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House of Lords

Tuesday, 28 October 2014.

2.30 pm

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Lichfield.

Introduction: Baroness Evans of Bowes Park

2.38 pm

Natalie Jessica Evans, having been created Baroness Evans of Bowes Park, of Bowes Park in the London Borough of Haringey, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Lord Cavendish of Furness and Baroness Neville-Rolfe, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.

Introduction: Lord Cashman

2.45 pm

Michael Maurice Cashman, Esquire, CBE, having been created Baron Cashman, of Limehouse in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, was introduced and made the solemn affirmation, supported by Baroness Turner of Camden and Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.

Railways: East Coast Rail Franchise


2.50 pm

Asked by Baroness Quin

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the rail unions regarding the future of the east coast rail franchise.

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Kramer) (LD): My Lords, levels of engagement with the rail unions have increased since the launch of the rail franchising programme in March 2013. On the intercity east coast franchise competition, this engagement has included a number of face-to-face meetings at official and ministerial level and correspondence covering most aspects of the competition.

Baroness Quin (Lab): My Lords, while I am glad that such meetings have taken place, does the Minister appreciate that many of us who use the east coast rail service regularly are dismayed that the Government have refused to allow the current publicly owned operator—which has greatly improved the service, to the benefit of both passengers and UK taxpayers alike—even to bid for the franchise and to be able to continue to run a good service? Does it not seem odd that the Government allow foreign state-owned enterprises to run our rail services in part, yet refuse to allow a successful home-grown public enterprise to do so?

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Baroness Kramer: My Lords, noble Lords will be aware that Directly Operated Railways that took over the running of the east coast service after the failure of the previous franchise was always anticipated to be temporary; I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, will confirm that. It has done an excellent job; I would not wish to understate that. It is important that the Government have the capacity to step in when something happens within a franchise that makes that necessary. Now, however, we need very significant new investment; there needs to be a long-term partner taking this franchise forward, so it is right to go into the franchising process. I would be glad to address questions on whether we should have our own franchising entity, but I do not want to take too long on a single answer.

Lord Bradshaw (LD): My Lords, will the Minister think about the fact that this franchise has failed twice and that the present competition is very uncertain because of the threat of open access operation to whomever the franchise is let? If any of the franchise bidders bid less than what the taxpayer gets from Directly Operated Railways, will the Government allow the latter organisation to continue to run the railway?

Baroness Kramer: My Lords, the franchise process is in train. The award will come in February, so I obviously cannot comment on the competitors’ offers at this time. That would be entirely improper. It is certainly true that DOR returned profits to the Government—not to the department. It is also important to understand that it has not had the demands that are placed on many franchises in the level of investment required. We will have new equipment coming on to the line and new rolling stock, too. That will mean significant new burdens and we have many greater requirements now in terms of customer service so there is a need for significant investment. That is why a new player needs to come in at this time. It is obviously open to any Government to own companies and use them in various ways. This country used to have an airports industry and ran steel mills and car companies. However, we have found that the franchising system has offered us excellence. Train-operating companies have delivered very good service at very good prices. We have seen the response to that from passengers who have doubled in number in the past 20 years.

Lord Hughes of Woodside (Lab): Can the Minister say why the company currently running the franchise is not being given the opportunity to bid or to test itself against the conditions that the Governments are considering?

Baroness Kramer: As I said, the company currently operating this is a government entity. It was designed as a company that could step in when something went wrong. That remains important within the arsenal of our tools. There is a very different set of skills when one is looking at significant new investment and growth. This is the point that we have reached with this franchise, so it is very important that the opportunity is, as I say, open for the train operating companies to bid on this and offer a high-quality service. We will be looking for a very effective winning bidder.

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Lord Cormack (Con): Does my noble friend acknowledge that there are deficiencies in the present service? Does she know, for instance, that while it is possible to have a day in London from Lincoln using direct trains, one cannot do the reverse? As we have one of the most important years in Lincoln’s history coming up next year—2015, the anniversary of Magna Carta—can she will follow up on the conversations I have had with the Secretary of State and try to ensure that next year we have a direct service between London and Lincoln?

Baroness Kramer: My Lords, I cannot comment directly on an issue that will obviously be under consideration but I will take back my noble friend’s comments with pleasure.

Lord Davies of Oldham (Lab): My Lords, the Minister may have sought to reassure the House that she had some form of consultation with the trade unions but did she have any consultation with the half a million additional passengers that are being carried on the line under the successful operation of DOR? Surely she will accept that only a Government who are addicted to dogma would dispense with a company—an organisation that has run the line so successfully—and put it out to bidders, of which the successful one may well be the state-owned company of another country’s railway.

Baroness Kramer: My Lords, it is certainly true that other countries have chosen to invest and own companies across a wide range of industries. This is a particularly difficult industry in which to do that. Its fixed costs are extremely high. It costs something like £7 million to £10 million to put in a bid, with no assurance of winning. It is certainly a high-risk industry and the margins, as the noble Lord will know, even for an effective and profitable company, are quite fine. It is an entirely valid decision not to enter into actually running companies when there are private options that have delivered very successfully up and down the country.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Con): Surely my noble friend would recognise that the whole point of competitive tendering is to get the best value and the best deal for the taxpayer. If she is right that the state-owned company would not be able to compete, why is that a reason to exclude it from the process?

Baroness Kramer: Again we can see the complexities of a state-owned company being involved in this. Would we give it preferential financing or would it go out on the market? Let me make this point: do we want to set up a company and pay its senior management very high fees for the possibility that, with bids ranging from £7 million to £10 million apiece, it might eventually achieve a franchise? We have a long history and I have to suggest that the history of companies run over the long term by the UK Government has not been one of outstanding success. We know that we have very successful franchises across the country, so let us take advantage of them to make sure that we get the best opportunities for the many passengers using these services.

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Health: Mental Health


2.59 pm

Asked by Lord Dubs

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to reduce delays in the provision of mental health treatment.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): Access and waiting times for people with mental health problems are a priority for this Government. We are committed to ensuring that access to services and waiting times are on a par with physical health. That is why we have put in place the first national waiting times standards in mental health.

Lord Dubs (Lab): My Lords, will the Minister confirm that according to the widely respected Health Service Journal in April this year there were some 3,640 fewer nurses and some 213 fewer doctors working in mental health than two years ago? Surely it is unrealistic—not to say verging on the dishonest—to talk about the Government putting in place controls on access and waiting times when there is no prospect of achieving them.

Earl Howe:If the noble Lord looks across the piece at the workforce statistics he will perhaps be more reassured than he is at the moment. The £400 million that we are putting into talking therapies, for example, will result in a workforce of 6,000 practitioners trained to deliver IAPT. Health Education England has increased the number of mental health nursing training places by 1.5%. In delivering a multidisciplinary workforce, the aim is to have skills that are transferable between different care settings. NICE will be publishing its authoritative guideline on safe staffing. We have already mandated NHS organisations to publish ward-level nursing with midwifery care staffing levels so that there is an incentive for them to make sure that they have their staffing levels right.

Baroness Hollins (CB): The Government’s five-year plan to improve access to mental health services makes no mention of people with intellectual disabilities who have mental health problems. What steps will the Government take to improve access for this group of patients who have a higher prevalence of mental illness and treatable mental disorders?

Earl Howe: I hope that the noble Baroness will agree that the five-year plan is truly ground-breaking in many respects. We have identified £40 million to spend this year to support people in mental health crisis and end the practice of young people being admitted to mental health wards. Another £80 million has been freed up for next year to ensure that waiting time standards become a reality, not just for those with mild mental health conditions but across the

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piece. I will write to the noble Baroness if I can glean any further information about those with a specific disability.

Baroness Brinton (LD): My Lords, one of the worrying consequences of the shortage of mental health beds is the number of patients who leave mental health wards and subsequently commit suicide within a short space of time. If a patient commits suicide within a short period of leaving in-patient care, it should be regarded as a never event. That would provide real parity of esteem alongside parity of funding and ensure that patient safety is at the heart of every patient’s release.

Earl Howe: My noble friend makes an extremely important point. NHS England is currently reviewing the never events framework. My honourable friend the Minister of State for Care and Support will shortly be meeting NHS England officials to discuss the possibility of including suicide following in-patient care as a never event and how the new never events framework will support parity of esteem.

Lord Bradley (Lab): My Lords, NHS England made it clear last week that mental illness costs the economy an estimated £100 billion annually, which is roughly the cost of the entire NHS budget. How do the Government justify only 5.5% of the UK’s health research budget being allocated to mental health and, according to MIND today, a paltry 1.4% of Public Health England’s budget being spent on mental health? Is this what the Government mean by parity of esteem?

Earl Howe: My Lords, investment in mental health research by the National Institute for Health Research has nearly doubled over the past four years from £40 million in 2009-10 to £72 million in 2013-14. I hope that the noble Lord will take from that that we put a priority on this. Of course, it is very important that local authorities do not downplay the significance of mental health. We have made it very clear that disinvestment is not an option for them. We are discussing with local authorities this very issue.

The Earl of Listowel (CB): My Lords, will the Minister seek to encourage the very good practice of a few areas in providing a seamless service for young people leaving public care from the age of 16 to 25 or 14 to 25 so they get the mental health support to allow them to be successful in adulthood? Does he recognise that effective mental health services for children will much diminish the demand in adulthood?

Earl Howe: I agree with the noble Earl. On 20 August the Minister of State for Care and Support announced a new children’s task force to look at all aspects of child and adolescent mental health services and how best to improve outcomes for children with mental health problems. Its remit includes an investigation of how access across the whole of children and young people’s mental health services could be improved. The task force will report in the spring of next year.

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Baroness Pitkeathley (Lab): My Lords, following on from the noble Earl’s question, does the Minister agree that in the context of child mental health—and many of us are increasingly concerned about the younger and younger age at which people are being diagnosed with mental illness—prevention is as important as treatment, particularly in view of today’s news that less is being spent on prevention?

Earl Howe: I agree with the noble Baroness. This is a crucially important area. She may like to note that in the current year we are investing an additional £7 million to end the practice of young people being admitted to mental health beds far away from where they live, or being inappropriately admitted to adult wards.

Unemployment: Young People


3.06 pm

Asked by Lord Holmes of Richmond

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the recent figures on youth unemployment.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud) (Con): My Lords, youth unemployment has fallen by a record-breaking 253,000 in the last year. This brings total youth unemployment down to 733,000, one-third of whom are full-time students looking for work. Excluding these students, 6.4% of all young people are unemployed —this is a lower figure than that immediately before the recession.

Lord Holmes of Richmond (Con): My Lords, these figures are indeed good news. However, as we all appreciate, any case of youth unemployment is a tragic waste of talent, both for the individual and for society. Will my noble friend consider working with ministerial colleagues to insert a condition into all public procurement requiring bidding businesses to offer high-quality apprenticeships? That is a small step but could be significant.

