Education relating to relationships and sex

Children and Social Work Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 1:26 pm on 7th March 2017.

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“(1) The Secretary of State must by regulations make provision requiring—

(a) relationships education to be provided to pupils of compulsory school age receiving primary education at schools in England;

(2) The regulations must include provision—

(a) requiring the Secretary of State to give guidance to proprietors of schools in relation to the provision of the education and to review the guidance from time to time;

(b) requiring proprietors of schools to have regard to the guidance;

(c) requiring proprietors of schools to make statements of policy in relation to the education to be provided, and to make the statements available to parents or other persons;

(3) The regulations must provide that guidance given by virtue of subsection (2)(a) is to be given with a view to ensuring that when relationships education or relationships and sex education is given—

(a) the pupils learn about—

(i) safety in forming and maintaining relationships,

(ii) the characteristics of healthy relationships, and

(iii) how relationships may affect physical and mental health and well-being, and

(b) the education is appropriate having regard to the age and the religious background of the pupils.

(4) The regulations may make further provision in connection with the provision of relationships education, or relationships and sex education.

(5) Before making the regulations, the Secretary of State must consult such persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.

(6) The regulations may amend any provision (including provision conferring powers) that is made by or under—

(a) section 342 of the Education Act 1996;

(b) Chapter4 of Part 5 of the Education Act 1996;

(c) Schedule 1 to the Education Act 1996;

(d) Part 6 of the Education Act 2002;

(e) Chapter 1 of Part 4 of the Education and Skills Act 2008;

(f) the Academies Act 2010.

(7) Any duty to make provision by regulations under subsection (1) may be discharged by making that provision by regulations under another Act, so long as the Secretary of State consults such persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate before making the regulations under that Act.

(8) The provision that may be made by regulations under subsection (1) by virtue of section 70 includes, in particular, provision amending, repealing or revoking any provision made by or under any Act or any other instrument or document (whenever passed or made).

(9) Regulations under subsection (1) which amend provision made by or under an Act are subject to the affirmative resolution procedure.

(10) Other regulations under subsection (1) are subject to the negative resolution procedure.

(11) Expressions used in this section, where listed in the left-hand column of the table in section 580 of the Education Act 1996, are to be interpreted in accordance with the provisions of that Act listed in the right-hand column in relation to those expressions.”—(Edward Timpson.)

This new clause would require the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring relationships education to be taught in primary schools in England and requiring relationships and sex education to be taught in secondary schools in England. The duties would apply in relation to Academy schools and independent schools as well as maintained schools.

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Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment (b) to new clause 15, in subsection (2), leave out “from time to time” and insert

“at least once in every three year period”.

Amendment (a) to new clause 15, in subsection (2), leave out paragraph (d) and insert—

“(d) to allow a parent of any pupil receiving relationships education or relationships and sex education to request that the pupil be wholly or partly excused from receiving that education and for the pupil to be so excused.”

Amendment (c) to new clause 15, in subsection (2), at end insert—

“(e) about arrangements for inspecting the quality of teaching of relationships and sex education at schools in England.”

Amendment (d) to new clause 15, in subsection (4), at end insert—

“(4A) The Secretary of State must review the regulations at least three years after they come into force and once in every three year period thereafter.”

Amendment (e), to new clause 15 in subsection (4), at end insert—

“(4A) The Secretary of State must review the regulations from time to time.”

Government new clause 16—Other personal, social, health and economic education.

New clause 1—Safeguarding: provision of personal, social and health education—

“(1) For the purpose of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children a local authority in England must ensure that pupils educated in their area receive appropriate personal, social and health education.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1) “personal, social and health education” must include but shall not be restricted to—

(a) sex and relationships education,

(b) same-sex relationships,

(c) sexual consent,

(d) sexual violence,

(e) online and offline personal safety, and

(f) domestic violence and forms of abuse.

(3) Targeted inspections carried out by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) under section 136 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 shall include an assessment of the provision of personal, social and health education under subsection (1), including whether the information provided to pupils is—

(a) accurate and balanced,

(b) age-appropriate,

(c) inclusive,

(d) factual, and

(e) religiously diverse.

(4) Assessments made under subsection (3) must include an evaluation of any arrangements for pupils of sufficient maturity to request to be wholly or partly excused from participating in personal, social and health education.

(5) For the purpose of subsection (4) “sufficient maturity” shall be defined in guidance by the Secretary of State.

(6) Withdrawal from personal, social and health education by pupils under subsection (4) shall not be considered a breach of the safeguarding duties of a local authority.

(7) This section comes into force at the end of the period of twelve months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.”

New clause 3—Sibling contact for looked after children—

“(1) In section 34(1) of the Children Act 1989, after paragraph (d) insert—

“(e) his siblings (whether of the whole or half blood).”

(2) In paragraph 15(1) of Schedule 2 to the Children Act 1989, after paragraph (c) insert—

“(d) his siblings (whether of the whole or half blood).””

This new clause would ensure that children in care are allowed reasonable contact with their siblings.

New clause 4—Placing children in secure accommodation elsewhere in Great Britain

“(1) Schedule (Placing children in secure accommodation elsewhere in Great Britain) ends at the end of the period of two years beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.”

This new clause would revoke provisions in the Bill that enable local authorities in England and Wales to place children in secure accommodation in Scotland, and vice versa, two years after the Act comes into force.

New clause 7—Post-removal counselling for parents and legal guardians who are themselves looked after children or care leavers—

“Where a child is permanently removed from the care of a birth parent or a guardian further to any order made pursuant to—

(a) section 31 of the Children Act 1989 (care and supervision orders),

(b) section 22 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 (placement orders),

(c) section 46 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 (adoption orders), or

(d) section 14A of the Children Act 1989 (special guardianship order) a local authority must, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide a counselling service and commission specialist therapeutic support for the parent or guardian where—

(i) the parent or guardian is a looked after child, or

(ii) the parent or guardian is a care leaver.”

This new clause would provide post-removal support for parents who are themselves a looked after child or care leaver.

New clause 8—Former relevant children: provision of sufficient suitable accommodation—

“In the Children Act 1989, after section 23C insert—

“23CA Duty on local authorities to secure sufficient accommodation for former relevant children

(1) It is the duty of a local authority to take reasonable steps to secure sufficient suitable accommodation (whether or not provided by them) within their area to meet the needs of former relevant children, where “former relevant children” has the same meaning as in section 23C(1) of this Act.

(2) In taking steps to secure the outcome in subsection (1), the local authority must—

(a) produce, and make available to all former relevant children, information about the providers of accommodation and the types of accommodation they provide,

(b) be aware of the current and expected future demand for such accommodation and consider how providers might meet that demand, and

(c) have regard to—

(i) the need to ensure the sustainability of the housing market, and

(ii) the need to encourage providers to innovate and continuously improve the quality of such accommodation and the efficiency and effectiveness with which it is provided.””

Local authorities already have a duty to ensure that sufficient accommodation is available for looked after children in their area. This new clause would introduce a similar duty on local authorities to ensure sufficient, suitable accommodation is made available for all care leavers up the age of 21.

New clause 10—Benefit sanctions for care leavers—

“(1) The Universal Credit Regulations 2013 are amended as follows—

(a) in regulation 102(2)—

(i) in paragraph (a) after “18 or over” insert “and paragraph (b) does not apply”;

(ii) in paragraph (b) after “16 or 17” insert “or is a care leaver within the meaning given by section 2(7) of the Children and Social Work Act 2017 and is under the age of 25”;

(b) in regulation 103(2)—

(i) in paragraph (a) after “18 or over” insert “and paragraph (b) does not apply”;

(ii) in paragraph (b) after “16 or 17” insert “or is a care leaver within the meaning given by section 2(7) of the Children and Social Work Act 2017 and is under the age of 25”;

(c) in regulation 104(2) after “18 or over” insert “and section (3) does not apply”.

(d) in regulation 104(3) after “16 or 17” insert “or is a care leaver within the meaning given by section 2(7) of the Children and Social Work Act 2017 and is under the age of 25.””

This new clause will ensure that the maximum sanction for a care leaver under the age of 25 can be no more than four weeks whilst under the age of 25, in line with 16 and 17 year olds.

New clause 11—National offer for care leavers—

“(1) The table in regulation 36 of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 is amended as follows—

(a) in column one after “single claimant aged 25 or over” insert—

“or former relevant child as defined under the Children and Social Work Act 2017 aged under 25”

(b) in column one after “joint claimants where either is aged 25 or over” insert—

“or either are a former relevant child as defined under the Children and Social Work Act 2017 aged under 25”

(2) The Secretary of State will make provisions for bursaries to be available to all care leavers, who are undertaking their first year of a statutory apprenticeship, as defined in the Enterprise Act 2016 (the “care leaver apprenticeship bursary”)—

(a) in this section “care leavers” has the same meaning as section 2(7) of this Act.

(b) The bursary will be administered by local authorities on behalf of the Secretary of State in line with their corporate parenting responsibilities defined in section 1 of the Children and Social Work Act 2017.

(c) The value of the bursary will be of equivalent value to the Higher Education Bursary outlined in The Children Act 1989 (Higher Education Bursary) (England) Regulations 2009.

(d) Bursaries under this section will be disregarded for the purposes of calculating a claimant’s Universal Credit entitlements.

