to be involved, as at the time I was dealing with constituency cases that centred on grooming. Any developments under the Bill to further protect young and vulnerable people are only to be welcomed.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole (Annette Brooke) rightly asked whether we can be satisfied tonight that the Bill can safely pass from the House and be put to bed. I have tabled amendments Nos. 192 to 196 because I and a number of organisations outside the House are not entirely confident that that is the case. As she said, my amendments attempt to clarify how far the Bill will help to safeguard one of the most vulnerable groups of people in our land—those who lack capacity, who do not have the ability to make decisions for themselves and who necessarily have to rely on others to make decisions about their financial and other welfare considerations.

Throughout the progress of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, questions were asked in both Houses about how far there would be checks on people who act as attorneys, deputies or appointees from the Department for Work and Pensions because those people will have responsibility for the finances of vulnerable people. Attorneys and deputies also have decision-making powers over welfare. If the Bill is to do what it rightly says it aims to do—protect and safeguard vulnerable groups—it must ensure that someone who is barred from working with vulnerable people does not move on to a less well-policed part of the system and exercises power under the 2005 Act as an attorney, deputy, appointee, public guardian or court protection visitor.

The main thrust of the amendments—I am grateful to Age Concern in particular for its help and assistance in drafting them—is to probe how far the various lists work with each other: in other words, how the various agencies set up under mental capacity legislation will interface with the barring board and the barring register. For example, if someone has their attorneyship, deputyship or appointeeship revoked, as my hon. Friend said, because they have caused harm to a vulnerable person, that information should be passed to the barring board. Similarly, the barring board should inform the Office of the Public Guardian and the Department for Work and Pensions of those whom they have barred.

Amendment No. 192 would clarify beyond doubt that where a family member or a friend is acting in the capacity of an attorney, deputy or appointee, that activity is regulated. I welcome the Government amendment which is intended to deal with that in part, but what information will be given to attorneys, deputies and appointees—this thread has run through the debate—to explain to them that they will be covered by the Bill’s provisions? Will that be provided in the forms and guidance that are made available to them?

Amendment No. 193 would ensure that the Court of Protection, the Office of the Public Guardian and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions are under a duty to check whether a person who will be involved with the finances and personal welfare decisions of someone who lacks capacity is barred from working with vulnerable groups. What form of risk assessment will be put in place within those organisations to decide when checks with the barring register are necessary? Will there be consultation with organisations such as Age Concern and other interested parties about precisely how that risk assessment might be implemented and on what occasions it might be necessary to make a reference to the barring register?

Amendments Nos. 194 and 195 would ensure that the Office of the Public Guardian and the DWP were alerted when someone is subsequently barred by the barring board. Otherwise, someone with a record of abuse could continue to abuse as an appointee, deputy or attorney, and that surely cannot be right. Will the barring board see it as part of its duty to alert other organisations when it becomes aware that those people are also appointees and attorneys? Amendment No. 196 would ensure that those officials of the Office of the Public Guardian and the Court of Protection who visit people in private—again, I am talking about people who lack capacity and are most vulnerable—are also subject to checks.

There are clearly a number of areas where the Government are extending the measure. They have listened to representations. Further categories of persons will have direct access to vulnerable people who lack the capacity to make decisions for themselves. Those vulnerable people should be afforded the same protection as those who are in a chat room on the internet. That is why I hope that the Minister will give us a positive response.

We agree with the intention behind amendment No 192. We do not think that someone who is barred should be able to act as a deputy, have lasting or enduring power of attorney, or look after someone’s benefit. The hon. Gentleman has raised an important point in a very fair manner. We do not think it should be possible even for a family member or friend to act in that way, but that is dealt with in clause 43.

If, once the Bill was law, a person who previously was not barred but would now be barred had power of attorney, would that person be obliged to stand down? If he or she did not do so, would it constitute an offence?

I promise that I will come to that point, if the hon. Lady is patient. Later we will discuss an amendment that would remove the explicit provision from the Bill and allow a power to make regulations in that regard, as there may be other circumstances that require such clarity. I can reassure the House that we will use the regulations to ensure that a barred person cannot act as a deputy or an attorney, or receive someone’s benefits.

I am grateful for the Minister’s reassurance on amendment No. 192. He mentioned clause 43, entitled “Family and personal relationships”. Not all appointeeships, deputyships or attorneyships will be personal or family relationships. Can the Minister assure us that they will also be covered when they extend beyond the family?

I shall describe a new role for the Office of the Public Guardian in a moment.

Let me make clear in relation to amendment No. 193 that the Office of the Public Guardian and the Department for Work and Pensions will not automatically make checks on deputies or attorneys appointed under the Mental Capacity Act, or people looking after others’ benefits. Many of those who act in that capacity—although not all, as the hon. Gentleman says—are family members and close friends. In their case, compulsory checks are unnecessary and could be seen as intrusive. Making such checks compulsory has the potential to raise costs to all applicants massively without adding value. We have, however, allowed direct-payment recipients to choose whether to check those whom they choose to act for them. Similarly, we must respect the choice of those who are planning for the future by making a lasting or enduring power of attorney.

Both the DWP and the Office of the Public Guardian will need to establish guidelines for their staff in relation to when it would be appropriate to make a check. It is likely that the guidelines will suggest that checks be made when concerns have been raised about a deputy attorney or appointee, but we will give the Office of the Public Guardian power to make those checks.

Amendments Nos. 194 and 195 seek to add the Office of the Public Guardian and the DWP to the list of bodies that maintain registers of professionals, such as the General Teaching Council. They are professional regulatory bodies, and we do not think that clause 35 is suitable for amendment of this kind. However, an amendment that I shall discuss later would allow the Office of the Public Guardian to become a supervisory authority for the purposes of the Bill. That means that it would be able to check any person acting or wishing to act under an enduring or lasting power of attorney, or as a deputy, to find out whether that person is barred. It would also be required to refer individuals to the independent barring board when abuse occurs. The hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole (Annette Brooke) asked about that specifically.

I can also reassure Members that when the appointment of a DWP appointee is revoked for reasons of abuse, a referral to the scheme will be made. It will be set out in the DWP’s guidance to appointees. It will also be made clear to the appointee at the time of appointment. Where the Department for Work and Pensions has made a check on someone who is appointed to receive benefit on another’s behalf, it will be informed if that person’s scheme status changes. In addition, it will be made clear to those who seek to register as a DWP appointee that they will be committing an offence if they act as an appointee when barred.

Amendment No. 106 deals with where someone is working closely and on a regular basis with vulnerable adults and undertaking regulated activity. Court of Protection visitors do not undertake that sort of role in respect of individuals and do not have an ongoing relationship with the individuals that they visit. Their primary role is to carry out visits, collect information and produce reports to the Court of Protection or the public guardian to take such action as they require.

Amendments Nos. 258, 259 and 260 amend clause 10 so that an offence is committed where regulated activity providers or personnel suppliers “suspect” that an individual is not subject to monitoring rather than have “reason to believe” that that is the case. A regulated activity provider or personnel supplier would know whether someone is monitored if they have made a check. If they do not do so, they will commit an offence under clause 11. The check will also allow the regulated activity provider to register to be notified by the IBB if the individual stops being subject to monitoring.

The offence in clause 10 is designed to criminalise an employer who has made a check but goes on to employ someone, even though the check showed that the individual was subject to monitoring. In those cases, the employer would know that the individual was not subject to monitoring and it is those people—not people across the board—that we are aiming to criminalise. The provision also criminalises an employer who learns from a source such as the police or a regulatory body that the individual was not subject to monitoring. In those cases, the regulated activity provider would have reason to believe that the person was not subject to monitoring, but he would not know it. To change the wording from “reason to believe” to “suspect” would not significantly change the circumstances in which the offence was committed. If anything, it would widen the circumstances. An employer who was unsure could simply do an online check.

