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Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I was not relying on that document. I was relying on one which tackles human trafficking. The noble Baroness will see that on the front cover of the document both the Home Office and the Scottish Executive are mentioned. So, for once, I am able to bring Scotland into the picture for the noble Baroness on the spot. That must be a first for me.
Lord Hylton: I thank the Minister for her full reply, which on the whole I thought was sympathetic. I noted, in particular, what she said about discretion and adopting a case-by-case approach. However, I think that even she will agree that dealing with things on a case-by-case basis is very difficult when the one acknowledged place of safety and protection is full up. What then happens to those victims? They are turned away, but where do they go? However, in an attempt to be more sympathetic to the Government, I commend them for the legislation that they have already passed making trafficking a serious crime and providing for long sentences for those convicted. That is very helpful.
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We heard a little from the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, about "pull factors". On the face of it, the Government have offered the largest possible pull factor towards this country by offering a package of up to £3,000 for people who arrive here and then return voluntarily to their country of origin. On the face of itI say "on the face of it" because I approve of the packagethat seems to me to be more of an incentive to potential new arrivals than anything contained in my amendments. Another important point was raised on appeals and witnesses. Will the Government always be willing to pay the expenses of a witness who has returned to his own country but is then required to give evidence in this country?
The Committee adjourned at twenty-one minutes past four o'clock.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr Charles Clarke) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The Government have been working hard over a number of years to ensure that those who have either been convicted of sexual offences or who are believed to have been engaged in them are not permitted to work with children.
So we set up the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) in 2002, which has significantly improved the vetting of people working with children and vulnerable adults. It has carried out 8 million disclosures since its inception and in 2005 over 20,000 people in total were refused employment as the result of a CRB check. Since September 1997, we have required individuals convicted of or cautioned for certain sexual offences to notify the police of their personal details and to update them regularly, placing them on what is commonly known as the sex offenders register. That has ensured the police know of their whereabouts. In 2003, we revised these requirements and overhauled the legislation covering sexual offending and last year we launched the violent and sex offenders register, which now contains information on around 50,000 people, of whom the vast majority are convicted offenders.
Sir Michael Bichard produced his report on the Soham murders in June 2004. Since then, we have been driving forward a complex and ambitious programme of work to implement all of his 31 recommendations. So far, 13 have been implemented in full or in part and work is progressing on giving effect to the rest, as set out in the progress report I gave to the House on 7 November 2005. For example, we are taking forward a substantial programme to enhance information management handling capabilities across the police service. This includes:
improving police information management nationally by bringing a new statutory code of practice into effect in November 2005. That will ensure best practice and consistency of standards across England and Wales and implementation will be underpinned by detailed operational guidance, which will come into effect this spring;
improving the quality of data on the police national computer, as Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary have embedded the monitoring of the timely input and quality of all forces' data into their baseline assessments.
In the light of recent events, the Home Office has discussed with the Association of Chief Police Officers what more might be done to ensure the Department for Education and Skills is informed as soon as information linking an individual to a sexual offence comes to light, if that individual is thought to be working with children. I am writing today to all chief constables, to the prison and probation services and to the Youth Justice Board to restate how the current system works, the way in which it is changing and the priority the Government attach to the protection of children.
However, the key to avoiding the risk of recruiting unsuitable individuals to work with children lies in the employer undertaking the appropriate checks through the CRB, whose disclosure service will reveal any criminal conviction, caution or reprimand which has led to the person being made subject to sex offenders registration. It will also allow chief constables the opportunity to disclose that someone is on the sex offenders register in appropriate cases. That is why my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education is today announcing that those checks will in future be a mandatory requirement.
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): My right honourable friend the Minister of State (Jane Kennedy) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
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In response, the department will set up a review group, as originally intended and as recommended by Ofcom, to explore how communication services can be offered to hospital patients without charging as high a price for incoming calls. The group will consist of Department of Health officials, the providers of bedside communications and entertainment services and representation from National Health Service trusts.
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