(3) The Housing Benefit Regulations 2009 are amended as follows—

(a) in regulation 2, in the definition of “young individual”, in each of paragraphs (b), (c), (d), (e) and (f), for “22 years” substitute “25 years”.

(4) A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.”

The National Offer will uprate the financial support available to care leavers under the age of 25 by: (1) extending the over 25 rate of standard allowance of Universal Credit to all care leavers under the age of 25; (2) placing a duty on the Secretary of State to make provisions for all care leavers under the age of 25 and in the first year of an apprenticeship to be paid a £2,000 bursary, which will be distributed by local authorities on her behalf; and (3) delaying the transition onto the Shared Accommodation rate of Local Housing Allowance until the age of 25.

New clause 12—Duty to maintain and report a local safeguarding and welfare capacity register—

“After section 16(E) of the Children Act 2004 (inserted by section 16 of this Act) insert—

“Duty to maintain and report a local safeguarding and welfare capacity register

(1) The safeguarding partners for a local authority area in England must assess, and maintain a register of, capacity to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in the area.

(2) The assessment must include, but shall not be restricted to, an assessment of the number of additional children, including unaccompanied refugee children, that could be fully supported by children’s social care services in the area.

(3) At least once in every twelve month period—

(a) the safeguarding partners must report the capacity assessment for that period to the Secretary of State, and

(b) the Secretary of State must publish and lay before Parliament a single report setting out the information provided under paragraph (a) and any relevant information that may be provided by the devolved administrations.””

This new clause would require local safeguarding partners to assess their capacity to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in their area. This assessment must include the number of additional children the area could support, including unaccompanied refugee children. Local safeguarding partners would be required to report this information to the Secretary of State annually, who in turn would publish and lay before Parliament a single report, which may include any relevant information received from the devolved administrations.

New clause 13—Strategy for safeguarding of unaccompanied refugee children—

“(1) Within six months of this Act coming into force, the Secretary of State must develop and publish a strategy for the safeguarding of unaccompanied refugee children living in the United Kingdom (“the strategy”).

(2) The Secretary of State must publish a report on the progress of the strategy’s development at least once in every four week period prior to publication of the strategy.

(3) The strategy must include, but shall not be restricted to—

(a) information clarifying the roles and responsibilities towards unaccompanied refugee children of any public agency the Secretary of State considers relevant, including in particular—

(i) the European Asylum Support Office,

(ii) local government service providers, and

(iii) the Children’s Commissioner;

(b) information clarifying how safeguarding practices should differ for those children covered by the strategy who—

(i) have family members in the United Kingdom, and

(ii) do not have family members in the United Kingdom; and

(c) recommendations on how to ensure full cost reimbursement to public agencies required to provide services under the strategy.”

This new clause would require the Secretary of State to develop and publish a strategy for safeguarding unaccompanied refugee children.

Amendment (a) to new clause 13, at end insert—

“(4) The Secretary of State must consult with devolved administrations before publishing the strategy.”

New clause 14—Local arrangements for reporting on capacity to provide children’s safeguarding and welfare services—

“After section 16E of the Children Act 2004 (inserted by section 16 of this Act) insert—

“Local arrangements for reporting on capacity to provide children’s safeguarding and welfare provision services

(1) At least once in every 12 month period, the safeguarding partners for a local authority area in England must report to the Secretary of State on their capacity to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

(2) The report must include, but shall not be restricted to, identification of capacity to provide safeguarding and welfare services to children who could be resettled in the area, including unaccompanied refugee children who could be transferred to the area from abroad including those with existing or current applications for transfer.

(3) The Secretary of State must lay before Parliament the information received under subsection (1) in a single report.””

This new clause would require the local safeguarding partners in an area to report annually to the Secretary of State on what capacity they have to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in that area. This includes what capacity they have to resettle children, including unaccompanied refugee children, in the area. The Secretary of State would be required to lay before Parliament the information received from local authorities in a single report.

Amendment (a) to new clause 14, after “(1)” insert—

“and any relevant information that may be provided by the devolved administrations”.

New clause 20—Review of access to education for care leavers—

“(1) The Secretary of State must carry out an annual review on access for care leavers to—

(a) apprenticeships,

(b) further education, and

(c) higher education.

(2) The first review must take place by the end of the period of one year beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.

(3) A report produced following a review under subsection (1) must include, in particular, an assessment of the impact on care leavers’ access to education of—

(a) fee waivers,

(b) grants, and

(c) reduced costs of accommodation.

The report must be made publicly available.”

Amendment 12, in clause 12, page 10, line 30, at end insert—

“(3A) At least one member of the panel appointed by the Secretary of State under subsection (3) must—

(a) be independent from Government, and

(b) have relevant specialist expertise in tackling domestic abuse.”

This amendment would require that at least one member of the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel has specialist expertise in tackling domestic abuse.

Amendment 1, in clause 16, page 13, line 34, at end insert—

“, including unaccompanied refugee children once placed in the area, and unaccompanied refugee children who have been identified for resettlement in the area.”

Amendment 3, page 13, line 34, at end insert—

“(1A) The safeguarding partners for a local authority area in England must conduct and publish a review of the steps taken by that local authority to safeguard and promote the welfare of children since 1 June 2010, including an assessment of the impact of Government policies since that date.

(1B) The Government policies to be considered under subsection (1A) are those deemed by the safeguarding partners to be relevant to the safeguarding and welfare of children.”

This amendment would require the safeguarding partners for a local authority area in England to conduct a review of steps they have taken to safeguard and promote the welfare of children since 1 June 2010, including an assessment of the impact of Government policies since that date.

Amendment 2, in clause 22, page 17, line 30, at end insert—

“(3) Guidance given by the Secretary of State in connection with functions conferred by section 16E in relation to unaccompanied refugee children must be developed in accordance with the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

I shall deal first with new clauses 15 and 16, which relate to relationships and sex education and personal, social, health and economic education. I shall then respond to key points raised in other new clauses and amendments. I shall ensure that they are covered within the time that is available under the now agreed programme motion, as I am conscious that many other Members wish to speak.

Many Members on both sides of the House have worked hard for some years to increase awareness of the issues to which new clauses 15 and 16 refer and the case for statutory underpinning of relationships and sex education and PSHE, and I thank them for their efforts. My right hon. Friend Mrs Miller and my hon. Friend Mr Burrowes, along with the Chairs of the Health, Education, Home Affairs and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committees and the hon. Members for Rotherham (Sarah Champion) and for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy), have been particularly strong supporters of that approach.

Relationships education, RSE and PSHE can help to ensure that pupils are given the knowledge and skills that they will need to stay safe and develop healthy, supportive relationships. That is particularly important when they are navigating the new challenges of growing up in an online world. Parents, of course, are the primary educators and guides of their children, and we should not forget that: they play a central role both in helping their children to grow up into successful adults and in protecting them from harm. However, parents are telling us that they want schools to help them to deal with what are complex and fast-moving issues to ensure that their children grow up equipped with the knowledge and skills that they need to be safe and successful. Our proposals to make these subjects compulsory are supported by professionals working in the field, by parents and carers, and, importantly, by children and young people themselves.

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Co-Leader of the Green Party

I warmly welcome these vital and long overdue new clauses, but it would be helpful if the Minister could provide some reassurance that relationship education in primary schools will not exclude key age-appropriate information that relates to physical health, wellbeing, and the safety of children, because that is an area of concern that is still outstanding. I am thinking of, for instance, the difference between safe and unsafe touch, and the naming of body parts that are private.

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

I can reassure the hon. Lady that the whole purpose of bringing relationships education into primary schools is to start creating the all-important building blocks that will make children resilient enough to deal with the pressures and risks that the modern world throws at them. The new clauses are intended to allow a period after the Bill has gone through both Houses during which we can draw on the greatest possible level of expertise to establish how we should go about teaching these subjects in an age-appropriate way, so that by the time the children leave school they have all the knowledge and skills that they need to make good choices in their lives as they grow up.

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

I will, but I should make it clear to Members that I do not want to curtail the opportunities for others to have their say, and I want to deal with other aspects of the Bill as well.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

The Minister will remember what we discussed in those happy days when we served together on the Education Committee. It is all very well to have an obligation, and this is a real step forward, but the fact is that if we do not give the people in the schools real professional training, it will not work.

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

We served on that Committee such a while ago that it was then called the Children, Schools and Families Committee. In 2013, Ofsted acknowledged that the teaching of these subjects was still not as good as it should be. We shall be working with teachers and schools so that they understand how to develop their understanding of and ability to teach these subjects, so that there is consistency throughout the education system.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner

Will the Minister include the Church of England in his list of organisations that support the Government’s proposals? Despite its support, the Church seeks reassurance that relationships education will be respectful of the ethos of the schools where it is taught.

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that clear indication of the Church of England’s support for the step that we are taking. Having engaged with the Church and with representatives of other faiths throughout the process, I am aware of that support. The religious faith that brings many people into the education system will be respected as it has been in the past: that is reflected in the Bill, and will be reflected in the regulations and statutory guidance that will follow.

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

I will give way briefly, but then I want to try to make some progress.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Chair, Defence Committee, Chair, Defence Committee

New clause 15 draws a distinction between relationships education provided for primary school children and relationships and sex education provided for secondary school children. Can the Minister confirm that that does not mean that sex education will be smuggled into primary schools under the label “relationships education”?