Amendment No. 242 is designed to ensure that those working for location-based services are covered by regulated activity. The mobile phone network operators and location service providers have acted to put in place a code of practice, covering passive location services, using mobile phone technology. As I pointed out in Committee, it is a new sector and we would need to consult on and assess the risk presented by individuals working in those services before looking to amend the definition of regulated activity.

Would my hon. Friend accept that even those involved in drawing up the voluntary code do not believe that it satisfactorily meets either the full range of technologies or the specific technology to which it was applied? They are among the strongest forces calling for licensing and regulation.

I appreciate that, but the Bill is not the proper vehicle for licensing in that way. I acknowledge the points that my hon. Friend has made—she did so in Committee, too—and it may well be possible to keep under review the issue of what counts or does not count as regulated activity. We have to be watchful and mindful about all areas of emerging technologies and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for bringing the matter to our attention. I can assure her that we will keep it under review.

The Bill provides the power to amend the definition of regulated activity by order so that new categories of work can be added, providing the flexibility to respond to new types of services and new ways of working with children. We will use the power where it is appropriate. I should also respond to questions about the regulations on regulated activity. I can confirm that the affirmative process would be used to ensure that a wider debate took place in this House.

I wish to clarify what the Minister has just said. Is it the case that amendments on the scope of regulated activity would be introduced only if they were related to developments in technology that might occur in the future?

No, I do not wish to define today what we may set down as regulated activities tomorrow. To relate that only to new technology would unfairly fetter the Bill and prevent us from adding other aspects to the regulated activities. Our stakeholders may come to us, for example, with a request to add to the regulated activities, so it would be overly prescriptive to limit any change to new technology.

On the hon. Lady’s points about stakeholders and stakeholder agreement, we have worked hard on the Bill over the summer, and I am pleased to say that we today received a letter from Mary Marsh of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, who said that she wished to express her belief that the new vetting and barring scheme will increase the confidence of children and parents, secure in the knowledge that the adults working with children are known not to present a risk. She also welcomes the amendments and changes that we have been working on over the summer, as do other stakeholders with whom we have been working.

I am also happy to join the hon. Lady in praising the work of Baroness Buscombe on the Bill, especially on the changes with regard to prison officers and the like. As I have already said, changes to regulated activities will be set out in regulations subject to the affirmative procedure. The hon. Lady also asked about frequency, and we are scheduled to have a detailed debate on that point later today. I am sure that we will reach those amendments, so I will respond to her questions then.

Given that it is highly improbable that we will reach those amendments because of the mountain of amendments we have to deal with, and the level of interest in the House, it would be helpful if the Minister could clarify the use of the term “frequency” or “frequently”. That does fall within this group of amendments and those who read the report of the debate would benefit from understanding the Government’s intention, especially if the term will be defined as having a particular meaning.

If you, Madam Deputy Speaker, do not mind me straying on to that ground to answer the hon. Lady’s point, I am happy to say that it is our intention that “frequently” should take its normal meaning. However, we have specified a period condition, which is any work that takes place for more than two days, or overnight, in a 30-day period. That will be specified in the Bill, but the term “frequently” will take its normal meaning.

I hope that hon. Members will accept the Government’s new clauses and amendments.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time and added to the Bill.

New Clause 2

Monitoring: fees

‘(1) This section has effect in respect of fees which may be prescribed in relation to applications for monitoring under section 21.

(2) In setting a fee for an application made during the period of five years beginning with the commencement of that section, the Secretary of State may take account of expenditure incurred, or which he thinks will be incurred, by him before the end of that period (taking one financial year with another)—

(a) in connection with the operation of IBB (including payments under paragraph 10A of Schedule 1);

(b) in respect of any other expenditure of the Secretary of State in connection with his functions under this Act.

(3) In setting a fee for an application made after that period, the Secretary of State may take account of expenditure incurred, or which he thinks will be incurred, by him—

(a) in making payments under paragraph 10A of Schedule 1;

(b) in respect of any other expenditure of the Secretary of State in connection with his functions under this Act.

(4) For the purposes of subsection (2), it is immaterial that any expenditure is incurred before the commencement of section 21.

(5) The power to prescribe fees is exercisable only with the consent of the Treasury.

(6) Fees received by the Secretary of State by virtue of section 21(1)(d) must be paid into the Consolidated Fund.’.—[Mr. Dhanda.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government amendments Nos. 68, 19 and 109 to 111.

Government new schedule 1—Transfers to IBB—

Amendment No. 6, in schedule 1, page 36, line 28, leave out sub-sub paragraph (c).

The new clause and amendments Nos. 68 and 109 are designed to provide flexibility for the Secretary of State in setting the vetting and barring scheme fee, and to give the Secretary of State a power to fund the independent barring board directly. Clause 21 currently allows the Secretary of State to set and receive a fee from applicants for monitoring. We want to make it clear that we want to set a fee that will enable the scheme to break even over the first five years of operation, and the new clause achieves that.

Amendment No. 68 clarifies the Secretary of State’s power to waive the fee for those who undertake regulated activity on a voluntary basis. We made that commitment on Second Reading and again in Committee, and I am happy to make it explicit today. Volunteers currently receive Criminal Records Bureau checks free of charge and we shall continue that approach.

Amendment No. 109 puts in place a mechanism for funding the IBB. The monitoring fee will be payable to the Secretary of State, not direct to the board. The IBB will be a free-standing statutory body, so we need to provide a power for the Secretary of State to pass funding on to it.

Amendments Nos. 110 and 111 ensure that arrangements for presenting IBB accounts to Parliament are in line with current practice. Amendment No. 19 and new schedule 1 make provision in relation to staff and property transfer schemes. Their purpose is to enable staff who work in the Department on the Protection of Children Act 1999, protection of vulnerable adults and list 99 barring schemes, as well as property deployed for the purposes of the current schemes, to be transferred to the IBB. It is usual to include such a provision in the Bill where staff and property transfers are envisaged. This set of provisions will ensure that the expertise of those operating the POCA, POVA and list 99 barring schemes may be transferred to the new vetting and barring scheme where appropriate. They will also ensure that property, like the IT system, may also be transferred. The detail of such schemes will be developed as part of the process of planning the implementation of the new scheme.

I commend the provisions to the House.

I thank the Minister for his explanation of these important provisions, especially new clause 2, but this is yet another example of the Government tabling amendments in the last few days. Funding the IBB is at the heart of making the Bill work, so when the Minister responds to the debate I should like him to explain why we have had to wait until this late stage for the Government’s proposals. It is important that Members scrutinising the Bill have all the facts at their disposal, because the measure will affect important groups of people. When important elements such as these provisions are not included when the Bill is introduced it makes our job difficult, especially as it is entirely unclear why they were tabled at this late date.

Putting that to one side, new clause 2 covers provisions which, as the Minister said, govern the fees applicable to monitoring under clause 21. Amendment No. 109 allows the Secretary of State to make payments to the IBB and amendment No. 68 tidies up some of the wording in relation to that power.

We are pleased that there is an implication in the new clause that fees will be capped for five years. We welcome that and I hope that the Minister will remember the comments made by my hon. Friends earlier in the debate about the need not just for capping but also for efficiencies. There will be a significant cost, which employers and other organisations will have to cover.

Does my hon. Friend agree that, although capping is welcome to prevent fees rising exorbitantly, the Minister should give an undertaking that the fees will be reviewed regularly after the initial five years, so that people will know how quickly fees are rising, if they rise, or, we hope, decreasing? Given that some fee structures seem to have risen remarkably quickly, people would welcome a regular review, perhaps annually or more often, if that is appropriate.

