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Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for giving way. Can he explain why, in Clause 68, the test for child carers is "significant harm" when there is an emergency withdrawal of a child from a child carer. If it is good for the goose, why is it not good for the gander?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the noble Lord was not convinced by my argument on Report,

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so perhaps I can try again. Essentially we are not comparing like with like. In relation to the situation of a childminder, an Ofsted inspector undertakes an emergency deregistration to remove that childminder from children. Registered childminders do not have employers to dismiss them when they act inappropriately with children. That is why we seek to give that power to Ofsted inspectors. That deregistration is one stage back from a reference to the protection of vulnerable adults. It is the equivalent of a worker in a care position being dismissed by his employer for harming a vulnerable adult. I do not believe that it is fair to make a direct comparison.

Perhaps I may respond to some other points made by the noble Lord. I believe he suggested that the RCN had put forward the case of a professional worker who had been referred in relation to a specific incident where he had not received any training, for instance, in how to administer medicines or in the proper restraint of an individual. In my view, if a worker has not received appropriate training in such circumstances, or if there is no clear guidance as to how a staff member should handle a specific situation, it would not necessarily follow that that person would be listed.

The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, spoke about people who would be debarred from future employment in the industry. I accept the seriousness with which provisional listing must be viewed, but it is wrong to say that these people will be completely debarred from future employment in the industry. Anyone who is listed will be banned from working with vulnerable adults in the prescribed services, but he or she will be able to apply for jobs in the wider employment field. None the less, I do not disregard the impact that provisional listing will have on individuals, but I believe that this measure is a necessary part of the balance which the Bill seeks to achieve.

The noble Lord also questioned whether the impact of the provisions would deter people from working in this field. At Report stage he referred to voluntary workers, in particular the scout movement. It is my understanding that the scout movement welcomed the Protection of Children Act. The whole purpose of the Bill, not simply these clauses, is to raise standards and public confidence in the whole of the care industry. I believe that in the long term, if not the medium term, these measures, together with the establishment of a general social care council to improve the regulation of care workers and, in turn, public confidence in their work, will enhance our ability to attract into this field good quality people. My goodness, we need to do so, as the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, suggested.

We should remind ourselves of the manipulative and devious nature of the abusers that this scheme is designed to catch. Time and time again serious abuse has been uncovered and recommendations have been made. In his report People Like Us, Sir William Utting said:

    "It is dismaying to find that employers are still allowing staff being investigated or disciplined to resign, thereby avoiding the consequences of their behaviour. Employers who take this easy way out are making it easier for ... paedophiles in particular to continue their careers".

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I believe that those remarks can apply as much to people who abuse vulnerable adults as to those who abuse children.

We have had a very good debate, and all noble Lords who have spoken have contributed very important points. At the end of the day this is a difficult balance to strike, but I am convinced that we have got it right.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his usual careful response to the debate. I am also grateful to all those who have contributed to the debate, despite the fact that most of them spoke against the amendment. It is particularly unusual for a mere solicitor to find three of his most esteemed clients, in the form of the noble Baronesses, Lady Pitkeathley and Lady Greengross, and the noble Lord, Lord Rix, ranged against him.

In response to one or two noble Lords who said that my arguments were those of a lawyer, occasionally such points are not bad ones. Sometimes lawyers see things that others do not see, and the commitment to a cause can undermine one's objectivity. That is still my view having heard the extremely careful, thoughtful and deeply-held views of noble Lords.

Having heard the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, perhaps I should rename myself "Lord Phillips of Diminishing Returns". My small army has become more and more diluted as debates have proceeded. Even the noble Earl, Lord Howe, who put his name to the amendment at the previous stage, is not quite so sure about it this time. However, I believe that he still supports me at this juncture.

Many points have been raised in the debate. I do not propose to reply to all of them now, although they are worthy of response. I very much hope that, in taking this matter forward and considering their guidelines, the Government will consult widely, and with the greatest care, on the civil libertarian aspects that I have sought inadequately to place before noble Lords.