Lord Freud: I accept my noble friend’s point that every case of a youngster being out of work is a tragedy, and that is why we have put so much energy into getting youngsters back into work. We support the appropriate use of apprenticeships in procurement and that can be important for local skills and growth, but we do not support the blanket inclusion of apprenticeships in all contracts. It is up to individual departments. For instance, for longer-term contracts, my department the DWP requires suppliers to take reasonable steps to ensure that 5% of their workforce are on apprenticeships, but there are other contracts where that is not appropriate—for instance, contracts with healthcare professionals.

Lord McAvoy (Lab): My Lords, youth unemployment is still extremely high, as mentioned by the noble Lord who put the Question. Can the Minister say what

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further things the Government are going to do to reduce youth unemployment? Will the Government, for instance, commit themselves to matching Labour’s commitment to guarantee a paid job for every young person who has been claiming jobseeker’s allowance for a year or more—a job they will have to take?

Lord Freud: My Lords, when the noble Lord says that youth unemployment is very high, it may be higher than we would like, but if you look at the record, it is now at very low levels. If you look at the real figures, which I have used in this House for the last four years, for all workless youngsters who are not in full-time education—that captures the unemployed and the inactive—that figure is now at 14.9%, or just over 1 million. That figure has only been lower in one year since records began—in 2001. You can see that all the measures we have been taking to get youngsters into the workforce are really beginning to achieve results.

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I congratulate Her Majesty’s Government on these figures, which are very encouraging, not least in London where the number of unemployed young people has declined by 57,000, which is significant. However, the figures also reveal that in the north-east of the country, the figures have declined by only 8,000. There, the levels of unemployment among young people remain stubbornly high. Can the Minister tell us what Her Majesty’s Government are doing to help in these areas, where the problem is much worse?

Lord Freud: My Lords, we have a number of programmes aimed at getting youngsters into the workforce all around the country. There is a mixture of the Work Programme, the flexible support scheme, the sector-based work academies and work experience. We are using a whole range of programmes to help youngsters into the workforce. They are working not just in London but right around the country. Clearly, we just have to stay on the issue and make sure that we get everyone in every part of the country into the workforce.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno (LD): My Lords, do these new figures, which have a bit of sunlight about them, depend upon our continued membership of the European Union? Is there not something we could do to encourage young people to cross borders to other countries so that they get work experience in different places and build bridges of understanding for the future?

Lord Freud: The fundamental driver of these much sunnier figures is clearly our economy, which is now the fastest growing of the major economies. It is vital that we keep that process going. It is also vital that we have a benefits system that encourages and enables people to go into the workforce rather than being blocked from going into it.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab): My Lords, any reduction in unemployment is to be welcomed, particularly youth unemployment. Can the noble Lord tell the

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House how many of those new jobs are part of the 5.2 million people on low pay in this country? Low pay is now a huge problem for us to deal with.

Lord Freud: The Governor of the Bank of England has said that the only way that we are going to get growth in real wages is by recovering productivity in the economy. One way is clearly to reduce dependency and to get 1.7 million extra people into work. The second way is to get the skills base up, and there are now some really good signs that we are moving that up by serious percentage points. The third way is progression in work, so that people earn more. That is what universal credit is all about.

Earl Attlee (Con): My Lords, is it not the case that we have never had as many people in work as we have now?

Lord Freud: We now have 30.7 million people in work. It is not just about the number; we are now at a 73% rate of employment, which is little short of the all-time high.

Parliament Square: Occupy Protests


3.13 pm

Asked by Lord Berkeley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the daily cost and level of police resources used to police the current Occupy protest in Parliament Square.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): My Lords, London’s police forces receive specific funding in recognition of the additional responsibilities that policing the nation’s capital represents. This includes protests directed at the seat of government, such as the recent Occupy protest.

Lord Berkeley (Lab): I am grateful to the Minister. I am sorry that he cannot count the number of policemen guarding a fence, but perhaps I can help him. Last week, on several occasions, I counted at least 25 police officers standing around the fence which, on a 24/7 basis, would be 100 officers taken off other jobs. Is this really a good use of police manpower, protecting a nice piece of grass in central London?

Lord Bates: My Lords, the police are doing this not of their own volition but because we asked them to do so. We passed the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, which said that that space should be available for peaceful protest and not for Occupy movements. That was something that we asked the police to do, and they did an excellent job in dealing with a very difficult situation.

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Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP): Does the Minister agree that this is a terrible waste of time, energy and resources for the police force? Part of the problem is that you are asking them to police and enforce laws that are extremely repressive. It was a Labour Government who introduced the police reform Act, and you are now enforcing it. Is it time to ask your ministerial colleagues, perhaps, if they would repeal the worst aspects of that Act?

Lord Bates: The noble Baroness is a Member of your Lordships’ House; she is free as a parliamentarian to propose any laws that she wishes; but the reality is that in 2011 your Lordships decided by an overwhelming majority that they wanted this law and they wanted this space for public peaceful protest.

Baroness Hamwee (LD): My Lords, I am sure that the Minister will tell us that the number of police is an operational matter for the police, but I am also sure that Home Office Ministers are not entirely uninvolved in the policy. Does he agree that the lightest practicable touch is as much as we would want to see applied?

Lord Bates: I understand the point my noble friend is making, but what is a light touch when you are faced with a protest that begins at 50, grows to 100, and then grows overnight to 150? The potential for that to get out of hand, and the risk to the public, is something which the police clearly take seriously, and they are right to do so.

Lord Harris of Haringey (Lab): What communications were there between Ministers in the Home Office and the Metropolitan Police on the nature of the policing of this protest?

Lord Bates: The noble Lord will be aware that as a result of passing the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, which this House did, the Home Office published specific guidance, which I have here and which I will place a copy of in the Library, stipulating exactly what was permitted, what was not permitted, what approval needed to be sought and even stating on page nine the enforcement actions which we would ask the police to do. Having done that, and having published it in this place, the police deserve our support.

Lord Tebbit (Con): Will my noble friend take to the police my feelings, at least, of congratulation to them on doing a difficult job rather well? The easiest way to reduce the manpower required would be for these objectionable people to cease their objectionable claim to occupy part of what is public land.

Lord Bates: I am very happy to convey the sentiments of my noble friend to the police on the role that they do, which is incredibly difficult. The point has to be reiterated that one of the reasons that the police are taking the actions that they are, and why we passed the legislation that we did, was to ensure that Parliament

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Square is available for those who want to come to make a peaceful protest as part of a democratic society in which we want to live.

Lord Paddick (LD): My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the police should be there as much to facilitate peaceful protest as to prevent it?

Lord Bates: That is absolutely right. In fact, the guidance actually states that the first responsibility is with the Greater London Authority in conjunction with Westminster City Council, and it is the local authority representatives who made the first contact in the first instance; and the police are there only in support of the local authority.

Lord Berkeley (Lab): My Lords, can the Minister then say when the fence is going to be taken down?

Lord Bates: The decision to erect the fence and the decision to heighten it were gradual decisions taken, in view of assessing the seriousness of the protest, by the Greater London Authority. Therefore, it will judge the situation in the round to see when it is secure to take those fences down. We all hope that it is as soon as possible.

Baroness Tonge (Ind LD): My Lords, has it occurred to Ministers to invite these people in to find out exactly what their problem is? Has it also occurred to Ministers that they occupy this square at night because they are homeless and have nowhere to sleep?

Lord Bates: I am sure, of course, that the noble Baroness would be perfectly free as a parliamentarian to invite them into the House, but perhaps ensure that they do not stay too long.

Lord West of Spithead (Lab): My Lords, does the Minister not think that the situation had become unbearable before this was done? For example, when I was being driven past in my car in my full uniform, they came and stood in front of the car and I managed to stop an incident because my Royal Marine driver said, “Shall I re-educate them, sir?” and I said, “Not today”.

Lord Bates: The noble Lord is absolutely right— I fully agree with him.

Draft Protection of Charities Bill

Motion to Agree

3.20 pm

Moved by Baroness Stowell of Beeston

That it is expedient that a joint committee of Lords and Commons be appointed to consider and report on the draft Protection of Charities Bill presented to both Houses on 22 October (Cm 8954) and that the committee should report on the draft Bill by 28 February 2015.

Motion agreed.

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Infrastructure Bill [HL]

Order of Consideration Motion

3.20 pm

Moved by Baroness Kramer

That the amendments for the Report stage be marshalled and considered in the following order:

Clause 1, Schedule 1, Clauses 2 and 3, Schedule 2, Clauses 4 to 10, Schedule 3, Clauses 11 to 23, Schedule 4, Clauses 24 to 27, Schedule 5, Clauses 28 to 31, Schedule 6, Clauses 32 to 42.

Motion agreed.

Serious Crime Bill [HL]

Report (2nd Day)

3.20 pm

Amendment 43

Moved by Baroness Walmsley

43: After Clause 65, insert the following new Clause—

“Mandatory reporting of abuse in relation to regulated activities

(1) Subject to subsection (7), providers of regulated activities involving children or vulnerable adults, and persons whose services are used by such providers being persons who stand in a position of personal trust toward such children or vulnerable adults, who while such children or vulnerable adults are in their care have reasonable grounds for knowing or suspecting the commission of abuse on such children or vulnerable adults while the same are in their care whether such commission of abuse shall have taken place or be alleged to have or be suspected of having taken place in the setting of the regulated activity or elsewhere, have a duty as soon as is practicable after it shall have come to their knowledge or attention to inform the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) or children’s services or such other single point of contact with the Local Authority as such Authority may designate for the purpose of reporting to it any such matter, allegation or reasonable suspicion.

(2) Failure to fulfil the duty set out in subsection (1) before the expiry of the period of 10 days of the matter or allegation or suspicion first coming to the knowledge or attention of the provider or of any person whose services are used by the provider as defined in subsection (1) is an offence.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (1), the operators of a setting in which the regulated activity takes place, and staff employed at any such setting in a managerial or general welfare role, are deemed to stand in a position of personal trust and are deemed to have direct personal contact with such children or vulnerable adults as are in their care whether or not such children or vulnerable adults are or have been personally attended by them.

(4) For the purposes of subsection (1), all other employed or contracted staff or voluntary staff and assistants are deemed to stand in a position of personal trust only if, and only for the period of time during which, they have had direct personal contact with and have personally attended such children or vulnerable adults.

(5) For the purposes of subsection (1), children or vulnerable adults are or are deemed to be in the care of the providers of regulated activities—

(a) in the case of the operators of any setting in which the regulated activity takes place and of staff employed by the operators at any such setting in a managerial or general welfare role for the period of time during which

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the operators are bound contractually or otherwise to accommodate or to care for such children or vulnerable adults whether resident or in daily attendance wherever the regulated activity is provided, and

(b) in the case of all other employed or contracted staff or voluntary staff and assistants for the period of time only in which they are personally attending such children or vulnerable adults in the capacity for which they were employed or their services were contracted for.

