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Secondly, the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, asked whether there will be a rolling programme of stock replacement. I have made it clear that there will be such a programme, with a commitment to 1,300 additional carriages over the next five years. He also asked whether we would favour the north as well as the south with our investments. We are indeed doing so. The upgrade of the west coast main line favours the north as much as the south and, as I set out in my opening remarks, is leading to significant improvements in the services

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that will be available from 14 December to Birmingham, Manchester and further north. The commitment to the 1,300 additional carriages will see significant improvements in the rolling stock available to, for example, Northern Rail, which, in the latest rolling stock update, is indicated to receive 182 additional vehicles, benefiting Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool and Newcastle local services. Therefore, there are significant benefits for the north and I am sure that there will be others from the £15 billion programme of improvements over the next five years.

Finally, I turn to the wider issue of the Government’s position on the management of the rail industry over the period ahead. I took the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, to say that he favoured significant change to the structure of the industry over the coming years. Indeed, he mentioned the need for further legislation in this area significantly to change the institutional infrastructure of the industry. I think that it is only fair for me to indicate to the House that that is not the position that the Government wish to adopt. Our view is that there has been too much institutional upheaval in the industry over the past 10 years and that in recent years we have seen significant improvement as we have brought greater stability to its institutional infrastructure. It is not our intention to promote significant structural change in the industry over the period ahead, although, as I have indicated elsewhere, I am open-minded about the case for longer franchises to give franchise operators a greater stake in the management of, and investment in, the network. We now need to see not further upheaval in the rail industry’s institutional infrastructure but nuts-and-bolts improvements to the network, steady improvements to the quality of the service provided to passengers and an in-depth consideration of the medium and long-term infrastructure requirements of the industry. I believe that that would be hampered if its leadership and governance went through another period of upheaval in the period ahead.

Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, perhaps I may make it clear that I am concerned about the governance of Network Rail. The Government are not able, for example, to require Network Rail to do experiments in vertical integration; that is entirely at Network Rail’s discretion. Nor can the Government control the bonuses that Network Rail pays. I am concerned not with large-scale upheaval but with Network Rail becoming conscious of the fact that it is a public servant and that it should be doing the Government’s bidding.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I note the points made by the noble Lord, but I reiterate my own point: it is not our intention to bring forward legislation that would engage in another process of musical chairs in the management of the industry.

I do not have time to respond to all the points that were raised. My noble friend Lord Rosser spoke about what happens if franchises fail. If they fail, well established procedures are in place. Of course, in recent years one failed and the department needed to step in as operator of last resort. I believe that we can meet his points in that regard. I shall be happy to correspond with my noble friend Lord Berkeley on rail freight and access charges to the CTRL, although my understanding is

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that that is still a matter for ongoing negotiation. I know that he has a strong interest in seeing a successful outcome to those negotiations.

In conclusion, I simply reiterate my thanks to all who have spoken and note the general support in the House for the future of the rail industry, beginning with the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, who painted a very optimistic picture. I see that he is rising to intervene. I will respond to his points. We are making big investments in improving the capacity of the rail freight sector to handle larger containers than has been the case in the past. That was one of his concerns.

Lord Lyell: My Lords, perhaps the Minister will take on board the fact that much of the debate has concentrated on England. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, pointed to the Keighley and Settle line. The mention of Crianlarich caused great excitement on the Liberal Democrat Benches. It is a very important rail junction, as from Crianlarich the line goes west to Oban and north to Fort William and Mallaig. In times of trouble, God forbid, when one needs serious movements of freight in remote areas, Crianlarich and the line west and north are of particular importance. That is one of my points. No doubt the Minister can write to me.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Lord on the importance of Crianlarich. His remarks will have been noted by the appropriate authorities. This has been a very positive debate. It heralds a bright future for the rail industry and I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part.

The Earl of Glasgow: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, perhaps I can ask when the Government are likely to make a decision on any new railway line, let alone an actual high-speed rail.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, over the next nine months, the National Networks Strategy Group, which I chair, will actively consider network options, including electrification and the case for new lines. I expect the Government to be in a position to say more next summer.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Safeguarding Children

2.03 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place. The Statement is as follows:

“Mr Speaker, with your permission, I would like to make a Statement on the actions I have taken over the past week since I received the serious case review last Wednesday morning into the tragic death of Baby P. As I said to the House on Monday, the whole nation has been deeply shocked, appalled and angered by the terrible suffering this little boy endured.