I thank my hon. Friend for her contribution. As the Minister is aware, the IBB will lay an annual report before the Department and the Secretary of State may specify what the report should cover. Perhaps the Minister will tell us whether a review of fees will be included in the report.

Costs are a matter of great concern. It is a shame that we could not debate the matter more fully in Committee. New clause 2 implies that fees can be used to recoup payments made to the IBB under amendment No. 109 or

“in respect of any other expenditure of the Secretary of State in connection with his functions under this Act.”

Under the Bill, the functions of the Secretary of State are extensive. There will be three significant cost areas. First, the Criminal Records Bureau may be used to provide information on the status of individuals who are monitored. Secondly, the IBB will eventually rely on the introduction of IMPACT, the police monitoring database, which is already £200 million over budget and several years late. Thirdly, in addition to the costs of the Department, there will be the cost of running the IBB. The Bill provides for the Secretary of State potentially to recoup all those costs from the fees that are charged. Will the Minister provide more detail? I am sure a number of organisations will view the provision with concern.

At present, development costs associated with, say, the Criminal Records Bureau are not set against the costs levied from individuals applying for a criminal record check. Are we to infer that the process is being changed and that in future we can expect all development costs to be levied from the charge imposed on applicants? That could have considerable implications for organisations that must apply for checks in order to continue to operate.

In Committee, the Minister said that it was his intention that the numbers monitored by the Bill should be expanded in future. He made it clear in reply to my intervention a few moments ago that that would not necessarily be only as a result of changes in technology, but that it could happen for other reasons. Can he reassure the House that the number of people being monitored will not increase purely to increase the revenue stream available to the Secretary of State to offset some of the rather high cost of implementing such an extensive Bill?

In answer to a parliamentary question, we learned that the average unit processing cost for the CRB was £26.10 in 2005-06. As we heard today, the cost of an advance disclosure is £34, which is due to rise to £36. There is quite a significant gap between those two figures. The House will be interested to know that the majority of requests made to the CRB are for advance disclosure checks at the higher cost of £34, soon to be £36.

The Minister said that the programme needed to pay for itself, but it is clear that it is currently more than paying for itself: a surplus is being generated as a result of the charging levels. What is that money is being used for? Does he intend to continue with that higher level of charge and, if so, will he give us a rough idea of what the unit costs will be for the new vetting and monitoring processes, and what the actual cost will be? Given the burdens that this will place on many employers, that will be of great interest.

In respect of voluntary and charitable organisations, I would appreciate it if the Minister could give us further assurances that there will continue to be no charges for checks on volunteers. I am sure that he will be able to do that, but it is still worth stressing that point.

Amendment No. 6 addresses the IBB’s ability to borrow money. As we covered that in Committee, I am pleased that it was decided that we could revisit it on Report. The amendment has been tabled only in the spirit of ensuring that there is transparency and sound financial management within the IBB. Although we have received assurances from the Minister that the provision that the amendment addresses is a standard provision that will be used rarely, it gives the IBB extensive powers, which the House should be aware of.

I would also like some clarification on the position of the Treasury in respect of this provision. From reading the reports on this area, it is my understanding that the Treasury will need to know that this provision will be used before it is agreed that it can be included in the Bill. Although the Minister assured us in Committee that it will be used rarely, some discussions must have gone on with the Treasury to reassure it that it is a required provision, and I ask him to share those discussions with us.

This is an important group of amendments, and I only wish that we could have had them before us in Committee, so that we could have explored them further at that stage.

Amendment No. 6 would remove the IBB’s power to borrow money in connection with the exercise of any of its functions. As the hon. Lady said, we debated it in Committee, and as I explained then—and confirmed in a letter that I circulated to all Committee members—the power to borrow is a normal one for any independent body to have, but it is not common for that power to be used. The kinds of rare circumstances in which a non-departmental public body might need to borrow money include where the normal funding mechanism failed for some reason—such as an administrative error or industrial action. In such circumstances, the body might need to obtain a temporary bank overdraft to meet a short-term financial requirement such as staff pay. If we fail to provide the IBB with the power to borrow, we will put it at unnecessary risk of an occasion arising when it cannot meet its financial obligations. That is why this power is included in the Bill.

The main purposes of the Government amendments in respect of funding are to clarify and qualify the flexibility in fee setting and the mechanism for funding the IBB. The Bill as published contains only a power to prescribe the fee; the amendments place more detail in its provisions. For example, they set out the period of time that the Secretary of State needs to take into account in setting the fee, and they make it clear that a zero fee may be prescribed. I am happy to make it clear again that we intend to ensure that volunteers do not have to pay the fee throughout the funding model of the first five years. I hope that the House will welcome that additional detail that clarifies and qualifies the funding arrangements.

To answer the hon. Lady’s question about regular reviews, it is the intention to have an annual review of that fee, as it is in respect of the CRB fee. We were quite clear about our intentions for funding the scheme when responding to questions raised in previous debates. We have realised that the Bill’s provisions could be clarified. For example, we repeatedly stated that the fee for volunteers will be waived, and we are now making the ability to do so explicit. I am sure that that clarification is welcomed.

Is the Minister completely satisfied that it is clear what the funding is intended to pay for? For example, is it intended to pay for updating all the computer systems and for any programming required in the regular progress updates that are so important if employers are to make checks? Given the big overruns in computer costs that have occurred, is he satisfied that the fee levied will be enough to cover the entire programme, including staffing costs?

It is for the entire funding of the IBB and its processes, which includes its computers. It is important to remember that this is about not just the costs incurred but the extra powers and securities that the Bill will give to vulnerable groups. It will also help employees by ensuring portability—they will pay a fee to get on to the scheme and will not have to pay another—and there is the added benefit of online checks. The vetting and barring scheme fee will be paid once when a person enters the scheme; there will be no new VBS fee when they change jobs. The new employer will be able to use the online check to confirm the person’s status in the scheme. As with the CRB disclosure fee, the VBS fee will be the individual applicant’s responsibility, but it will be open to the employer to pay the fee.

We want the IBB to have the borrowing power that I mentioned, but we hope that it will not need to be used. That is not a contradiction; rather, it is the prudent way forward. If Government funding arrangements failed, the IBB would still be able to meet its obligations. We do not expect it to borrow from the private sector or to generate any working capital. The power to borrow will not be used to allow it to run at a deficit. It will need to balance its costs and income each year; it will not exist to make a profit.

As the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs. Miller) rightly pointed out, in terms of the funding model, we need to look at the numbers in the scheme. In the first three years, more money is likely to be coming in as people register, but the costs in years four and five are likely to offset that. As fewer people come into the scheme and we get closer to the figure of 7 million people, the costs are likely to be put toward the process of continual monitoring. But as I said, work has been done to ensure that the funding model is secure for the full five years.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 3

Provision of vetting information

‘(1) The Secretary of State must provide a person (A) with the information mentioned in subsection (4) in relation to another (B) if—

(a) A makes an application for the information,

(b) the application contains the appropriate declaration, and

(c) the Secretary of State has no reason to believe that the declaration is false.

(2) The appropriate declaration is a declaration by A—

(a) that he falls within column 1 of a specified entry, and

(b) that B has consented to the provision of the information to A.

(3) In this section references to a specified entry are to an entry in the table in Schedule 4 specified by A in his declaration.

(4) The information is—

(a) if column 2 of the specified entry refers to children, relevant information relating to children, and

(b) if column 2 of the specified entry refers to vulnerable adults, relevant information relating to vulnerable adults.

(5) Paragraph (b) of subsection (2) does not apply if the specified entry is 17.

