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Amendment No. 195, in clause 35, page 24, line 41, column 2, at end insert—

Government amendments Nos. 237, 92, 238, 144 and 147.

Amendment No. 242, in schedule 3, page 46, line 35, at end insert—

‘(f) providing information on the past or present whereabouts of any legal minor where that information is derived from any electronic communications network within the meaning of section 32 of the Communications Act 2003 (c. 21).’.

Government amendments Nos. 148, 151, 152, 154, 155 and 160.

Amendment No. 196, in schedule 3, page 50, line 8, after ‘Wales’, insert—

‘(d) The Office of the Public Guardian,

(e) The Court of Protection’.

Government amendments Nos. 161 to 168 and 181.

Mr. Dhanda: The coverage of the new vetting and coverage schemes is at the heart of how the scheme will work. The amendments improve the definition of both regulated and controlled activity, and they also clarify how the scheme will work for regulated activity providers and personnel suppliers.

On the amendments to the definition of regulated activity, new clause 1 and amendments Nos. 21, 144 and 181 ensure that it is an offence for a barred person to foster or provide care and accommodation to children for a ward or through arrangements made by an organisation. Any organisation that arranges a placement will be required to check and ensure that the carer is subject to monitoring and is not barred. That will include language schools arranging host families for
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students and local authorities placing children with foster carers, which is a point that the Liberal Democrats mentioned on Second Reading. The amendments also ensure that a foster carer can take day-to-day decisions concerning their foster child like any parent without being required to check every individual who helps to care for that child.

Amendments Nos. 147 and 154 ensure that school bus and minibus drivers who take vulnerable adults on day trips will be subject to the scheme, putting beyond doubt an area of uncertainty in the current arrangements—I know that that has recently become a live issue in some parts of the country.

Amendments Nos. 152 and 167 ensure that an individual on either barred list will be prevented from working as a member of staff for the independent barring board. Following discussions with representatives from the industry, we have amended the Bill to ensure that while chatroom moderators will be subject to the scheme, IT staff who do not see the content of the messages and who do not contact service users will not.

Anne Main (St. Albans) (Con): Given the complicated and non-exhaustive list of people who will be barred, should there not be an onus on the employer to make it clear in the job description that the job is subject to barring, because people could inadvertently criminalise themselves by applying for jobs that they do not know are on this extremely long list?

Mr. Dhanda: The hon. Lady has made an interesting point, and I shall return to the issue in discussing the amendments in terms not only of how we can get that information across to barred individuals, but of the fact that barred individuals will no longer be able to participate in activities on an infrequent basis, which is an issue that she raised in Committee.

Margaret Moran (Luton, South) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend on adopting my ten-minute Bill on moderators and incorporating it in the Bill and on introducing this group of sensible amendments. However, the issue of moderators who are based overseas remains unaddressed, and child protection agencies are concerned that moderating firms will seek to use overseas workers and thus escape the protections afforded by the Bill.

Mr. Dhanda: My hon. Friend has made a fair point, and I pay tribute to her work, which has helped us. She knows about the issues surrounding overseas vetting, which we shall discuss later today.

In line with the arrangements for the children’s work forces, amendments Nos. 159 to 163, 166 and 167 ensure that regulated activity relating to vulnerable adults includes local councillors who have responsibility for social services, trustees of vulnerable adults’ charities, the Commissioner for Older People in Wales and all Commission for Social Care Inspection inspectors.

Amendments Nos. 206 and 207 allow the definition of “regulated activity” for the purpose of barring to be amended by the affirmative resolution procedure, which I am sure that the House will welcome. That is in line with the power in clause 5 to keep the meaning of “regulated activity” up to date.

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We have made important amendments to the requirements to check. Amendments Nos. 32, 44, 46, 47, 50, 52 and 76 clarify the commitment that we made in Committee that all prison and probation officers will be subject to the requirements of the scheme.

Amendments Nos. 40 and 41 ensure that a personnel supplier will commit an offence if they knowingly supply an individual who is barred or not subject to monitoring. In response to points made in the other place, we have also tabled amendments to the scope and mechanics of controlled activity.

Amendments Nos. 58 to 63 and 66 ensure that those with access to specific records on matters such as social services and education will be covered by the definition of “controlled activity”.

