|Previous Section||Home Page|
Column 136debating tonight. We debated the subject of smoking in public places. The European Commission, God bless us, felt that it was time that Europe took competence over such an issue. I suppose that the theory is that if one sits in a public lavatory chain-smoking in Dover, it will pollute the pastures of the French peasants in the Pas de Calais. Such little things please such little minds in the European Commission, and this is one such issue.
Why the withholding tax? We have no need for a withholding tax. What is the motive for the proposal? Why harmonise?
Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher) : I entirely endorse what my hon. Friend is saying about withholding tax, with which most hon. Members appear to disagree. Will he recognise, however, that the motivation for the proposal was the much greater benefit to the Community provided by the agreement of the French and the Italians--against their better judgment--to remove their own obstacles to capital movements? In other words, they were going to abolish exchange controls, an event which I am sure that my hon. Friend will also welcome.
Mr. Marlow : I think that we all welcome that event, but as I read and understand the treaty, it was going to happen anyway. Everyone was committed to the removal of constraints on capital flows. There was no general commitment in favour of the withholding tax, however. If we can get the good, why put up with the bad as well?
Why, then, did the Commission want to introduce the withholding tax? Why did it want to harmonise taxes? A harmonised tax is a European tax. Any tax that is harmonised is potentially a source of European finance. What we must decide is whether we believe that taxes should be raised by Europe or within the nation states of Europe. I believe, and I think that the House believes, that we should raise our own taxes and spend our own money.
Why? First, we have had very bad experiences of money that is raised for Europe and spent by Europe. The main area of European expenditure is, of course, the common agricultural policy, and day after day we read stories of how it is riddled with fraud and the money is wasted. My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) has told the House on many occasions that half the money spent on the common agricultural policy is spent on the storage and destruction of food. European policies are extravagant and wasteful and they spawn a great deal of criminal activity. That is another reason why we should not have a withholding tax.
The vast majority of the British people and the vast majority of right hon. and hon. Members believe that as we are in Europe we should stay in Europe, work with Europe and make Europe work. But that is a Europe of nation states, not a united states of Europe. A small minority is in favour of a united states of Europe, but if we start having more European levels of taxation we shall have more European levels of expenditure and we shall also move across the threshold from a Europe of nation states to a centralised, bureaucratic, Socialist united states of Europe. Let me explain why.
If Europe gets involved in personal levels of taxation--the level of tax that is charged to entrepreneurs--and if Europe gets involved in corporate taxation and controls the taxes that are paid by industry and commerce, there will be a tendency for them to be centralised at a high level in order to provide resources and scope for more
Column 137European policies. If the national Governments and national Parliaments of the nation states of Europe maintain the right, the power and the ability to raise their own taxes, they will tend to compete one with another. Instead of having high levels of European tax there will be low levels of national tax. If there are low levels of national tax, there is only one way that we can succeed. That is through growth--through giving scope to business, enterprise, commerce and industry.
If we want to have a prosperous Europe in the 21st century, national Governments and national Parliaments must decide what taxes are to be levied and how they are to be levied. If we move in the direction of centralised European taxation--of this withholding tax--or of any other areas of European taxation, we shall move towards the nightmare that has so often and so accurately been described by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East of a centralised, bureaucratic, Socialist united states of Europe.
Mr. Frank Haynes (Ashfield) : I have listened very carefully to what has been said, including what was said by the Minister and the hon. Members for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) and for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow). It is the same old story. As the hon. Member for Southend, East said, here we go again, late at night, and it will happen again and again. It is high time we put a stop to it. The House should grab this one by the hair and do something about it. Ministers do not appear to be prepared to do anything about it. The Economic Secretary says that he disagrees with everything that his hon. Friends say. If there were to be a Division on the amendment, he would vote against it. I agree with the amendment, but it has not been selected. Had it been selected, the Minister would have voted against it.