(6) If B consents to the provision of information to A in relation to an application under this section, the consent also has effect in relation to any subsequent such application by A.

(7) The Secretary of State may prescribe the form, manner and contents of an application for the purposes of this section (including the form and manner of a declaration contained in such an application).

(8) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision requiring a local authority which makes or proposes to make payments to or on behalf of a person in accordance with regulations under section 17A of the Children Act 1989 (c. 41) or section 57 of the Health and Social Care Act 2001 (c. 15) to inform the person of his right to obtain relevant information under this section.’.—[Mr. Dhanda.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: Government new clause 4—Meaning of relevant information in section (provision of vetting information).

Government new clause 5—Notification of cessation of monitoring.

Government new clause 6—Cessation of registration.

Government new clause 7—Declarations under sections (provision of vetting information) and (notification of cessation of monitoring).

Government new clause 8—Registers: power to apply for vetting information.

Government new clause 9—Supervisory authorities: power to apply for vetting information.

Government new clause 10—Supervisory authorities: notification of barring &c. in respect of children.

Government new clause 11—Supervisory authorities: notification of barring &c. in respect of vulnerable adults.

Government new clause 12—Prohibition of requirement to produce certain records.

Government new clause 13—Referrals: findings of fact immaterial.

Amendment No. 198, in clause 21, page 15, line 5, at end insert—

‘(c) specific enquiries are made to provide further relevant information on individuals who have resided outside the UK or who are usually resident outside the UK.’.

Government amendments Nos. 69, 70 and 72.

Amendment No. 200, page 15, line 39, at end add—

‘(13) The Secretary of State must ensure that—

(a) employers, voluntary organisations and employees are made aware of their rights and responsibilities under the terms of the Act,

(b) communication is undertaken to ensure that all parties are aware of which positions require monitoring,

(c) employers make potential employees aware of the monitoring status of each position as part of the recruitment process,

(d) any variations to the positions that are covered by monitoring are sufficiently communicated to employers, voluntary organisations, current and potential employees.’.

Government amendment No. 73.

Amendment No. 250, in clause 23, page 16, line 28, at end insert—

‘(5A) The Independent Monitor will review on an annual basis the quality of information provided by the IBB from regulated activity providers and any person who holds the records of convictions or cautions for the use of police forces.’.

Government amendments Nos. 74, 75, 77, 78, 235 and 83.

Amendment No. 197, in clause 35, page 25, line 12, at end add—

‘(10) The Secretary of State must make information on the dates that a monitored individual has been resident in the UK available to an individual requesting information on monitored status.’.

Government amendments Nos. 85 to 91, 95 and 96.

Amendment No. 5, in schedule 1, page 35, line 36, at end insert—

‘(d) establishing and maintaining a list of those who have applied to be monitored;

(e) monitoring the quality of prescribed information supplied to the IBB from regulated activity providers and any persons who hold records of convictions or cautions for the use of police forces;

(f) putting in place and regularly monitoring systems that maximise the accuracy of the monitored list and the barred list;

(g) establishing and maintaining a secure online system for access to barred lists for employers.’.

Amendment No. 3, in page 35, line 36, at end insert—

‘(8A) IBB shall implement a comprehensive and ongoing communications programme to ensure that all groups affected by the vetting and barring scheme are informed of their rights and responsibilities under the law.’.

Amendment No. 4, in page 35, line 41, at end insert—

‘(3) The report shall contain information on the quality of information provided to the IBB from regulated activity providers and any person who holds the records of convictions or cautions for the use of police forces.’.

Government amendments Nos. 130, 240, 171, 172, 241 and 174 to 177.

Amendment No. 203, in schedule 4, page 54, line 13, at end add—

‘(10) The Secretary of State will report in a statement to Parliament any breaches of security relating to information held on or related to the registers or available on-line.’.

Government amendments Nos. 182 to 184.

The amendments and new clauses relate to various aspects of information flows within the scheme.

New clauses 3 and 4 and amendments Nos. 69, 70, 74, 171, 172, 174 to 177, 182, 240 and 241 deliver the changes to the online check that I announced in Committee on 13 June. As I explained then, we want to ensure that the scheme is easy for employers to use so that it effectively supports them in their recruitment decisions, and making the information that they need available quickly and easily online is a key part of that.

Employers are required to ensure that all individuals engaged in regulated activity are “subject to monitoring”. That means that the individual has applied to the scheme, that they are not barred and that the Secretary of State is undertaking regular checks of key information sources to identify new information about the individual, which will deliver the continuous updating mechanism recommended by Sir Michael Bichard. For that reason, we propose that the online check should show whether an individual is “subject to monitoring”. As the Bill sets out, those who are barred cannot be subject to monitoring, and employers in regulated activities can use only people who are subject to monitoring. Showing whether an individual is subject to monitoring will therefore effectively ensure that employers do not recruit barred individuals.

As the Bill stands, the online check would show that an individual is barred or being considered for barring. That is sensitive information and making it available online would require security measures, which would make the check slower and more cumbersome for employers to access and use. As I explained in Committee, those changes will make it easier for employers to get the information that they need when recruiting staff.

New clauses 3 and 4 move the provisions on how a check is made from schedule 4 into two new clauses, one of which provides for the mechanics of the check and one of which provides for the information that is released. Schedule 4 will contain only the table of those who can make checks.

New clauses 5 and 6 and amendment No. 75 make similar changes to the notification system. They place more detail about the system in the Bill and change the information that is released. Employers who have registered an interest in an individual will be told that that individual has ceased to be subject to monitoring and so cannot be engaged in regulated activity.

Given that there may be a time lag, if an employer makes an inquiry and there is no information on the person in question, will that inquiry be logged, which would allow information received after the inquiry was made to be sent to the employer?

That question raises a couple of issues. First, the hon. Lady has made the good point that we must ensure that the time lag between someone’s status changing and an employer being informed that that person is no longer subject to monitoring is as short as possible. Secondly, when new employees—for example, a teacher—enter the work force, it takes a few weeks for the enhanced disclosure to come through. However, schools will be able to use the instant online check while they are waiting for the full enhanced disclosure, which will allow them to determine that individuals are not barred owing to their being subject to monitoring on the online list.

New clauses 8 to 11 and amendments Nos. 88 to 91 provide for supervisory authorities and professional regulatory bodies to receive more information, including confirmation that the individual is barred. They also consolidate the way that supervisory authorities are defined. Those bodies require that information to help them to carry out their inspection and regulatory functions. The security issues are minimised because only a small number of known bodies need this information. The provisions for supervisory authorities and professional regulatory bodies have therefore been covered separately in the new clauses inserted by the amendments.

New clauses 7 and 12 create new information offences. The first of those criminalises anyone making a false declaration to access individuals’ information illegitimately. The second criminalises employers who, with no right to do so, force individuals to provide the information about their criminal records history that they receive when they apply to be monitored.

Amendment No. 181 adds data held by the IBB and the Secretary of State in connection with his functions under the Bill to section 56 of the Data Protection Act 1998. It thereby criminalises employers who force individuals to make subject access requests for data under the 1998 Act as a condition of employment.

Amendment No. 73 expands the role of the independent monitor to include reviewing all decisions to withhold police information from an individual under clause 21 and reviewing a sample of the information that is provided to the vetting and barring scheme by the police. The independent monitor’s role, as set out in clause 23, covers only police information in connection with Criminal Records Bureau criminal records disclosures. The amendment adds police information in connection with applications for monitoring. That change responds to some of the points raised in the report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

New clause 13 and amendments Nos. 77 and 78 make it clear that a finding of fact such as in court proceedings or in an employment tribunal is not necessary for the purpose of any referrals to the IBB. That is because there may be no such proceedings in all the cases where we wish there to be a referral to the IBB. In the Bill as drafted, that was made clear in some of the referral provisions, but not all of them. The amendments remove any doubt.

