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Mr. Murphy: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who represents a north Wales constituency. I am sure that

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any representations made by organisations such as those to which he has referred will be taken seriously by my ministerial colleagues.

Ms Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North): Does my right hon. Friend agree that those who fought hard to have an inquiry set up should be congratulated? In particular, Councillors Malcolm King and Dennis Parry and the care worker Alison Taylor deserve our praise. It was extremely difficult to get the issues into the open.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the great tragedies of this matter has been that young people who had to leave home--for whatever reason--ended up in much worse situations? They were supposed to be taken to places of safety, but they were not. I welcome my right hon. Friend's general apology, but would ask for arrangements to be made for apologies to be given to young people who have survived into adulthood. Sadly, many have died. Some of the children came from south Wales, and they have said that no one has ever said sorry to them.

Mr. Murphy: I agree with all that my hon. Friend said about the important role played by members of local authorities and others in getting the tribunal set up. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Wales is, as I speak, in north Wales, where I hope he may have the opportunity to say sorry in the area where all the abuse occurred.

Mr. Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire): Given the seniority of some of those involved in abuse, it seems likely that it could have spread further across Wales than we have yet established. Does the Minister have a plan that will allow us to break through the veil of secrecy and to find out whether other parts of Wales had similar horrendous catalogues that have not yet come to light?

Mr. Murphy: Many inquiries--32, I think--are being conducted in England and Wales. One large inquiry is happening in my own county, Gwent. The results of the tribunal report will ensure that we are even more vigilant.

Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend): I join everybody else in congratulating the team that produced the Waterhouse report. We have not yet taken in all its implications, but the House will surely put its full weight behind any proposals made by my right hon. Friend and the Government, particularly on the children's commissioner. May I plead for significant work on developing skills among both those in social work and those who want to do it? I ask, too, for more support for those people.

As well as focusing on child abuse, which is close to being endemic despite the good work of many social workers, we need to provide a great deal more family support.

Mr. Murphy: I am grateful to my hon. Friend who, as a former Minister in the Welsh Office, is conscious of many of the issues discussed today. I agree that we must make every effort to recruit and train more qualified staff. Too many staff are still unqualified. I know that the training support programme in Wales for 2000-01 is attempting to address these important issues.

Mr. Paul Stinchcombe (Wellingborough): Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in a previous existence, I was one

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of the barristers instructed by Clwyd county council to advise whether the council could publish its own, earlier report into this appalling and tragic scandal? Is my right hon. Friend also aware that had the council published, its insurance company could immediately have argued that its insurance policies were thereby vitiated? Does he agree that action should be taken so that insurance companies no longer have the right of veto over matters of such signal and painful importance?

Mr. Murphy: I am, of course, aware of my hon. Friend's previous existence and of his interest in the report published today. The question whether insurance can affect the publication of certain reports resulting from inquiries is important. When my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister and the National Assembly for Wales see the report of the proceedings of the House, I am sure that they will take account of my hon. Friend's remarks and consider future activity in that regard.

Mrs. Betty Williams (Conwy): As a former member of Gwynedd council and chair of social services, I welcome with great emotion my right hon. Friend's statement, and look forward to working with our colleagues at the National Assembly for Wales. Does my right hon. Friend agree that when the commissioner is appointed, it is important that he or she should work in partnership with colleagues in other parts of the United Kingdom, as abuse does not have convenient boundaries? That is where we failed in the past, and we must make sure that we do not fail in the future.

I know that my colleagues at the Welsh Assembly will understand the point that it is important that advocates should be able to communicate with children and young people, and in Wales it is important that advocates should be bilingual. When children are placed in a vulnerable situation, they find it difficult to express themselves after the experiences that they have gone through, so it is imperative that there be sufficient numbers of suitably trained advocates who can communicate in the language of the child's or the young person's choice.

Mr. Murphy: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who also represents a Gwynedd constituency. I agree that abusers do not recognise national boundaries, and that there must be the greatest co-operation between any children's commissioner for Wales and any counterpart in England. My hon. Friend's points about the need for the use of Welsh in advocacy are well taken.

Mr. Jon Owen Jones (Cardiff, Central): Does my right hon. Friend agree that what he said today amounts to the most profound statement of failure of the state in its duty of care to the most vulnerable in our society? It is a failure of local government, central Government and society. In the 1970s and 1980s I was a teacher, and I sometimes taught children who were in care homes. I wonder whether I spent sufficient time talking to those children. The report reveals a failure of society as a whole. I approve of the proposal to set up a children's commissioner; I agree with many of my colleagues' comments about that.

May I make one criticism, however? The report, which was commissioned by the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), has taken almost four

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years to come before Parliament. Would it not have been possible to issue interim proposals rather sooner? I know that the report is comprehensive, but it has taken a long time. Its recommendations should be implemented as soon as possible.

Mr. Murphy: As a former Minister in the Welsh Office with responsibility for health, my hon. Friend will know that these matters are especially difficult and sensitive. When he sees the size of the report, he will realise that the amount of time taken to produce it was necessary in order to get it right. However, I take the general thrust of his points. It is most important to overcome the difficulties outlined in the report.

Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West): Is it not staggering that, after so much evil over such a long period, so few people admit to awareness of it? Will the Secretary of State confirm that the present statutory provisions do not include the vetting of volunteers? Is he satisfied that the inquiries that he has set up will not be impeded by existence of that loophole?

Mr. Murphy: I agree with my right hon. Friend's point about volunteers. Paedophiles will find their way into many different occupations and jobs; they will not confine themselves to those that we have discussed today. As a longstanding Member of the House, my right hon. Friend knows how important it will be to consider carefully the recommendations of the report; that is what the Government will do.

Mrs. Llin Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme): This is yet another damning indictment of our failure to protect our young people. As a trustee of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, I welcome the recommendation for a children's commissioner. However, evil knows no boundaries. Will my right hon. Friend speak to other members of the Government about the appointment of a children's commissioner for all our children?

Mr. Murphy: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. In England, there are some differences in the way we deal with these matters. As she will be aware, the relevant Bill will include a commitment to a children's rights official. We need some time to consider the implications for administration in the report, but she can rest assured that all 72 recommendations will be treated very seriously indeed--not only by the Welsh Assembly but by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and his colleagues.

Mr. Hilton Dawson (Lancaster and Wyre): Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the report will strengthen the Government's intention fundamentally to reform the entire care system throughout the United Kingdom? Will he also confirm that the children's commissioner will provide a service for all children? Does he agree that there is great strength of feeling throughout the House as to the need for linked offices--for a children's commissioner for all children in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales?


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