The Minister is not always here when we discuss EEC matters. He is tucked up in bed, nice and warm. But some of us are here until the early hours of the morning discussing EEC matters. [Interruption.] The Government Whip is here, too. It is not often that I agree with him, but I agree with him tonight. He is here, too, until the early hours of the morning, along with some of my right and hon. Friends. We are sick to death about what is going on. It is high time that it stopped. The Minister tells us what to do about taxation, but we can deal with that problem ourselves without the EEC telling us what to do. What help does the EEC intend to give us to carry out that job? The ordinary working class folk of this nation pay their tax automatically ; it is deducted at source. That applies to Members of Parliament, too. His pay is taxed before he gets it. [Interruption.] I did not intervene when the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) was on his feet. He is a pro-European. He agrees with everything that they say, coming across that flipping water. We have had enough of it.
Mr. Haynes : No, but I will in a minute. Dr. Death, who usually sits a bit further down this Bench, is always pushing about the European monetary system. A lot of us do not agree with it. He can keep pressing if he likes--he is one of a minute group. There are only three of them here.
Column 138A lot of hon. Members disagree with some of what is being proposed. I often disagree with what the Minister says.
Mr. Beith : I am having difficulty following the current Labour party stance. The hon. Gentleman is a Labour Whip. I listened to his Front Bench spokesman say that the directive on sharing information is welcome and that the Labour party understands the motivation behind the other, although it has some reservations about it. That does not seem to add up to the view that the hon. Gentleman is presenting--that Europe should not be considering these issues and that we can manage by ourselves. [Interruption.]
Mr. Haynes : Now we have Pembroke yawping. He disagrees with everything that Opposition Members say. The hon. Member for Berwick-upon- Tweed will not get me to fall out with my hon. Friend on the Front Bench. That one was tried when we debated smoking, as the hon. Member for Northampton, North said. A Conservative Member tried to get me to criticise one of my lovely hon. Friends on the Front Bench. Once again, the Minister was tucked up all nice and warm between the sheets while we were here working.
I am expressing my own point of view here. I am entitled to do that if I want to. I represent an electorate of 66,000 and a population of more than 100,000. I am speaking on their behalf. I know what they say to me about taxation and the unfairness of it. We do not need Europe to tell us how to deal with our taxation. We can do it ourselves. The Minister is nodding. Does he agree that the House should be allowed to determine the destiny of its people and not be told what to do from across the water? Will the Minister get up and say so? He will not, because he agrees with many of the instructions that come from across the water. That is his problem. He will not get up and be honest like me and say, "I do not accept those things which they tell us we should be doing. We determine it. We decide." [Laughter.] The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) may laugh, but his grandfather would not have laughed. I am talking about a serious matter. He knows who I am talking about. The fellow I am talking about was a real Socialist.
Mr. Haynes : We are all Socialists over here--except this lot behind me. I am expressing my view. It may be a bit different from that of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith), who is on the Front Bench. He is speaking on behalf of the party. I thought that we could express our views in this place. I usually do. I did this afternoon with the Secretary of State for Energy. I told him where to get off. That was necessary. Once again, I was representing my constituents.
I shall be here only another three years if the Prime Minister is prepared to go all the way. I shall enjoy those three years. I shall express my opinion forcefully. I think that hon. Members agree that I do just that. I shall continue to do so provided, of course, I catch the eye of the occupant of the Chair. I never speak without being called. I behave myself in the Chamber, as do many others. [Interruption.] I do not do things like that. The hon. Member for Northampton, North, with his coat of many colours, should have worn a rose today, like my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) ; it
Column 139would have looked very nice. But I am straying from my argument about taxation, and I want to save you from having to pull me into line, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
I have made my point, but I shall continue to make my point about Europe telling us what to do. I shall decide for myself what I do and I shall express my views on behalf of my constituents because I believe that they do not need telling what to do.