Mrs. Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): I am aware of a case in which my local education department passed to the local authority’s tendering department a comprehensive list of children with disabilities. The tendering department then distributed the list to several taxi operators, many of whom had gone out of business. Would the department be covered by such barring, and would it be required to restrict the information that it passed on?

Mr. Dhanda: My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. A taxi firm working with children or vulnerable adults would certainly require to be checked. A local authority that is providing lists of children needs carefully to consider what it is doing. As I say, those in local authorities who are responsible for such lists will be covered by the definition of “controlled activity”.

In line with our commitment in the other place, we have brought the provision of direct payments within the definition of “controlled activity”. That meets our intention to cover all social care staff. Amendments Nos. 60 and 65 reflect the fact that at least one local board in Wales provides in-patient and out-patient hospital services.

John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): The hon. Member for Bridgend (Mrs. Moon) referred to tendering departments. I may or may not be on the same page as her on this subject, but, for the avoidance of doubt, is the hon. Gentleman telling the House that the responsibility for safeguarding or distributing information will be incumbent not only on local authorities but on any organisation that is contracted by a process of market-testing to work for it?

Mr. Dhanda: The holder of the list and people who have access to it will be part of the scheme. In the case cited by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mrs. Moon), the information was passed on by the person who held the list. It is fair to question whether that should have happened in the first place. The Bill will require the person with control of the list to be cleared in relation to controlled activity.

In response to previous debates in this House, we have sought to strengthen the provisions on controlled activity. Amendments Nos. 232 and 238 help to do that, but I will speak to those when we reach the debate on offences.

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These amendments are very important to the Bill. We have tabled them in response to issues previously raised in debate to ensure that the scope of the scheme is appropriate and that it is clear how it will work. I appreciate that hon. Members on both sides of the House may say, “My goodness, there are a lot of amendments”, but I hope that the example of this group shows that we have listened to previous debates. I commend the amendments to the House.

4 pm

Mrs. Maria Miller (Basingstoke) (Con): The Bill was first introduced in the other place in February, but, before that, about two years’ worth of consultation took place on its provisions. All the amendments that have been tabled today, however, amply illustrate that the Government have yet to complete their thinking on this important measure. The Minister says that there are so many amendments because the Government have been listening to the points that have been raised. I hope that he will remain in listening mode, and that he will take up many of the excellent points that my hon. Friends and I, and other hon. Members, will raise today.

The Bill as drafted will result in almost 10 million people being vetted, and under the amendments that we are considering today a great many more people would be covered. We hope that the Minister will follow the principle set out by the Minister for Children and Families, the right hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Beverley Hughes)—who is on the Front Bench with him—that the breadth of the bar is proportionate to the risk that is posed.

The amendments cover matters that have not been included in the Bill before. Given the lateness of their tabling—which has been pointed out not only by my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) but in points of order—will the Minister assure us that there is broad agreement among the interested groups in the proposals that have been tabled? It has been pointed out that there has been no time at all to consider the amendments in the detail that they deserve. New clause 1 will introduce fostering to the Bill for the first time. Under Government amendment No. 20 vulnerable adults’ accommodation is also included, while Government amendment No. 67 will bring local authority health boards into the Bill for the first time.

This group of amendments seeks to address the wide range of issues that we have debated in Committee and in the other place, and I hope that I shall be able to do them justice. We are pleased to see Government amendment No. 50, which brings prison officers within the terms of the Bill. I pay tribute to my noble Friend Baroness Buscombe for raising this issue in the other place and for pressing the Government to remedy that rather large omission from the original Bill.

Under amendments Nos. 168 and 162 the Secretary of State will be able to specify the activity to be regulated, in relation to children and vulnerable adults. Government amendment No. 26 will allow the Secretary of State to determine who is a regulated activity provider. In Committee, the Under-Secretary of State for Education
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and Skills, the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Dhanda) said that, over time, the Government would like to see as many people as possible being monitored in vetting and barring schemes. In the light of that, and of the amendments, and of some of the contributions to our debate on the ways and means motion, will he outline what criteria will be used to decide how to increase the number of regulated activity providers who are subject to monitoring, and to decide who is to be monitored? We need to understand better the Government’s thinking on these matters.