(6) It shall be a defence to show that the LADO or that Children’s Services or that such other single point of contact with the Local Authority as such Authority may designate for the purpose of reporting was or were duly informed by any other party during the 10 days referred to at subsection (2) or had been so informed prior thereto.

(7) A Secretary of State having responsibility for the welfare safety and protection of children and of vulnerable adults may in exceptional cases by a letter or other instrument under his hand (hereinafter referred to as a “Suspension Document”) rescind or temporarily suspend the duty referred to at subsection (1) in the case of any specified child or children or of any specified vulnerable adult or adults concerning whom it appears to him that the welfare safety or the protection of such child or children or of such vulnerable adult or adults would be prejudiced or compromised by the fulfilment of the duty referred to at subsection (1) and may where it appears to him that the welfare safety and protection of children is furthered thereby exempt any specified entity or organisation and the members thereof that works with children generally in furtherance of their welfare and safety and protection or any specified medical officer from compliance with the duty referred to at subsection (1) provided always that no allegation is made against such entity or organisation or member thereof or against such medical officer.

(8) It shall be a defence for any person to show that a Secretary of State acting pursuant to subsection (7) has issued a Suspension Document and it shall be a defence for any person employed by or operating as an entity or organisation that works with children or for any medical officer to show that a Secretary of State has by such Suspension Document whether temporarily or permanently exempted it and its members or any medical officer from compliance with the duty referred to at subsection (1).

(9) Subject to sub-paragraphs (i) and (ii) below, a person guilty of an offence under this section is liable—

(a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to a fine, or to both;

(b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years or to a fine, or both;

but so that—

(i) no penalty or term of imprisonment shall exceed that actually imposed or exigible on the person whose conduct or behaviour toward children or vulnerable adults has been established as the commission of a criminal offence for the purposes of sub-section (ii) below, and

(ii) no person shall be liable to any penalty greater or other than an absolute discharge or a conditional discharge unless within the period of 5 years of the matter or allegation or suspicion first coming to the knowledge or attention of that person it shall have been established by a Court of Law or by a signed and duly witnessed confession that the conduct or behaviour toward children or vulnerable adults known or suspected for the purposes of subsection (1) is a criminal offence actually committed by the party suspected thereof on such child or children or vulnerable adult or adults.

(10) In this section—

“regulated activity” relating to children and relating to vulnerable adults has the same meaning as in Schedule 4 to the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006;

“providers of regulated activities” has the same meaning as in section 6 of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006;

“vulnerable adults” has the same meaning as in section 59 of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006; and

“children” means persons who have not attained the age of 18 years.

Baroness Walmsley (LD): My Lords, we discussed this matter in Committee in July. Amendment 43 provides for a legal duty on those with a duty of care for children or vulnerable adults who are working in a regulated activity to report to the local authority known or suspected abuse of those in their care. The answer that I received from the Minister was that we should wait for the inquiry panel on historical child abuse to consider the matter. Three months has passed since then and the inquiry has still not got under way. As long grass goes, this is a veritable prairie.

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At first, we lost the chair—the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would believe that a judge of her standing and reputation would ever be biased in favour of anyone, however well known to her. However, it is important that there is confidence in this inquiry, so I understand her decision to step down. Further time passed before we were given the name of another person to take the chair. There is currently controversy about that appointment, too. Even further time passed before we had the names of the rest of the panel—a very good bunch of people, by the way—and the terms of reference were published. I looked carefully at them and was dismayed to find that there is no reference in it for the panel to consider whether a legal duty to report would help to protect children in the UK. Sadly, it seems that the Home Secretary is against specifying that the panel must look at this, one of many tools that could help to protect children, despite the Home Secretary’s reply to a Question in another place that the panel can indeed consider this matter. I hope that it does. But what if the panel feels that it has quite enough to consider and decides not to do so?

I also have concerns about the powers of the so-called Woolf panel, and I have questions for my noble friend the Minister about this. There have been concerns that the inquiry is not a statutory public inquiry under the public inquiries Act, and would therefore not be able to subpoena witnesses or evidence. The Home Secretary has confirmed that, should the chairman of the inquiry feel that it needs statutory powers, these would be granted by the Government. Can my noble friend the Minister confirm that that is still the case? Can he also say whether it would entail the appointment of a different chair, one who is a judge, or could the person currently appointed to chair it operate those statutory powers?

All that aside, it has become obvious to me that, whatever the Woolf inquiry does, it does not have the confidence of survivors of abuse. Many have said that they will not engage with it. I therefore concluded that we need another way in which to give victims a voice and a transparent way in which to hear arguments in favour and those against the introduction of mandatory duties on those with care for children and vulnerable adults.

I do not believe that such a duty should be introduced without very careful thought, or without provision to ensure that the unintended consequences that some groups fear would not materialise. My colleagues and I have therefore had extensive discussions with the Government, and I believe that the Minister will confirm today our agreement that there will be an open and transparent public consultation on whether such a duty should be implemented in the UK, to protect children.

I thank my noble friend the Minister and his officials for these discussions, and I especially thank my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, and Norman Baker, the Home Office Minister for Crime Prevention, for their good offices in ensuring that we will now have open public consideration of the benefits of this measure. Nobody, whether establishment or not, will be able to get in the way of people saying their piece. It is important for the questions to be open

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ones, and the process to be accessible and transparent. I would be very keen to be involved in that. I am also keen to ensure that, alongside the opportunity to contribute in writing, survivors can take part in seminars, since many would not feel able to write or send an e-mail. All that is still to be decided.

This process is to be welcomed. Nobody can have any excuse for not engaging with it. It is not led by any member of the establishment, and the responses will be published, with appropriate redactions if any sensitive information, or information that might prejudice the bringing to justice of a perpetrator, is revealed. Then we will be able to hold to account whichever Government are in place next May as to how they respond to the evidence.

My intention in pressing this matter for so long has always been prevention, not criminalisation. I remain convinced that a legal duty would prevent perpetrators taking the risk of acting, if they knew that their colleagues were trained to identify abuse and would act if they became aware of it. Of course, professionals need training to recognise the early signs of abuse. This would protect children. The legal duty would also protect whistleblowers, who have been reluctant to speak out until now because they feared for their jobs. It would also bring more perpetrators to justice.

I accept that resources would be needed to deal with all the hidden child abuse that would come to light. But you cannot fail to turn over a stone because you are afraid of the slime that you might find underneath—and of course, the long-term benefits of a step change in the protection of children are obvious. Despite the Government’s extra £400 million, announced by the noble Earl, Lord Howe, at Question Time today, only this morning the mental health organisation Mind has published figures showing the lamentable state of mental health services for children in this country, and the small amount of money spent by local authorities on prevention and treatment, while at the same time millions are spent on programmes to prevent loneliness, obesity and so on.

Money spent on training for a legal duty to report, and on dealing properly with the cases that would be revealed by it, would save money in the long run and prevent a great deal of human misery. I heard recently that a majority of people accessing talking therapies were abused in some way as children. So it is clear that prevention must be our first objective, followed by early detection.

My aim in introducing the amendment has always been to give victims a voice, and to ensure that specific attention is drawn to, and evidence heard about, the potential benefits of a legal duty to report. We must ensure that all those well-meaning people out there who work with children turn what they see and hear into action, and feel comfortable to do so. I hope that when the Minister responds he will confirm that I have succeeded in that aim. I beg to move.

3.30 pm

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I once again support the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. Indeed, since I last spoke in this place on this matter, the need for an obligation to be placed

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on certain individuals to report knowledge or reasonable suspicions of abuse involving the most vulnerable has become more pressing.

It was with increasing dismay that I read about the events in Rotherham. The independent inquiry report into child exploitation there makes sobering reading. At least 1,400 children were subject to sexual exploitation between 1997 and 2013, with collective failings from both the council and South Yorkshire Police. The report noted:

“Over the first twelve years covered by this Inquiry, the collective failures of political and officer leadership were blatant. From the beginning, there was growing evidence that child sexual exploitation was a serious problem in Rotherham ... Within social care, the scale and seriousness of the problem was underplayed by senior managers. At an operational level, the Police gave no priority to”,

child sexual exploitation.

There has also been the recent case of Thorpe Hall School in Essex. For more than 14 years a senior teacher had secretly photographed young boys undressing in changing rooms. The child protection unit CEOP, now taken over by the NCA, had been aware, via a report from Canadian police, that this teacher was a purchaser of paedophile videos, but more than a year passed from that report before Essex police were notified. Similarly, in the case of Dr Myles Bradbury, the paediatric haematologist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, who pleaded guilty on 15 September this year to numerous sexual offences against children, CEOP had, again, been aware since July 2012 that he had been buying paedophile videos online but passed this information to Suffolk police only in November 2013. The National Crime Agency stated that CEOP’s delay in disseminating the information was “unacceptable”.

Sadly, the list continues to grow. In Birmingham, on 18 October this year, the city’s safeguarding children board noted that,

“the perpetrators of these horrific crimes remain at liberty and continue to target other children”.

These numerous scandals have shocked, and continue to shock, the nation and serve to emphasise the importance of imposing an obligation that is subject to criminal sanction if there is a failure to report.

Power and secrecy, which are so often present when abuse occurs, are magnified in an institutional setting, where there is often a considerable power imbalance between the most vulnerable and the perpetrators of abuse. It should not be forgotten that the vulnerable, particularly in institutions, are at risk not only from individuals who may commit abuse but from all adults who fail to report suspicions and knowledge of abuse. Indeed, the vulnerable may be placed in institutions in order to safeguard them from abuse but, ironically, it is in these very institutions that their exposure can become more acute.

This issue will not go away. Time and time again, individuals in institutions have failed the most vulnerable in their care by failing to report. The fact remains that, although child abuse is a crime, reporting it is only discretionary, which is why I welcome this amendment, the provisions of which, as can be seen, have been

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strengthened and clarified since our last debate. Regulated activity providers and those who are in a “position of personal trust” must be held accountable if they fail to report.

Public opinion is in favour of such legislation, as a recent YouGov poll indicated. The former Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, has stated that the introduction of a mandatory reporting provision would close a gap in the law which has been there for a long time. The Child Protection All-Party Parliamentary Group has called on the Government to consider certain institutional duties which,

“require people in leadership positions in institutions ... to report allegations of criminal abuse committed against children by people working on behalf of the institution”.

The former Secretary of State for Education, after hearing the words of a survivor of abuse, also suggested that the Government should re-examine their position, after previously blocking such an idea.

On 22 July this year, the Government co-hosted, with UNICEF, the first Girl Summit aimed at strengthening domestic and international efforts to end female genital mutilation and forced marriage within a generation. As part of this, the Prime Minister announced that mandatory reporting would be introduced for health, educational and social work professionals in known FGM cases. If mandatory reporting is to be introduced in relation to this specific area of abuse, surely it would make sense to extend this to cover other types of abuse. Now is the time. We need to act.