In seeking to prevent the appalling abuse of those who are totally helpless in the face of misconduct--one has the recent examples of the Waterhouse report on paedophilia in North Wales and the case of Dr Shipman and his extraordinary depredations--it is easy to forget that in the midst of it there are hurt, wounded and deranged people, including young people, who month by month can, and do, make allegations against wholly innocent care workers. Those allegations inflict terrible torment on those unjustly accused.

It was in an attempt to bring the position into slightly better balance that I tabled the amendment. That erected another hurdle, and that was the whole point of it. We believe that at the moment the series of tests and hurdles to be overcome before someone is provisionally, and then permanently, listed is too easy. We on these Benches are unimpressed by the fact that there is a right of appeal to a tribunal. That will occur six to nine months down the road, and in the interim the person will be deprived of his career. It is all very

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well for the Minister to say that such an individual, who may be a highly trained physiotherapist, can do a back office job that does not get anywhere near patients. The reality is that anyone who gets onto this list will be devastated: his career will be blighted and his reputation held up to public ridicule and contempt.

None the less, all has now been said. Although I want to divide the House, in prudence I should not do so. I hope that when this matter leaves this House Members of another place will have a further go at it. It is still not too late for the Government to review where they are at.

Finally, I ask the Minister to reconsider the position of childminders and the case with which we are now dealing. The Minister said that the two cases were apples and pears. That is not correct. In circumstances where one goes to a magistrates' court, not a civil servant behind closed doors, to ask for the provisional removal of a person engaged in childminding, the test is a higher one; namely, whether the child would be "likely" to suffer "significant harm" if the provisional order was not made. What is more, in the case of a childminder, the person who makes the allegation is not the former employer, as in this case, who in some circumstances may have a very big axe to grind, but Ofsted which is an independent, objective and professional organisation. On all counts, I believe that the Government have applied completely different standards to very comparable circumstances. The Government have got it right in Clause 68 but wrong in Clause 71. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 87 [Boarding schools: national minimum standards]:

Earl Howe moved Amendment No. 8:

    Page 57, line 28, at end insert (", and

( ) the quality of school nurses").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I have tabled this very simple amendment because of an apparent gap, or at the very least an ambiguity, in this part of the Bill. In the Bill one has measures to regulate standards of care, including clinical and nursing care, in a variety of settings. In Part VII one has provisions to regulate the welfare of children in boarding schools. What we do not appear to have in that part are measures to square the circle; in other words, provisions to ensure the quality of nursing care for children in boarding schools.

The House is already aware that the Bill amends the Children Act 1989 so that independent boarding schools fall within the remit of the national care standards commission and the Welsh Assembly. Clause 87 makes provision for national minimum standards in relation to the welfare of children accommodated in schools and colleges. At present, most independent schools employ people who go by the name of school nurses but who are neither registered nor qualified as nurses. Yet those are the very people who have what one might term front-line responsibility for the health and welfare of the children under their charge.

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If we are serious about raising standards of care across the board, we should be clear about what is and is not appropriate in boarding schools. It seems to me that if, as a proprietor of a boarding school, you employ someone called a "school nurse", that person should be a registered nurse and you should be obliged to carry out checks on him or her.

The minimum standards should also specify that the school nurse has access to a named doctor at all times and that there is appropriate provision for record-keeping. I am told that in one case recently, a nurse went from the NHS to take up a job at an independent school and found that there were no medical records on the children at all.

Consultation on minimum standards in boarding schools is now under way. Will the Minister give an assurance that he will involve the Royal College of Nursing in that process? I hope that he can reassure me also that when defining the minimum standards of welfare, it will not simply be a matter of the number of wash basins in dormitories which will be uppermost in the minds of inspectors but also, principally, the actual health and wellbeing of children. I beg to move.

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