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28 Feb 2007 : Column 927

Bill Presented

Light Bulb (regulation)

John Barrett, supported by David Howarth, Chris Huhne, Mr. Mike Weir, Mr. Nigel Evans, John Bercow, Malcolm Bruce, Lynne Jones, Chris McCafferty and Mr. David Chaytor, presented a Bill to regulate the efficiency standards of light bulbs; to provide for the phased withdrawal of incandescent and other models of light bulb by 2012; to make provision for the encouragement of energy saving alternatives; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 20 April, and to be printed. [Bill 69].


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Point of Order

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. On this day next week, this House will vote on the reform of the House of Lords. That vote will take place on a day when there are Assembly elections in Northern Ireland, hence denying all the Northern Ireland MPs the opportunity to take part in that vote. Since it has been the practice in this House that when there are local elections in England, Scotland or Wales important business will not normally be taken, will you, Mr. Speaker, look into why on this occasion important business has been taken in this House so that Northern Ireland MPs will not have the opportunity to take part in that debate and the vote?

Mr. Speaker: I have some sympathy with the hon. Gentleman, but he will understand that this is a matter for the business managers of the House, and I urge him to take it up with the usual channels. I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising the matter.


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Dance Teachers (Qualifications and Regulation)

12.33 pm

Meg Hillier (Hackney, South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op): I beg to move,

It gives me great pleasure to introduce this Bill, which aims to improve the teaching offered by teachers of dance throughout the country. Dance is one of the most popular forms of activity for spectators and dancers in Britain, and the second most popular activity in schools. Its popularity is rising faster than that of any other art form. Some 4.8 million people participate in community dance, and hundreds of thousands more dance in private dance schools, leisure centres and school clubs. Crucially, for girls it is one of the main focuses of physical activity, and a report, which is due to be published shortly, by Hampshire Dance and Laban provides the first ever statistical evidence showing that dance has a positive effect on both the physical fitness and the psychological health of children aged 11 to 14 years.

I want to highlight the benefits of dance to young people in particular before moving on to some of the reasons why this House should consider the need to require that dance teachers have a minimum standard of qualification. Dance reaches parts of the British public that other physical activities do not reach. Some 40 per cent of all girls have dropped out of all sports activity by the time that they are 18, but surveys in 2003 and 2004 of 50,000 year 9 pupils in more than 700 schools in the north-west of England showed that dance was the top recreational activity for girls outside school. Dance is classed as physical education in schools, so it is more difficult to measure its take-up in class time, but the number of pupils taking a GCSE in dance rose 125 per cent. between 2001 and 2005. So there is no question but that dance is popular, and this popularity and increase in participation can only be good news for the nation’s health.

However, the rise in popularity is not matched by an increase in the number of dance teachers; currently, demand outstrips supply. We need to make sure that we do not lose the chance to get people involved, that high-quality teachers are available who can safely inspire and engage young people, and that this growth in popularity continues. This Bill seeks to address the lack of a requirement for a single recognised teaching qualification for dance teachers. The absence of such a requirement raises important issues associated with the protection of children, in particular.

The Bill is not pressing for a requirement that all genres of dance should have a formal accreditation system, although I acknowledge the work done by the Imperial Society of Teachers Of Dancing, for example, which is based in my constituency, and by the other major dance accreditation bodies in supporting teachers in their efforts to enthuse young dancers as they progress through a properly evaluated dance awards system.

I recognise that much dance is taught less formally. In constituencies such as mine, we see a wide range of national and regional dance from around the world. Of
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the millions of people who participate in dance in the UK each year, many do so because it is part of their cultural heritage. At events in my constituency, including the many cultural festivals that take place most weekends, I see the range of dance styles being taught. Dance in Britain truly reflects the diversity of our society. One of the biggest growth areas in the UK is street dance, which is taught by peers. Interestingly, this dance form has increased the participation of young men, and must be welcomed. We should not try to stem the creativity of this more informal type of dance teaching.

However, there are serious issues associated with the capability of dance teachers. Whatever the genre, there are issues that all teachers need to be aware of: protection against the abuse and injury of children; the need for dance teachers to be insured; and, of course, a minimum standard of teaching skill. Many schools and youth agencies struggle to find teachers with the necessary skills and qualifications. Employers can be confused by the array of dance qualifications, which do not clearly highlight which teachers have the skills and qualifications necessary to teach safely, in line with current child protection standards.

