New Clause 1

Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 13th July 2006.

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Information sharing protocol

The Secretary of State shall issue guidance on information sharing arrangements between police forces and local authorities  for the purposes of the protection of children and vulnerable adults under this Act.’.—[Annette Brooke.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Annette Brooke Annette Brooke Shadow Spokesperson (Children, Schools and Families), Shadow Minister (Education), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

I am pleased that we have reached the new clauses. In many ways they make probing points. New clause 1 would require the Secretary of State to develop guidance on creating a national information sharing protocol between police forces and local authorities. Although the Bichard inquiry has the higher profile, two other influential reports were produced following the Soham tragedy. One was by Sir Ronnie Flanagan; the other was the serious case review by Sir Chris Kelly. It is the latter to which I shall refer.

In his report, Sir Chris Kelly recommended formal information-sharing protocols between the police and child protection agencies. That recommendation is important relative to the flow of information under the Bill. There will clearly be situations in which information does not meet the criteria for referral under clause 31, so it will still be important to share information with the police to feed possible future disclosures to the IBB under part 1 of the Police Act 1997.

Sharing information and building up a picture may be relevant in connection with individuals who later seek work with children. We want a proper protocol from the word go. Some of it will be soft information, and it is difficult to know how that is to be handled. We know from the Soham tragedy that there were many bits of information about Huntley but that they were never pulled together.

I hope that the Minister will give a full response, as what the new clause seeks is comparable with the approach taken in “Every Child Matters”.

Photo of Parmjit Dhanda Parmjit Dhanda Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Children, Young People and Families), Department for Education and Skills

I shall try to give the full response that the hon. Lady seeks. New clause 1 would impose a duty on the Secretary of State to issue guidance to police forces and local authorities on sharing information for the purposes of safeguarding children and vulnerable adults. It is an important area of practice, but it is covered in existing guidance.

Working Together to Safeguard Children” explains the circumstances in which information needs to be shared in the course of action being taken to safeguard children. “Information sharing: practitioner’s guide” provides practitioners across all children’s services with clear guidance on when and how they can share information legally and professionally. The two guidance documents were published in April 2006, and together they provide an effective framework for sharing information between local authorities, police forces, health organisations and others.

Significant progress has also been made on implementing the recommendations aimed at improving police management of information contained in the Bichard report. Regular progress reports have been provided to Parliament. Guidance to the police on information management and sharing was issued in March under the code of practice on  police information management. Police and local authorities will also have regard to the guidance in “Working Together to Safeguard Children”.

Under the circumstances, we do not believe that further guidance is required at present. I therefore ask the hon. Lady to withdraw the motion.

Photo of Annette Brooke Annette Brooke Shadow Spokesperson (Children, Schools and Families), Shadow Minister (Education), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 3:30 pm, 13th July 2006

I can quite see the point of existing guidance. My one concern is what will trigger further changes. Perhaps lacking at the moment is the trigger for work to be done on such protocols. The advantage of having something in the Bill is that it would focus the mind on the need for continual monitoring and revising in this important area. I am happy to withdraw motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.