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“Since the jury reached its decision on 11 November, we have all read of the abuse he suffered at the hands of adults he lived with, something I know we all struggle to comprehend. This case has also raised serious questions of public concern about how this could have happened again despite numerous contacts with social workers, police and health professionals, and in Haringey, too, the same borough where Victoria Climbié died eight years ago; about what actions are urgently needed in Haringey to ensure the safety of other vulnerable children in that borough and proper accountability for what went wrong; and about what further steps are needed to ensure that all children are safe across the country.

“It is our collective duty to do what we can to prevent such a tragedy happening again. I am grateful to the honourable gentleman and to Members opposite for the support they have given me over the past eight days for the action we have taken so far.

“Let me start by setting out the background. Following the death of Baby P on 3 August 2007, and consistent with the statutory requirements set out in Working Together to Safeguard Children, a serious case review started immediately to discover what happened and why. Serious case reviews are carried out whenever a child dies and abuse or neglect is known or suspected to have been a factor. They are instigated by the local safeguarding children board, independent of government. The report should be independently authored. Local agencies should implement any interim lessons immediately while the serious case review is still in progress and working drafts of serious case reviews may be shared with government officials.

“Since April last year, Ofsted has evaluated each serious case review to help strengthen the system. However, in all cases, Ministers are not involved in any part of the process of undertaking and completing the serious case review process and do not see draft reports. In this case, the executive summary of the serious case review was published on the afternoon of 11 November and the children’s Minister and I received the full confidential report on the morning of 12 November. Having studied it, we concluded that there was clear evidence that agencies had failed, singly and collectively, to adhere to the statutory procedures for the proper management of child protection cases. This raised serious concerns about the wider systems and management of services for safeguarding children in the borough.

“Our immediate priority was to ensure the safety of children in Haringey. So, that afternoon, we arranged for the director of children’s services in Hampshire, John Coughlan, to be immediately seconded to Haringey to help ensure that proper procedures for safeguarding children were in place and being applied. He began his work the following morning. At the same time, I decided that Ofsted, the Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection and the Chief Inspector of Constabulary should carry out an urgent inspection in Haringey under Section 20(1)(b) of the Children Act 2004. In particular, I asked the inspectors to look closely at the quality of practice and management of all services that contribute to the effective safeguarding of children

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in Haringey. The work of the national inspectors is under way and I will receive a first report by 1 December. As soon as I have studied their findings I will publish their report and the actions we will take.

“This tragic case also raises wider issues about child safety. It is now just over five years since we published Every Child Matters in response to the Victoria Climbié inquiry chaired by Lord Laming. Both the joint chief inspectors earlier this year and Lord Laming himself have said that these reforms have significantly strengthened the framework for safeguarding children and that, in local areas across the country, much good work is being done that is keeping children safe. But as the joint chief inspectors also said in their July report, there is still much work to do to ensure these reforms are being implemented systematically by all local agencies so that children in every part of the country receive the protection they need, a view that was repeated and reinforced yesterday in Ofsted’s annual report.

“That was why we began a stock-take of local safeguarding children boards last month, including the governance and accountability arrangements, the independence of local safeguarding children board chairs and whether the statutory guidance needs to be revised. At the same time we also started work to establish what more can be done to improve the quality, consistency and impact of serious case reviews.

“As I explained to the House on Monday and immediately following the legal verdict on 11 November, the children’s Minister and I asked Lord Laming to provide us with an urgent report of progress made across the country in implementing effective arrangements for safeguarding children. In parallel, we have also set out legislative proposals to improve children’s trusts that will provide stronger area-wide accountability for the well-being and safety of children across all children’s services.

“I met Lord Laming on Monday to agree the scope of his report, which will be ready early in the new year. He will report on the key features of good safeguarding practice and whether they are being universally applied across the country, including the development of the professional workforce, interagency working and effective systems of public accountability. He will also report on the key barriers, including in the legal process, that may be impeding children’s professionals in their work and stopping good practice becoming common practice, including whether the right balance is being struck between the correct application of processes when taking a child into care and the child’s needs, and what specific actions should be taken by national government and local agencies to overcome these barriers and accelerate systematic improvement across the country. I have also decided to bring the stock-take of local safeguarding children boards and the work on serious case reviews which we announced last month under the remit of Lord Laming’s work.