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

A clear distinction is drawn by the very name of each of those subjects. The new clause makes plain that sex education will not be a statutory part of primary school teaching. Of course, if primary schools choose to teach sex education in an age-appropriate way, as they can now, they will be able to do so, but the right to withdraw from that will still apply, as it does in secondary schools.

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

I will give way to my hon. Friend, but then I must make some more progress.

Photo of Daniel Poulter Daniel Poulter Conservative, Central Suffolk and North Ipswich

I congratulate my hon. Friend and the Secretary of State on new clause 15, which is long overdue, but may I ask a specific question about faith schools and other schools of that type? New clause 15(3)(b) states that it must be ensured that

“the education is appropriate having regard to the age and the religious background of the pupils.”

Will my hon. Friend confirm that that will not allow faith schools to avoid providing such education because they consider it to be inappropriate?

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

The education will become a statutory part of the curriculum, so schools will have to provide it. The duty and the power that we are creating will enable schools to teach the new subjects in an age-appropriate way that is commensurate with their religious faith and will best suit their pupils in the setting in which they happen to be, but what my hon. Friend has said is absolutely correct.

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

I will, but I shall then impose a moratorium on any further interventions.

Photo of Gerald Howarth Gerald Howarth Conservative, Aldershot

Who will decide what is age-appropriate, and where is there any reference in any of these provisions to the moral dimension of this very important issue?

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

The moral aspect is already covered by British values and the teaching of citizenship, and that is in no way curtailed by these provisions. As for the question of what is age appropriate, the concept already exists in the current system. I repeat that the Bill will be underpinned by regulations and statutory guidance, which will set out in more detail exactly how it will be translated into reality. That is a strong and consistent approach which we think will strike the right balance between enabling children to develop the resilience and skills that they need and ensuring that that is done in an age-appropriate way.

We know that many schools are already teaching these subjects, and that some are doing so very well, but we believe that it is right for us to do all we can both to provide universal coverage for all pupils and to improve quality. Given the increasing concerns about child sexual abuse and exploitation, and the increased risks associated with growing up in a digital world, there is a particularly compelling case for action in relation to pupil safety. New clause 15 places a duty on the Secretary of State to make relationships education in primary schools and relationships and sex education in secondary schools statutory by means of regulations. We believe that that is the right approach because it will allow us time to engage with a wide range of interests and expertise. The outcome of that engagement will feed into the legislative process for making these subjects statutory, as well as the guidance that will help schools to deliver high-quality, inclusive relationships education and RSE.

New clause 16 creates a regulation-making power to enable the Secretary of State to make PSHE statutory. We are aware that the most pressing safeguarding concerns relate to relationships and RSE, but it is evident that wider concerns about child safety and wellbeing relate to the life skills that the subject can cover, such as an understanding of the risks of drugs and alcohol and the need to safeguard physical and mental health. We therefore believe that it is important that we are able to make PSHE, or elements of it, statutory as well, and have the time to consider carefully the fit between the content of relationships education and RSE and what might be included in the PSHE curriculum. The work to consider content will begin this spring, and we expect that it will result in draft regulations and guidance for consultation this autumn. Following consultation, regulations will be laid in the House, alongside final draft guidance, allowing for full and considered debate, and we expect that statutory guidance will be published in early 2018, once the regulations have been passed and at least one full year before the academic year 2019-20.

We do not think it is right to specify in primary legislation the exact content of the subjects, as this would be too prescriptive and would remove freedom from schools and run the risk of the legislation quickly becoming out of date as the world changes ever more quickly. The Department’s external engagement will determine subject content, working with a wide range of experts and interested parties. We will ensure through careful review and consultation that our work results in a clear understanding about the full set of knowledge and skills that relationships education, RSE and PSHE should provide.

Our proposed legislation is also clear that subject content will be age appropriate. We expect the new subject of relationships education for primary schools to focus on themes such as friendships, different types of family relationships, bullying, and respect for other people. We see this as vitally important in laying the foundations for RSE at secondary school.

Across relationships education and RSE, we expect to cover in an age-appropriate way how to recognise and build healthy relationships, and how they affect health and wellbeing and safety online. This can include dealing with strangers, respect, bullying and peer pressure, commitment and tolerance, and appropriate boundaries. I want to emphasise again to hon. Members that our priority will be to ensure that content is always age appropriate. In RSE at secondary school, content would also include sex and sexual health, all set firmly within the context of healthy relationships. In relation to online issues, internet safety is a cross-Government agenda, so these plans are closely aligned to the internet safety Green Paper due later this year.

In addition to relationships education and RSE, we acknowledge that pupils need to access other key knowledge and skills for adult life, and those are generally covered in PSHE. For PSHE, we want to take the time to consult widely, as I said, on what the subject content could best look like, respecting what our engagement process determines as the right content for relationships education and RSE. We will be looking at what might be needed under the broad pillars of healthy bodies and lifestyles, healthy minds, economic wellbeing, and making a positive contribution to society. We would expect this to include issues such as keeping safe, puberty, drugs and alcohol education, mental health and resilience, and careers education.

Schools will, of course, continue to teach in accordance with the Equality Act 2010 and the public sector equality duty. This means that schools can consider how best to teach subject content taking into account the age and religious backgrounds of their pupils and any other relevant factors, but not whether to teach the content.

Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Labour/Co-operative, Walthamstow

Given that 45% of primary school children have experienced, or are aware of, homophobic bullying, can the Minister clarify how that fits into the curriculum at that age?

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

I have indicated that we expect bullying to be covered in primary school, and of course we have to cover all facets of bullying, as it comes in many forms. Of course, it will be a matter for the school to make sure that that is age appropriate, and it will start to put in place the building blocks of the development of that child’s understanding, ensuring that by the time they move on to secondary school they are well placed to move on to the next level of subject matter that they will need to understand.

Schools will need to ensure that RSE is inclusive and meets the needs of all young people.

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Chair, Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Chair, Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee

I am yet another Select Committee Chair who very much welcomes this development and the courage with which the Government are putting it forward, but there is a point to be made about what is allowed to be taught in primary schools and the fact that children’s experiences start well before they leave primary school. They are learning about these things and asking questions about them long before they leave primary school, and there is nothing in this Bill that will prevent teachers from responding to curiosity and dealing with these issues as they arise in the normal course of any other part of their education.

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s indication as a Select Committee Chair that he joins the club of Chairmen who support this important move. He is right that there is scope within these measures for schools to tailor their response to this subject matter in a way that best meets the needs of their pupils. There is already some excellent material available from the likes of the PSHE Association which sets out how they can do that in an age-appropriate way and in a way that meets the challenges that we know the modern world throws at children at an ever more tender age.

The regulations and guidance we produce will make very clear the expectation that schools will have the flexibility to teach subjects in accordance with their ethos and pupils’ religious backgrounds. The Secretary of State must give schools guidance on how to deliver this, and this provision enables faith schools to teach their subjects according to the tenets of their faith while still being consistent with the requirements of the Equality Act.

Archbishop Malcolm McMahon, chairman of the Catholic Education Service, said in support of these proposals:

“We welcome the Government’s commitment to improving Relationship and Sex Education in all schools. Catholic schools already teach age-appropriate Relationship and Sex Education in both primary and secondary schools.”

Nigel Genders, the Church of England’s chief education officer, said:

“With one million children being educated in Church of England schools, we are all too well aware of the pressing need to equip children for the world in which they are growing up. . . We therefore welcome the Secretary of State’s commitment to putting Relationships and Sex Education on a statutory footing.”

We have committed to retain a right to withdraw from sex education in RSE, because parents should have the right, if they wish, to teach sex education themselves in a way that is consistent with their values. We do not propose a right to withdraw from relationships education at primary level, because that will focus, as I said, on themes such as friendships, family relationships and dealing with strangers, not sex education.

Pupils will learn about the characteristics of healthy relationships that we can all agree on, such as respect, commitment, tolerance and proper boundaries. Knowing and understanding these characteristics, including how to build such healthy relationships, will help children be happy and, crucially, safe from others, such as in situations where they might try to exploit a lack of clarity about what is and is not acceptable.

Schools will continue to be required to publish policies on these subjects for parents, and statutory guidance will continue to set out that schools should consult parents on those policies to ensure they are feeding in their views. For those parents who still prefer to provide this education themselves, we absolutely intend to retain a right to withdraw from sex education. We will, as part of this, need to amend the current right to withdraw to make sure it remains in line with case law, and we will consult further in order to clarify the age at which a young person may have the right to make their own decisions about whether to withdraw from that aspect of their education or not. I want to assure Members that the outcome will be set out in regulations which will be subject to consultation and debate.

It is important to note that relationship and sex education falls within the scope of school inspection. Inspections will check to see that a school is providing the full statutory curriculum, and these issues can also be considered within the context of assessing the school’s leadership, the quality of teaching, pupil safety and pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. Key elements are already covered in Ofsted’s school inspection handbook, and Her Majesty’s chief inspector will take full account of the new requirements in determining future school inspection arrangements. Ofsted is already seeking to appoint an HMI lead for citizenship and PSHE, whose role will be to keep abreast of developments in this area and oversee the training of inspectors in light of the new expectations on schools. Independent schools will also be held to account through inspectors reporting against the independent school standards.

Photo of Stewart Jackson Stewart Jackson Conservative, Peterborough 1:45 pm, 7th March 2017

The Minister is making a strong case, but is he not asking us to enter into an incongruous position, as we do not yet know what the regulations will be in respect of relationship education, but at the same time he is asking the House to support removing the capacity of parents to remove their children from relationship education in primary schools? He is asking us to support something although we do not know the true details therein.

