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Mr. Richard Livsey (Brecon and Radnorshire): I thank the Secretary of State for doing me the courtesy of giving

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me a prior viewing of the report. That was very valuable. We endorse the congratulations to Sir Ronald Waterhouse on the very thorough conduct of his inquiry and report. The investigation has exposed a shocking catalogue of child abuse that is a massive tragedy for the victims who have been abused, and was a betrayal of children's trust.

We accept the report and its 72 recommendations, especially the recommendations for an independent children's commissioner for Wales--for which the Liberal Democrats in the National Assembly have pressed especially hard--and a children's complaints officer. We need to strengthen investigative powers and the complaints procedure, as well as to provide sufficient qualified staff and training, which are especially important. We also need advocates for children.

Will the Secretary of State ensure that the names of unnamed abusers in the report will appear on the register of known abusers? Will he clarify the situation of NHS-registered homes? Page 50 of the report mentions the Gwynfa NHS psychiatric unit in Upper Colwyn, where staff were suspended but their case could not be properly addressed by the tribunal. That is a problem that crosses the responsibilities of police authorities. Will the Secretary of State authorise compensation for those victims whose lives have been ruined by abuse in establishments in north Wales?

Mr. Murphy: I endorse the hon. Member's views on the tribunal. The three members worked unbelievably hard over a long time and had to listen to some terrible things. When hon. Members read the report in detail, they will see how well written it is and how many recommendations it makes that should be considered very seriously. I also wish to mention Sir Ronald Hadfield, who was the adviser to the tribunal on police matters and provided useful and important advice.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether unnamed abusers would be put on the register. I refer him to the policy on naming names that the tribunal describes in its report. The members thought carefully about what they should do, because they wanted to identify those persons who have already been subject to relevant court proceedings; individuals against whom a significant number of complaints had been made, with the tribunal's assessment of them; other persons who figured prominently in the evidence, whether they had been the subject of substantial complaints or not; a limited number of persons who should have been identified to exonerate them after rumours about them had circulated; and persons who had not been the subject of allegations of abuse but who were in positions of responsibility and whose acts and omissions were relevant to the tribunal's full terms of reference--including council officials and police officers--and who had not had the benefit of any anonymity ruling by the tribunal. That covers many people, and those who are covered by it should be named and, therefore, identified in the way that I described earlier.

Mr. Gareth Thomas (Clwyd, West): I endorse my right hon. Friend's expression of gratitude to Sir Ronald Waterhouse and his team for their valuable work. The priority now has to be to prevent any recurrence of that systematic abuse. In that connection, how do the

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Government intend to proceed through primary legislation? My right hon. Friend has referred already to two Bills that will be before the House shortly, but do the Government intend to amend those Bills to take on board the recommendations in the report?

With specific reference to the children's commissioner for Wales, is it my right hon. Friend's understanding that primary legislation will be required to achieve statutory authority for that role? What assurances can he give, especially to cash-strapped local authorities, that reform programmes will be properly resourced?

Mr. Murphy: I thank my hon. Friend, who represents a north Wales constituency, and has a particular interest in the findings of the report. As he knows, primary legislation for Wales on social services is a matter for this House, and he is right to point to the various relevant Bills going through Parliament, particularly the Care Standards Bill.

My hon. Friend will also be aware that a children's commissioner for Wales is a manifesto commitment of our party, which has the widespread support of other parties in the National Assembly for Wales. The Assembly has been considering the matter in its committees over a matter of months. I have been in close contact with the Assembly's First Secretary and Health Secretary. We are currently studying the implications of a legislative vehicle for a children's commissioner. However, my hon. Friend may rest assured that we will give it priority.

Mr. David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden): I join the Secretary of State in his condemnation of the evil people who undertook these grotesque actions against just about the most vulnerable children in our society. However, we should not allow that condemnation to be used to tarnish the reputation of social workers who commit their lives and their efforts to supporting those young children.

I welcome the thrust of the 72 proposals, although obviously we have not read all of them yet. I welcome particularly the fact that they reinforce the "quality protects" initiative and the Care Standards Bill, now in the House of Lords.

All these matters interact in a complex way. The balance of adoption, fostering and care is difficult to get right, and more than one Government have struggled with it. Will we have an opportunity to debate the implications of this, not just for the homes in Wales, but for those in the other parts of our kingdom? Such a debate should allow us to cover the whole range of adoption, fostering and care, because these issues clearly deserve our detailed attention and understanding.

Mr. Murphy: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for those comments. I agree with what he says. I particularly agree with his view that we must not tar all social workers with the same brush. There are many thousands of social workers who are currently working in the field and have done so over the decades to which the report refers, and who contribute tremendously to the well-being and protection of young children. We strongly support those people.

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the significance of the report of the tribunal is so enormous that it is extremely important for the House to debate it

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as soon as possible. I, of course, cannot determine when that will be, but I should have thought that it has to be fairly soon. In addition, it should deal not only with Wales but with the entire country.

Mr. Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd): My right hon. Friend mentioned the involvement of council officers and elected members of the old Clwyd county council. I find that particularly disturbing. Was that a significant factor in the abuse of these young people?

Mr. Murphy: My hon. Friend is another who represents a north Wales constituency. When he reads the report, which I know that he will do with great interest, he will see that so far as the local authorities were concerned, and the officials and elected members therein, the problem was that they simply did not listen to the children--or, indeed, the adults--who were complaining about what they thought were difficulties. There was a lack of decent management, a lack of decent guidance and a lack of direction over a period of 20 years. The report names a number of council officials throughout north Wales who really should have done their job better. That is not, in any sense, to say that they were necessarily involved in the abuse of children--it was more a case of not doing their job well enough.

The report makes an excellent recommendation that elected members who choose to sit on social services committees should take their duties very seriously and visit residential homes in their local authority areas. In the past, it would seem from the report, such visits were very perfunctory. The councillors did not discover what they should have discovered. There is an important role for elected councillors, throughout England and Wales, and I know my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and his colleagues are also dealing with the matter.

Several hon. Members rose--

Madam Speaker: Order. A number of hon. Members wish to ask questions on the statement, but the main business of the House is yet to begin and must start within the next hour. I should be obliged if hon. Members put one question briskly, and if the Minister replied briskly, so that I may call as many hon. Members as possible. I know that there is deep interest in the matter.

Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy): I add my congratulations to Sir Ronald Waterhouse and his colleagues. I welcome the report, as many of us have campaigned for many years for a children's commissioner. The complaints officer will also be an excellent forward move. Will the Secretary of State be amenable to assisting Voices from Care and Children in Wales to advance amendments to the Children (Leaving Care) Bill, on which they have already lobbied Parliament? Their sensible amendments would ensure that the voice of young people was heard.

May I also thank the Secretary of State--I may be doing this in the wrong order--for extending me the courtesy of a preview of the report earlier today?

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