New Clause 2

Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 13th July 2006.

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Power of other organisations to refer to IBB

‘(1) Any organisation may provide IBB with any prescribed information they hold relating to a person if the first and second conditions are satisfied.

(2) The first condition is that the organisation thinks—

(a) that paragraph (1), (2), (6) or (7) of Schedule 2 applies to the person,

(b) that the person has engaged in relevant conduct (within the meaning of paragraph (4) or (9) of Schedule 2) occurring after the commencement of this section, or

(c) that the harm test is satisfied.

(3) The harm test is that the person may—

(a) harm a child or vulnerable adult,

(b) cause a child or vulnerable adult to be harmed,

(c) put a child or vulnerable adult at risk of harm,

(d) attempt to harm a child or vulnerable adult, or

(e) incite another to harm a child or vulnerable adult.

(4) The second condition is that the organisation thinks—

(a) that the person is engaged or may engage in regulated activity or controlled activity, and

(b) (except in a case where paragraph (1), (2), (6) or (7) of Schedule 2 applies) that IBB may consider it appropriate for the person to be included in a barred list.

(5) For the purposes of paragraphs (2)(b) or (c), it is immaterial whether there is a finding of fact in any proceedings.

(6) An organisation may provide IBB with any prescribed information they hold relating to a person if—

(a) an organisation thinks that a person has engaged in relevant conduct (within the meaning of paragraph 4 or 9 of Schedule 2) occurring before the commencement of this section, and

(b) the condition in subsection (4) is satisfied.’.—[Annette Brooke.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Eric Martlew Eric Martlew Labour, Carlisle

With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 3—Other organisations: duty to provide information on request—

‘(1) This section applies if IBB is considering—

(a) whether to include any person in a barred list; or

(b) whether to remove any person from a barred list.

(2) If IBB thinks that an organisation holds any prescribed information relating to the person specified in subsection (1), it may require the authority to provide it with the information.

(3) The organisation must comply with a requirement under subsection (2).’.

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

Again, the new clauses are probing. I wish to touch on other areas that we feel are not fully covered by the Bill. One gives power to organisations to refer cases to the IBB, and the other suggests that other organisations should have the duty to provide information on request. They both tackle the same area, and I seek a little more detail on the responsibilities and duties of those other organisations.

During debates in the other place, the Government clarified that under the Bill it would be possible for other bodies that do not have a duty to refer cases to the IBB to do so. Examples that have been mentioned in discussions include doctors, psychologists, some NGOs, Barnardo’s and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children; they will obviously encounter cases in which they believe that an individual’s conduct is of concern, in that they pose a risk to children or vulnerable adults, and they may want to refer such cases to the IBB.

It would be helpful if the Minister were further to clarify the Department’s thinking on referrals. For example, will the criteria for such referrals be based on the criteria set out in clause 31 on referrals from local authorities, as the new clauses suggests? What might happen in terms of the IBB seeking more information from the referrer? Unlike local authorities, under clause 32, those other organisations have no requirement to provide prescribed information; the starting point might be for those bodies to provide information, but what happens if the IBB wants more information? That is how the new clauses are linked.

Finally, would organisations that refer conduct cases to the IBB outside the statutory scheme be able to avail themselves of the protections against damages set out in clause 42? Do the Government agree that bona fide referrals should be protected, as are those from local authorities? I should like clarification on that, because it could make referral either less likely or more likely. I await the Minister’s response.

I have gone through my questions rather quickly, and shall be happy to intervene on the Minister if he asks me to. I hope that he sees that the new clauses are two sides of the same coin, dealing first with an offer and then with a need on the part of the IBB to seek more information. We can imagine how that would happen; as MPs in our surgeries, we sometimes get a little information but need to know more about a situation before we can proceed.

I hope that I have put that into context and that the Minister will address the questions. I hasten to say that these are probing new clauses. The issue of organisations offering up information will be really important; it represents new territory beyond the confidentiality that we have had so much of in the past.

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

We are discussing two probing new clauses; that is unusual, as we usually talk of probing amendments. However, I welcome them.

The Bill does not prevent an organisation or individual from referring information to the IBB when it or he is not under a duty to do so. The Bill also provides that the IBB must consider any information that it receives from whatever source and of whatever nature. New clause 2 would create a power for any organisation to refer information to the IBB.

We agree that the IBB should not be limited to considering information only from organisations under a duty to provide it, and I reassure the hon. Lady that the Bill imposes no such limitation. For organisations not covered by the duties in the Bill, we plan to issue guidance setting out when we would expect an organisation to make a referral to the IBB. The guidance will advise individuals who wish to make such referrals to refer the information to the police or another appropriate authority, such as a local authority or social services, so that it can be properly investigated and any action needed to protect children or vulnerable adults can be set in train quickly.

New clause 3 would enable the IBB to require information from any organisation when it is considering whether to include or keep a person on a barred list. We have already ensured that the key organisations likely to have such information are under a duty to provide information to the IBB. That duty is imposed on employers that are regulated activity providers, including former employers, local authorities, the police, keepers of registers such as the General Medical Council and supervisory authorities such as Ofsted.

The IBB will also be able to ask any other organisation for information relevant to a barring decision. It seems unlikely that an organisation would not comply with such a request, given that the protection of children and vulnerable adults would be at stake. If such an organisation were reluctant to provide information and if the details that the IBB already had suggested that the child or vulnerable adult might be at risk, the IBB would be able to refer the case to the police and/or other local services for further investigation. That is pretty important.

Our approach strikes the correct balance between ensuring that the IBB has access to information, so that it can make decisions, and avoiding duplicating the investigative and intervention roles of other organisations, including the police and social services. Given those assurances, I hope that the hon. Lady will not insist on her probing new clauses.

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

I shall not, although I have one question outstanding. As the Minister is in such writing mode, needing plenty of work over the summer recess, I hope that he will answer in due course my other question about the protections against damages, as set out in clause 42. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.