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

What I am asking the House to do is support these new clauses that maintain the right to withdraw from sex education that currently pertains, but the House will also have an opportunity under the regulatory process to scrutinise, and take part in addressing, what those regulations should look like and approve them or not, and I am sure my hon. Friend will want to play a part in doing just that.

We will commit to reviewing the statutory guidance on RSE within three years of its publication, and to a regular timetable after that, set out following our engagement process. This will help to ensure that it stays relevant as the world changes. We will also ensure that the regulations are regularly reviewed to ensure they continue to be fit for purpose. Specifying the timetable for review on the face of the Bill is not necessary as we are already under a public law duty to review the powers we take in legislation, but I can assure hon. Members, and particularly my hon. Friend Mr Burrowes, that the statutory guidance will make clear how regularly this guidance will be reviewed, balancing continuity for schools with the crucial need to keep content up to date.

I recognise the deep concern in the House about the safety and welfare of unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children. I should emphasise, however, that my ministerial responsibility extends only to children who are in England. The new local safeguarding arrangements that will be established through the Bill will apply to England only. I accept that other jurisdictions ought to pay equal attention to the safeguarding of children who reside within their borders, and I accept that we should share details of our plans and best practice.

The Government have committed to publishing a safeguarding strategy for unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children by 1 May 2017 by virtue of the written ministerial statement that I laid on 1 November last year. As part of this, we have been consulting local authorities about their capacity and we will set out plans to boost capacity for foster carers and supported lodgings in that strategy. We will continue to consult local authorities about their capacity to support unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children, to help us to identify those authorities that are most able to support unaccompanied children and those needing support through the national transfer scheme. To that end, we are happy to commit to updating Parliament annually on delivery against the safeguarding strategy and to publishing regular updates on the number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children transferred to or resettled in the UK, by country of transfer.

Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Conservative, Wellingborough

The Minister is making a powerful case. On that specific point, it is necessary to record not only how many children go into local authority care but how many are retained there and how much they keep in contact. If we put children into care and they are subsequently trafficked, we are not protecting them.

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

My hon. Friend makes a good point, and we have worked hard to try to improve how we manage, understand and curtail the number of children who go missing while in care. Some of them have come from overseas, including France, and many are from our own country. We should use the Bill as an opportunity to improve the data so that we have as contemporaneous a picture as possible of where those children are, not only to inform us of the capacity in the system but to allow us to help them better.

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Conservative, Forest of Dean

It has occurred to me as the Minister has been talking that we already have 3,000 or so unaccompanied asylum-seeking children coming to the United Kingdom, and that the burden of caring for those children is falling disproportionately on a few local authorities. Is he planning to say a little bit about how the information that he will publish on local authorities throughout the country will help the national transfer scheme to operate to enable that burden to be more fairly distributed across our constituencies?

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. He touches on a key part of how we can improve the system through the national transfer scheme. We know that Kent and Croydon in particular have taken a disproportionate number of children, and we have been working with local authorities to find a better way of ensuring that we find a safe, stable home for them while more effectively starting to spread them across the country.

In making the commitment I have just given, it is important to note that local areas already have a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in their area, including unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

It is welcome that the Minister will publish information on each local authority. Will he publish the number that each one will be prepared to take from abroad, including from Europe? That is the content of new clause 14, which refers to

“unaccompanied refugee children who could be transferred to the area from abroad”.

Does this also mean that the Government will continue to take children under the Dubs scheme after the 350 that they have specified? Yes or no?

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

The Home Secretary has set out the Government’s position in relation to the Dubs scheme. What we are trying to do is look at the overall capacity within local authorities, not just for specific groups of children but for all children, whatever route they have used to come into England and across the United Kingdom. Yesterday, I sent the first quarterly update on progress on the development of the strategy to all the UK children’s commissioners. Last Friday, the Department published for consultation draft statutory guidance for local authorities on the care of unaccompanied asylum-seeking and trafficked children. I believe that these actions demonstrate our continued commitment to those children, and we want to carry on working with local authorities and all those who work with them to ensure that we can give every child who comes to these shores a safe and stable home.

Photo of Heidi Allen Heidi Allen Conservative, South Cambridgeshire

Building on the question from Yvette Cooper, I appreciate that my hon. Friend is an Education Minister, but will he consider extending the safeguarding strategy—which sounds very attractive, as does the regular consultation with local authorities, which should be available to Parliament—beyond the Syrian region, beyond children arriving on trucks and beyond children who are already in the UK care system? Would he consider extending these services to children coming from Europe?

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

We have made it clear how, through the national transfer scheme, we want to ensure that we help the children we have identified as requiring help the most, including those who fall out of the Dublin scheme. We are trying to understand exactly what the capacity is in the system. I am not in a position to say any more than the Home Secretary has already said about the Government’s commitments, but we have clearly made a strong commitment to utilising any latent capacity in local authority children’s services so that we do not miss an opportunity to help the children who need it.

Photo of Hywel Williams Hywel Williams Shadow PC Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Europe), Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader, Shadow PC Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Development)

Would the Minister accept that many local authorities in Wales are anxious to play their part in helping refugees, and indeed have been doing so for a number of years? They include Plaid Cymru-led Ceredigion. It is important that the Government is aware of the capacity that exists outside the usually recognised areas.

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

My understanding is that Wales took part in the consultation and, as I said a few moments ago, I have written to the Children’s Commissioner for Wales to update her on the progress we are making. Of course we want to work with local authorities to ensure that as many children as possible can benefit, through our combined efforts.

Photo of John Pugh John Pugh Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Education)

I welcome what the Minister is saying, but I am struggling to find anything in it that is inconsistent with new clause 14. Can he point it out to me?

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

The hon. Gentleman is going to have to be more specific about what his objection is. I would be happy to take it up with him at another time, but I am not in a position to answer a question that has not been formulated in a way that allows me to provide an answer.

I want to turn briefly to the question of sibling contact for looked-after children. I am sorry that Mrs Lewell-Buck is not here today, and I am sure that the whole House will send her their best wishes. We both agree that allowing reasonable contact between looked-after children and their siblings is absolutely right, where that is in the best interests of the children involved. This is reflected in the current law. However, the hon. Lady has helpfully pointed out an anomaly in the current legislation whereby the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 provide for sibling contact with a sibling who is also looked after but do not refer to contact with siblings who are not looked after. I will therefore ask my officials to start the work needed to amend the regulations to address that question, and I will happily keep the hon. Lady informed of progress.

Finally, I should like to mention the support provided to care leavers who have their own children removed from them. Hon. Members are right to emphasise how important it is to support young parents who have had a child taken into care. They need the right kind of intervention to help them to cope with this challenging situation so that they can be effective parents to any children they might have in the future. Statutory guidance is already clear about the arrangements that must be followed to ensure that the needs of children in care and care leavers are assessed and that appropriate support is put in place. The statutory guidance includes the need for comprehensive assessment of a young person’s needs in relation to their emotional and mental health, including whether they need access to specialist health and therapeutic services. So, given the existing statutory guidance, I do not believe that it is necessary or appropriate to incorporate the proposed new clause into the Bill. I do, however, understand the importance of the issue, and I can confirm that I will ensure that the statutory guidance is strengthened to make clear the importance of providing appropriate support in the specific circumstances when a looked-after child or care leaver has a child of their own taken into care.

Photo of Frank Field Frank Field Chair, Work and Pensions Committee, Chair, Work and Pensions Committee

I have never seen the House so crowded to discuss amendments, which shows the importance that we attach to the Bill. I fear that we may not get to my amendment about the welfare of all children, so may I come and talk to the Minister at some point? It deals with compelling local authorities to carry out an audit of all their policies and of Government policies on the welfare of children.

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

I am happy to commit to meet the right hon. Gentleman to see what we can do on that.

Photo of David Burrowes David Burrowes Conservative, Enfield, Southgate

I appreciate the Minister’s comments on new clause 7, which has cross-party support. There is welcome investment from the Department in Pause and other programmes that provide support to vulnerable young women, but I want to check that the statutory guidance will ensure that such schemes get further cover. Those who have lost a child and are at risk due to vulnerabilities need therapeutic care support, so will this extra statutory guidance ensure that they get it?

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education) 2:00 pm, 7th March 2017

I can give my hon. Friend that reassurance. We want to ensure that every care leaver, whatever their circumstances, gets the support that they need. That particular group is often very vulnerable, and we must respond to that in the best possible way.

I am grateful to hon. Members for raising important issues, and I look forward to hearing more from them during the debate. If I get the opportunity at the end—I fear I will not—I will respond more fully, but I am always open for business if anyone wants to speak to me after the debate.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Angela Rayner Angela Rayner Shadow Secretary of State for Education

Thank you, Mr Speaker. Let me reiterate that point and say how disappointing it is that the Government have allocated just 90 minutes to discuss all the issues relating to the welfare of the most vulnerable children, particularly when Back Benchers on both sides of the House contributed so much to the Bill.

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

I am sorry to have to rise again, Mr Speaker, but I should point out that the programme motion was agreed across the House, so it should not be a surprise to the Opposition.

Photo of Angela Rayner Angela Rayner Shadow Secretary of State for Education

I thank the Minister for that point, but there was dialogue about that before we came to the House, so he knows exactly where we stand.

