I have not had any discussions with the Secretary of State for Education on making reporting of suspected child abuse mandatory for schools. The Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend Mr Timpson told the House on
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree with the recent recommendation made by the former Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, that teachers and health workers who fail to report reasonable suspicions of child abuse should face criminal prosecutions? Will he produce guidance for schools on what constitutes reasonable suspicion?
The former Director of Public Prosecutions has made an important contribution to this debate. I assure the hon. Lady that this matter is being considered by the Government, including by the Home Office. Unless criminalisation of failure to report comes in, guidance is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education. As I indicated in my earlier answer, there are clear guidelines which ought to ensure, even at present, that if there is suspicion or anxiety that a child is being abused, it will be reported to the proper authorities.
The question of whether the age of consent might or might not be reduced to 15 is a matter for the House, but speaking personally, I cannot see any advantage from doing so.
As a professional who worked in this area for 20 years, I was always clear that child abuse suspicions should be reported, but I am concerned that there now appears to be a lot of doubt among the wider public and some professionals. Will the Attorney-General work across Government to ensure that the statutory guidance to which he has referred and the need for all professionals in contact with children to report suspicions are made absolutely clear, as it is far from clear that mandatory reporting in legislation would improve child protection?