“I am pleased that Lord Laming has now begun his work. He has today written to experts and interested parties setting out how they can inform his findings. I have also placed a copy of this letter in the Library of the House.

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“Professionals working with children in this country do a tough job, often in difficult circumstances. They have a great responsibility and they make difficult judgements every day. But where serious mistakes are made, there must be accountability. We must never forget that our first duty is to make sure that all children are safe and protected from harm, and we will not rest until we have the best possible child protection arrangements to safeguard our most vulnerable children.

“The case of Baby P is tragic and appalling. We have a responsibility to take whatever action is needed to ensure that such a tragedy cannot happen again and that all children are able to grow up safe in Haringey and across the country. I commend this Statement to the House”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

2.12 pm

Baroness Morris of Bolton: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for repeating this Statement on safeguarding children made necessary by the distressing details of child protection in Haringey. The horrific images on our television screens and the tragic story of Baby P’s short and brutal life have shocked the whole country. The understandable sense of outrage that this trusting little boy could have been seen so many times by one professional after another and still be failed by a system designed to protect him has left us all asking how this could happen in modern Britain. So we welcome the fact that the Government have ordered an inquiry into the practices in Haringey, and we will expect them to act on the findings.

It is all too easy to point the finger of blame at the social workers, who are at the sharp end of some of the most difficult and complex cases imaginable and who are submerged by mounds of paperwork. No amount of child protection legislation is a substitute for properly trained and resourced professionals. The number of cases they are looking after, and the mix of those cases, also is crucial if they are to do their job properly. However, you have to question the particular pressures that social workers are under in Haringey given that almost a quarter of the posts are vacant. You also have to ask who is going to want to work there. Can the Minister say what the Government are doing to address the problem of a critical shortage of children's social workers, particularly in some of the most deprived areas of London?

A more urgent question is: why are we still in the dark over who had ultimate responsibility for this case, and where does the buck stop? After the tragic death of Victoria Climbié, the Laming report called for clear lines of accountability; and yet here we are again, eight years later in Haringey, and none the wiser. Can the Minister say who is accountable? And what about the legal services? They told police and social workers that there was not sufficient evidence to apply for a care order, but were they aware that three separate doctors had reached the conclusion that Baby P was probably suffering from non-accidental injuries?

I am sure the Minister will probably tell me that all this will be subject to the findings of the independent inquiry, but perhaps she could help me on the question

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of the inspection of social services. In between the death of Baby P and the subsequent court case, Haringey Council and its children’s services were awarded three stars—the highest award available from Ofsted. Does the Minister agree that when serious cases are pending, that should raise a note of caution? If the basis of testing the quality of the system is flawed we will never be able to judge its true efficiency.

We have the greatest admiration for the noble Lord, Lord Laming, and welcome his review into the key features of good safeguarding, the key barriers that may be impeding children’s professionals in their work, and the action that needs to be taken. However, the implications of what happened in Haringey and the problems facing children’s professionals across the country go much wider than this and the Government will find it difficult to solve the problems unless they look at family breakdown. My right honourable friend Iain Duncan Smith is so right to focus on the chaotic life that is, sadly, the normal picture for so many children. One of the chilling statistics that he highlighted from recent research carried out in the USA is that children living with non-biological parents are 50 times more likely to die from inflicted injuries than if they live with their biological parents. We must do all we can to bring much needed stability to the lives of these vulnerable children.

It is impossible for us to imagine how grown-ups can inflict such damage on an innocent, trusting child. Sadly, some people are simply wicked. But others have serious mental health problems. There is still too large a gap between child and adult services. I hope that this is an area where the noble Lord, Lord Laming, might apply his considerable expertise. The Government have our full support in ensuring that we have the best possible child protection arrangements to safeguard our most vulnerable children. For our part, my honourable friend Tim Loughton, shadow Minister for children, following an urgent consultation with Conservative councillors in the immediate wake of the Baby P tragedy, has written to all Conservative lead councillors asking them to make changes to the structure of local safeguarding children boards so that in future they will be chaired independently.