Throughout the debate on the Bill, we have all agreed with the Government’s intention that the breadth of the bar should be proportionate to the risk involved. Indeed, that is one of the Government’s key principles. The amendments, however, give almost unfettered power to the Secretary of State to extend the Bill’s scope in a way that would require very little debate on the Floor of the House. The Minister owes it to the House to explain that.

I fully understand the need to make provision for the future so that the Bill can keep pace with what is happening in the world. Indeed, developments in technology often make it very difficult to do that in many areas of our work. I hope, however, that the Minister will be able to give details of when he would bring the provisions into play, and when he would not. A Back-Bench amendment—unfortunately, I do not think it has been selected—referred to the implications of technology and would have ensured that the matter was specifically covered in the Bill. Is that the sort of issue that the Government are thinking about in including these quite broad provisions in the Bill? We need clarification on that.

There are a number of other amendments that introduce new concepts, which we have not debated before, into the Bill. I thank the Minister for taking the time to meet me and other colleagues to talk through some of the amendments. As he pointed out, we met twice, but with more than 200 amendments and 25 new clauses, there should probably have been a number of other meetings.

Anne Main: Following on from earlier comments about the Secretary of State and the possibility of the list changing, and about the provision of information, will my hon. Friend tease out how that additional information will be communicated—not only to Members, who may not have any further debate on the matter, but to everybody who takes an interest in the list being extended? Since we will not all have meetings with the Minister, it is extremely important that we make sure that there is fair, transparent and obvious communication for the benefit of all those who wish to make sure that they do not fall foul of any regulations.

Mrs. Miller: I thank my hon. Friend for her contribution. As a Member who served on the Committee, she is knowledgeable about the Bill. I am sure that she will contribute to the debate that we will have on communication. We have tabled further amendments to pick up on that very issue. We need to make sure that there is a clear line of communication and that both employers and employees understand the true implications. If the Secretary of State is able to vary those who are covered by the Bill and extend the
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Bill’s remit, we need to make sure that it is clear how that is to be communicated to those who may already have been included on the barred list. We will pick up on that issue.

Amendment No. 45 introduces an interesting and new concept to the Bill, perhaps clarifying further the way in which the Bill will work. However, I would appreciate hearing the Minister’s thoughts—particularly in relation to where the courts are being invited to consider how an individual has attempted to interpret the issue of frequency when any judgment is being brought to bear as a result of a misdemeanour. Perhaps he could take the time offered by the debate to explain why that has been proposed at this stage and what has provoked the inclusion of amendment No. 45.

Amendment No. 59 introduces a closer definition of frequency, which my hon. Friends and I welcome inasmuch as that has been talked about from the beginning of the debate on the Bill—particularly by Lord Adonis in the other place. Bringing in some clarification at this point is useful. However, although amendment No. 59 contains a definition of frequency that involves the same person carrying out an activity

it also still includes the term “frequently”, almost as if that were a separate issue. I would welcome clarification from the Minister on whether the Government intend to have two meanings for the word “frequently”: the tighter meaning of

and also an alternative meaning. If the Government do not intend there to be two meanings, why are both terms referred to quite specifically in the same amendment? We would have hoped to tease that out in Committee, but the provision was not in the Bill at that point.

Finally, amendment No. 92 gives the Secretary of State the ability to define by order what is or is not a family relationship or a personal relationship. That is quite a new area of discussion and I would welcome the chance to hear the Minister’s thoughts on it. To revert to the original statement by the Minister for Children and Families, the Bill should not intrude on family relationships. Conservative Members are therefore puzzled by the need for the Secretary of State to have the flexibility to move an order that would define a family or personal relationship.

In the interests of time, those are the only amendments that I will cover because we need to debate several others further down the selection list. However, I would welcome the Under-Secretary’s response to them.

Judy Mallaber (Amber Valley) (Lab): I shall speak about amendment No. 242, which is in my name and that of seven other hon. Members, most of whom sponsored my ten-minute Bill on licensing child location services. The amendment would add to the list of activities relating to children that the Bill regulates the providing of information on the whereabouts of a legal minor that is derived from any electronic communications network.

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