As I stated previously, I agree that imposing such an obligation may increase the number of reports, and this will need to be resourced properly. However, this increase is no bad thing. Knowledge or reasonable suspicions of abuse must be reported. The omission of an obligation has allowed those such as Savile and Bradbury to continue to abuse. I do not agree that the introduction of mandatory reporting will lead to authorities being swamped by erroneous or fallacious reports. In fact, mandatory reporting can highlight cases that otherwise may never come to the attention of the relevant authorities. I hope for an announcement from the Minister that there will be a serious look at the evidence.

We need a culture in our institutions and across our society that prioritises the protection of the most vulnerable over and above all other considerations. As the Home Secretary stated in the other place:

“We know that child sexual exploitation happens in all communities. There is no excuse for it in any of them and there is never any excuse for failing to bring the perpetrators to justice”.—[Official Report, Commons, 2/9/14; col. 168.]

This is why I wholly support the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. A change in the law could lead to a change in culture, helping to raise awareness, where certain individuals realise that if they fail to report their knowledge or reasonable suspicions of abuse they may be subject to prosecution.

Baroness Brinton (LD): My Lords, when I was chair of education in Cambridgeshire some 20 years ago, it was brought home to me very starkly how the lack of mandatory reporting had allowed a caretaker to abuse children in a school over a 16-year period. It was not taken seriously at any point over that time when

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parents, or even some of the children, reported concerns. Had that system been in place—even the first report—the head would have been under a requirement to force a proper inquiry. As a result, this man’s actions would have been curtailed and a large number of children would not have been subsequently abused.

Even though that happened some time ago, the problem still continues. We have heard from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham about some of the larger cases at the moment. I should have declared an interest: I am a trustee of UNICEF. I echo the point of the right reverend Prelate that if we are talking about mandatory reporting for female genital mutilation, which is a form of child abuse, we should also be considering it for wider child abuse as well.

Another point that has been raised outside the Chamber refers to concerns felt mainly by professional psychotherapists about an exemption in their treatment of perpetrators of child abuse, or would-be perpetrators, under the normal terms of confidentiality if there is a requirement to report. The exemption is in proposed paragraph (8) of the amendment. It quite specifically says that it is possible for a person to have that exemption. We need to reassure professionals that important work such as that should be one of the few exemptions allowed to continue without further report to the law.

I want to raise a more topical concern. Much has been said about the Jay report and what has been happening in Rotherham and subsequently in Sheffield and other places. I am very concerned that yesterday UKIP published a photograph showing a young girl who might be deemed to be a victim of abuse while the headline said something like, “1400 reasons why you should not vote Labour in the PCC election” .

Frankly, UKIP’s hypocrisy is breathtaking. Its record on tackling serious child abuse is disgraceful. The only record of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, asking Questions about child abuse is on 13 October this year, after the by-election was called, and he has been in this House since 1990. Even that Question was focused entirely on the UKIP obsession with Muslims, ignoring the fact that child abuse happens in all areas of the country and is not exclusive to any culture, community, race or religion.

However, it is not just UKIP in the Lords. In the European Parliament, its Members abstained in a vote to strengthen legislation about sexual abuse and the sexual exploitation of children and child pornography. Further, UKIP’s candidate in the Croydon North election in 2012, Winston McKenzie, said that gay adoption was child abuse. Gordon Gillick, a UKIP Cambridgeshire councillor, told a meeting of some children in care that they were takers from the system and wanted to know what they would give back to society. As we have heard, many children in care are the most vulnerable to grooming and abuse.

We need to have an honest and open debate about child abuse but it is completely inappropriate for a party that has not taken it seriously, even within its own actions when it threw out a paedophile and allowed that person to come back to receptions, particularly those with young UKIP members. We need to make sure that UKIP—it offers a policy of

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making sure that children are safe—can deliver that by having safe policies itself. I do not believe that the evidence is there.

Finally, I am also grateful for our discussions with the Minister on this. I hope that he will be able to offer reassurance to those of us who want a public debate and public consultation about the mandatory reporting of child abuse. I look forward to his response.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (CB): My Lords, I have put my name to the amendment and support it strongly. Current child protection systems, which rely upon voluntary reporting, simply are not seen to be working effectively. There is ongoing underreporting of suspicions of abuse or neglect by professionals working with children. Why might this be? It is worth looking at previous studies, which have suggested that barriers to reporting include the professionals’ own values and attitudes—for example, over the acceptability of physical punishment—and confusion over the thresholds for reporting. Professionals may be worried about issues of confidentiality and the potential impact on their relationship with the child and the family.

The current position for someone reporting is that they may, in effect, feel that they are being a whistleblower on a situation that they feel uncomfortable about. Professionals may fear the consequences and the potential impact on their reputation, leading to further hesitation. Reporting a suspicion that turns out to be unsubstantiated should not be a disciplinary matter for professionals, however distressing for those involved. There is a balance of harms here, and the need to protect vulnerable children should be paramount.

I should like noble Lords to think for a moment of the situation of a GP who is seeing people on 10-minute appointments, and who may know a family, see a child, have some concerns but be unable to put a finger on it. At the moment, the hesitation to report remains there. Other pressures of work come in. I must declare an interest here. When I was a GP, I looked after children in a children’s home and became convinced that something was not right. I went to the authority in whose area I was working but we did not get anything specific to happen. I would go out to the children’s home whenever there was a request for an appointment so that I would see the children on their own territory. I tried to see the children on their own when they were referred for a sore throat, sore ear or whatever. I had this nagging suspicion that something was wrong but I could not pin it down anywhere. All that I can say is that the Christmas after my suspicions began to become aroused the children themselves burnt the home down, which confirmed to me that my index of suspicion was right. However, I had no clear evidence on which to report that abuse was going on, although I was suspicious. I would have welcomed having to report that suspicion because it would have allowed me the freedom to state, “I have a really uncomfortable feeling here”, without feeling that I had to accrue the evidence.

That is my personal experience and where I have come from with it. That is why I stand separately from my professional body, the BMA, which has reservations about this amendment. It is concerned that a degree of professional discretion is required to ensure that doctors

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can take account of an individual’s circumstances and always act to ensure the protection of a patient. My experience suggests that that is incredibly difficult.

3.45 pm

In countries such as the USA, Canada and Australia and in several European states where mandatory reporting has been introduced, it has been made clear to professionals that they must report and that reporting a concern is no longer a matter for individual discretion. The people who have to report and the timeframe for reporting are defined, and penalties for failure to report are clear. Designated professionals include social workers, teachers, healthcare professionals, law-enforcement officers, childcare workers, and in some areas members of the clergy, domestic-violence workers, animal-control officers, school bus drivers and, in certain places, photograph processors. The law provides protection for those reporting—by ensuring confidentiality, for example. There is a range of penalties for those who fail to report. It has been interesting to note that in areas where the penalties are low the amount of reporting seems to be lower than in areas where the penalty is high.

Has there been any impact as a result of reporting in such countries? In Canada, recent reports showed that suspicions reported by hospital healthcare professionals were substantiated in two-thirds of cases. So more child abuse is being detected as a result of mandatory reporting than was previously the case. The same is being borne out in Australia. When the state of Victoria was compared with the demographically similar Republic of Ireland, which does not have mandatory reporting, researchers found that almost five times as many sexually abused children were identified there than in Ireland. Associate Professor Ben Mathews at the Queensland University Faculty of Law said that introducing mandatory reporting enhanced the detection of childhood sexual abuse.

Were the investigations an economic burden? They were not. It is reported that the costs of mandatory reporting accounted for less than 10% of total child-protection system costs in the USA and Australia. This seems a small price to pay if it means that processes that are better at protecting children are in place. Furthermore, research indicates that mandatory reporting numbers did not continue to rise over time but remained stable over several years.

Childhood abuse and neglect have been hidden for far too long. It is time to act to deliver earlier detection and better protection for these vulnerable people in our society. Children who disclose abuse and neglect need to know that they will be listened to and protected from further harm. They need to know that professionals have a public duty to report their concerns and need support to be able to do so. Introducing mandatory reporting would send a clear message that you can no longer turn a blind eye to abuse and neglect. The basic human instinct is not to want to believe that it is happening, so we are more inclined to look at it with Nelson’s eye than explore it. For these reasons, I, along with my noble friend Lady Hollins, who sends her apologies to the House for being unable to be here, have put our names to this amendment.

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Baroness Benjamin (LD): My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lady Walmsley on highlighting and pursuing this issue. I also welcome the Government’s common-sense approach as we move forward, as my noble friend said. It will make a difference to children’s futures, and their future mental and physical well-being.

I know that it will make a difference because just last week I gave one of my many talks to more than 200 schoolchildren. I spoke to them about people who may be causing them to suffer physical, mental, emotional or sexual abuse. I told them that it was not their fault and, rather, that bad people were taking advantage of their innocence and vulnerability. They must feel worthy and should tell someone, even though they may be threatened by the abuser if they do so. Children need to hear the message and to be empowered in this way.

As so often happens, at the end of that session the organiser of the event, who was aged around 40, came and sat next to me and said that he was that little boy I had spoken about when I talked to the children. He said that he had lived in a children’s home and had been abused, and that he is still living with those experiences. That is because when he did tell someone, he was told to shut up and keep quiet, and that he was ungrateful. His abuser was considered to be a good and kind person in society. The organiser was made to feel that he was the victim on all counts.

This is how abusers operate: they put on a good face for the community, but to their victims they are monsters. Everywhere you go in society and every corner you turn, there will be an adult who is reliving the horrors of child abuse. As I have said time and again in this House, childhood lasts a lifetime, so we have to put measures in place to ensure that for abusers there will be no place to hide. Some people might be wrongly accused and costs may be incurred, but I believe that that is a small price to pay to protect our children from being damaged for life. I therefore support the amendment and I look forward to the Minister’s response, which I hope will be a good one.

Baroness Howarth of Breckland (CB): My Lords, I fear that I may be a lone voice in that I take a slightly different view from that of my colleagues—all of whom I deeply respect. I understand their position. I should also say that I look forward to a full debate on this, and I hope that the Minister will meet with those of us who take a different view as well as with those who are pressing for mandatory reporting. That is because there is another argument, part of which I will cover today. However, meeting some of those in the various fields where this proposal would make their work difficult would be worthwhile.

Of course, when a professional or indeed an ordinary person hears about a child or an adult of any kind—I will not use the word “vulnerable” because it means all sorts of things—who is being abused, they have a responsibility to ensure that they go to some authority. I would say to my noble friend, with deep respect, that, as a doctor, my view is that if she had a suspicion, it should have been forcefully conveyed to the authorities. I think that the problem is that some time ago the atmosphere around child abuse, and particularly child sexual abuse, was very different from the one we know now. I shall come to Rotherham in a moment because

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it is a different issue. We are in a different era in relation to child abuse and people are now very highly motivated to get it right.