It is fair to say that the dance sector recognises this issue and has taken significant steps in the past decade to self-regulate the quality of teaching. In the short time that I have today I cannot mention all the initiatives, but schemes such as the recognised school status introduced by the Council for Dance Education and Training at the end of last year, together with dance qualifications offered by the Imperial Society of Teachers Of Dancing, the Royal Academy of Dance, the British Ballet Organisation and the British Theatre Dance Association, all of which are accredited by recognised bodies, contribute to the safety of the growing number of young people taking up dance.

However, there is no national standard of qualification for dance teachers. Achieving a single qualification would be difficult, but a minimum required standard for teachers is essential. Despite the various accreditation schemes for different dance genres, there is no easy way for parents who take their children to a dance class to be sure that their child is in safe hands. As many dance teachers are self-employed, there is no one regulatory body that ensures that these individuals have a Criminal Records Bureau check or public liability insurance. I suspect that most parents are not aware of that. We need to make it easier for people to know what they are buying into, as well as ensuring that professional development is improved. I hope that teachers would welcome that, too.

Recently, work has been begun by the dance sector on generic standards. Laban has introduced a training and accreditation project, with the aim of developing a flexible qualification and the Foundation for Community Dance has launched a strategy for the development of a professional framework, including a code of conduct. That is the best hope to date of achieving a recognised common standard.

Dance UK is one of the umbrella groups for professional dancers and choreographers in the UK and it is very positive about the support that the Government have provided to boost dance as an art form. The Government have improved facilities through investment in projects such as the new Sadler’s
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Wells, which is close to my constituency, and through funding for organisations such as Youth Dance England and individual companies to expand their education work. Now is the time to ensure that the continuing growth in the popularity of dance is matched by, at the very least, consistency of quality at the grass roots.

Youth Dance England receives £100,000 a year compared to Youth Music’s £10 million a year. I applaud the money given, but if we are to see good quality teaching of dance, the inequity between the two arts needs to be tackled. The issue of basic standards for dance teachers is not difficult to resolve, and I urge the Government and the British dance movement to work together to ensure that there is wider understanding and recognition of the benefits of dance.

Consumers who take up dance, be they parents, children or adult learners, need to know what they are getting. The Government have made friends in the world of dance, but they now need to press for industry-wide core standards by highlighting best practice and demanding more. If the current self regulation still leaves some dance professionals without a basic set of core standards, stronger steps may be necessary. I ask that the Government recognise the steps that the dance movement is taking and work with it to bolster that progress, so that consumers are protected; dancers, particularly children, are safe; and we have a minimum standard of qualification for teachers of dance.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Meg Hillier, Mr. Frank Doran, Sir Gerald Kaufman, Lynne Jones, Sarah McCarthy-Fry, Harry Cohen, Mr. Andrew Slaughter, Joan Ruddock and Bob Russell.

Dance Teachers (Qualifications and Regulation)

Meg Hillier accordingly presented a Bill to make provision for the regulation of the teaching of dance; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 19 October, and to be printed [Bill 67].


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OFFENDER MANAGEMENT BILL (PROGRAMME) (NO. 2)

Motion made, and Question proposed,

TABLE

Proceedings Time for conclusion of proceedings

New Clauses and amendments relating to polygraph conditions in licences; New Clauses relating to preparation of plans by probation trusts; amendments relating to consultation about the provision of probation services; amendments relating to the composition of probation trusts

11/2 hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order

New Clauses and amendments relating to restrictions on arrangements for provision of probation services

31/2 hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order.

Remaining proceedings on consideration

6.00 p.m.


12.43 pm

James Brokenshire (Hornchurch) (Con): I note that the Government have sought to bring forward a further programme motion in relation to debate on this important issue. We know that the Government have been in difficulties with their own side, therefore it is hardly surprising that certain key aspects of the Bill and the debate thereon will be curtailed by the programme motion. That is a pity, as we need a full debate on those matters. However, in the interests of ensuring that that debate is prolonged, I will curtail my comments, save to note the Government’s attempt to limit debate by hon. Members of certain key aspects of this important Bill.