I thank the Minister for his comments about my hon. Friend Mrs Lewell-Buck. She cannot be here today because she is on compassionate leave, but she put in a tremendous amount of work to take the Bill through the Committee. I will try to be brief and will put a limit on the interventions that I take.

First, and most importantly, I want to make it clear that we will support new clause 14, tabled by Heidi Allen. My hon. Friend the Member for South Shields and I were happy to add our names to it and will add our votes to any Division on it. It is similar to our new clause 12, so I would like the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire to clarify whether “capacity” in her amendment has the same intention as it does in ours: an assessment of the extra numbers that a council would take. New clause 13 complements those new clauses by ensuring that the Minister reflects those numbers in the national strategy. The Government have committed to provide that, but new clause 13 puts it on a statutory footing. It also provides for progress updates in the meantime, and I understand that some of those who should have received quarterly updates from the Government are yet to receive them. If the Minister is not prepared to accept the new clause, I hope that he will commit to come back with an update. However, I reserve my right to press our amendments to a vote if the Minister does not address those concerns.

Given the time available, I will not rehearse the issues at length, but I echo the points made in recent days by my hon. Friend Alison McGovern and my right hon. Friend Yvette Cooper. I hope that we will hear from them in today’s debate. Our care for child refugees says something about us as a country. I hope that we take a lead from the example set in the debate in the other place and can hold our heads up high at the end of today.

I turn now to our amendments about vulnerable children already in our care, who should not be overlooked in this debate. New clause 3 requires local authorities to allow children in care reasonable contact with their siblings, and I welcome the Minister’s commitment to future dialogue on that. New clause 4 has arisen because, quite simply, we have been sending our most vulnerable looked after children to Scotland due to the lack of specialist provision closer to their homes, families, schools, and local services. New clause 4 gives Ministers two years to sort out secure accommodation in England and Wales, so that any future secure placements in Scotland are made through choice, not constraint.

Section 25 of the Children Act 1989 was changed in Committee so that children looked after by English or Welsh local authorities can be detained in secure accommodation in Scotland. As the Minister said, that was a recognition that it is already happening. Vulnerable children are being sent to a different country, with different legal and education systems, because we have failed to provide for them close to their homes and communities. Changes in Committee also removed the requirement to obtain the consent of the parents and the child. Is it right not to get a child’s consent before they are moved to Scotland? They will also lose their right to independent periodic review, and I am yet to hear a convincing argument from the Minister as to why. The High Court suggested a joint review by the Law Commission, which would surely be better than a fix behind closed doors, and I hope the Minister will consider it.

We offer our support to the hon. Members on both sides who tabled new clause 7, a version of which my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields tabled in Committee. I hope the Minister will indicate that he will take up the issue through statutory guidance if he cannot accept the new clause.

New clause 8 would establish a clear statutory duty on local authorities to secure sufficient, suitable accommodation for all care leavers up to age 21. I am sure that I do not need to tell the Minister why that is important, but Government figures show that too many care leavers are in unsuitable or unknown accommodation. All of us who are parents of young adults are aware of the modern challenges they face and of the fact that they need support beyond their teenage years. In Committee, the Minister referred to the care leavers accommodation and support framework developed by Barnardo’s and St Basil’s, but funding for that ends next month. He referred to care leavers as a priority group for social housing, but that is not the same as a legal duty and does not mean that it happens in practice. If he cannot accept new clause 8, perhaps he will agree to meet to discuss how we can achieve its basic aim.

New clause 10 seeks to reduce to four weeks the maximum level of sanctioning for care leavers on universal credit. The Minister will be aware of the shockingly high rate of sanctioning experienced by care leavers and will know that care leavers are three times more likely to receive a sanction than a member of the general population. They are also less likely to challenge sanctions, but they are more likely to have them overturned. When a care leaver sits down with a work coach for the first time, will the Minster tell us what steps he is taking to ensure that their status is known and that they are treated accordingly? The Children’s Society told me that they worked with a care leaver who was sanctioned over Christmas and had to choose between feeding himself or his pregnant girlfriend. That is not the behaviour of a good corporate parent, and I hope we can hear more about what the Minister will do about that.

In line with other elements of the Bill, new clause 11 seeks to promote the financial stability of care leavers up to the age of 25. It would support care leavers into work and apprenticeships and would protect their finances when living in private rented accommodation. Young people under the age of 25 receive a lower rate of universal credit, but care leavers tend to take on more responsibility earlier. New clause 11 would extend the higher rate to care leavers under the age of 25. At about £780 a year, the difference for a low income individual would be significant. Care leavers will receive a £2,000 bursary when entering higher education, but they are not entitled to an equivalent when engaging in apprenticeships. Given the Government’s emphasis on skills, I hope they will consider such a measure.

Care leavers in private rented accommodation also experience a cut of some £50 a week to their housing benefit when they turn 22. The Minister has asked the Children’s Society for case studies, which it has provided to the Department. Perhaps the Minister could respond.

We estimate the cost of the new clause to be some £32.9 million, which is not a significant sum of money when we consider the ultimate cost to the state of failing properly to support care leavers. The Bill provides an opportunity for the Government to take responsibility for some of the financial difficulties experienced by care leavers, and I look forward to the Minister’s response.

New clause 20 calls for an annual review of care leavers’ access to education and for the Government to produce a report of the impact of that access. If my hon. Friend Stella Creasy presses her amendments to a vote, we will support her.

The Department’s own statistics show that only 6% of care leavers go to university, compared with 38% of all young people. Almost a third of children in care leave school with no GCSEs or GNVQs. That is not their failure but ours. I urge everyone in the Chamber today to reflect on that. We are failing these children and young adults, and it is our duty to turn those numbers around.

Finally, one issue on which we can congratulate all concerned is the progress we have made on sex and relationships education. A great deal of work has gone into getting to this stage, for which I thank my Front-Bench colleague, my hon. Friend Sarah Champion. I also thank my hon. Friends the Members for Walthamstow, for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) and for Dulwich and West Norwood (Helen Hayes), in whose names new clause 1 stands.

I also acknowledge the work of Mrs Miller and Mr Burrowes. I will support the amendment that they and Mr Jenkin have tabled to new clause 15. I hope the Minister will be able to address the point without division, in either sense of the word.

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Co-Leader of the Green Party

Does the hon. Lady agree that, on the question of the right contained in new clause 15 for parents to withdraw their children from sex education lessons, we need to ask challenging questions on whether it can ever be right to deny a child their entitlement to vital education through good, age-appropriate information, not least because we know how important that is to keeping them safe?

Photo of Angela Rayner Angela Rayner Shadow Secretary of State for Education

I take on board the hon. Lady’s point. There has to be balance, and there has been considerable movement in that direction. I pay tribute to the Government for moving on that issue. Hopefully we can tease that out as we go through the finer details.

However, I seek clarification from the Minister on certain points of new clause 15. First, the coalition Government withdrew funding for the personal, social and health and economic education continuing professional development programme. That policy made it much more difficult for teachers to access the necessary training, thus lowering quality. Will the Government commit to any new resources for teacher training and continuing professional development in order to ensure that relationships and sex education provision is of high quality?

I reiterate the earlier contributions to this debate that, at first glance, there is no explicit mention of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues in new clause 15. We have evidence from Stonewall and others that excluding LGBT children and the issues they encounter daily from existing relationships and sex education has a damaging impact on their health, wellbeing and attainment at school. Do the Government commit to ensuring that the new statutory guidance is inclusive of LGBT issues in an age-appropriate way? Will the Government consult expert organisations in doing so?

We know that the nature of relationships and sex education will change, which means changes to statutory guidance.

Photo of Angela Rayner Angela Rayner Shadow Secretary of State for Education

The hon. Gentleman had loads of time to seek to intervene when the Minister was speaking.

Will the Government convene an expert group to ensure that, as the statutory guidance is updated, it covers the broad depth of topics required in RSE? Which organisations will be part of that group? On that issue at least, the House has spoken and the Government have listened. I urge the Government to do the same again on the other amendments before the House today. Many of the most vulnerable children depend on us, and we must not let them down.

Photo of Heidi Allen Heidi Allen Conservative, South Cambridgeshire 2:15 pm, 7th March 2017

I rise to speak to new clause 14, which is in my name. My interest in the Bill is born out of the refugee crisis sweeping across Europe. I am interested in how the Bill might apply to safeguarding children in our care. The Government have a tremendous record in the Syria region, but, for me and for many in the House, there remains a big issue in Europe that has still not been addressed. How we safeguard children who might come to us from Europe is a matter close to all our hearts.

Let us get the elephant out there. For many of us, this debate is about the Dubs amendment and whether we can bring it back to life. The heart of the amendment is about consulting local authorities on their capacity. Why is that of interest to us? It specifically interests me because since the Government announced that the Dubs scheme would be closed, local authorities across the country have stepped forward to say that they can do more. If there is that capacity, we must have a safeguarding strategy and something that extracts such information from local authorities on a regular basis, rather than just once up to the end of this financial year. That is powerful information, and we must know it.

What I am interested to hear from the Minister, and I still have not heard it—this will affect how I feel about pressing new clause 14 to a vote—is to whom the safeguarding strategy, which is the subject of ongoing consultation with local authorities, will apply. Will it be children in Europe who may potentially come to us as refugees or asylum seekers? Is it just for children in Syria and the region, or is it just for those arriving under their own steam following dangerous but hard-fought journeys by truck and train?