As I said in the last debate, it is important that systems are in place to ensure that there is a clear pathway for reporting. Most organisations are working towards that, if they have not already got it. Most local authorities and statutory authorities have it; here I declare an interest because I am working with the church at the moment to try to ensure that it has that clear pathway to take people through to the reporting place. I do not think that they would knowingly fail to carry out that duty because the consequences are huge. I do not know how many noble Lords watched the programme last night about Baby P and saw the total destruction of people’s careers and indeed lives based on extraordinarily flimsy evidence, which some of us knew about previously. We have to be absolutely sure that, when reporting takes place, it takes place in a structure that can pick things up quickly and get the information right from the beginning.

I will speak about the issue of exemptions. I do not agree that psychotherapists should be exempted. If someone knows that abuse is taking place, they have a duty to report it, whoever they are and wherever they are. The difficulty comes when we are not quite sure. This is where the psychotherapists are anxious, and this is where I am anxious about a whole range of professionals who are working in the field of perpetrators —and I declare an interest as vice-chair of the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, which works directly in this field—including of course ChildLine and the NSPCC. They have children ringing up about issues that they are not quite prepared to talk about.

If there are going to be exemptions, they have to be absolutely clear. The procedure has got to be right. It is not about whether you are a particular kind of professional. It is about the situation, the circumstance and where you are in terms of the abuse. That is why I value the debate, because ChildLine, the Lucy Faithfull Foundation and all similar organisations have very clear guidelines on when confidentiality must be broken in the interests of the child.

I know things can go seriously wrong. I was as appalled, shocked and amazed at what happened in Rotherham as anyone who has been involved in safeguarding for far less time than me—and I have probably been involved in it for more years than anybody in this House. I think, though, that we have to look at the circumstances of those kinds of situations and what is happening in that particular institution and how we put it right, because what really counts are not structures and procedures but culture. It is about whether the people in the particular organisation understand the values that they must have in relation to those for whom they are responsible and whether there is a culture right through that organisation that takes them forward.

The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, asked a detailed question about the statutory inquiry into child abuse. The last issue concerns me particularly. The National Crime Agency is telling us that it cannot deal with some 50,000 referrals that it has at the moment. The Lucy Faithfull Foundation cannot take all the telephone

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calls, despite the government help that we are getting—and we are working on behalf of the Government to try to take more calls from people who are anxious about their thoughts and behaviour.

As soon as we open the Pandora’s box on historical abuse for the inquiry, the Government will have an avalanche of people coming forward. The example given by the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, is one I could repeat time and time again. I have been year after year in situations where people come to me and say, “This happened to me when I was 10, when I was 11”. The historical abuse issue, because we did not have procedures in place then, is going to hit the Government and the inquiry like nothing we have seen.

The reason I am so concerned is that we have put all that into a position of trust. It is about getting people to divulge things that they may not have talked about for 40 years. Do we have the resources in place to meet their needs once they have divulged this? At the moment children’s services are totally overwhelmed, CAMHS cannot meet the mental health needs of children in the communities and victim support groups have only just enough money to last until next year. That is the environment in which we are thinking about mandatory reporting. I will be interested in the Government looking at evidence from other countries because my evidence from Australia is that the authorities were overwhelmed at the beginning. They were totally overwhelmed by mandatory reporting.

It ensures that you cannot prioritise work. You have to do something about things that as a professional you might decide are probably not the highest on the agenda. Doctors have to make those difficult decisions, social workers have to make them and the police have to make them. Sometimes they will get them wrong, even if they have mandatory reporting, but at least we should give the services a chance to be able to meet the demand that we have at the moment. If we are going to increase that demand, the Government have to think beforehand about the resources that are going to be needed to meet that promise and the trust that is placed in those resources by the victims who have suffered so much.

As a former director of ChildLine, as a director of the Lucy Faithfull Foundation and as someone who has worked in this field for a long time, I certainly value the noble Baroness bringing this debate forward. I just come to a different conclusion.

4 pm

Lord Rosser (Lab): My Lords, I gather from what has already been said by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, that an understanding has been reached with the Minister on this amendment, which I hope we will be able to welcome when we hear from the Minister exactly what it is.

We are extremely concerned about the way that children and vulnerable adults have been badly let down, not least in recent high-profile cases. Although we support mandatory reporting in principle, we have concerns about the amendment, and in particular its potential unintended consequences, which may have the opposite effect to that desired.

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The amendment states that all providers of regulated activities involving children or vulnerable adults will be required to report any suspicion of abuse to the appropriate local authority. That would potentially cover millions of people being required to report. But the amendment is not specific or clear about exactly who would and would not be covered; nor does it define abuse. The signs of actual or likely abuse can be obvious but potential indicators of abuse, such as becoming more withdrawn, may not be quite so obviously a consequence of abuse; therefore, it would not be obvious that it would be an offence not to report them.

Among regulated activity providers there will be big differences in the level of pastoral support expected. For schools and hospitals, most referrals will be about abuse conducted not at the school or hospital but at home. However, it is not clear that a swimming club, for example, would have the same level of pastoral responsibility in respect of potential abuse. In some cases, conduct should be reported to the police where it is a straightforward criminality issue: for example, if a swimming club or football club suspected one of its coaches of taking inappropriate photographs. In other cases, such as a school, where it is likely to be a safeguarding issue, the reporting would be to the local authority. I do not think that the amendment addresses or reflects those kinds of realities.

There is some evidence from outside the United Kingdom that suggests that a mandatory reporting requirement as broad in scope as that provided for in the amendment can lead to the child protection system being overwhelmed. With social services budgets here facing unprecedented cuts, that must be an issue of real concern. Some evidence from outside the UK indicates that people may play safe over reporting in order to protect themselves from a criminal liability for failing to report, with the consequence that resources are redirected to the investigation and assessment of the increased numbers of reports and away from detection and protection and meeting the needs of children at risk and of vulnerable adults.

That is not to suggest that the current system works as it should: for example, through ensuring that incidents or suspicions of child abuse or abuse of vulnerable adults in institutions such as care homes and boarding schools concerned to protect their reputation are reported and properly addressed. It is also clear that, as in some recent high-profile cases of child abuse, the issue has been one not of failure to report but of failure to act on those reports.

We will await the Government’s response, but while we favour and want to see the introduction of mandatory reporting, we do not believe that the way in which the amendment proposes to do it is the right approach, for the reasons I have mentioned. These include possible unintended consequences that could have an adverse effect on the protection of children at risk and vulnerable adults. I hope that the Government will take on board the principle of mandatory reporting and work with all interested parties to bring forward a detailed proposal that will have the confidence and support of the whole House.

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Lord Bates: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Walmsley for again bringing this important matter to the House and for her persistence and perseverance in working with us to find a way forward on this issue. As many of your Lordships have said, we are united in our abhorrence of these crimes. We are resolved to lift the stone—in the analogy of my noble friend—and to face and tackle what lies beneath.

This coalition Government are absolutely committed to improving the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults and to doing all they can to protect them from all forms of abuse. In recent years, we have been confronted all too frequently with the most appalling cases of organised and persistent sexual abuse of children. The public have been justifiably horrified by the historical cases of child sexual abuse that came to light in the wake of investigations into Jimmy Savile, and those raised by the more recent cases of organised child sexual exploitation in Oxford, Rochdale and Rotherham, to name but a few. Some of these cases have exposed a failure by public bodies to take their duty of care seriously and some have shown that the organisations responsible for protecting children from abuse—including the police, social services and schools—have failed to work together properly. The recent report by Professor Jay into the horrific cases of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham also highlighted the failure of many of those involved to recognise the seriousness of the problem, and—perhaps most shockingly—their failure to see the children concerned as victims, rather than the makers of their own misfortune.

Each one of these various reviews and reports makes for deeply distressing reading, and this coalition Government are determined to learn their lessons. As noble Lords will be aware, the Home Secretary announced in July the creation of a new independent inquiry which will consider whether, and the extent to which, public bodies and other non-state institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse. The inquiry will consider all the information available from the various published reviews and will identify any issues or allegations requiring new or further investigation. It will advise on any further action, which could include any legislative changes, needed to address any of the gaps or failings within our current child protection systems on the basis of the findings and learning from the reviews. The inquiry will take full account of what happened in Rotherham and elsewhere, and it will make recommendations on that basis.

My noble friend asked about the status of the inquiry. As things stand, the inquiry will, like the inquiries into Hillsborough, be a non-statutory panel inquiry, which means that it will not be able to compel witnesses to give evidence. However, the Home Secretary has been very clear that, if the chair of the inquiry deems it necessary, the Government are prepared to convert this into a full public inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005. This means that, if the panel is converted into a public inquiry, Fiona Woolf will have powers to compel witnesses and subpoena evidence. This power would come to her under provisions in the Inquiries Act, which means that the inquiry does not need to be chaired by a judge.

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My noble friend’s amendment would place a duty on providers of regulated activity, and anyone whose services are used by providers of regulated activity, to report known or suspected abuse against children and vulnerable adults to the appropriate local authority within 10 days. Breach of this duty would be a criminal offence punishable by up to three years in prison. That would essentially mean that anyone who works or volunteers in any capacity with children or vulnerable adults would commit a criminal offence if they did not report suspected abuse of any kind.

Since the debate on this issue in Committee, we have given this matter further careful consideration. It has been discussed on several occasions by the national group, and has been raised by the Home Secretary’s ministerial task force on Rotherham. However, we have not yet come to a firm decision on the matter. This is not surprising given the complexity of the issue. Research is inconclusive in determining whether mandatory reporting regimes help, hinder or simply make no difference to child safeguarding outcomes. In the USA, Canada and Australia, mandatory reporting legislation has been accompanied by significant increases in the number of referrals of suspected child abuse and neglect made to the authorities, a large percentage of which have not been substantiated. That was the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth of Breckland.

There is a real risk that, in introducing a duty, we would divert child protection services from the task of increasing the safety of our most vulnerable children to evidence gathering and investigation of cases that are eventually unsubstantiated and which often lead to significant disruption of family life. Additionally, there is evidence to suggest that existing mandatory reporting regimes can lead to unintended consequences, such as creating a culture of reporting rather than acting—a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser—and dissuading children from disclosing incidents for fear of being forced into hostile legal proceedings. That point was touched upon by my noble friend Lady Benjamin, who talked about the need to give people the courage to come forward and recognise that they are the victims of this and should certainly have no shame in coming forward.

I recognise that there are contrary views on the utility of introducing a statutory duty of the kind set out in my noble friend’s amendment, and some of those views have been raised this afternoon. I firmly believe that, given the conflicting evidence of the impact of such a duty and the concerns expressed by groups such as the NSPCC in its advice on this and the General Medical Council—though taking into account the practitioner’s perspective that the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, brought to this debate—it would be perhaps a leap in the dark to legislate on this issue right now in this Bill. It is right that, before coming to a final decision on this issue, we listen to the views of the many stakeholders and experts, including victims’ groups, who quite rightly hold strong opinions on this.