12.44 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for keeping his remarks brief. The programme motion is designed to ensure that we give adequate time to all the issues. This is an important Bill, as recognised on both sides of the House, and I look forward to an interesting and exciting debate.

Question put and agreed to.


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Orders of the Day

Offender Management Bill

As amended in the Public Bill Committee, considered.

New Clause 8


Application of polygraph condition to certain licences

‘(1) The Secretary of State may include a polygraph condition in the licence of a person to whom this section applies.

(2) This section applies to a person serving a relevant custodial sentence in respect of a relevant sexual offence who—

(a) is released on licence by the Secretary of State under any enactment; and

(b) is not aged under 18 on the day on which he is released.

(3) In this section “relevant custodial sentence” means—

(a) a sentence of imprisonment for a term of twelve months or more (including such a sentence imposed under section 227 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (c. 44));

(b) a sentence of detention in a young offender institution for a term of twelve months or more;

(c) a sentence of detention under section 90 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 (c. 6);

(d) a sentence of detention under section 91 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 (c. 6) for a period of twelve months or more;

(e) a sentence of custody for life under section 93 or 94 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 (c. 6); or

(f) a sentence of detention under section 226 or 228 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (c. 44).

(4) In this section “relevant sexual offence” means—

(a) an offence specified in Part 2 of Schedule 15 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (c. 44) (specified sexual offences);

(b) an offence specified in paragraphs 1 to 21 of Schedule 16 to that Act (offences under the law of Scotland); or

(c) an offence specified in Part 2 of Schedule 17 to that Act (offences under the law of Northern Ireland).

(5) In section 250(4) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (c. 44) (licence conditions for prisoners serving sentences of imprisonment of twelve months or more etc), in paragraph (b)(i) after “Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000” there is inserted “or section (Application of polygraph condition to certain licences) of the Offender Management Act 2007.’.— [Mr. Sutcliffe.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

12.45 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government new clause 9— Effect of polygraph condition.

Government new clause 10— Use in criminal proceedings of evidence from polygraph sessions.

Government amendment No. 15


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Mr. Sutcliffe: This important group of amendments flows from our proceedings in Committee. Protecting the public from the problem of sexual abuse is a matter to which the Government have given the highest priority. Over the years, we have introduced a range of measures designed to protect children and the vulnerable. We have clarified and strengthened the law on sexual offences, and we have introduced the sentence of imprisonment for public protection for offenders convicted of specified serious sexual or violent offences. Offenders given public protection sentences will not be released until the Parole Board determines that the risk of harm that they present is such as may be safely managed in the community. With the introduction of multi-agency public protection arrangements, we have ensured that agencies work together to supervise offenders in the community, with greater resources directed towards those assessed as presenting a high risk of serious harm to the public.

However, we also recognise that we have a responsibility to continue to refine and develop the ways in which we manage sex offenders, particularly as new technologies become available. On 19 June last year, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary commissioned a review of the management of child sex offenders. The review is due to be published shortly and, among a range of measures aimed at protecting children from sexual abuse, will recommend a trial of mandatory polygraph testing for sex offenders on licence in the community.

A polygraph is a device that measures changes in breathing, heart activity and sweating, all of which are known to be related to deception. We will use the polygraph to monitor whether offenders are engaging in risky behaviour, or behaviour that puts them in breach of their licence conditions.

Between September 2003 and September 2005, the national probation service conducted a pilot study in which sex offenders on licence volunteered to undertake the polygraph test. The results of this pilot were published in December 2006. Nearly 350 sex offenders took part in the pilot, as part of their supervision and treatment process.

Offenders were asked a number of questions, designed to test their compliance with their licence conditions and their response to particular risk factors. The importance of the polygraph examination was in the disclosure of new information which offenders made before and after taking the polygraph.

Based on their knowledge of a case from probation records and discussions with probation officers, examiners reported that new disclosures relevant to treatment and supervision were made in 79 per cent. of first examinations and in 78 per cent. of retests. Nearly 30 per cent. of these disclosures took place in the post-test interview that followed the offender having been questioned while attached to the polygraph—in other words, after being challenged with the result of the test.

Probation staff overwhelmingly found the polygraph results helpful in their risk management of these offenders. Clearly, we wish to listen to their views, and to give every possible support to those who have the difficult job of managing sex offenders in the community.


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