Clause 20

Part of Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 13 July 2006.

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Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Shadow Minister (Education) 2:30, 13 July 2006

I am not sure that anyone is implying that we should not have safeguards in place. The  Minister should perhaps remember that we are here to listen to what the Government’s policy is, not to debate the Opposition. However, if he would like to swap places, we would be more than happy to try to improve the Bill and make it much better not only for those of us on the Committee, but those who have to try to put it into practice. We have heard constructive ways of trying to improve the Bill from my hon. Friends and Liberal Democrat Members, so it is somewhat disappointing that at the first sign of identifying the problem, the Minister’s reaction is defensive.

My comments about the Ofsted report related to the Government’s communication failures. They gave the report to the press in advance of Second Reading, but not to Opposition spokespeople, which put us in a difficult position. However, that is in the past and I do not want to dwell on it. We are talking about the safety of children and vulnerable adults, not the sensibilities of the Government and the way in which they choose to leak their information.

It is clearly disappointing to my hon. Friends and I that the Government are not willing to learn from their mistakes. Amendments Nos. 115 and 108 are constructive, and try to solve the problems that the Government have experienced in communicating to the many people who will be affected by the Bill. However, they are not willing to learn from the communication problems of the past. We should ensure that it is clear to employers that the guidance is not merely something to take heed of and simply “have regard to”, but that it should be put in place and acted in accordance with. That is a different form of words. The amendment would fundamentally change the way in which employers would consider the guidance, and it is disappointing that the Minister does not seem to understand or appreciate that difference.

We all share the objective of improving the Bill, and we are scrutinisers in that matter. We have an obligation to put forward what we feel would constitute an improvement. Clearly, the Minister has heard the issues and perhaps he will have time to reflect in a more measured manner outside the Committee. I hope that he will have time to reflect on the amendments before Report, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.