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Viscount Astor: My Lords, who will be responsible for ensuring that that electric power comes onstream? Is it part of the rail network or part of something else?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, as I think the noble Viscount will recognise, such a significant matter is of strategic concern. We would not want this investment in new rolling stock across many parts of the system to be frustrated by an inadequacy of power. It is a serious matter that is being directly attended to.

Underpinning everything the Government have done is a commitment to delivering a safe, reliable railway for passengers, a commitment demonstrated by unprecedented levels of long-term investment. The noble Viscount derided our 10-year plan, but we intend to invest 33 billion over those 10 years. I challenge him to say when he gets the chance whether a Conservative government—were one ever to regain control of the railway, which we fervently hope does not happen—would match that investment.

Performance levels are gradually improving. As for punctuality, at the last count it had improved by about 80 per cent. However, the Government want to see more improvement in punctuality. There is no doubt at all that we will not be able to attract passengers to rail unless they can be guaranteed not only that their train will arrive on time but that it will deliver them to their destination on the basis of reasonable timekeeping. Hatfield was a disaster in that respect. It caused a tremendous slump in railway performance, which we are gradually re-establishing. However, it is true that we have some way to go in improving the situation.

A range of issues have been raised in this debate. None of us would pretend that everything is right with the railways at present—we are all too well aware of the challenges that face all those responsible for running the railway. We recognise that we need a strategic plan, which the Government have provided. We need investment in the railway. We need a recognition of where mistakes have been made in the past, a point which we made with regard to the franchises, for example.

I hope that we have been able to establish that a great deal is being done, not least on the issue of quality. Unless we have quality in the service people will not use the railway. The businessman wants speed and punctuality; being late for meetings is not an option for him. Students are flexible on timing but

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have a limited budget and therefore require access to cheap rail fares. For freight customers, cost and reliability are critical if they are to remain competitive.

The railway needs to deliver for each of those customers. Like all other businesses, it has to recognise that its customers are very discerning. It therefore needs to provide quality, whether the quality of the environment in which it carries its passengers, in clean, comfortable trains, or the accuracy and timeliness of the information that it provides. I know that people are more frustrated by inaccurate information or, very often, the total dearth of information, when they are at a loss as to whether their train will arrive on time.

Against that background, it is clear that the Government have much to take pride in with regard to the development of the railways. Much has been achieved. There are no quick fixes and noble Lords have identified many issues today which need a number of years of substantial investment before we shall see the improvements that we need. However, the Government, with the rest of the industry, are dealing with a network which has suffered from many years of neglect and at last is obtaining the investment it requires. We recognise that still more needs to be done to ensure that rail lives up to its high expectations.

In conclusion, I approve of and applaud the remarks made by my noble friend Lord Sawyer. The issue, as regards the railways, also involves the confidence and competence of its staff. There is no doubt that there was a time when to be a railwayman was one of the proudest roles that men and women could play in working society. Regrettably, those days have gone. However, what is clear is that with investment in people and concern about the quality of staff, the railways can return again to a level of service which we look forward to producing and for which the necessary investment is beginning to be put in place.

Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill

8.31 p.m.

House again in Committee on Clause 66.

Earl Howe moved Amendment No. 324ZA:

    Page 26, line 19, at end insert—

"( ) the Office for Standards in Education;
( ) the Department for Education and Skills;
( ) children's trusts;
( ) local Safeguarding Children Boards."

The noble Earl said: If we accept that there may be occasions when CHAI will need to access personal data, it is unclear whether situations involving suspected harm to children—whether in a domestic context or elsewhere—strictly will be within CHAI's remit or its sole remit.

Could the Minister clarify this point? Now that policy making for child protection has been transferred to the DfES and the Minister for Children, who will be the lead body when investigations into

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child abuse allegations take place? Will it be CHAI, Ofsted or neither? If it is Ofsted or perhaps one of the new children's trusts, will that body have unfettered access to personal medical data relating to children? Will such data be freely available in the DfES?

We need to be extremely careful when making data of this kind available to anyone and everyone with a possible interest in accessing it. Members of the Committee will be aware that the recent government Green Paper put forward a number of recommendations, one of which is for a national database of children and families. We are all familiar with why such a recommendation should have emerged in the wake of the report produced by the noble Lord, Lord Laming, into the death of Victoria Climbie. Like so many of us, I have enormous respect for the noble Lord, Lord Laming, and the work that he did.

However, there are dangers as well as benefits in any widening of access to personal data. The first danger that springs to my mind is that of jumping to wrong conclusions. I shall not weary the Committee for too long on what, I have to admit, is an abiding concern of mine. On previous occasions in this Chamber, we have debated how impossible it is for someone who has been wrongfully accused of child abuse to have that designation removed from his or her medical records or from the records of the child. In practice, it is a permanent black mark against that person, even if an allegation has been comprehensively rebutted.

We all want to see child abusers identified and brought to account, but we do not want to see a mushrooming of false allegations which traumatise parents and children and waste valuable public resources. I should be grateful if the Minister could say a little now, or perhaps write to me, about the width of the circle of privileged access that the Government envisage as regards the sharing of children's personal data. If CHAI has automatic access, albeit according to worked-out protocols, who else will be entitled to share in the data? Will the protocols be the same for those people? The more people who potentially have access to confidential data, the more it can be misused or accessed by those who have no business doing so. I beg to move.

Lord Warner: The noble Earl knows from my responses in earlier debates to concerns he has rightly raised about wrongful accusations of child abuse that I have every sympathy with them. It is not something that either I personally or the Government would want to encourage. I understand his position.

In regard to Amendment No. 324ZA, we do not feel that placing Ofsted under a duty to provide information to CHAI in this manner is the best way forward. A duty of co-operation and joint working provisions is already included in the Bill. Further, given the increased remit provided for Ofsted in relation to children set out in our recent Green Paper, Every Child Matters, we think it proper that both bodies should develop appropriate protocols with regard to joint working and information sharing. I am

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sure that government departments will try to help CHAI with information if necessary, but making it a requirement in primary legislation is not appropriate.

I am sympathetic to the inclusion of the final two bodies listed in the amendment, but neither children's trusts nor local safeguarding children boards have statutory status at this stage. Furthermore, and in response to the inquiry of the noble Lord, Lord Laming, into the tragic death of Victoria Climbie, we are currently considering to what extent these bodies should be put on a statutory footing. Therefore it would be inappropriate to place these bodies on the face of the Bill until the issue of their status has been resolved. Certainly it would go against accepted drafting practice to refer in primary legislation to bodies which do not have statutory status.

CSCI will be the lead body in relation to child protection allegations. It will have the right, where necessary, to access personal data in order to protect the welfare of vulnerable children. The position of CSCI will be considered further in the context of the response to the Laming report. Until that is made more clear, I cannot take the debate much further, other than to reassure the noble Earl that we understand his concerns. However, the amendment does not mark the way forward at this point.

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