I can therefore advise the House that we will now hold a full public consultation on the issue of mandatory reporting. We will consult broadly on the advisability, risk, nature and scope of any reporting duty, including questions on which forms of abuse it should apply to,

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and to whom it should attach. I should emphasise that the Government will look at all the responses they receive with an open mind. It will be a thorough, open and transparent consultation with a rigorous evaluation of the responses. Although hitherto the Government, like the Opposition, have taken the view that we have concerns about the specific wording of this amendment, we are entering into this consultation in good faith, in our desire to evaluate the evidence that comes forward.

The views of noble Lords will of course be very welcome indeed. There is a tremendous amount of personal knowledge and expertise in this House, and I accept the comments made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham in that regard. I would further encourage other Members to make their opinions heard. We intend to launch the consultation as soon as possible. Given the significance of the issue, it will run for the full 12 weeks. We will undertake to report back to Parliament on the results. I hope that this commitment and the spirit in which is it offered to my noble friend will leave her reassured about the Government’s resolve to probe this serious issue by this commitment to consult.

4.15 pm

The Government recognise concerns about the current safeguarding system. We are not complacent about that. We understand the public’s anxiety, which has been raised by many Members, about the potential underreporting of abuse and the scale of it. Reference was made to the 50,000 figure that was used by Keith Bristow of the National Crime Agency. We are deeply shocked by the scale of what we are uncovering, both in terms of services and in the online environment.

It is right that we should take further time to listen to the views of all those with an interest—those who will be directly affected by such a measure of mandatory reporting. I hope that my noble friend will be reassured that the Government absolutely share her objective of enhancing the protection of children and vulnerable adults, but that we have to be absolutely certain that we get it right. The consequences of not doing so are potentially very serious. On that basis, I ask my noble friend to consider withdrawing her amendment.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for what he has just said. I know that it is the convention to thank the Minister for what he has just said, but in this case it is particularly sincere because there have been genuine discussions and I think that what he has suggested will bring the sanitising effect of fresh air to this discussion. I am most grateful to all those who have supported my amendment. It may not be perfect, but it has resulted in the statement that we have just heard from the Government, which is a major step forward.

I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate, to the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, who was unable to speak today, for adding their names to the amendment. I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, for their comments, although I would point out that some of the definitions that the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, was looking for are right at the end of the amendment. However, the point

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that they made makes the case for what the Government are suggesting now. None of us wants unintended consequences. We want children to be protected.

I hope that all those who have an opinion about this matter will be able to put their views to the public consultation, and that those views will be taken into account. While still being convinced that some sort of restricted mandatory reporting for regulated activities would benefit children, I very much accept that we need to hear all opinions and it needs to be implemented in a very careful way that is appropriate to the United Kingdom, although there is good evidence from abroad.

I shall pick up one point, if I may, before I withdraw the amendment. It has often been said, and my noble friend the Minister said it again, that there are large numbers of malicious reports. It has been found by analysis that, yes, there are malicious reports, but it is not a large percentage; it is quite small—under 20%. In Australia, the percentage was exactly the same after the duty was introduced as it was before. Although the raw numbers went up, the actual proportion of those reports which were not able to be substantiated was exactly the same. So it is not correct to say that an awful lot of reports are malicious or unsubstantiated. Let us please be correct about that. That is just one small point that I felt needed correcting.

I am delighted that there will be a public consultation and I would challenge all those organisations that have said that they will not engage with the Woolf inquiry to engage with this one, because there will be no barrier to hearing their voices. I hope that they will make their voices heard. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 43 withdrawn.

Amendment 43A had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Amendment 44

Moved by Baroness Smith of Basildon

44: After Clause 65, insert the following new Clause—

“Anonymity of victims where female genital mutilation is alleged

In section 2 of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992 (offences to which this Act applies), after subsection (1)(da) insert—

“(daa) any offences under sections 1 to 4 of the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003;”.”

Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab): My Lords, in moving Amendment 44, I shall also speak to Amendment 44A. I thank those who have co-sponsored the amendments: my noble friend Lord Rosser, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester, the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, and the noble Lords, Lord McColl of Dulwich and Lord Pannick.

There are a number of amendments in the group and I welcome that the Minister has tabled amendments that mirror ours. This is a real opportunity not only to ensure meaningful changes to the law but also to ensure that the law is enforced.

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The term FGM is becoming more widely known. Many people have a vague understanding that it means that a female, usually a young girl, is cut and her genitals mutilated, but I am not convinced that the absolute horror and brutality of what is involved is as well understood as it should be. Let us be very clear about what we are talking about. The term “female genital mutilation” refers to all procedures involving the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The World Health Organization has classified it into three different types, including clitoridectomy—I never thought that I would have to say that in your Lordships’ House—excision or infibulation. What does that mean? Clitoridectomy is the partial or total removal of the clitoris. Excision is the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the inner labia, sometimes with the excision of the outer labia as well. Infibulation, which then follows, is the narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and “repositioning” the inner or outer labia. There are other harmful procedures too, but this is essentially what these amendments refer to.

You do not have to be medically trained to appreciate not just the abusive brutality of what we are talking about but the serious health risks for the girls and women who are mutilated in this way, both at the time of mutilation and in later life. The risks include severe pain, injury to the surrounding organs, haemorrhage, infections that can cause death, chronic long-term pain and the obvious complications that occur during child- birth. That does not even begin to cover the psychological trauma that the girls carry for the rest of their lives. Reliable estimates are that, around the world, 130 million girls and women have undergone female genital mutilation. In Africa, 101 million girls aged 10 and over have been subject to FGM, and every year a further 3 million girls are at risk of FGM in Africa alone.

If noble Lords think that this is something that happens in other places and cannot happen here, let me share some horrifying and ugly statistics. A recent report in the UK based on 2011 census data and ONS birth statistics concluded that there are 170,000 women aged 15 and over in England and Wales who are living with the consequences of FGM. It is even more shocking that today in the UK 63,000 girls under the age of 13 are at risk of FGM. It is a serious problem here and it is a serious problem now.

In trying to tackle this we have tended to focus mainly on prosecution but we have not seen as many prosecutions as we would like given the high incidence of this crime. Our Amendment 44, on female genital mutilation orders, is aimed at trying to address the issue through prevention. This proposal is a direct result of the experience of those trying to protect young girls. It would establish female genital mutilation protection orders, which would be civil orders modelled on the forced marriage protection orders that enable a court to make an order to protect a girl or woman. This was originally a recommendation of the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales. We are very grateful to the committee for its advice and for the briefings it has provided. They have been invaluable in our examination of these issues.

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These orders would allow the court to intervene to prevent potential victims being subjected to FGM and would therefore act as a strong deterrent against the practice. The orders provide a range of injunctive remedies to the courts and, crucially, they focus on the victim. The powers include the ability for a number of people—including the potential victim but also a friend or a local authority—to apply to the court, where it is suspected on clear and compelling evidence that a child is at risk of mutilation, for an order prohibiting any interference with the bodily integrity of the child. It would also allow the court to intervene on its own account. The order could contain such prohibitions, restrictions or other requirements that the court considers appropriate for the purposes of protecting a girl or woman. We, like the Government, have largely mirrored the forced marriage protection orders because they have been used successfully hundreds of times now and they share common features with the FGM protection orders.

Girls and young women at risk are often reluctant to provide evidence that would criminalise their families. They are, by definition, young; they are vulnerable and effectively socially silenced. A difference between our proposals and the Government’s is that our amendment amends the Family Law Act 1996 and not the 2003 Act. There are a number of benefits to such orders being applied within family law jurisdiction. For cases involving children, civil protection would complement the existing measures for child protection and judges would be able to consider the full range of options available to the family courts provided for in the Children Act 1989. Civil protection would be more flexible but it would still be backed by criminal sanctions for breach.

All that matters is that legislation works. I appreciate that the government amendment is seeking the same aim by amending the 2003 Act, rather than the Family Law Act. There is an opportunity to better protect the child by amending the Family Law Act, both in terms of the remedies available and the enforcement of the legislation. We have seen already with the existing 2003 legislation that that is quite difficult. I appreciate that the Government have a consequential amendment, Amendment 50A, that in effect links these provisions to the family law, but I hope that the Minister can help on this. I am curious as to why the Government have chosen that route. It is not the route that was used in other cases. I am convinced that we are seeking the same outcome but we want to be convinced that the Government’s approach will still ensure that the joined-up approach to child protection, which is so vital in these cases, will be there. We do not disagree with the Government at all on the intention and the principle. We just want to ensure that we have the right route. We prefer—and our evidence backs this—the route through family law as a better approach than amending the 2003 legislation.

I turn to government Amendment 46G on female genital mutilation protection orders. We were very pleased to see that the Government also want this provision to be part of the Bill, but I ask the Minister to consider our concerns around this. Again, it is a matter of definition. The government amendment uses the definition of FGM that is in the 2003 legislation.

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That was ground-breaking legislation at the time, but since its introduction it has become evident that not everyone interprets the law in the way that we intended. Specifically, the issue to be addressed is whether reinfibulation is covered. Infibulation is the removal of all the external genitalia and the fusion of the wound, in effect almost sealing the vagina. At childbirth women need to be deinfibulated to have any possibility of a vaginal birth. Noble Lords who were in the Chamber when we last debated this would have heard the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, who unfortunately is not here at present. Her experience of helping a woman who needed to be reinfibulated in order to give birth, and the difficulties the woman faced in being unable to have a vaginal birth, is a description that will stay with me for a long time. Reinfibulation involves restitching to reclose and reseal the FGM. That is further mutilation following childbirth. Again we have taken advice, and we are very grateful to the Bar Human Rights Committee and Doughty Street Chambers’ lawyers—who, through their experience of dealing with such cases, have drawn the conclusion that the definition of reinfibulation in the 2003 Act is inadequate and confusing.

A recent report from the Home Affairs Select Committee reinforced that conclusion. It referred to the Director of Public Prosecution’s letter to Ministers which also asked for clarification of the law in respect of reinfibulation. It said that,

“infibulation, also referred to as Type 3 FGM, involves the narrowing of the vaginal orifice, it needs to be opened up during childbirth. The Intercollegiate Group told us there have been cases where women who were de-infibulated during delivery had returned in subsequent pregnancies having undergone re-stitching, i.e. reinfibulation … The Crown Prosecution Service, the Metropolitan Police, ACPO, the Intercollegiate Group and others all told us this meant there was a lack of clarity as to whether reinfibulation was covered by legislation”.

I have raised this matter directly with the Minister and I am grateful to him for discussing it this time. I fully understand that the Government’s opinion is that this is covered by the 2003 definition. Certainly that is what was intended when it was brought in. However, what matters is what happens in practice. Legal and medical practitioners are telling us something completely different from what the Government believe and what was the intent at the time. A note from Dexter Dias QC, who has acted in FGM cases, informs us of research undertaken by Professor Lisa Avalos—I can supply the Minister and the noble Baroness with this information—and they emphasise that the law’s silence about reinfibulation is causing confusion among practitioners for a number of reasons.

