Clause 62

Policing and Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:30 pm on 24th February 2009.

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Renaming of Independent Barring Board

Photo of Alan Campbell Alan Campbell Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Crime Reduction)

I beg to move amendment 308, in clause 62, page 86, line 36, leave out ‘31,’.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: Government amendments 309 and 310.

Government new clause 27—Notification of proposal to include person in barred list: England and Wales.

This amendment requires the IBB to notify any registered party, and empowers the IBB to notify anyone else whom it is satisfied is an interested party, with reasons, when it proposes to bar someone from working with children or vulnerable adults. A further notification must give the IBB’s final decisions.

Government new clause 28—Notification of proposal to include person in barred list: Northern Ireland.

This amendment makes equivalent provision in relation to Northern Ireland to that made in relation to England and Wales by amendment NC27.

Government new clause 29—Provision of safeguarding information to the police: England and Wales.

This amendment empowers the IBB to provide information that it has to the police, for use by the police for the purposes set out in the amendments.

Government new clause 30—Provision of safeguarding information to the police: Northern Ireland.

This amendment makes equivalent provision in relation to Northern Ireland to that made in relation to England and Wales by amendment NC 29.

Government new clause 31—Barring process: England and Wales.

This amendment adjusts the procedure for automatic barring so that it is the IBB that must be satisfied that a person has met prescribed criteria before the IBB is required to bar the person and makes a consequential change to the duty on the Secretary of State to check records.

Government new clause 32—Barring process: Northern Ireland.

This amendment makes equivalent provision in relation to Northern Ireland to that made in relation to England and Wales by amendment NC 31.

Government amendments 307, 335 and 336

Welcome back, Minister.

Photo of Alan Campbell Alan Campbell Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Crime Reduction)

Thank you, Sir Nicholas. Welcome back to you, too.

This group of amendments is designed to improve the working of the planned new vetting and barring scheme provided for under the Safeguarding Vulnerable  Groups Act 2006 and, as indicated by amendment 307, the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups (Northern Ireland) Order 2007.

It aims to improve the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults, and builds on the outcome of a public consultation with stakeholders on the details of the scheme's operation. We propose four main changes.

In amendments 335 and 336 we propose to remove the redundant status of

“subject to monitoring and undergoing assessment” from the online status check that will be available to employers who employ people in regulated activity with children or vulnerable adults. Undergoing assessment is too sensitive a status to appear in a publicly available IT system. In addition, when people first apply to be subject to monitoring by the scheme, they will inevitably be undergoing assessment for a while, so giving them that status will be meaningless.

Instead, guidance to employers will highlight that though new applications by members of the work force to be made subject to monitoring will be processed quickly, information may still be coming in to the CRB about those people until the associated enhanced disclosure is ready to issue a few weeks after the application. Until then, employers should apply appropriate safeguards in relation to all new applicants as neither they nor the ISA will yet have the full picture. Employers will have a true guide to a person's status through a CRB enhanced disclosure, which will say clearly if the person is under consideration for barring by the ISA.

New clauses 27 and 28 strengthen the notification of employers whose employees may pose a risk of harm to the vulnerable groups. The amendment provides that when the ISA has reached the advanced stage in its consideration and proposes to bar someone from working with children or vulnerable adults subject to their representations, it must notify any interested party who has registered for notification of any change in the person's status in the scheme—normally an employer in regulated activity with the vulnerable groups.

Also, if the ISA is satisfied that any other party has a legitimate interest in the person, it may notify that party that it proposes to bar the person. Such a party might be an employer of a person in regulated activity who has not yet had the opportunity to register his or her interest, because of the scheme's phasing-in period.

A person whom the ISA proposes to bar has eight weeks to make representation, and there might be a further period of time before the ISA is able to make its final decision. We do not believe that it is sustainable for the ISA to be aware of a risk posed by that person during that period but that the employer not be aware. It will be for employers to determine what action it is reasonable and appropriate for them to take in those circumstances, and guidance to employers will advise on what they might do if they receive such a notification.

For example, they might suspend the person or move him to work other than with the vulnerable groups. I stress again that the ISA is at an advanced stage in its process when it makes the notification. It has made a finding of fact and a judgment that it would be appropriate to bar, and has invited the individual to make representation about its decisions.

New clauses 29 and 30 give the ISA an explicit power to provide information to the police about people who come to its notice where that is necessary for the purposes  of crime prevention, detection or investigation. Normally, the ISA will receive information from the police. However, there may be exceptional circumstances where the ISA receives information that is unavailable to a particular police force about a person, but the ISA knows that that force has an interest in them and can form a view that they pose a risk of harm. The ISA should then have the power to inform the police in order to prevent crime. The police might then notify any known employer, local children’s services or adult social services, who would be able to take appropriate action if necessary.