As I told the hon. Member for Southend, East last week, we stand side by side and arm in arm in the argument about Europe. If Europe would leave us alone, we could get on with the job and do the right thing on behalf of the people we represent here.
Mr. Lilley : The debate has been remarkable because the proposal from the Commission has been rejected not only by the Government and the Opposition, but even by the representative of the Liberal party. If that is not a message which the Commission should take to heart, nothing is.
In response to the points made by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith), the hon. Member for
Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) and one or two others, I should make it clear that the Government are wholeheartedly opposed to any form of tax evasion. It is right and proper for national Governments and Governments in co-operation to act against tax evasion. Nor are we against withholding tax at source, where it is appropriate. We have the composite rate tax which could be described as a form of withholding tax. We use it where we believe that it is effective and where it does not have damaging practical consequences, as it would if it were extended to commercial markets and large deposits. We believe that Governments should co-operate and we have one of the largest networks of double taxation agreements with other countries which enable us to co-operate in collecting taxation and preventing evasion. It is right that that should continue. We are quite happy to consider the proposals, although we have reservations about some aspects in the second directive. We certainly have no difficulties with their approach ; there are merely practical problems in a directive which has not yet been given very thorough consideration by the Commission or by member states.
My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) asked me for an assurance that the proposal required unanimity and could not be imposed on us by the
Column 140workings of the European Court. I give him that assurance. In the case of taxation, the operations of the European Court apply only when a directive has been brought into effect by unanimous assent by the member states. Then the court has the duty to interpret it and, in the event of any dispute, rule on the precise meaning of the directive. As a result of such rulings, it was determined that a directive agreed to in 1977 under the Labour Government had a wider sense than was originally thought, in the case of the ruling on opticians and spectacles, and the ruling that we are currently putting through the House applying VAT to property and construction. My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) made a number of valuable points, in particular that competition between national Governments in their setting of tax rates is not necessarily a bad thing as it can provide downward pressure on tax when normally all the pressures are upwards. That is particularly important given that Europe is a trading community which has to be competitive with the rest of the world. If Europe were ever to believe that it was immune to competition from the rest of the world and set tax rates which would render it uncompetitive with the rest of the world it would put itself at a grave disadvantage. So long as tax rates are primarily set by national Governments taking account of their competitive position in Europe and against the rest of the world, that danger will not arise.
I am grateful to the House for largely supporting the Government's position on withholding tax. The message that the House has given will contribute to a sensible decision on the issue in Brussels. Question put and agreed to.
That this House takes note of European Community Document No. 4763/89 relating to taxation of savings ; and supports the Government's view that the proposals are unnecessary, ineffective and damaging.
That Mr. Andrew Rowe be discharged from the Employment Committee and Mr. William Cash be added to the Committee.-- [Mr. Ray Powell, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.]
That Mr. David Winnick be discharged from the Treasury and Civil Service Committee and Ms. Diane Abbott be added to the Committee.-- [Mr. Ray Powell, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.]
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. Fallon.]
The sexual abuse of children is a difficult, sensitive policy area on which I can claim no expertise. Like many Members of Parliament, it was not until a particularly horrendous constituency case came to light that my education began. In that case the perpetrators received long gaol sentences, and rightly so. It falls to Parliament to look more deeply at this issue--not merely to pick up the pieces, but to initiate an active programme of preventive measures after thorough research. That will reduce the risks facing children to the lowest humanly possible. We can help future potential victims. There is no place for crocodile tears, sympathy without funding or condemnation without action.
It is customary to say that this is a party political issue, but such genteel courtesies have no place in such a desperately serious matter. I unreservedly condemn the Conservative Government's wholly inadequate response to this phenomenon, but make it clear that the next Labour Government will be subject to equally vehement exposure if they fail to respond with the urgency and commitment that the issue deserves.