4.30 pm

Part of the problem is legal technicalities. Reinfibulation does not necessarily mean the cutting of healthy genital tissue; instead, it involves recreating that seal over the vagina. The CPS has interpreted the FGM Act as prohibiting reinfibulation, but health professionals have come to different conclusions about the position in law. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, along with the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Nursing and others, have interpreted the law’s silence to mean that the procedure is not covered by law because it does not involve cutting away additional tissue.

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That confusion highlights the lack of clarity. My attention was drawn to a quote from the Royal College of Midwives’ report Tackling FGM in the UK: Intercollegiate Recommendationsfor Identifying, Recording and Reporting. It states:

“For the purposes of the FGM Act, re-infibulation is not covered”.

That is why our amendment uses instead the World Health Organization definition. This would ensure that the law is consistent with recognised international understanding, including the World Health Organization and UN standards, and clarify the confusion around issues such as reinfibulation.

I appreciate the Government’s view that the issue is covered, and I am sure that the noble Baroness has a note saying that it is. However, an academic political debate across the Dispatch Box will only be about what we believe the law should cover and is intended to cover. The evidence, whatever the Government believe, and whatever was intended when that law was introduced, is that the law has not been interpreted in that way by everybody. As a result women are suffering, including some of those who work most closely with women who are pregnant and giving birth. They want to protect women from FGM but believe that the law is inadequate and does not protect women. If there is any doubt at all and women are being reinfibulated in practice, surely we have a duty and a responsibility to ensure that there can be no doubt and there is absolutely clarity in the law.

I cannot press the Minister strongly enough on this. I am sure that there is a note saying, “Resist: it is covered in the law”. I ask the Minister please to take this back and reconsider. I readily concede that our definition from the World Health Organization may not be perfect, and I am content to discuss that further. I believe that the Government want to get this right, and we want to work with them to make sure that it is.

It is also important that there is statutory guidance underpinning these provisions. That is reinforced by advice which we have had from lawyers that existing multiagency guidance is inadequate. I know that the Government are consulting on making the guidance statutory, but I would like assurances from the Minister that serious consideration is given both to the content and to it being statutory.

Our Amendment 44 provides anonymity for FGM victims. We welcome that the Government have also tabled an amendment on this. I have already mentioned the difficulties in getting victims to come forward and provide evidence. This amendment and the Government’s approach will make it just a little easier for them to do so. The Director of Public Prosecutions has called for this, as has the Home Affairs Select Committee. Where an FGM case goes to court, victims should be entitled to the same support and special measures that other victims are entitled to.

Finally, it has become clear that all the legislation in the world, with all its good intentions, only matters if enforcement is effective. Noble Lords will be aware of proposals from the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales in its report to the parliamentary inquiry into FGM. One proposal was that an FGM

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unit, similar to the Forced Marriage Unit, should be established. The Forced Marriage Unit drew together expertise from around the Government and Civil Service into one unit and has been highly effective. This is not a legislative point; it is basically an internal structural issue about how we make legislation work in practice. I do not know what consideration the Government have given to implementation and enforcement at this stage, but if the noble Baroness could say something about how we can make these new provisions as effective as possible and give some consideration to an FGM unit, that would be welcome.

These are important amendments, and I welcome the fact that the Government have also come forward with proposals. We are all trying to sink the same issues and end up in the same place. This is a real opportunity to make significant progress. I ask the noble Baroness to take on board the points that we have made, particularly around definitions—we would be very grateful. I beg to move.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill (LD): My Lords, I rise only because of my experience in piloting through the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007. I just want to say how glad I am—because we are dealing with a whole group of amendments—that the Government are not only toughening criminal law, but also mimicking, or copying, that Act in relation to female genital mutilation. That is dealt with as a new schedule in government Amendment 46G. I would like briefly to explain why that is very wise.

The problem about using criminal law in this area is that it depends upon all the safeguards of a fair criminal trial. It depends upon there being a prosecution before a criminal court to a high standard of proof, the burden being on the prosecution, and all the panoply of a criminal trial, which may terrify anybody, but certainly will in this sensitive area. It is therefore extremely difficult for a prosecution to succeed in a case of this kind. It is said, and it is the position of the Government, that it is very important to send a signal. I am not, on the whole, in favour of using law simply to send signals.

Although I understand why the Government are strengthening the criminal law, if we are serious about dealing with this odious and significant social evil, the civil law is much more likely to be effective, including the use of the family courts. This is because, as with the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act, first of all you do not need the victim to apply. A third party can do so. In fact, you do not need anyone to apply; the court can do so on its own initiative. Secondly, the application will be heard in private. Thirdly, the outcome will not involve dishonouring the family. It is extremely important in an area of this kind that the victim is not put in a position where if she gives evidence she will be permanently alienated from her family.

I am delighted that the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, is in her place, because she has far more experience of this than I have. Certainly experience of the 2003 Act has been very good in that forced marriage civil protection orders have been made in their hundreds and been complied with. It has worked because it uses the civil route of family law and family courts with all the expertise of those courts, in a way

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that will not deter victims from coming forward and which will not mean permanent divisions within the family.

As I read what the Government are proposing, that is well understood. That is why the new schedule which is to be inserted on female genital mutilation protection orders largely mimics what we were able to achieve in that Bill. I will explain who I mean by “we”. That Bill had the support of women, including Asian women, bodies such the Southall Black Sisters and the refuges. They really took ownership of it and made sure that it was something that would work. That ownership is vital. What is contemplated here should do that.

Baroness Smith of Basildon: I would like to ask the noble Lord’s advice on this, because he referred, as I did, to the forced marriage protection orders. I understand that that was done by an amendment to family law. The point on which I was asking the Minister to come back on was whether, by not amending the family law in the government amendment, although we seek to do that in our amendment, we will make it more difficult to bring the law together and deal with it in a family court. Does the noble Lord have a view on that, having dealt with this previously?

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: That is a very good question, but I cannot really answer it. My reading of government Amendment 46G indicates that there is a copying in of what had happened with forced marriage. Furthermore, paragraph (7) of the proposed new schedule in the amendment amends the Family Law Act and gives jurisdiction to the family court. I may be talking complete rubbish and I may be corrected, either by the noble Baroness or by the Minister. I am simply trying to get across why the civil route is so important and the use of family courts is so important.

Baroness Butler-Sloss (CB): I shall pick up that point. It is perfectly obvious to me as a former president of the Family Division that it does not matter which piece of legislation it is as long as the work done in relation to female genital mutilation is allocated to the single family court and heard either by High Court judges or circuit judges who are ticketed to try family cases. This is really not for the ordinary civil judges in what was the county court.

I am interested by this talk about the High Court or the county court. We should actually be talking about—I say this respectfully to the Government—the single family court. It does not matter whether it goes into the Family Law Act as is suggested in the excellent opposition amendments, which I largely support. What matters is who actually tries it. Just as with forced marriages and every other child protection issue, we have here issues of crime, but we know perfectly well that there has not yet been a single conviction of anyone who has done this. It is a question of culture, too. One has to train people in this country that this is not an acceptable practice. The Government are to be enormously congratulated for working on that—as were the previous Government when introducing the 2003 Act—but nothing has gone far enough.

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I totally agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lester. I would like to see what is good in each set of amendments put together. Therefore, I hope that the Opposition and the Government will get together after Report and thrash out what would be the best of everything and get that into one list that could go into Third Reading. I do not think that the Government go quite far enough. A great deal of what the Opposition are saying is exactly what we need, but it all needs to be put together. Certainly, the most important thing is that it should go to the single family court and be tried by High Court or circuit judges who have specialist family experience.

Baroness Hughes of Stretford (Lab): My Lords, I very much agree with the noble and learned Baroness. In doing so, I ask the Minister to give thought to taking away the government amendment to come back at Third Reading with a composite amendment that deals with the two issues that my noble friend related in moving the amendment. The issue of definition is as important as the issue of where this matter is located in law. There is concern out there that the definition that we have may not comply with the World Health Organization definition; even if it does, the way in which it was formulated in the 2003 Act, because of where we were then, is not clear enough to the whole range of professionals. As my noble friend identified, a number of health bodies, even in their own guidance, are telling their practitioners that reinfibulation does not come within the definition of female genital mutilation in the current Act. That has to be dealt with. I welcome the Government’s approach to looking further at what we need to do in the Bill. We have an opportunity here to ensure that we get things right, and the definition is one important issue.

4.45 pm

The second issue is, of course, the one that the noble Lord, Lord Lester, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, have just raised. As the noble and learned Baroness rightly said, this is not simply a question of which piece of law it is best to put the provision in. There is consensus that it ought to be within the range of civil law, so as to protect children better, and to give the single court the widest range of options regarding interventions for children, along with the principles of the Children Act.

I am not sure whether I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lester, that, taken together, the two government amendments—Amendments 46G and 50A—mimic the formulation that was used to bring protection orders for forced marriages into the civil arena. I cannot judge whether the two amendments together produce the same effect. In any case, having two separate amendments that tinker around with two different Acts is a rather tortuous way of doing things, and will probably be very unclear to people who are applying the legislation. The formulation could be much simpler, and therefore much clearer, if the Government made the effect clear in a single amendment, along the lines of the opposition amendment—although perhaps that could be improved as well; I am certainly open to thinking about that. I would be grateful if the Minister would indicate whether she is prepared, even at this

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stage—by which I mean at Third Reading—to make further improvements in the definition, and in relation to the uncertainty about the effect of her formulation regarding the legal route.

The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I hesitate slightly, as a male religious leader, to speak in your Lordships’ debate on this matter, but it may be important that I do so. I also hesitate to plunge into the legal niceties that have been raised so clearly by those with more knowledge of such matters. I added my name to Amendment 44A largely because of a phrase in subsection (5) of proposed new Section 63T of the Family Law Act. It states that,

“it is immaterial whether she”,

that is, the girl or woman concerned,

“or any other person believes that the operation is required as a matter of custom or ritual”.

The context for that subsection is the possibility that an operation might be justified on the grounds of the physical or mental health of the person concerned and that wording makes it clear that custom and ritual cannot be used as support for such an argument.

We are rightly proud of our national values, whereby we respect and indeed treasure the richness of many and varied cultural and religious traditions, beliefs and practices within the life of our national society. But that proper respect for a wide range of such beliefs and practices does not mean that they are all either good or commendable. It is my view that in female genital mutilation we have a practice that we simply cannot condone, even when it is done out of respect for a particular cultural or religious tradition. FGM is at heart, as has already been graphically described, an act of violence and abuse. It is one that is often associated with control—sadly, male control over women. For somebody from my tradition, it is actually an interference with our human createdness in a way that carries no benefits for health or anything else. It is, indeed, the physical removal of the potential for sensual pleasure which is part of our human and sexual createdness. The Church of England’s marriage service, or at least its current version, speaks of the “joy” of bodily union. FGM removes that possibility. For that reason and others, I support this amendment and its intent. Whatever emerges from this debate, I hope that the reference to custom or ritual will remain within whatever emerges as an Act.

