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Protection of Freedoms Bill

Part of Resource Extraction (Transparency and Reporting) – in the House of Commons at 6:12 pm on 1st March 2011.

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Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Shadow Home Secretary, Shadow Minister (Equalities Office) (Women and Equalities) 6:12 pm, 1st March 2011

Legislation is not the right way to respond in such extreme circumstances. In the end, it might be the backstop that the right hon. Lady needs, but she should do more to avoid the situation arising. She is not even looking at what the appropriate special bail conditions might be, for example, or at other measures that could prevent her from ever needing to use emergency legislation in the middle of an extreme situation. She should look at the possible alternatives.

Part 5 makes significant changes to the vetting and barring regime, which works to protect children from abuse. As the Home Secretary knows, the Labour Government said that changes were needed to the system to ensure the right balance between protecting children and vulnerable adults without being unnecessarily burdensome. Indeed, Sir Roger Singleton recommended removing a series of unnecessary checks, and we welcome the recent technological developments that will enable portable Criminal Records Bureau checks and substantially simplify the system.

Some practical issues have been raised, and we will want to pursue those further in Committee.

We think that this is an important development. However, the Home Secretary’s proposals go too far. She is creating a series of loopholes in child protection that parents will rightly be very worried about. The evidence from the NSPCC makes that clear. It says that her proposals leave

“a disturbing gap in the planned legislation that could put children at harm.”

Under these plans, it will be possible for people to spend long hours in positions of authority and in regular intensive contact with children without being covered by the barring arrangements because someone else is in a supervisory role. For example, voluntary teaching assistants may well not be covered. As the NSPCC points out,

“supervised employees and volunteers are still able to develop and exploit relationships with children…A volunteer part time teaching assistant in a classroom of 30 children with only light touch supervision by the classroom teacher has plenty of opportunity to develop inappropriate relationships and groom children.”