My calculations of the amounts spent indicate a pathetic level of Government support for research into the sexual abuse of children. The level of spending is a national scandal and disgrace, and amounts to less than £1 million from the Department of Health over 10 years. The Government may regard that as some sort of saving, but even at the crude economic level the logic is flawed, for where the Government do not help, other agencies have to step in, often in an unco-ordinated and wasteful way --county councils' social services departments, charities, private institutions and academic workers, all re-inventing the wheel and duplicating their efforts, despite desperately scarce resources.
The Government have a role. Why should the third international conference on incest and related problems, which is taking place in Britain this August, depend wholly on voluntary contributions and fees? Why are the Government not taking the initiative and supporting such conferences? Why is the leading centre for rehabilitating sexual offenders, the Gracewell clinic, privately run? In the United States of America, Australia and Europe Governments of all colours live up to their responsibilities. In Ontario the state institute for child sex abuse is funded to the tune of £1 million a year. Nothing less than that is acceptable for the United Kingdom.
We and future generations of children need a national institute for the study of sexual abuse of children. It needs to be properly funded and its long-term future guaranteed. The alternative is the Haile Selassie approach, where the Prime Minister ventures out of her enclave with a cheque for £800,000 for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children--culled, incidentally, from existing, not new, moneys.
Such an auction for resources engenders competitive, not co-operative, efforts, even among those most
Column 142committed in this area. At best, it skews what little money there is towards London, while at the same time question marks are placed over the Inner London education authority child guidance centres. There is also little cheer in the National Health Service review, where child psychiatry does not even rate a mention.
I have spent little time on the scale of the problem, nor with any of the heartbreaking individual cases, but to illustrate the extent of the problem I shall quote from the Incest Crisis Line document. It states :
"At least one in ten children in this country are sexually abused by the time they reach their early teens, the vast majority of those are abused by people known to them and trusted by them The victims of such behaviour are both male and female, and follow no particular age, race, colour, religion, social or class structure, in fact, abuse of this kind is relentlessly democratic Remember, 75 per cent. of this world's prostitutes, almost all male prostitutes, 45 per cent. of drug and alcohol abusers, 40 per cent. of children in care, 40 per cent. of prison inmates and 30 per cent. of rape victims were abused sexually as children. Just think what social ills could be eradicated if we were all to deal with this problem in the right way."
As politicians, the right way for us must be to place the responsibility on Parliament, directly on the Government and specifically on the Department of Health.
Examining the matter from a different perspective, may I say that the magnificent social services department in Nottinghamshire--rightly praised by the Prime Minister--has informed me that the number of children registered as suffering, or likely to suffer sexual abuse, has doubled in the past two years.
Mr. Meale : I congratulate my hon. Friend on achieving this debate on an important topic. Is he aware that not only in the centre of Nottinghamshire but throughout the county there is a clear increase in child abuse? Is he further aware of the pressure that has been placed on social workers in social services departments all over the county? The crisis has reached such proportions that in some offices social workers are terrified to lift the telephone because they know that they will have to take on the case from stage one right through to the end, which can be a harrowing experience. Social workers are leaving the profession because of that stress.
Mr. Allen : My hon. Friend makes a characteristically stout defence of Nottinghamshire social services department and, as usual, has put his finger on several points. First, the incidence of sexual abuse in our county has increased from just over 100 two years ago to 200 now. There is great stress, not just on social workers but on all those involved--the police, foster parents and others. Cases in Nottinghamshire vary in age from 17-year-olds to babies in nappies, only a few weeks old, suffering sexual abuse. More than half the cases in Nottinghamshire involve children under the age of nine. Any human being with any sensitivity--even a highly trained
professional--suffers immense stress when dealing with such cases. I know that the caring people involved in the case in my constituency to which I referred suffered immense personal hardship and, in some cases, domestic damage as a result of their efforts.