The amendments provide for more streamlined flows of information within the scheme and so improve its operation. I therefore ask hon. Members to accept them.

I welcome several of the new clauses and amendments, which, again, give us the mechanics of how the Bill will work. The lack of those details when we discussed the Bill on Second Reading and in Committee made it difficult to be sure that we had got to grips with the Government’s intentions. While we welcome their inclusion at this stage, many Conservative Members wish that they had come a little earlier in the process.

I should like to focus my comments on our amendments Nos. 197, 198, 250, 3, 4 and 5, which address three key aspects that may not have been at the forefront of the Minister’s attention owing to his preoccupation with putting some of the detail into the Bill—the quality of the data that the IBB will use, the communication of the implications for employers, and the important issue of overseas workers.

I thank the Liberal Democrat Members who joined forces with us to support our amendment No. 3, which would establish as a core function of the independent barring board the need to implement a comprehensive communications programme. We examined that matter in detail in Committee. The Bill will affect some 10 million people, and, although we made some progress on the issue in Committee, we seem to have made no progress on getting the Government to address it thereafter.

As a result of amendments passed in another place, the IBB will have to notify by recorded letter individuals who have been barred. A Government amendment that we shall consider today will place a duty on a court to inform people that they have been barred as a result of a court decision. Those are examples of good communication of information. Also, the Minister has made it clear that local authorities should inform those receiving direct payments of the existence of the monitoring scheme, so that they can make use of it if required. That, too, is an example of good communication taking place. However, nowhere in the Bill is there a requirement to ensure adequate communication to employers and employees on these important matters.

Amendment No. 3 would place a duty on the IBB to implement a comprehensive communication plan. Given that the Bill makes it a criminal act to apply for a job while barred, if that job is monitored—as a large number will be—we believe that it will be imperative to communicate the implications of the Bill to all those involved. That should be provided for in the Bill. When we raised this matter in Committee, the Minister said that those communications would be made when the individual was barred. However, he has made it clear again today that he fully intends to increase the number of people and jobs being monitored. That will create a fluid situation that will change over time. Surely he must therefore understand the importance of adopting our amendment.

On the matter of the quality of the data that the IBB will be using to reach its decisions, I was surprised that the Government had not decided to take on board the comments that we made in Committee, because they have taken on board many others. The Minister acknowledged that it was an important issue, and we had a lengthy debate on the problems that have been experienced in this area by the Criminal Records Bureau. He rightly pointed out that only a relatively small number of people—in percentage terms—have experienced problems gaining employment as a result of the CRB putting out incorrect information. In absolute terms, however, thousands of people are affected by the problem, and I am sure that the Minister is aware that there are continuing concerns about the quality of the data being received by the CRB, not least because of the problems that police authorities are having in sharing on a broader basis the information that they hold.

To include in the Bill a fundamental role for the IBB to have regard to the quality of the data that it receives would safeguard not only employers and employees but the IBB itself, because its reputation would be undermined if people felt that it was not using data of a sufficiently high quality, or that it did not have the means to improve that data over time.

We examined the issue of overseas workers at length in Committee. I am therefore surprised, as are a number of interest groups, that the Government have made no headway on this matter. In Committee, the Minister acknowledged the importance of this issue, and implied that it would be looked at again on Report. Indeed, he said that more needed to be done in that respect. However, I am not aware that the Government have tabled any amendments or new clauses to deal with the matter.

In Committee, the Minister said that it was reasonable to raise the matter, but that it was perhaps not quite the right place to tackle the issue of foreign offences. In the spirit of being constructive, I went away to see whether we could table an amendment that could appropriately be included in the Bill—rather than something that was more to do with the offences of foreign nationals. In Committee, the Government quite rightly said that they have introduced measures so that those convicted of sex offences can sign the sexual offences register in the UK. Paragraph 20 of schedule 2 states that inclusion on the foreign barred list would lead to automatic barring in the UK. Those are welcome elements of the Bill, but is the Minister certain that he has full, open and unfettered access to all the relevant convictions held globally by individuals so that he can be satisfied that the measures that he has outlined so far are adequate? I am sure that the answer to that has to be no. We should return to that matter today, particularly given the issue of gaining accurate information from Asia and Africa.

The amendments that we have tabled take on board the discussion in Committee. We are trying to find a solution to this problem—I think that the Minister has some sympathy with that—and to find a way in which we can highlight to employers that the data being supplied to them from the monitoring organisation may not give them a full picture of the record of the individual, because that individual has not continually resided in the UK. As I understand it, currently the system makes no reference to where an individual has lived and therefore an employer is not able to assess whether the information covers the entire working career of that person.

The issue is important because, as the Minister knows from our debate in Committee, increasing numbers of people who work in our health service and areas that affect vulnerable adults come from overseas. That is to be welcomed because those people add greatly to the human resources that we have available in the sector, but we should not ignore the problems that that creates in terms of monitoring their history, in the same way as we monitor the history of people who are resident in the UK and have been throughout their career. I hope that the Minister will consider amendment No. 198, which increases the duties of the Secretary of State in respect of getting information about non-resident individuals.

Importantly, amendment No. 197 makes disclosure of residency in the UK part of the monitoring process. As I am sure that the Minister is aware, we have a group of people working in our medical profession who do not reside in the UK, although they deliver services here. They are an important group who often offer GP or doctor services over weekend periods, when we might not be able to get adequate cover from people who reside in the UK. That opens up another problem. How do we make sure that our monitoring practices are working in the way that they are intended to work? I hope that the Minister is able to listen more to those points now that some of the basic issues in the Bill have been resolved. Perhaps he could think about how we can address that issue as we move forward.

I also welcome many of the Government amendments in this group. I want to address amendment No. 3, which it is important to support. Surely we can all agree that this scheme is going to work only if there is excellent communication to inform employers, workers, parents and other people about the new system.

The Bill and all its details are difficult enough for us in the Chamber to grasp. It will be especially difficult for those who have to work with it. I therefore believe that there must be absolute commitment to a good communications system. I envisage, through amendment No. 3, a communications strategy from the IBB, which will be implemented at various local levels. I hope that the Under-Secretary will confirm that he envisages local groups, organisations and local authorities participating in disseminating the information.

Has the Under-Secretary considered a kite-marking scheme, which would integrate the requirements of the law and best practice in communication with some of the other processes that must accompany the Bill? The vetting and barring scheme is only one tool in keeping children and vulnerable adults safe. There needs to be a culture of vigilance and training for staff, good child protection policies, a good system of checking references and so on. It would be helpful if the Under-Secretary considered a kite-marking scheme for all the different organisations that might be involved in communication and implementing best practice on all the important matters that will make the measure work and achieve what we want when we look back at the sequence of events, which was greatly informed by the Bichard inquiry.

Focusing on necessary aspects such as communication and the culture of vigilance will be additional to including some protection for overseas workers. If there are strong processes and everyone is looking out to ensure that employees have the training that they claim and references have been adequately checked, that would provide more comfort about the overseas workers’ position. I share the concerns of the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs. Miller) but appreciate that it is difficult to devise concrete proposals. We would all therefore like the Under-Secretary to deal with the position of overseas workers. There is no quick fix, but genuine rewards, such as a kite-marking scheme, for implementing the processes on the ground would be useful.

The hon. Member for Basingstoke mentioned the quality of data throughout our debates. She has been persistent on that important point and I hope that the Under-Secretary will address that issue.

I want to ask a question that the hon. Gentleman did not answer earlier. How can we communicate with private foster carers when we do not know who they are because there is no compulsory registration scheme? I would be grateful for an answer.