New clauses 31 and 32 change the way in which the scheme will process automatic barring. Certain criminal offences, which are set out in secondary legislation, will cause the offender to be barred automatically. Both the 2006 Act and the 2007 order envisaged the CRB finding such offences in the police national computer, and the ISA then simply being required to bar the offender. Practice has shown that life is not so simple, because, in some cases, the circumstances in which the offence was committed need to be checked. For example, in some cases the age of the offender, and, occasionally, the victim, need to be clarified before it can be confirmed whether the prescribed criteria have been met, so an automatic bar should be applied.

ISA case officers—rather than the CRB, whose function is data processing—will establish the details of the circumstances in which an offence was committed. Indeed, the ISA has already started that work under transitional arrangements that were approved by Parliament last November. We need to reflect such practical experience in permanent legislative provisions.

Photo of David Ruffley David Ruffley Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I briefly want to confirm that the Opposition attaches as much importance as the Government to the safeguarding of vulnerable groups. I do not therefore have an issue of principle, but I have a query that I hope is not trivial.

Will the Minister explain why it was absolutely necessary to rename the Independent Barring Board? I ask that for two reasons. First, that original title has an element of stigma and sanction, which is a good thing—“barring” is a good word. Secondly, the Opposition are often struck by the remorseless amount of change that we see from the Government. I forget whether it was Bolingbroke or Halifax who said:

“When it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change.”

Photo of David Ruffley David Ruffley Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

My hon. Friend, who is a more distinguished historian than I will ever be, corrects me from a sedentary position. It was a grand old Tory who said it in any event.

It is a serious point that remorseless relabelling, rebranding and rebadging—to use terrible PR-speak—is something that Government should avoid as frequently as possible. Will the Minister, as a careful and prudent keeper of the public purse in relation to the Home Office budget, tell us the cost of the renaming in terms of changing letterheads, business cards and contact details? I may well have missed something, but the  change does not seem necessary. It is a semantic change that will only cost the taxpayer, and confuse people who have been cheerfully rubbing along and carrying out their lives by looking at something called a barring body—I do not see why that name has to change, but perhaps the Minister can enlighten us.

Photo of Alan Campbell Alan Campbell Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Crime Reduction)

I am genuinely and sincerely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the Opposition’s support for what we trying to do, and his reassurance that they treat the issue as importantly as we do. He said that “barring” was a good word in his view, and indeed it has some use as a word that sends out a message. But in reality, in the widespread consultation, the stakeholders of the vetting and barring scheme indicated that they did not particularly like the word “barring”, and preferred the word “safeguarding, because that gives greater prominence to the safeguarding agenda. It grew from them, as opposed to the Government seeking to change something for the sake of it, and I believe that it sends out the right message.

The hon. Gentleman asked about costs, particularly of letterheads. I am informed that the IBB never had letterheads, so there would be no cost, but I will check that, and if I find any costs, I will come back to him.

Amendment 308 agreed to.

Amendments made: 309, in clause 62, page 87, line 1, leave out ‘1 to 21’ and insert ‘2 to 6, 8 to 21’.

This amendment deletes the replacement of ‘IBB’ by ‘ISA’ in paragraphs 1 and 7 of Schedule 3 to the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 because amendment NC31 amends those paragraphs so that they refer to the ISA rather than to the IBB.

Amendment 310, in clause 62, page 87, line 6, after ‘(asp 14),’ insert—

‘(na) the following enactments in the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups (Northern Ireland) Order 2007 (S.I. 2007/1351 (N.I. 11)) (including any relevant headings)—

(i) Articles 2, 5, 6, 8, 10, 19, 29, 37 to 49 and 52,

(ii) paragraphs 2 to 6, 8 to 21, 23 and 25 of Schedule 1,

(iii) paragraphs 4 and 8 of Schedule 2,

(iv) paragraph 2 of Schedule 3, and

(v) paragraphs 1 to 3 of Schedule 6,’.—(Mr. Campbell.)

This amendment replaces ‘IBB’ by ‘ISA’ in provisions of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups (Northern Ireland) Order 2007.

Clause 62, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield 6:45 pm, 24th February 2009

We come to a point where I am obliged to ask whether I have the Committee’s agreement to put together the questions on whether clauses 63 to 76, to which no amendments have been tabled, should stand part of the Bill. Both the Opposition and Government Whips have said yes.

Photo of David Ruffley David Ruffley Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

On a point of order, Sir Nicholas. I was not aware that the clauses would be dealt with so rapidly. I seek your guidance, because I should like to speak on clause 63.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

This has been a very reasonable Committee, and there has been excellent co-operation across it. Is that the only clause that the hon. Gentleman wishes to comment on? I seek guidance so that I know how to proceed.

Photo of David Ruffley David Ruffley Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

Further to my point of order, Sir Nicholas. I wish to comment on only clauses 63 and 73 in this group.