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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I thank the Minister for the amendments which are to be accepted. I look forward to seeing the particular wording at the next stage of the Bill. I ask the Minister to think again about the first of the three criteria—vulnerability.

It is true that in one sense of the word some children—that is, the kind described by the Minister—are indeed vulnerable. However, I would regard a child of mine going away on a summer camp with youth and community workers supervising them as being vulnerable even if they were entirely adjusted with no problems and from a sound home. It seems to me that vulnerability needs to be considered in a slightly wider sense than simply children from children's homes or children who are neglected at home and do not have the security of a loving and nurturing home life.

As I have said, youth and community workers take children away from home. They are acting in loco parentis. Surely, every parent in the land has a right to expect that that position of trust will be honoured and that if it is breached, it is a real breach of trust and something which the parents would expect not to happen. It seems extraordinary that such people are not brought into the scope of the Bill. As my noble friend Lady Noakes said earlier, some of those people are the very people who come within the scope of the Bill; that is, teachers who then do voluntary youth work and go away with children to summer camps or on expeditions. I have been fortunate in that my children have all gone away on expeditions and have always come home safely. I am grateful for that. However, we should all at least remember that parents expect their children to be safe when they go away.

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As regards the points raised by the Minister on childminders, I still believe there is a case there. If two parents go away leaving someone with the care of their children or if working parents leave someone with the care of their young children where there are older children in the house, they do not expect that trust to be breached by childminder having a sexual relationship with a 16 or 17 year-old. I believe that if that were to happen, there would be a serious breach of trust.

I do not want to pre-empt the reaction which the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, may have about sports coaches. Like me, he will want to read what the Minister said. The noble and learned Lord had a great deal to say about sports coaches. I partly welcome some of the comments made by the Minister: in particular that the Secretary of State would consider using the order-making powers. However, the sting in the tail is that it would be a very long time before the Home Secretary would be in a position to be able to make a judgment on whether that order-making power should be used.

Sports coaches are in a very special position. More and more under the policy of inclusion—I applaud the Government for this—talented young people are given sports coaching, some of it one-to-one. On the other hand, I accept the Minister's point about the difficulty of recruiting. The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, referred to not introducing changes in such a way that would deter good people.

The Minister referred to the system of certification and national standards for sports coaches that is to be introduced by the DCMS. When that raft of changes is in place, we shall not need to bring the issue within the scope of the Bill because if coaches breach their trust they could lose their licence.

Teachers are certified to practise teaching and are subject to national standards and endless codes of practice—yet they fall within the scope of the Bill and its abuse of trust clauses. The Minister said enough about sports coaches and I would like to read his response.

Even the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, supported me at the previous stage. I say that with great deference to him. I admire the noble Lord and all that he does in the House, so I am overwhelmed by his support. When even the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, supports me I feel that I must be on to something. I thank the noble Lord for his support today, even though it was qualified. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments 82 to 87 not moved.]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I beg to move that consideration on Report be now adjourned.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

        House adjourned at two minutes after ten o'clock.

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Official Report of the Grand Committee on the

Local Government Bill

(First Sitting) Monday, 2nd June 2003.

The Committee met at half past three of the clock.

[The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Murton of Lindisfarne) in the Chair.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Murton of Lindisfarne): Before I put the Question that the Title be postponed, it may be helpful to remind your Lordships of the procedure for today's Committee stage. Except in one important respect, our proceedings will be exactly as in a normal Committee of the Whole House. We shall go through the Bill clause by clause; noble Lords will speak standing; all noble Lords are free to attend and participate; and the proceedings will be recorded in Hansard. The one difference is that the House has agreed that there shall be no Divisions in the Grand Committee. Any issue on which agreement cannot be reached should be considered again at the Report stage when, if necessary, a Division may be called. Unless, therefore, an amendment is likely to be agreed to, it should be withdrawn.

I should explain what will happen if there is a Division in the Chamber while we are sitting. The Committee will adjourn as soon as the Division Bells are rung and will resume after 10 minutes.

Title postponed.

Clause 1 [Power to borrow]:

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 1:

    Page 1, line 9, leave out paragraph (b) and insert—

"( ) subject to the provisions of this Act."

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 1, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 53 and 67. I should say at the outset that, generally, we welcome Part 1 of the Bill, which deals with the prudential borrowing regime, which is not, as the Official Report in another place described it at one point, the "prudential boring regime". I enjoyed that typo almost as much as one that I saw in a letter from CIPFA, which referred to an item "in elation to" the prudential indicator. Before we started, the Minister suggested that we should enthuse about the Bill, but I am not sure that I would go as far as elation. None the less, we support Part 1, and our amendments are generally directed at extending the new freedoms for local authorities, not at opposing them.

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Amendment No. 1 is a probing amendment. Paragraph (b) of Clause 1 provides that a local authority may borrow money,

    "for the purposes of the prudent management of its financial affairs".

Those words must mean something, and it seems to me that it is unnecessary to spell out that the borrowing is for the management of a local authority's financial affairs. Anything else would be ultra vires. What is meant by the term "prudent"? In particular, what is meant by the term that is not dealt with by the detailed provisions of Part 1? If the word is a signpost to Clauses 2 to 4—Clause 2(2) suggests that that might be the case—why does not the Bill say so?

When I started to read the Bill, I wondered about the protection of lenders. I came rapidly to Clause 6, which provides that lenders are not bound to inquire whether an authority has the power to borrow money. No doubt, that is to avoid cases similar to those in the 1980s that were so damaging for everyone involved. The clause protects lenders, but does it protect the borrowing authority, if its management is not prudent? I am not sure. If it does not, that could lead to all sorts of tangles. Is it about the council tax payer inspecting accounts and being able to say, as the opposition on a local authority might say, that the borrowing is not for prudent management? With my amendment, I seek to understand what the term imports. I have suggested alternative wording, allowing an authority to borrow money,

    "subject to the provisions of this Act".

Partly, I hoped to pre-empt a suggestion from the Minister that I am being destructive.

The later amendments in the group are similar and relate to the provisions for investment in Clause 12—to which Amendment No. 53 refers—and Schedule 1, which relates to parishes. It is precisely the same point. I beg to move.

Baroness Hanham: In general, I welcome and support what the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said. The Explanatory Notes become one's bible on such matters after a while, and I was interested to note that the power under Clause 1 is described as going further than the existing wide-ranging power and clarifies the fact that,

    "there is power to borrow for normal treasury management purposes".

That covers paragraph (a) neatly, but, like the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, I remain, in a sense, mystified by paragraph (b). Does "prudent management" include borrowing to deal with debt that is already there? It is probably debatable that one would want to swap one for the other, when it is clear that any additional borrowing done under these provisions will be a direct cost to the council tax payer because there will be no government subsidy or support.

In the light of what the noble Baroness said, I support her probing remarks to see what we can get from the Minister.

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