Amendment No. 198 would require the Secretary of State to ensure that further inquiries were made about individuals who live or have lived outside the UK while they are subject to continuous monitoring. Such inquiries could involve contacting the local police force in the area where the individual resided abroad or checking a foreign barred list, if it existed. It is not clear how the Secretary of State would carry out those inquiries. Employers can already request individuals to produce a certificate of good conduct from their local police force overseas. That will continue. Recruiting responsibly is part of an employer’s obligation and the new scheme does not replace that.

Amendment No. 197 would amend clause 35, which ensures that the Secretary of State will notify the keeper of a specified register when an individual becomes barred or ceases to be monitored. The amendment would require the Secretary of State to inform an individual—it is not clear whom—of the dates that a monitored person had been resident in the UK. Perhaps the intention is that the information would go to employers. If so, that would not be the effect of that amendment.

Whatever the intended destination, the amendment would require the Secretary of State to gather information about an individual’s residence abroad throughout their life. That would extend the scope of the scheme in a way that is neither practical nor desirable. A lot has been said—in Committee and, indeed, this evening—about the number of people that we need to have information on to make the scheme work. I wonder whether stakeholders, or the public, would be willing to take that on. I would have reservations about such a scheme.

I would like to set out the measures that the Government have already put in place to deal with those who have committed sexual offences abroad, whether UK citizens or foreign nationals, and who come to the UK. The notification order was introduced by the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and is designed to ensure that those convicted of sex offences overseas are made subject to the notification requirements of the sex offenders register in the UK.

Sexual offences prevention orders can also be made in relation to offenders convicted of sexual or violent offences overseas who pose a risk of causing serious sexual harm in the UK. More than 900 sexual offences prevention orders were granted in 2005-06. Breach of either order is a criminal offence.

The Criminal Records Bureau is developing relations and information sharing with other countries on a bilateral basis. However, the UK is well ahead of most countries in this area and some overseas information is simply not available. I understand the point that the hon. Member for Basingstoke is making when she says that we need more and better information, not least from abroad. I also know that serious work is being done with Canada, Australia and New Zealand, but in many respects we are at the mercy of the quality of information that exists abroad. We need to be able to tap into that.

I thank the Minister for furthering the debate on the issue. He says that he feels uncomfortable with the amendments that have been tabled, but does not give a reason for that. He might want to elucidate.

The Minister might feel uncomfortable about this issue, but it is causing concern not just among those on the Conservative Benches—I received a detailed briefing on it from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Although he is clearly unable to take the points that we are making fully on board, perhaps he will undertake to meet with the NSPCC to discuss them in more detail. It is making clear the fact that it also has an issue about the matter. Perhaps we have not yet come up with the right solution, but it needs to be addressed.

I am always interested in meeting with the NSPCC and am happy to do so, but my concern is the idea of a database logging the time that British subjects spend working or living abroad and having such a record of their lives, which is effectively what the amendment proposes. That is specifically where my concern lies, but I am happy to meet the NSPCC or anybody else who wants to push such changes to the legislation.

In relation to school staff, Department for Education and Skills guidance is being revised and will be underpinned by regulations requiring a mandatory CRB check for all staff, including those who have lived overseas. In addition, overseas staff should not start work until all relevant checks have been completed, including overseas checks. Hence, I ask hon. Members to consider not pressing their amendments.

The hon. Member for Basingstoke mentioned communication, as did the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole (Annette Brooke). We had a good debate on amendment No. 3 in Committee, and we now also have amendment No. 200, which places duties in respect of communications on the Secretary of State. As the hon. Lady says, I reiterated in Committee that I was wholly in agreement, as I was on Second Reading, on the need for a widespread and ongoing communications campaign. I appreciate the concerns that stakeholders must understand their rights and responsibilities, that the coverage of the scheme needs to be well known, that inadvertent criminal behaviour must be averted, and that a coherent, co-ordinated communications strategy is needed. We need a scheme that works, and in which people have total confidence. We are committed to instigating a thorough and ongoing communications campaign to create awareness, develop understanding and help employers and employees to prepare for their new responsibilities and rights. The IBB—when it is set up—and the Secretary of State will play distinct and co-ordinated roles in that campaign. I assure hon. Members that stakeholders will also have a big role to play.

The hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole specifically mentioned a kite-mark, which was also an issue raised by the NSPCC, and I would be happy to have a dialogue with both the hon. Lady and the NSPCC about that.

Can the Minister explain to the House again what he means by his statement that inadvertent criminal behaviour must be averted?

Let me give the hon. Lady a specific example. Where an employer has done the necessary checks on an employee, but not regularly enough to meet the period condition under the guidance, it is important that such employers, who have done their bit to try to ensure that people are monitored and subject to monitoring, and who, inadvertently, have not obeyed the guidelines, are not criminalised for that. Across the board, we must ensure that people are aware of the law of the land and in what circumstances people are and are not subject to monitoring, which will require a great deal of communication.

I think that I am now in deeper trouble than before I asked the question, as the Minister seemed to imply that if the employer had done his bit but somehow got it wrong, we did not want to criminalise him inadvertently but to avert that. That seems so subjective that I struggle to see how on earth the provision could be made enforceable. Someone could just say, “I have done my bit”.

As has been said during the debate, this is a complex piece of legislation. I am the first to admit that. It is important, however, to get across to all employers what is required of them, because that is ultimately for the protection of vulnerable groups. It is pretty obvious that we do not want to criminalise people if they have not broken the law.

With reference to amendment No. 250—[Interruption.] Perhaps the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) does want to criminalise people inadvertently. The independent monitor’s role is to take a view of the provision of information, particularly that withheld from the application in accordance with clause 21(6). That is a specific function in line with the monitor’s role in respect of information provided under part 5 of the Police Act 1997. Oversight of other forms of information such as employer referrals would require different kinds of expertise and focus.

To go back to the Minister’s previous point, we have tabled an amendment to a later clause that would add the word “negligently”. If the provision were clarified by means of that word, would it not solve the problem raised by the hon. Member for St. Albans (Anne Main) about the difficulty of making sure that we criminalise only those people who act inappropriately, and do not attempt to put into criminal law something that ought to be dealt with through an employment decision-making process?

The hon. Lady makes an interesting point. She implies that, contrary to the legal advice that we have received, the measures in the Bill are not appropriate for protecting vulnerable groups. I am surprised that she should come in at this stage of the debate, having missed most of it, and disregard our legal advice, the measures that we are taking and the stakeholder support, and imply that all the people involved are wrong. Perhaps in the course of our debate she might care to tell us how she would do things better herself.

To get back to my point, we expect the independent barring board to engage with its stakeholders to identify and encourage best practice in the making of referrals, and to issue guidance if appropriate. We will set out what information is to be included in the referrals in regulations, so experience of operation of the scheme and of the IBB can be taken into account as we develop those requirements. It is intended that all referral information on which a barring decision is based will be provided to the person under consideration, as is the case at present.

On the operation of the IBB, amendment No. 4 would require the IBB’s annual report to contain information on the quality of the data provided to the IBB by regulated activity providers and any person who holds records of convictions or cautions for the use of police forces. As I said in Committee, it would be odd to require the IBB to report on one specific matter without specifying a lot of other detailed IBB functions that are to be covered in the annual report. The IBB will be free to report on the quality of information, so explicit provisions to that effect are not necessary.

The House might, in future, take a particular interest in one of the IBB’s functions. If so, it is highly likely that the Secretary of State will take an interest, too. The Secretary of State will have the power to direct the IBB to submit a report on any matter at any time. I foresee no difficulty in Ministers responding to any issues that hon. Members might raise. I hope that I have given the necessary assurances, and that hon. Members will not press their amendments.