This refugee crisis will not end neatly at the end of this financial year, so our ability to consult local authorities to understand their capacity must not end neatly at the end of this financial year, either. The timescale of the strategies we are debating today—for consulting local authorities and caring for children in our care and for unaccompanied children who come to us as refugees or asylum seekers—must be maintained over and beyond the end of this financial year.

I remind the House that Lewisham asked for 23 children but has so far been sent one. Bristol has been sent zero out of 10. Gloucestershire would like 10 but has been sent only two. Those small numbers add up. Small gestures of individual generosity collectively make us leaders.

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Conservative, Forest of Dean

My hon. Friend mentions my local authority, Gloucestershire, which I am pleased has been able to play a part in this process. What is her response to the point that the Minister made, and that I made to the Minister, about significant numbers of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children already coming to the United Kingdom? The burden of caring for those children falls disproportionately, so if councils such as Lewisham and others have some capacity, should they not be helping to support councils like Croydon and Kent that are bearing a significant burden? Importing yet more children is drawing more children to undertake dangerous journeys to Europe that may lead them to their death.

Photo of Heidi Allen Heidi Allen Conservative, South Cambridgeshire

That is the strength of a decent consultation. I and many of us in this House believe that we can do both. The new clause allows us to spread the burden. It is tough, as some councils have borne a disproportionate burden of responsibility on their shoulders. Those councils have done amazingly, and it is time that other local authorities that have capacity share some of that burden. Guess what? If we consult as well as I think we can, I sense that we will find that we have capacity to manage both.

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham

I declare my interest. My hon. Friend knows that I put my name to the amendment and that I support her. I do not want to get hung up on any particular scheme, Dubs or otherwise, because the Government have done an awful lot across many schemes, as the Home Affairs Committee has seen. Many authorities have come forward, and my concern is that we need to know exactly what capacity they realistically have to care for refugee children without there being a detriment to indigenous children, for whom there is a crisis in the number of foster care and residential children’s home places. The amendment might achieve that, whatever she might think.

Photo of Heidi Allen Heidi Allen Conservative, South Cambridgeshire

Absolutely, and not least because of the refugee crisis. This is good housekeeping. It is good for us to have transparent data so that we can understand the capacity of our local authorities and our care system, which has to help children who are already in the UK care system.

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Conservative, Rochester and Strood

Does my hon. Friend agree that local authorities are already reviewing capacity on a week-by-week basis? That is evident in the number of referrals coming out of London to look after our own British children. Does she accept that local authorities do this every day of the week?

Photo of Heidi Allen Heidi Allen Conservative, South Cambridgeshire

I do, absolutely. For me, this debate is born out of the fact that some local authorities have stepped forward and said they are struggling incredibly, while others have stepped forward and said they do have capacity. Somewhere, we are not joining those two conversations together. I know there is further capacity out there for the betterment of the children in care in the UK and the refugee children.

Photo of David Burrowes David Burrowes Conservative, Enfield, Southgate

What the Minister said from the Dispatch Box did not seem too far away from what new clause 14 is seeking, which is to ensure that we recognise exactly what the capacity is for all children, including unaccompanied children. Is not the call for transparency the very call referred to in the Home Affairs Committee report, in which the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner said he would welcome greater transparency? He was charged with the duty of going there independently to find the answer, and he wants transparency.

Photo of Heidi Allen Heidi Allen Conservative, South Cambridgeshire

Absolutely. The fact that not only Members of this House but individuals such as the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner are asking for this tells me that we need to do it.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner

Does my hon. Friend agree that capacity is constantly changing? In supporting the intention of the Dubs amendment, the Church of England made it clear that it would appeal for additional foster carers to come forward, not only for the children currently in the system but so that we could accommodate newcomers. If we are going to call for that, we have to provide the extra capacity that local authorities need.

Photo of Heidi Allen Heidi Allen Conservative, South Cambridgeshire

Absolutely. I am so grateful for all the interventions, but I shall try to wrap up my speech.

The point is that the refugee crisis—indeed, the care crisis in our own country; we do not have enough foster carers—is an opportunity for us to do some decent housekeeping on the systems and to find out what capacity we have and where local authorities can step forward and do more. There is of course a debate to be had about funding. I know that some councils have said they are stretched, and the capacity conversation will draw out the argument about whether the funding is sufficient.

The majority of councils do not care where the children come from. I care that we take our fair share and help our neighbours in Europe, and I know that many other Members do, too. So that I am reassured by the Minister and do not press my new clause to a vote, I ask again: will the safeguarding strategy extend beyond the UK—that is, might it take into account refugees who may come here from Europe and further afield? Will the consultation results be made open to Parliament?

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

I welcome the Government’s measures on compulsory sex and relationship education, and pay tribute to those on both sides of the House who have campaigned for it at a time when we know that violence in teen relationships is increasing and teenagers are exposed to so much more than we were as children.

In the short time available, I wish to confine my remarks to new clause 14, following on from Heidi Allen. Yesterday, the Home Affairs Committee published a report that was limited in its recommendations because it was an interim report. We called for the Government to clarify and publish local authorities’ capacity to take children, including those from Europe under the Dubs scheme, and their further capacity in the next financial year. We also called on the Government to seek the views of the Anti-slavery Commissioner before making any changes to the Dubs scheme or closing it.

We made those recommendations because of the evidence we heard. First, on council capacity, Ministers have said that councils had only 350 places to provide for children coming from Europe under the Dubs scheme. We heard from councils that said they had not been properly consulted; that many of them, including Hammersmith and Fulham, Lewisham, Birmingham and Bristol, had more capacity; and that they could potentially deliver thousands more places, if they were properly funded. That is why new clause 14 is so sensible.

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Conservative, Forest of Dean

The right hon. Lady is leaping to a potential solution, but without thinking through the Government’s argument about why it would be a mistake. The whole point about providing capacity is that if one accepts the argument—I know she does not—that taking more children from Europe will mean that more will make dangerous journeys, on which many will die, it is fundamentally a mistake. She is leaping to a fundamentally mistaken solution to a very grave crisis.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

I understand the point that the right hon. Gentleman makes, but his view is rather different from the one taken by the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner, who was appointed by the Government to champion action against modern slavery. I pay tribute to the Prime Minister and the Government for leading the way on a lot of work against modern slavery—they are right to do that—but the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner has described the Dubs scheme as a “safe and legal route” that has protected children who were being exploited. We have also heard from UNICEF that the

“cancellation of the Dubs scheme is a good win for people traffickers—there is money to be made, because children will try to get to their families or to places of safety one way or another.”

The point of the Dubs scheme was to prevent slavery. Surely the minimum the Government should do is to seek the further advice of the expert anti-slavery commissioner before they make any changes or close the scheme. If they want to persist in their view, they should at least test it against the evidence, not to mention listen to the many organisations and charities that have been arguing so strongly on the basis of the work they are doing with children and young people throughout Europe and other places who are at risk of being trafficked and being sucked into exploitation and sexual abuse. Children and teenagers have already come to Britain under the Dubs scheme who have been trafficked, sexually abused, raped and exploited. Now they are safe, thanks to Britain—thanks to the work that Britain has done as a result of the Dubs and Dublin schemes.

Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Conservative, Wellingborough

I am listening carefully to the right hon. Lady. On that particular point, can she absolutely assure the House that the children we have taken into this country who have been trafficked have not been re-trafficked after coming here?

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

The hon. Gentleman makes a really important point. He and I have both raised the need to ensure that once children are here they do not fall prey to the same trafficking gangs, which will sometimes go to children’s homes to seek them out. We know that, as a result of the Dubs scheme so far—in the mere six months for which it has been running—many children and teenagers are now safe with foster carers or in children’s homes. They are now back in school—somewhere they had often not been for years because of the exploitation, trafficking and abuse they have suffered.

We also know that, as we speak, there are in Greece more than 2,000 unaccompanied child refugees or those seeking asylum, only half of whom have places in children’s homes or foster care because the Greek system is overstretched. The Dubs scheme simply allows all countries to do their bit. It allows Britain to do its bit in a very small, modest way, given the scale of the refugee crisis. I pay tribute to the work done by Britain and the British Government on other aspects of the refugee crisis, but the Dubs scheme is an important part of Britain being able to do its bits to help those who are most vulnerable of all—children.

Ministers have said they will continue to consult, but only as part of the national transfer scheme and, as I understand it, only for those children who have already arrived in the country. That is important, but it is not a substitute for also consulting on children who could come here under the Dubs scheme. It is not an either/or.

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Conservative, Rochester and Strood

In an immigration debate last year, I asked the right hon. Lady about the capacity of local authorities to come forward to help councils such as Kent to look after the significant numbers of unaccompanied asylum seekers that the council has had to look after over this period. Will she clarify that the point she is making is that there is a will to support children coming from Europe, but an unwillingness to support councils like Kent?

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

No, I am saying the opposite—that we have to do both. Kent does need support from all over the country; so, too, do Hillingdon and Croydon. Some councils have done most to take the strain and to provide support. There has to be a national transfer scheme; I have supported it, when the Government have proposed it, every step of the way, and it needs to do more.