Writing this weekend about Baby P, my great friend Nadine Dorries MP said:

“Chocolate may have been smeared on his face, but his eyes were surrounded by red and swollen tissue ... If there is one Baby P who has died how many babies are out there waiting for someone to notice before sad red rimmed eyes become a broken bone or worse?”.

That is why the findings of these inquiries and the subsequent actions cannot come a day too soon.

2.19 pm

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. As the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, said, all of us were deeply shocked by the horrific images of Baby P. However, it is important to echo the part of the Statement which says that professionals in this country looking after children do a tough job, often in very difficult circumstances. That echoes the thoughts expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Morris.

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It is also important to remember that since the 1970s, when we had the Maria Colwell case, we have been gradually tightening up child safeguarding procedures. The number of children killed in this country has fallen by about 50 per cent, compared to the United States, where it is up by 17 per cent. Indeed, today the UK has one of the best records in the Western world on childcare. Professor Colin Pritchard from the School of Social Care in Bournemouth has said that our child protection services have never been better. His work has revealed that most child murders are committed by mentally ill mothers, followed by mentally ill fathers, followed by mothers whose children are on the at-risk register. Baby P was of course one of those; he was on the at-risk register.

A number of issues in this case raise concern, above all about the organisation of the services in Haringey, which was the centre of the storm around Victoria Climbié. When the same issues arise within a matter of a relatively few years, that raises concerns about the organisation and management of services in that area. There have been many changes since the Victoria Climbié case, most effected as a result of the Children Act 2004, with which many of us in this House were involved as it passed, not least the attempt to get joint working across health, education and social services, the setting up of children's trusts and the establishment of local safeguarding boards.

However, I think that the case raises real questions about local safeguarding boards. The NSPCC has stated:

“It is legitimate to question whether the ‘safeguarding’ agenda might be giving professionals a mandate to give parents the benefit of doubt ... and not to focus on the needs and vulnerability”

of children. Earlier this year, Ofsted questioned the variability of standards, remarking that,

local authorities—

Yesterday's annual report from Ofsted revealed that since April 2007, it had evaluated 92 serious case reports and found 38 of them to be inadequate.

Why was this serious case review not chaired by an independent individual, as distinct from the director of the service being scrutinised? Why was the report delayed by more than a year, instead of being completed, as required, within the four-month target? Why, now it has been published, can we not see the full report; why have we seen only the executive summary? Is it surprising, given that it was chaired by the director of the service being scrutinised, that the executive summary seems so bland and worthless?

To what extent are the higher court charges to be paid by local authorities in child protection cases deterring local authorities from acting in such cases and, in particular, from taking children into care? Is it true that applications across England to take children into care have fallen by 20 per cent since the dramatic rise in court fees to be paid by local authorities? Is it true that since the Baby P case came to light, applications to take children into care in Haringey have more than doubled?

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Finally, if, as the Secretary of State said earlier this week, he was so deeply disturbed by the failings of practice and management in the Baby P case, why has he resisted calls for the publication of the full serious case review? Why has he not set up a full public inquiry? Does the Minister think that the urgent joint area review that the Secretary of State has set up, which is to report within two weeks, will be adequate? Can she confirm what my honourable friend in the other place, the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green, Lynne Featherstone, has been told: that local managers in Haringey are selecting the staff to be interviewed by the investigators in that quick joint area review?

Why, if there have been such failings in management, is the director of children's services still in her post, when she is directly accountable under the Children Act 2004 for what has occurred? It is not obvious why the serious case review is still secret; nor clear that the quick, two-week review that has been set up will get to the bottom of what has gone wrong in Haringey. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Bolton, we have great faith in the noble Lord, Lord Laming, and look forward to hearing what his deeper inquiry will reveal, but that still leaves many questions about this case which both Haringey and the Secretary of State have to answer.

2.25 pm

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I start by thanking both noble Baronesses for their support in dealing with this extremely tragic case and the constructive all-party tone, which I heard in another place as well. It is very much in the interests of children and young people that we can discuss the issues frankly and openly and bring them under close scrutiny in this House and the other place. I very much welcome the tone and support from the noble Baronesses.

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