Column 143The authorities are improving in a number of respects--for example, in their ability to investigate these acts ; sadly, they do not lack the practice. Nevertheless, there are ways in which Government research can help in the process of discovery and in spreading knowledge. I shall point to one or two areas where more work is necessary and more Government support is essential if the work required is to be done. For example, we need to be able to assess the risks of keeping a child in a family where parental bonds are strong. What rehabilitation, if any, is possible or advisable if the child is not to suffer the additional problem of being separated from his or her family? That is a delicate question. A great deal of in-depth research is needed before social workers and others put their heads on the line, as a judgment based on wrong information may be catastrophic for the child placed back with the family.
Another matter that needs to be looked into is the compulsive nature of the offence. What happens after prison if perpetrators have not changed or even recognised that their behaviour is deviant? How effective is prison when compared with group work or individual therapy? What can be done to reduce or eliminate any reoffending by examining and identifying predicting factors? For example, a relationship might be found between violent offences and sexual abuse, and perhaps there are other characteristics that may help us to predict potential incidents of child abuse.
Another vital question, on which a great deal of research is needed, is where and when the sexual abuse of children begins. What is the mix of psychological, environmental and even biological factors that needs to be identified and tackled if we are to pre-empt abuse? What is the link between being a victim of abuse and becoming a perpetrator of abuse? What is the knock-on effect across the generations?
What is the effect of the availability of child pornography on people who are susceptible to becoming perpetrators of child abuse? Even more arcane, what is the effect of a culture that lays down Victorian, medieval or even pre-biblical roles for men and women? A further subject of research is the effective placement and care of victims. That, too, needs thorough investigation. An abused child put into care with delinquents or even adolescent perpetrators of abuse is bound to do less well than those in special residential care perhaps--for example, in a girls' establishment with a staff composed entirely of women. Examining the training of fosterers is also important. We owe so much to those who foster abused children. We need to ensure that the long-term damage to victims can be identified by the fosterers and that they are adequately trained to treat the children in the most effective and sensitive way.
Mr. Meale : Might we not also appeal to the Minister to consider the protection of the child by the removal of the perpetrator from the home? It would take a considerable amount of central Government finance to allow social services departments to open holding homes in which to put suspected perpetrators until they are found guilty or not guilty but the child could then try, with the help of social services, to get over his or her trauma at home.
Mr. Allen : This area has been subject to so many taboos that one would have thought that the sexual abuse of children was a modern phenomenon, but it is not. We must discuss and investigate the subject and that is why the Government's research programme is the key.
We must investigate the possible effect on the child of its removal, or the removal of one of its parents, from a stable environment. That may be an inappropriate phrase to use in the circumstances, but it is an accurate one. In certain circumstances such removal compounds the injuries suffered by the child. Equally there may be other effects caused by the removal of the parent. Those are areas where we cannot have a reflex response. If we are to tackle the questions in the most appropriate way, we need a serious and long-term study funded by the Government. The most appropriate way is not always the one that we first think of, but a research programme would eliminate that possibility.
Many of the youngsters are, of course, coerced into sexual activity. Obviously that affects their views of adults, even those seeking to help them. How do we best train foster parents, for example, to cope with that situation and to overcome that problem? Once again the need for a national research resource for such analysis cries out for recognition.
On training and expertise there is no bank of co-ordinated assistance available for social service departments and other agencies. In my constituency there was little external expertise and advice available when a major case came to light. Even after the successful conclusion of that case, to my knowledge no contact was made by the Government. There was no systematic attempt to spread the lessons and the best practices after that case. Such a free market approach is immoral and unforgivable.
The limited research that is taking place is, of course, welcome and valuable, but so many vital areas are neglected. Another area that should be explored is the vulnerability of the woman at home where the male is the perpetrator. Many of the women are ignorant of the abuse, they may be colluding, feel powerless or are frightened to stop it and report it. Once again we must know the facts so that we are better prepared to assist women in that situation.