It is interesting that when the Select Committee took evidence, the Local Government Association told us that if there was further funding, councils throughout the country would be able to meet that 0.07% target set by the Government, and that that would allow councils to provide around 4,000 additional places. That is more than enough to take far more of the children who are currently being supported in Kent to other places across the country and to do our bit to help a small number of additional child refugees from Europe to prevent trafficking. The reason why the Government should focus on those coming from Europe as well as those who have arrived on their own is that if we provide help only to those who make the dangerous and illegal journey on lorries and trucks and often with traffickers and not to those who take the safe legal route, all we do is drive more people into the arms of the traffickers and on to the dangerous routes.

When the Calais camp was cleared in the autumn and the Dubs and the fast-track Dublin schemes were put in place, we were told that the number of children arriving via these very dangerous routes began to drop. Can the Government clarify whether those two schemes did in fact prevent some of those dangerous journeys and some of the challenges that Kent has faced?

Let me refer now to the spirit of the amendment. The Dubs amendment said not that we should consult on a national transfer scheme and then pretend that it is a Dubs scheme, but that we should consult specifically on the Dubs scheme. This is about enabling Britain to do its bit to prevent modern slavery, as the Prime Minister has rightly said that we should do. It is about supporting the Dubs scheme that was in place only for six months. It had huge cross-party support because, rightly, we believed in Britain doing its bit and in supporting children who have described themselves as being traded like cattle and being sexually abused and raped.

Yesterday, President Trump reintroduced his travel ban and his Muslim ban which include stopping all refugees. For generations, the US has helped the persecuted, but now it has decided to stop doing so. We in Britain continually say, “We don’t do that; that is not us.” Let us now prove it by saying that we will carry on helping the most vulnerable, that we will carry on with the Dubs scheme and that we will carry on doing our bit, just as we have done for generations.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Chair, Women and Equalities Committee, Chair, Women and Equalities Committee 2:30 pm, 7th March 2017

My hon. Friend Mr Burrowes and I decided to withdraw new clause 5, which had the support of 46 Members of Parliament, including Sarah Champion, Frank Field, my right hon. Friend Dame Caroline Spelman and many others, because we feel very strongly that new clauses 15 and 16 do exactly what we wanted, which is to make statutory lessons available for all children in all schools. I applaud my hon. Friend the Minister for Vulnerable Children and Families, for everything that he has done to make that happen. He has demonstrated what can be achieved when there is a collaborative view in this House.

Three Select Committees have called for statutory lessons in this area, and that is a good way forward. Millions of children will benefit as a result of what my hon. Friend the Minister has announced today. High quality relationship and sex education can play an important part in preventing child sexual abuse and exploitation. It teaches children from an early age about fundamental issues such as consent, healthy relationships and how to have respect for themselves and their peer group. It is important that we put such lessons in place and that we do so right now. This call could not be more timely, especially in light of today’s BBC’s report about Facebook’s failure to remove illegal images of children from its social media platform. The whole House will deplore the fact that Facebook is failing in its duties.

Today’s amendments to this Bill will be an important first step in safeguarding our children, but the work cannot stop there. I urge the Minister to work with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to ensure that there is a statutory code in place for social media. We do not want to have a situation in which internationally known corporations such as Facebook can host illegal child abuse images, including those that explicitly focus on men with a sexual interest in children.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Chair, Defence Committee, Chair, Defence Committee

I am sure that almost all of us agree that sex education in secondary schools is a good thing, particularly as parents will still be guaranteed the right to withdraw their children. What one is concerned about is that parents will not have the right to withdraw their children from relationship education in primary school. What is there to prevent sex education aspects from being smuggled in under that label?

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Chair, Women and Equalities Committee, Chair, Women and Equalities Committee

I urge my right hon. Friend to talk to some of the teachers in his constituency who are already touching on issues of sex education in primary schools, because it is possible to do that in an age-appropriate manner. There is nothing in this Bill that would concern parents about further sex education being taught in primary schools—quite the contrary. According to research, three quarters of all parents, if not a little more than that, welcome these measures. Perhaps it is because they understand the safeguarding issues that can be very well covered by relationship education, even at an early age. I am talking about issues around consent in particular. I hope that my right hon. Friend can support these measures, because they are important not only for the future development of our children, but for keeping them safe and for giving them the ability to call out for help if and when they need it.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Chair, Women and Equalities Committee, Chair, Women and Equalities Committee

Will my hon. Friend forgive me if I make just a bit more progress? I do not want to fall foul of Mr Speaker.

I thank the Minister for responding to the amendments that I have tabled with the support of my hon. Friends the Members for Enfield, Southgate and for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin). I am talking about proposed amendments (b), (c), (d) and (e) to Government new clause 15. I note the reference of my hon. Friend the Minister to a public law duty that obliges the Government to keep content in this area up to date. I can understand his argument, but it has not really worked so far, has it? It has taken about 17 years to get the guidance on sex and relationship education even on the agenda. Surely that public law duty on the Government has been there for the past decade and a half. None the less, I welcome his confirmation at the Dispatch Box, which will be recorded in Hansard, that he understands the intent behind proposed amendments (b) and (d) to undertake reviews every three years.

Governments of all complexions have, frankly, regularly sidestepped and ducked the issue of relationship and sex education, using a whole host of excuses to this House as to why it was not possible. What my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate and I have shown is that there is a cross-party desire to get this matter sorted and that the Government should not duck this issue from this point in.

In response to proposed amendment (c) to Government new clause 15 that relationship and sex education will be central to any assessment of schools, I am really reassured that there will be a lead in this area from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education. I am sure that the Minister with his infinite influence could encourage Ofsted to go a little further on this and to consider redoing its report that so clearly showed that a large proportion of schools were failing in their delivery of sex and relationship education as it currently stands. It would be good to show that that has changed, that progress is being made and that a further report could be done.

I would also welcome it if the Minister could reiterate the fact that newly drawn up regulations and guidance will be shaped by experts and not by prejudice or preconceptions in this area, and that there will also be support for expert teaching of the subject. Given the news headlines on Facebook today, perhaps he might consider a levy on social media organisations that flout common decency and standards, so that they can be held accountable and perhaps pay the bills for some of the problems that they create by allowing our children to be exposed to inappropriate material.

Photo of Ben Howlett Ben Howlett Conservative, Bath

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Chair, Women and Equalities Committee, Chair, Women and Equalities Committee

Will my hon. Friend forgive me if I do not? I can see that I am getting into trouble with the Speaker.

The Minister is right to resist amendment (a) to Government new clause 15; as I said to my right hon. Friend Dr Lewis, it risks undermining important safeguarding for children in primary schools. The Minister is also right to resist new clause 1, which would not provide the sort of comprehensive relationship and sex education that I know he wants. For 17 years, Governments have sidestepped the issue. This Government should be applauded for the action that they are taking.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Labour/Co-operative, Walthamstow

In the light of your request for brevity, Mr Speaker, let me be clear that there is a common thread through my points and the amendments that I have tabled: inclusivity, which Members across the House probably support in principle, but in practice, the devil is in the detail of the amendments, and that is why I want to speak.

First, on sex and relationship education, I welcome the moves being made by the Government. It has taken seven years, but finally we will right the wrong whereby while composting and compound interest are on the curriculum, consent is not. I ask the Minister to look at the wording of new clause 1, its explicit reference to same-sex relationships, and the importance of being clear, during the consultation, that we will make sure that children are able to talk about every relationship that they have or may come across in life, and be taught to value them equally. That matters, because 95% of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children say that they were not talked to at school about same-sex relationships. When that is so much part of the modern world, it is important that we include it in the modern training that we give our children.

Not least, I want to raise the concerns of teachers from Walthamstow, who said to me that they still live under the spectre of section 28 and the idea that there are things that they cannot talk to children about. The Minister knows my concern that use of the word “appropriate” in his legislation may raise that worry for teachers, so today I look for him to say explicitly that he expects same-sex relationships to be part of the curriculum; that he expects that when bullying is talked about in schools, homophobic bullying will be addressed, at both primary and secondary level; and that we will find a sensitive and religiously inclusive way to cover issues around same-sex relationships, in line with the Equality Act 2010. We should not trade off making progress on some areas of society—through bringing in an ability to talk about consent and domestic abuse—against not making progress on gay rights in other sections of our society. The Minister will point to the 1996 wording that the legislation echoes, but we had section 28 in 1996; this is 2017. Let us make sure that when we make progressive legislation, it is truly progressive.

It is important that we have inclusivity when it comes to child refugees. That is why I want to raise amendment 1 and speak in support of new clause 14 and amendment 2. In October, I asked the Prime Minister to tell us what had happened to the 178 children of whom her Government had been notified who would qualify, under the Dubs amendment, to come to our country but had gone missing from France. Six months on, I am still waiting for a response, but those 178 children are just a fraction of the 10,000 children who have been reported missing in Europe over the refugee crisis. Some 120,000 unaccompanied children—orphans—have come to Europe since 2015. The Dubs amendment is designed to help those children. We agreed as a House that we would do our bit for them, but what kind of a “bit” are we doing? We are talking about 350 children, which equates to 0.002% of all unaccompanied child refugees in Europe. When we debated Dubs, we talked about 3,000 children, which would be just 0.025% of them.

It is right that people should be concerned about what other countries are doing, and that we hold the French, Greeks and Italians accountable for their treatment of these children, but Turkey alone is taking 2.8 million Syrian refugees; how can we hold our heads high if we do not do our bit as well? The Dubs scheme is about us doing our bit.