Amendment No. 5 would add four new functions to the IBB’s core functions. As I said in debate on a similar amendment in Committee, the core functions set out in the Bill are the IBB’s essential decision-making functions relating to barring. The IBB will be an expert body with a tight focus on taking independent, expert decisions, supported by the existing structures of the Criminal Records Bureau. The addition of extra functions would risk diluting the focus of the IBB. The CRB is well placed to undertake functions relating to monitoring and online access for employers. The Bill therefore gives the Secretary of State, in the form of the CRB, those functions. The CRB has access to the police national computer and was set up to handle large volumes of information. It would only confuse matters if we gave the IBB similar functions.

Amendment No. 203 would place an obligation on the Secretary of State to report any breaches of the security of the barred lists or online checks in a statement to Parliament. It would be useful if I explained how the lists and the online checks will be made secure, and how we will avoid the problem, alluded to in Committee, of paedophiles being able to change information held about them online, as happened in America. First, and very importantly, the central barred lists will be securely protected from interference and will not be accessible to anyone outside the IBB and CRB. Information will be taken from those lists by the CRB and supplied to other bodies as appropriate, which means that the lists themselves are protected. We will take all appropriate security measures to ensure the integrity of those lists, and we will ensure that there are no opportunities to interfere with that data.

Will the Minister give the House an assurance that if problems arise with either the online database or any other part of the IT system that is integral to the good operation of the Bill he will be open about them, as such matters are of concern to everyone who has made a contribution to the legislation?

I will do so. As I said earlier, the IBB’s annual report is important to hon. Members and Ministers with a particular interest in the functioning of the board. As a result of the amendments, as I have explained, the online database will show only whether someone is subject to monitoring. The system that holds that information will be separate from the barred lists so that any breach of its security will not lead to a breach of the security of those lists. Annual reports by the Criminal Records Bureau and the IBB will include details of their performance, including information about any breaches. If there is a serious breach of security, the Secretary of State would naturally inform Parliament, so I do not think that an express duty is necessary. I therefore hope that hon. Members will not press their amendments.

As for the specific question of local authority fostering, there is a requirement to notify a local authority of a proposal to foster a child privately. At that point, we would tell the foster carers about the requirements, so I hope that that assists the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole and that she will not press her amendment.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 4

Meaning of relevant information in section (provision of vetting information)

‘(1) This section has effect for the purposes of section (provision of vetting information).

(2) Relevant information relating to children is—

(a) whether B is subject to monitoring in relation to regulated activity relating to children, and

(b) if so, whether he is undergoing assessment.

(3) Relevant information relating to vulnerable adults is—

(a) whether B is subject to monitoring in relation to regulated activity relating to vulnerable adults, and

(b) if so, whether he is undergoing assessment.

(4) B is undergoing assessment if—

(a) the Secretary of State is required to notify B as mentioned in section 21(3A) in connection with B’s monitoring application but has not yet done so;

(b) B has made a simultaneous application under section 113B of the Police Act 1997 but the Secretary of State has not yet issued an enhanced criminal record certificate under that section;

(c) in relation to subsection (2)(b), IBB is considering whether to include B in the children’s barred list in pursuance of paragraph 3 or 5 of Schedule 2;

(d) in relation to subsection (3)(b), IBB is considering whether to include B in the adults’ barred list in pursuance of paragraph 8 or 10 of that Schedule.

(5) In subsection (4)(b) “simultaneous application” means an application made simultaneously with B’s monitoring application under section 21.

(6) The Secretary of State may by order amend the preceding provisions of this section for the purpose of altering the meaning of relevant information relating to children or vulnerable adults (as the case may be).’.—[Mr. Cawsey.]

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 5

Notification of cessation of monitoring

‘(1) The Secretary of State must establish and maintain a register for the purposes of this section.

(2) The Secretary of State must register a person (A) in relation to another (B) if—

(a) A makes an application to be registered in relation to B,

(b) the application contains the appropriate declaration,

(c) the Secretary of State has no reason to believe that the declaration is false, and

(d) B is subject to monitoring in relation to the regulated activity to which the application relates.

(3) The appropriate declaration is a declaration by A—

(a) that he falls within column 1 of a specified entry, and

(b) that B has consented to the application.

(4) In this section references to a specified entry are to an entry in the table in Schedule 4 specified by A in his declaration.

(5) A’s application and registration relate—

(a) if column 2 of the specified entry refers to children, to regulated activity relating to children;

(b) if column 2 of the specified entry refers to vulnerable adults, to regulated activity relating to vulnerable adults.

(6) The Secretary of State must notify A if B ceases to be subject to monitoring in relation to the regulated activity to which A’s registration relates.

(7) The requirement under subsection (6) is satisfied if notification is sent to any address recorded against A’s name in the register.

(8) Paragraph (b) of subsection (3) does not apply if the specified entry is 17.

(9) If B consents to the provision of information to A under section (provision of vetting information) the consent also has effect as consent to any application by A to be registered in relation to B under this section.

(10) The Secretary of State may prescribe the form, manner and contents of an application for the purposes of this section (including the form and manner of a declaration contained in such an application).’.—[Mr. Cawsey.]

Brought up, and read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 6

Cessation of registration

‘(1) In this section references to registration are to registration in the register maintained for the purposes of section (notification of cessation of monitoring).

(2) Once a person is notified as mentioned in subsection (6) of that section, his registration ceases.

(3) The Secretary of State may cancel a person’s registration in such circumstances as are prescribed.

(4) The Secretary of State must cancel a person’s registration—

(a) if the person applies for it to be cancelled;

(b) in prescribed circumstances, if the person in relation to whom he is registered applies for it to be cancelled.

(5) When a person’s registration is cancelled under subsection (3) or (4)(b), the Secretary of State must notify him of that fact.

(6) The requirement under subsection (5) is satisfied if notification is sent to any address recorded against P’s name in the register.’.—[Mr. Cawsey.]

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 7

Declarations under sections (provision of vetting information) and (notification of cessation of monitoring)

‘(1) An individual commits an offence if, in an application made for the purposes of section (provision of vetting information) or (notification of cessation of monitoring)—

(a) he makes a false declaration, and

(b) he either knows that it is false or is reckless as to whether it is false.

(2) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.’.—[Mr. Cawsey.]

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 8

Registers: power to apply for vetting information

‘(1) If the keeper of a relevant register applies to the Secretary of State for information within subsection (2) in relation to a person (B), the Secretary of State must provide the keeper of the register with that information.

(2) The information within this subsection is—

(a) whether B is barred from regulated activity relating to children or vulnerable adults,

(b) whether IBB is considering whether to include B in a barred list in pursuance of paragraph 3 or 5 or 8 or 10 of Schedule 2,

(c) whether B is subject to monitoring in relation to regulated activity relating to children or vulnerable adults,

(d) if B is subject to such monitoring and the Secretary of State is required to notify B as mentioned in section 21(3A), whether the Secretary of State has yet done so, and

(e) if B is subject to such monitoring and has made a simultaneous application under section 113B of the Police Act 1997, whether the Secretary of State has yet issued an enhanced criminal record certificate under that section.

(3) The keeper of a relevant register may apply for information under this section in relation to a person only if—

(a) the person appears in the register, or

(b) the person is being considered for inclusion in the register.

(4) In this section—

(a) a relevant register is a register appearing in column 1 of entry 1 or 8 of the table in section 33(8), and

(b) in relation to a relevant register, the keeper of the register is the corresponding person appearing in column 2 of the table.

(5) In subsection (2)(e) “simultaneous application” means an application made simultaneously with B’s monitoring application under section 21.

(6) The Secretary of State may by order amend this section for the purpose of altering the information within subsection (2).