We must also ensure that children are more able to disclose offences--90 per cent. disclose to teachers, a parent, the police, neighbours, school friends or fosterers. Many of those groups could be trained in the techniques that make disclosure even easier. To do that we need to know more about the form in which abuse begins as victims are often more willing to disclose the less serious abuse than they are the more serious. We need to have more information to train people to detect the behavioural signs that will give an early warning of any sexual abuse, for example, over- sexual behaviour in children, bed wetting, mistrust and a withdrawn nature.
The expertise developed from the hundreds of cases and the 20 or so child abuse inquiries held since 1979 should not be dissipated. There are 1,000 questions and a 1,000 areas of initial research that could form the base for the answers to those questions.
I call upon the Government and I call upon the Minister tonight to commit himself and his Department to re-examine the level of funding for their research programme into the sexual abuse of children, to consider developing a national centre for the study of child sexual
Column 145abuse and now to make a serious effort to tackle the problem. This generation of children and the generations of children to come deserve nothing less.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Roger Freeman) : I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Nottingham,North (Mr. Allen) on securing this important debate. He and I are at least agreed that this is a serious subject and one to which the House should frequently return.
I shall deal first with a point made by the hon. Gentleman at the outset of his speech. I understood him to say that research resources were being skewed towards London. He specifically cited the Prime Minister's recent announcement that £800,000 was being made available to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. I should make it plain that the money is for the NSPCC's national training centre in Leicester, not London. We have committed £125,000 this year from central health service funding to the development of a centre of excellence in child protection in Newcastle. We certainly reject any attempt to argue that research resources are skewed towards the capital because that is not so.
I reject the assertion that we have been, and are, neglecting research into child sexual abuse. In the minutes remaining to me, I shall seek to argue that we have a well-founded and properly co-ordinated research programme.
The House will know that research on child sexual abuse has only in recent years begun to develop. The initial interest was in the United States, and that country is still pre-eminent in the field with a substantial and growing corpus of research, much of which is of relevance to our work in this country. However, the contribution made by British researchers in this country is growing rapidly, and I think it is now generally recognised that the United Kingdom is second only to the United States in terms of both the quantity and quality of research into child sexual abuse. This was underlined only last month at the second European conference on child abuse and neglect in Brussels, where more research and practice papers were presented from the United Kingdom than from any other country ; and at which the first European scholarship on child abuse was presented to a British researcher, Jacqui Roberts of Dundee university. I am sure that the House would wish to join me in congratulating her on her extremely valuable contribution to the subject.
I should emphasise that in order to ensure that projects are chosen which will add to the knowledge base that already exists, such projects need to be considered properly and thoroughly before they are commissioned. In order to achieve this, the Department of Health has available a number of eminent professional and scientific advisers from whom advice is sought. In addition, the Department holds regular meetings with a research liaison group on child care which contains service advisers from the Association of County Councils and the Association of Metropolitan Authorities, and scientific advisers from the Institute of Child Health and the universities of Bristol, York and Leicester. Senior officials also attend from other Government Departments. All projects are thoroughly
Column 146scrutinised through this mechanism to ensure that they are likely to provide sound and reliable results, and do not duplicate work already done or in progress.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that, in research, it is extremely important to ensure that it is not only carefully prepared with the best possible academic advice so that old ground is not recovered, but properly co-ordinated. We must not merely throw money at research, but ensure that it is thoroughly prepared. As part of the Department's aim to attract more relevant projects from organisations undertaking research, child protection was made a priority theme for research for 1989. This has stimulated interest from academic institutions and other research organisations and the Department has received several new proposals, which we are in the process of considering.
The Department of Health, which has the lead in child care matters, has put together a full and effective programme of child protection research in recent years. The hon. Member will recall that these studies were detailed by my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State in response to a question from him on 27 January, and included a number of studies which related to both physical and sexual abuse. The total cost of studies completed in this field since 1980 is £180, 000.