New clause 14 is explicit about safeguarding the children who have applications for transfer—the children in the camps now. I agree with Members who talk about pull factors; the pull factor is safety. We are talking about Afghan children running from the Taliban, Sudanese children running from rape and murder, and Oromo children running from political persecution. They are pulled to our shore for safety. Closing the Dubs scheme will not stop that pull factor, but it will make the traffickers the most attractive proposition those children have. Crucially, amendment 1 and new clause 14 identify our responsibility for involvement in the safeguarding process; we should involve not just the Home Office but the Department for Education. That is where amendment 2 comes from.

How can we hold our heads high as a country when the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child repeatedly tells us that we are not doing our duty by asylum-seeking children and explicitly says that the Department for Education should play a stronger role with regard to them, and if we do not have agreement in law that the UN convention on the rights of the child covers not just children in this country, but every child we seek to safeguard, including those in camps who were identified in the statement made by the Minister in November? Without that agreement, we are creating a two-tier system for some of the most vulnerable children in the world. I ask Government Members, who I know share our concern to do the right thing by these children, to think about what it says about us as a country if we think that some children, who are not old enough to be accountable for the horrors in their country, are less worthy than others of our help.

Yes, this is messy; yes, it is difficult; and yes, times are tough, but Britain at its best has always stood up to the world, held its head high and said, “We will play our part.” The Dubs scheme was us playing our part. Closing it prematurely when our councils are saying that they want to help, and when there are children who are safe in this country as a direct result of it, speaks ill of our character as a nation. I hope that Government Members will reflect on that, and will vote to send a strong message to the Government that we must help those children. Not helping them will not stop them coming; it will simply leave them rotting in the mud in Calais, Italy or Greece, still on all our consciences.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

I shall speak to my amendment (a) to new clause 15, which would give all parents a chance to withdraw their children from relationships education. As you know, Mr Speaker, there is already a right, long enshrined in our laws, for parents to withdraw children from sex education. I want to ask the Government why parents are to be allowed to continue to withdraw their children from sex education, but not from relationship education. It is an important point. The Supreme Court, in answer to the desire of the Scottish Government to impose itself between children and their families, ruled:

“The first thing that a totalitarian regime tries to do is to get to the children, to distance them from the subversive, varied influences of their families, and indoctrinate them in their rulers’ view of the world. Within limits, families must be left to bring up their children in their own way.”

Those of us who support the amendment believe that parents have the primary duty, and of course a desire, to bring up their children and educate them in their own values. The state should not impose its values on parents.

Frankly, the Government’s thinking on the matter is confused. Their policy statement says:

“We have committed to retain parents’ right to withdraw their child from sex education within RSE (other than sex education in the National Curriculum as part of science), as currently, but not from relationships education at primary. This is because parents should have the right to teach this themselves in a way which is consistent with their values.”

That document rightly justifies the right to withdrawal from sex education, but offers no justification whatever for the inconsistent and aberrant decision not to extend that right to relationships education.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

I must finish. If we respect the rights of parents over sex education, why trample all over their rights when it comes to relationships education? It is understandable that some will view this as a state takeover bid for parenting.

Photo of Angela Smith Angela Smith Labour, Penistone and Stocksbridge

I rise to speak on amendment 12, which is in my name. It seeks to ensure that the proposed child safeguarding practice review panel includes an independent domestic abuse expert.

The recent Women’s Aid report “Nineteen Child Homicides” outlined the depth of the challenge of child protection in families where one parent is abusive. It identified strong evidence that, when arrangements for child contact are being made where there is a history of domestic violence, the current workings of the family justice system support a pro-contact approach, which can undermine the best interests of the child or children.

On average, only 1% of applications for contact are refused, but domestic abuse is identified as an issue in up to 70% of family proceedings cases. In three quarters of cases where courts have ordered contact with an abusive parent, the children have suffered further abuse. Clearly, therefore, significant safeguarding concerns result from the management of child contact arrangements. Indeed, the report I referred to highlighted the cases of 19 children in 12 families who were killed by perpetrators of domestic abuse in circumstances related to unsafe contact.

Research has identified a range of key lessons for the child protection system in relation to child contact in families where one parent is abusive. Those lessons are critical to the Bill’s aim of improving local safeguarding. In particular, understanding abusive partners’ coercive control of women and children is critical to improving child safeguarding.

On the proposed role of the child safeguarding practice review panel, my amendment would ensure that the concerns I have outlined are heard, by making sure the panel included at least one recognised independent specialist domestic abuse expert. In Committee, the Minister seemed to agree with that proposal when he stated that the panel would bring a more systematic and comprehensive approach to pulling together knowledge and understanding for cases involving an issue of national importance and relevance, and as far as I am concerned, domestic violence is an issue of national importance. By putting such an expert on the panel, the Government would also address their stated desire for it to provide social work practitioners with specialist advice and the best available research and evidence on domestic abuse and children.

I will push the issue to a vote if you allow me to, Mr Speaker, because the Government could act on it very easily and very quickly, and it would benefit women and children up and down the country.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Simon Hoare Simon Hoare Conservative, North Dorset

I rise to speak in warm support of new clause 15 and to congratulate the Government. The Minister will remember that I served on the Public Bill Committee and spoke in support of the then new clause, which was tabled by Stella Creasy. I very much welcome the two safeguards in the new clause—on age-appropriateness and parental rights to withdraw—which I think address the points that have been raised.

This is a new clause—a 21st-century clause—for a 21st-century education system and for the world in which we live, and it reflects the deep need to provide our young people with the education and skills they require to meet challenges that many of us on the Conservative Benches did not face when we were their age.

Many people rail against the rates of divorce, abortion, teenage pregnancy and the like, and I am absolutely convinced that there must be a causal link between those statistics and the very patchy and relatively poor levels of sex and relationship education we have had in this country hitherto.

The new clause appears to have garnered the support of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, of which I am a member, as well as of Barnardo’s, the Terrence Higgins Trust and others. I would therefore suggest to right hon. and hon. Members that the Government are clearly on to something and are approaching it in the right way.

We do nothing that could be described as moral if we leave our young people unprepared to meet the challenges of relationships and modern life. I certainly support the fact—I raised this in the Adjournment debate brought by my right hon. Friend Mrs Miller—that the clause covers academies and free schools. Given the direction of travel in the education environment, that seems entirely appropriate, and I support the new clause.

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control)

I wish to speak to the amendments in my name to new clauses 13 and 14. Let me say in passing that new clauses 12 and 11, on universal credit and local housing allowance, both have our full support. On new clause 4, while we sympathise with the sentiment behind it, the method of progression is not the correct one, and we could not give the new clause our support.

Let me turn to new clauses 12 to 14 and to my two amendments. New clause 13 would put the strategy for the safeguarding of unaccompanied refugee children on a statutory footing, and that has our support. Given that many of the laws and services that will be involved are devolved, I have suggested that the new clause be amended to require consultation with the devolved Administrations before the strategy is published.

New clauses 12 and 14 require assessment of the capacity to provide safeguarding and welfare services, including to unaccompanied child refugees. I welcome the cross-party support new clause 14 has attracted, and the Scottish National party fully intends to give it our support. My small amendment to it simply borrows the wording of new clause 12 in relation to the devolved Administrations. It is appropriate to include the devolved Administrations, because, as we have heard, the key driver behind new clause 14 is to force the Government to rethink their move to wind the Dubs scheme down. This was a UK-wide scheme, and Scotland was and is absolutely willing to play its part in it.

With the rationale for closing Dubs falling to pieces, the Government have belatedly come to the Dispatch Box to make a concession. However, in making that concession, they have actually made the case for new clause 14, rather than giving an explanation of why we should reject it, so I see no reason why we should not proceed with it. If it comes to a vote, the SNP will absolutely support new clause 14, whether amended or not.

Photo of David Burrowes David Burrowes Conservative, Enfield, Southgate

I rise to support many of the proposals, not least those in my name, which the Minister has supported from the Dispatch Box.

On new clause 7, statutory guidance will spread good practice, which is all too limited in relation to those who need therapeutic support, such as those who are at risk—not least those who have come from a care background—of repeat pregnancies. There is a duty of care in this Bill not only to children but to vulnerable adults, and I appreciate that that will now come within statutory guidance, so I will not need to press the new clause. However, I pay particular tribute to the Family Rights Group and the other organisations supporting it.

I very much support new clause 15, and our earlier new clauses 5 and 6 paved the way towards it. The thrust of it is very welcome. We should recognise the support from all sides of the argument. Previously, there was a stalemate, and we were looking simply at when we would make sex education compulsory. Now, we are focused on relationships and building the resilience in relationships that vulnerable children— particularly those who do not have any sight or sound of healthy relationships— do not have. I welcome that and the reassurance on age-appropriateness and the religious background of pupils.

The Government’s position on new clause 14 is welcome in focusing on safeguarding. This is not a re-run of Dubs or of those earlier arguments. This is about safeguarding. Whether we are talking about children in the UK or children coming from abroad, all children need safeguarding, and I welcome the commitment that has been made on that. However, as a result of this debate, the Government need to be more transparent about keeping the Dubs process open so that we can do all we can for children here and elsewhere.

One and a half hours having elapsed since the commencement of proceedings on consideration, the debate was interrupted (Programme Order, 5 December and this day).

The Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair (Standing Order No. 83E), That the clause be read a Second time.

Question agreed to.

New clause 15 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

The Speaker then put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83E).

New Clause 16