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 IBBs final decisions.
Government new clause 28Notification of proposal to include person in barred list: Northern Ireland.
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 32Barring process: Northern Ireland.
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 schemenormally 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 childrens 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 officersrather than the CRB, whose function is data processingwill 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.
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 thingbarring 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.
It is a serious point that remorseless relabelling, rebranding and rebadgingto use terrible PR-speakis 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 bodyI do not see why that name has to change, but perhaps the Minister can enlighten us.
I am genuinely and sincerely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the Oppositions 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.
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.)
We come to a point where I am obliged to ask whether I have the Committees 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.