(7) The Secretary of State may prescribe the form, manner and contents of an application for the purposes of this section.’.—[Mr. Cawsey.]

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 9

Supervisory authorities: power to apply for vetting information

‘(1) If a supervisory authority applies to the Secretary of State for information within subsection (2) or (3) relating to a person (B), the Secretary of State must provide the supervisory authority with that information.

(2) The information within this subsection is—

(a) whether B is barred from regulated activity relating to children,

(b) whether IBB is considering whether to include B in the children’s barred list in pursuance of paragraph 3 or 5 of Schedule 2,

(c) whether B is subject to monitoring in relation to regulated activity relating to children,

(d) if B is subject to such monitoring and the Secretary of State is required to notify B as mentioned in section 21(3A) in connection with his monitoring application, whether the Secretary of State has yet done so, and

(e) if B is subject to such monitoring and has made a simultaneous application under section 113B of the Police Act 1997, whether the Secretary of State has yet issued an enhanced criminal record certificate under that section.

(3) The information within this subsection is—

(a) whether B is barred from regulated activity relating to vulnerable adults,

(b) whether IBB is considering whether to include B in the adults’ barred list in pursuance of paragraph 8 or 10 of Schedule 2,

(c) whether B is subject to monitoring in relation to regulated activity relating to vulnerable adults,

(d) if B is subject to such monitoring and the Secretary of State is required to notify B as mentioned in section 21(3A) in connection with his monitoring application, whether the Secretary of State has yet done so, and

(e) if B is subject to such monitoring and has made a simultaneous application under section 113B of the Police Act 1997, whether the Secretary of State has yet issued an enhanced criminal record certificate under that section.

(4) A supervisory authority may apply for information under this section only if the information is required in connection with the exercise of a function of the supervisory authority mentioned in section 36(7).

(5) In subsections (2)(e) and (3)(e), “simultaneous application” means an application made simultaneously with B’s monitoring application under section 21.

(6) The Secretary of State may by order amend this section for the purpose of altering the information within subsection (2) or (3).

(7) The Secretary of State may prescribe the form, manner and contents of an application for the purposes of this section.’.—[Mr. Cawsey.]

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 10

Supervisory authorities: notification of barring &c. in respect of children

‘(1) This section applies if—

(a) a person is newly included in the children’s barred list,

(b) the Secretary of State becomes aware that a person is subject to a relevant children’s disqualification, or

(c) having been subject to monitoring in relation to regulated activity relating to children, a person ceases to be so subject by virtue of section 22.

(2) The Secretary of State must notify every interested supervisory authority of the circumstance mentioned in paragraph (a), (b) or (c) (as the case may be) of subsection (1).

(3) A supervisory authority is an interested supervisory authority only if—

(a) it has applied to the Secretary of State to be notified if any of the circumstances mentioned in subsection (1) occurs in relation to the person, and

(b) the application has not been withdrawn.

(4) A supervisory authority may apply to the Secretary of State under subsection (3)(a) only if the notification is required in connection with the exercise of a function of the supervisory authority mentioned in section 36(7).

(5) For the purposes of subsection (3)(b) an application is withdrawn if the supervisory authority notifies the Secretary of State that it no longer wishes to be notified if any of the circumstances mentioned in subsection (1) occurs in relation to the person.

(6) A person is subject to a relevant children’s disqualification if he is included in a list maintained under the law of Scotland or Northern Ireland which the Secretary of State specifies by order as corresponding to the children’s barred list.

(7) The Secretary of State may provide that in prescribed circumstances a supervisory authority is not an interested supervisory authority for the purposes of this section.

(8) The Secretary of State may prescribe the form, manner and contents of an application for the purposes of this section.’.—[Mr. Cawsey.]

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 11

Supervisory authorities: notification of barring &c. in respect of vulnerable adults

‘(1) This section applies if—

(a) a person is newly included in the adults’ barred list,

(b) the Secretary of State becomes aware that a person is subject to a relevant adults’ disqualification, or

(c) having been subject to monitoring in relation to regulated activity relating to vulnerable adults, a person ceases to be so subject by virtue of section 22.

(2) The Secretary of State must notify every interested supervisory authority of the circumstance mentioned in paragraph (a), (b) or (c) (as the case may be) of subsection (1).

(3) A supervisory authority is an interested supervisory authority only if—

(a) it has applied to the Secretary of State to be notified if any of the circumstances mentioned in subsection (1) occurs in relation to the person, and

(b) the application has not been withdrawn.

(4) A supervisory authority may apply to the Secretary of State under subsection (3)(a) only if the notification is required in connection with the exercise of a function of the supervisory authority mentioned in section 36(7).

(5) For the purposes of subsection (3)(b) an application is withdrawn if the supervisory authority notifies the Secretary of State that it no longer wishes to be notified if any of the circumstances mentioned in subsection (1) occurs in relation to the person.

(6) A person is subject to a relevant adults’ disqualification if he is included in a list maintained under the law of Scotland or Northern Ireland which the Secretary of State specifies by order as corresponding to the adults’ barred list.

(7) The Secretary of State may provide that in prescribed circumstances a supervisory authority is not an interested supervisory authority for the purposes of this section.

(8) The Secretary of State may prescribe the form, manner and contents of an application for the purposes of this section.’.—[Mr. Cawsey.]

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 12

Prohibition of requirement to produce certain records

‘(1) A person (P) must not, in connection with—

(a) the recruitment of another person as an employee, or

(b) the continued employment of another person,

require that other person or a third party to supply him with a relevant record.

(2) A person concerned with the provision (for payment or not) of goods, facilities or services to the public or a section of the public must not, as a condition of providing or offering to provide any goods, facilities or services to another person, require that other person or a third party to supply him with a relevant record.

(3) Subsection (1) does not apply if the duties of the employee include activity of a kind mentioned in paragraph 2(1) or 6(1) of Schedule 3 and the activity is for, or for the benefit, of—

(a) P himself;

(b) a child, or vulnerable adult, who is a member of P’s family;

(c) a child, or vulnerable adult, who is a friend of P.

(4) “Family” and “friend” must be construed in accordance with section 43.

(5) A person who contravenes subsection (1) or (2) is guilty of an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.

(6) A relevant record is the record of information provided by the Secretary of State under section 21(3A).

(7) An employee is an individual who—

(a) works under a contract of employment, as defined by section 230(2) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (c. 18),

(b) provides any service under a contract for services, or

(c) holds any office,

whether or not he is entitled to remuneration; and “employment” must be construed accordingly.’.—[Mr. Cawsey.]

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 13

Referrals: findings of fact immaterial

‘(1) For the purposes of the provisions mentioned in subsection (2), it is immaterial whether there is a finding of fact in any proceedings.

(2) The provisions are—

section 27(3)(b) and (c);

section 28(4)(b) and (c);

section 31(2)(b) and (c) and (6)(a);

section 33(2)(b) and (c) and (6)(a);

section 36(2)(b) and (c) and (5)(a).’.—[Mr. Cawsey.]

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 14

Devolution: alignment

‘(1) The Secretary of State may, by order, make such provision (including provision amending any enactment contained in or made under any Act, including this Act) as he thinks necessary or expedient in consequence of or having regard to any relevant Scottish legislation or relevant Northern Ireland legislation.

(2) An order may—

(a) include provision for treating a person to whom a monitoring provision applies as if he were subject to monitoring in relation to regulated activity;

(b) confer power to make subordinate legislation (within the meaning given by the Interpretation Act 1978).

(3) Relevant Scottish legislation is any provision made by or under an Act of the Scottish Parliament which the Secretary of State thinks—

(a) corresponds to provision made by or under this Act,

(b) makes monitoring provision, or