Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, for his intervention. I apologise for any unintended discourtesy in the way in which we rapidly moved through the amendments earlier.

The amendment is very useful. It will provide for basic information to be sought from offenders on the register of the detail of their travel arrangements--the date of travel, the country of destination, the place of entry and so on. As part of the present review of the Sex Offenders Act, it is our intention to look at some of the other detail that may be usefully brought forward into this method of regulation. We think that the detail of that regulation will be very important. Some of the points made by the noble Lord--for instance, the address of where offenders may stay, the details of their tour itinerary, where their onward travel may be from their first destination, and so on--can be dealt with as part of the regulations.

This is a very helpful contribution. We are leading the field in terms of dealing with international sex crimes against children. It is an area of developing law and developing regulation. We shall, of course, consult on the detail of the content of the regulations. I shall make careful note of the points made by the noble Lord, particularly the importance of giving written notification and ensuring that those offenders who fall

31 Oct 2000 : Column 926

within the remit of the amendment receive adequate advice, warning and information as to its effect. That is a very helpful suggestion.

These are matters we shall further explore. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his helpful contribution to this area of developing policy.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I apologise profusely if I was responsible for the noble Lord missing the natural opportunity to make his points. My understanding of the instructions I received from the Whips' Office was that Amendment No. 85 was included in the group of amendments. I thought there had been a mishap involving the Minister. Had I realised that it would open up an opportunity for the noble Lord to make important comments that should be on the record, I apologise.

Lord Bach: My Lords, it was certainly not the noble Baroness's fault.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

11.30 p.m.

Lord Bach moved Amendments Nos. 90 to 93:

    Page 65, line 10, leave out from ("hospital") to end of line 11.

    Page 65, line 28, leave out from beginning to ("there") in line 32 and insert--

("At the end of section 10").

    Page 65, line 37, leave out (""3") and insert (""3(1A)").

    Page 65, line 37, leave out from ("(b)") to ("there") in line 38.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 65 [Section 64: interpretation]:

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved amendment No. 94:

    Page 45, line 31, leave out ("in England and Wales").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Clause 65 deals with how you define those offenders covered by Clause 64 in respect of whom arrangements have to be made by the responsible authorities for assessing and managing the risk they pose.

The technical amendments to Clause 65 have been proposed to clarify the statutory duty in respect of offenders sentenced by a court martial or by a courts-martial appeals court, to make it clear that it is limited to those offenders who are subject to the notification requirements under Part I of the Sex Offenders Act 1997 or to whom the conditions for disqualification from working with children set out in Sections 28(2) and 28(3) and 29(2) and 29(3) apply.

The amendment to Clause 66 will have the effect that the local board will not have to inform the victims of offences where the offender has been convicted or dealt with by a court martial or courts-martial appeals court.

I ought to record my gratitude to noble Lords who highlighted in Committee the defect in the present Clause 66(2) which caused us to re-visit the drafting in this area. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

31 Oct 2000 : Column 927

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendments Nos. 95 to 99:

    Page 45, line 31, after ("convicted") insert ("by a court in England or Wales").

    Page 46, line 6, leave out ("in England and Wales").

    Page 46, line 6, after ("guilty") insert ("by a court in England or Wales").

    Page 46, line 16, leave out from ("if") to ("satisfied") in line 17 and insert ("the first condition set out in section 28(2) or 29(2) or the second condition set out in section 28(3) or 29(3) is").

    Page 46, line 17, at end insert--

("( ) In this section "court" does not include a court-martial or the Courts-Martial Appeal Court.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 66 [Duties of local boards in connection with victims of certain offences]:

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 100:

    Page 46, line 19, leave out from beginning to ("on") in line 20 and insert ("a court--

(a) convicts an offender of a sexual or violent offence, and
(b) imposes a relevant sentence").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendments Nos. 101 and 102:

    Page 46, line 21, leave out subsection (2).

    Page 47, line 13, leave out subsection (8).

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 103:

    Page 47, line 17, at end insert--

(""court" does not include a court-martial or the Courts-Martial Appeal Court,").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 69 [Failure to secure regular attendance at school: increase in penalty]:

Earl Russell moved Amendment No. 104:

    Leave out Clause 69.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, the amendment would attempt to leave out Clause 69. That is the clause that deals with parents whose children do not regularly attend school. It raises the fine to which they may be subject from £1,000 to £2,500.

As the Minister pointed out in Committee, my objection is to the principle behind the clause. The principle of vicarious guilt is being applied to the parent. Since I was not in a position to come in at the ground floor, I am at least, I hope, entitled to say that planning permission should not be given to build another storey on this house, because I believe that it should not have been here in the first place.

This clause altogether over-rates the power that some parents have over teenage children. Queen Elizabeth I once heard a protest from the Spanish ambassador about the activities of Sir Francis Drake, and replied:

    "The gentleman careth not if I should disavow him".

31 Oct 2000 : Column 928

The language is different, but I believe that the reaction of many parents who are asked to control the activities of their teenage children boils down to very much the same thing.

The number of sanctions available to the parent of a teenager is strictly limited. Sometimes it can be done simply because the child wants approval, but that is not always the case. My father once remarked, "Most children desire approval. If they did not, all discipline would be impossible". However, the minority who are the exceptions are very often the ones with whom we are dealing in this situation.

I believe that the clause also misunderstands the likely reaction of parents who may be very shamed and distressed by the imposition of this procedure. I understand that the object is not actually to levy the fine but to secure an attendance at court. But very often the reaction of parents whose children bring them into disgrace is to want to dissociate themselves from them quite forcefully; in other words, "It's nothing to do with me". That reaction means that they will not want to appear in court. In fact, the more shamed and disgraced they feel, the more those parents will want to be nowhere where their child's record is being examined.

The ultimate sanction available to parents of teenagers is, I regret to say, expelling them from home. If noble Lords were to read the report of the Children's Society, Still Running, they would find that a very high proportion of children--indeed, I believe it is 19 per cent--who run away from home are expelled by their parents. I do not want that proportion to increase. Very often, those children have to take refuge in what the Children's Society describes as "risky survival strategies"--for example, selling sex or drugs, stealing or begging. None of the latter is an activity that any of us from any quarter of the House would wish to see more of than we do at present. In so far as this clause has an effect, that is the likely effect that it will have.

In Committee, the Minister faced me with evidence to which I listened with some care. He cited cases where parents are actually in collusion with the child who does not attend school because they are involving the child in some money-making activity, or taking him away on holiday when he ought to be in school. I am not defending such actions. Indeed, in such cases, the clause might possibly have a useful effect because it would hold the parent responsible for something that the parent had actually done. That seems to me to be proper.

I cannot move an amendment on Third Reading for the deletion of a clause. However, I hope that the Minister wants to come out of this Bill with some reasonably amicable compromises; indeed, I trust that he may. We do not always have to have a confrontation on everything: but it takes two to compromise. I have in mind what we may do hereafter. Before we return to the matter on Third Reading, I wonder whether the Minister will consider an amendment to this clause suggesting that it should apply only where the child has been evading attending school with the "knowledge and consent" of the

31 Oct 2000 : Column 929

parent. The active involvement of the parents in approving this seems to me to be an essential constituent of their deserving any punishment; and, indeed, of it being possible practically to impose it.

I do not know whether that compromise will be acceptable to the Minister. However, I am prepared to discuss it in detail, make adaptations and see what we can do. I beg to move.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page