My hon. and learned Friend's reply also listed the projects which were currently in progress and under consideration. A number of these covered both physical and sexual abuse of children, but included was a study by Professor Philip Graham and Dr. Arnon Bentovim of the Institute of Child Health on intervention in child sexual abuse, which looked at the characteristics and outcomes of a treatment programme for child sexual abuse victims and their families ; and a study by Dr. Marjory Smith of the Institute of Child Health of normal sexual knowledge in children, which aims to collect systematic and reliable information on sexual knowledge in children and behaviour in families to see whether it is possible to identify children who have been sexually abused on the basis of their sexual knowledge and behaviour.
The hon. Gentleman specifically mentioned the importance of research, and I agree with him. These two studies alone are expected to cost about £225,000. Total expenditure committed to current research projects by my Department is more than £500,000--
Mr. Freeman : I do not agree. Research in this field has developed only in recent years. It is extremely important that it be founded on the best possible academic advice and properly co-ordinated with the private sector and other Government Departments. The Government do not believe that one can just throw money at the problem. Among the projects listed as under consideration by my hon. and learned Friend, I am pleased to be able to say that two, on parental perceptions in child abuse and parental participation in case conferences, have now been commissioned. Of the projects which are still under consideration, in relation to the feasibility study on prevalence of child sexual abuse a research brief is being prepared for discussion with interested researchers, and we hope to commission a study in the course of this year.
In order to ensure that the Government have a co-ordinated, effective and comprehensive approach to all child care policy matters an inter- departmental group on
Column 147child abuse was set up in March 1987, comprising senior officials in Departments with responsibilities for children. The group has provided a valuable forum in which policies and practices in the respective areas of responsibility of individual Departments has been developed consistently and with due regard for each other. The group meets at about quarterly intervals and discusses a number of child care issues, including research. It was largely through the group that Departments produced co-ordinated and complimentary guidance on the handling of cases of child abuse and child sexual abuse from this Department and the Welsh Office to relevant agencies, in response to Lord Justice Butler-Sloss's excellent report on Cleveland. As part of this co- ordinated approach to research into child sexual abuse, I know that the Home Office has in progress a research study on the effectiveness of video links in child sexual abuse cases which will cost £45,000.
The hon. Gentleman has asked the Department of Health a number of parliamentary questions, at least two of which related to the importance of video links. I am pleased that my colleagues in the Home Office have decided to pursue this important aspect of research. The Home Office is also considering the commission of further research studies, including one on the prevention of child sexual abuse, which will cost about £90,000.
The Scottish Office has supported a number of continuing projects, including the professional identification of, and response to, child sexual abuse in Scotland, and a longitudinal study of a group of sexually abused children in Scotland. The hon. Gentleman will understand the term "longitudinal" ; it refers to a study over a period of the development of a particular group of children and the potential effect of abuse on their behaviour--
Column 148Mr. Allen rose --
The Scottish Office has also identified themes on the management and treatment of child sexual abuse and research into decision making in the children's hearing system which it is hoped will attract a number of research proposals.
The Department of Health and Social Services, Northern Ireland, has funded a project on child sexual abuse incidence in Northern Ireland, and that is expected to be published shortly. It may be helpful to the hon. Gentleman and to the House if I place in the Library by the end of this week a comprehensive list of research completed, under way and contemplated by all Government Departments.
I have provided a rather brief survey of the programme of research which is in hand or being considered. Work in this field will, of course, continue to develop. My Department is aware of the necessity of looking forward in these matters and is already considering, for example, the need for new research that will be needed when the Children Bill is enacted.
It is important not only that good, effective research should be undertaken, but that the results of that research should be properly reflected in practice and in the planning and delivery of services. To this end my Department produced in 1985 "Social Work Decisions in Child Care", which provided a digest of recent research findings and their implications and was widely welcomed. I am glad to tell the House that a new paper will shortly be published. I hope that that is helpful to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
Adjourned accordingly at five minutes to One o'clock.
|Written Answers Section