Baroness Hamwee (LD): My Lords, I do not need to reiterate the feelings of abhorrence at the practice of FGM and the enormous number of girls and women who are affected by it. The right reverend Prelate has a very important role in this debate. He should not have hesitated to intervene.

I wish to address a couple of points before I speak to my amendments, which are minnows and just seek clarification. I agree very much with what the noble and learned Baroness said. As one who has been in the lower orders of the legal profession, I am impressed by the way in which members of the judiciary have specialised and gained expertise in a number of areas over the years. I hesitate to make my next remark, and should

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tug my forelock in doing so, but it is hugely important to ensure that certain members of the judiciary have considerable knowledge and experience of the areas in which they pass judgment. Practice and practical arrangements are also enormously important.

I do not want to argue that this amendment is better than that amendment. However, if there is to be further discussion, which I would never discourage—we talked about consultation on the previous amendment—let us not forget that it need not happen by Third Reading. If there is to be further consideration, it needs to be done well and carefully. The Bill has further stages to go through in the Commons. We are all accustomed to Members of the Commons saying on the record in Hansard, “Let’s send it to the Lords and let them sort it out”. On this occasion, there is time for sorting out to be done, if that needs to happen, before the Bill completes its passage through Parliament. As I say, it need not be done by Third Reading, which is not very far away. However, it is important to have something in the Bill on which any further consideration can build. Therefore, I suggest to the House that we should support the government amendments so that we have them as a basis.

As I said, my amendments are minnows. Nevertheless, I will speak to them. The first is Amendment 46C, which seeks to amend government Amendment 46B on anonymity. I seek to understand the import of “substantially” at line 23 of government Amendment 46B. My amendment suggests replacing “substantially” with “significantly”. It is obviously for the court to decide whether a defence would be prejudiced and to what extent it would be prejudiced. Are there any comparable provisions containing this sort of balance elsewhere in the criminal justice system, given the presumption of someone’s innocence until they are proved guilty? I also ask for confirmation that the restriction here applies on an appeal to a higher court.

My second amendment, Amendment 46D, is to the same amendment, dealing with the second condition in the court’s consideration, where it is provided that the effect would be to,

“impose a substantial and unreasonable restriction on the reporting of the proceedings”.

What might a substantial restriction be that is not an unreasonable restriction and why is the extent of the restriction relevant?

My third amendment is an amendment to Amendment 46E, which is the offence of failing to protect. Again, in order to probe, I am seeking to leave out from proposed new Section 3A(1) the words “under the age of 16” as describing a girl. Indeed, should it be “a girl” or “a girl or woman”? Does girl include a woman? I have not got the words quite right, but that is the import of the provision in the 2003 Act. Why 16? It may in practice be very rarely necessary to seek an order in respect of girls aged 16 and over, but it seems it is not completely irrelevant. The 2003 Act does not have that age limit on a girl and indeed provides for women to be covered as well.

In proposed new Section 3A(4) we are told that a person is responsible in one case where that person has parental responsibility and has frequent contact with the girl. Is frequent contact necessary and, indeed, is it

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appropriate? How frequent is frequent? I would guess that we expect case law to grow up around this, but I would be grateful for any comments that my noble friend might have. Does parental responsibility extend to care as under Section 3(5) of the Children Act? How does that definition of parental responsibility fit with proposed new Section 3A(5) where there has to be an assumption of responsibility for caring for a girl in the manner of a parent.

I hope that none of this is thought to be too pedantic and too picky. Like others, I am very keen to see these provisions work. If I have by chance lit on anything which needs more explanation than I have been able to apply to it in my own head, then it would be useful to have it on the record.

5 pm

Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con): My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords who have spoken in this debate—in particular to the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, for setting out just what we mean by female genital mutilation and asking, as a supplementary, whether the current definition of FGM includes wider elements such as reinfibulation. I will deal with that point first. I confirm that the Government’s view is that reinfibulation is an offence under the 2003 Act. That is on the basis that if it is an offence to infibulate in the first place, it must equally be an offence to reinfibulate. The multiagency practice guidelines on FGM have long made clear that resuturing or reinfibulation is illegal in the UK. Current guidance issued by both the BMA and the Royal College of Nursing supports that view.

As we heard in Committee, the whole House shares an abhorrence of the practice of FGM and we can all agree that more needs to be done to stop such violence against women and girls. There are nuances on how best to tackle such abuse, but we all agree on the principle: FGM must end, and this Government are committed to ending it.

I will comment on the right reverend Prelate’s point about the cultural aspect, which adds strength to the argument. I totally share his view. At the Girl Summit in July this year, the Prime Minister and Home Secretary announced an unprecedented package of measures to tackle FGM in this country. This included a number of commitments to strengthen the law. To that end, this group of amendments includes a number of government amendments designed to ensure that our legislative response is as strong as possible. In particular, they will provide for lifelong anonymity for the victims of FGM, introduce a new civil order to help protect those at risk of mutilation, and create a new offence of failure to prevent FGM. I propose to say a little more about each of these new provisions.

On the subject of victim anonymity, the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, moved an amendment in Committee to extend to victims of female genital mutilation the same anonymity that already applies to victims of many sexual offences. This followed a recommendation by the Director of Public Prosecutions, and I was then able to indicate in response to that debate that the Government were giving sympathetic consideration to the proposal. As many in this House will have seen at the Girl Summit on 22 July, the Home Secretary

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announced that the Government would bring forward legislation to this end. Amendments 46A and 46B deliver on that commitment. These amendments will give victims of female genital mutilation the benefit of anonymity, as already applies to the alleged victims of many sexual offences under the provisions of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992. Any publication of material that could lead members of the public to identify a person as the alleged victim of an offence will be prohibited. Anonymity should not end where the online world begins; publication would include traditional print media, broadcasting and social media.

Female genital mutilation is an offence of a particularly personal and sensitive nature. Without the prospect of anonymity, victims may be discouraged from reporting such an intimate offence to the police. Granting lifelong anonymity, therefore, will reassure victims that their identity will be protected and will go far to encourage the reporting of this offence. This protection needs to be automatic rather than discretionary; it must apply from the outset, when an allegation is first made, rather than from the point of charge; and it must last for the duration of that person’s lifetime. That is exactly what these amendments will bring about.

My noble friend Lady Hamwee has a couple of amendments to government Amendment 46B. They are far from being the minnows that she described. Amendment 46C seeks to amend paragraph 1(5) of new Schedule 1, which sets out the first condition that must be met in order to lift the restriction on anonymity. This allows a court to remove the anonymity that attaches to an alleged victim of an FGM offence where the anonymity results in the defendant’s case being “substantially prejudiced”. This wording is directly comparable to the provisions in the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992. We do not think that making a distinction between the two provisions would be helpful when both seek to achieve the same outcome.

Amendment 46D would lower the test for disapplying the reporting restrictions. We do not believe that this change provides sufficient protection for the alleged victim’s anonymity. Again, we have applied the two-pronged test that applies under the 1992 Act. By changing the test in this instance, the courts could well be more ready to lift the reporting restrictions as they apply to an FGM victim, thereby undermining the protection we are seeking to afford such victims.

Government Amendment 46G provides for FGM protection orders. It has been tabled in response to concerns that currently there is no specific civil remedy for the purpose of protecting potential or actual victims of FGM. The noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, made that point. The majority of responses to a recent consultation on a proposal to introduce a civil protection order for FGM supported the proposal for such an order, so as to protect potential victims and victims of FGM. The Government strongly believe that there should be a specific civil remedy to strengthen protection for potential victims of FGM and to help to prevent FGM from occurring in the first place. Amendment 46G aims to achieve this.

The provisions on FGM protection orders follow closely the model of forced marriage protection orders provided for in Part 4A of the Family Law Act 1996,

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with some modification to reflect the different nature of FGM offences. The new Schedule 2 to the 2003 Act contains a number of detailed provisions. I do not intend to go through each one but will focus on the key features.

As with forced marriage protection orders, an FGM protection order may contain such prohibitions, restrictions or other requirements as the court considers appropriate for the purposes of that order: that is, for the purposes of protecting a girl against commission of an FGM offence or a girl against whom any such offence has been committed. This could include, for example, provisions to surrender a person’s passport or any other travel document and not to enter into any arrangements, in the UK or abroad, for FGM to be performed on the person to be protected.

Application for an FGM protection order may be made by the person to be protected, the victim or a relevant third party, without leave of the court or any person with the leave of the court. This would clearly allow a wide category of persons to apply for an FGM protection order, which I believe is desirable. In particular, allowing a third party to apply for a protection order on behalf of a victim may be helpful in situations where the victim is unable to do so, for example because she is too young—it is clear that most victims of FGM are girls typically between the ages of five and eight—or because she is too scared to take such an action herself. It will also be open to a criminal court to make an FGM protection order on its own initiative, for example when sentencing a person for an offence under the 2003 Act.

Breach of an order would be a criminal offence with a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment, but with provision, as an alternative, for a breach to be dealt with in the civil court as contempt punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment.

The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, questioned whether putting FGM protection order provisions in the FGM Act 2003 undermines the court’s powers, compared to putting them in the Family Law Act 1996. We do not think that that is so. The proceedings would be in the family court, with the full range of powers of the court, and expressly without prejudice to any other protective powers that the court may have. The location of the provisions does not affect this. Indeed, it would be helpful to practitioners to have all FGM-related provisions in one statute. The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, made that point. She also stressed the point about the proceedings going to the family court. I point noble Lords to paragraph 17(1) of new Schedule 2, which makes it clear that the proceedings are in the family court.

The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, also asked whether there would be a bespoke FGM unit, akin to the Forced Marriage Unit. I can confirm that the Government will set up a specialist FGM unit to drive a step change in this very important outreach service, with partners.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester made a point about the provision in the Opposition’s proposed new Section 63T that it is immaterial whether any person believes that the operation is required as a matter of custom or ritual. The provision in question

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is already set out in Section 1(5) of the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 and is applied by paragraph 17(1) of new Schedule 2 in the government amendment.

These government amendments, which provide for victim anonymity and FGM protection orders, have substantially the same effect as Amendments 44 and 44A put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith. I trust, therefore, that she will be ready to support them in lieu of her own.

Amendment 46E provides for the last of the three new government measures. It will create a new offence of failing to protect a girl from the risk of genital mutilation. Again, this new offence gives effect to a recommendation by the Director of Public Prosecutions for the law to place a positive duty on parents or carers to prevent their children being mutilated. English criminal law does not generally criminalise a failure to prevent an offence. This new offence is unusual but, I think, entirely necessary.

In the context of FGM this approach is justified given the difficulties that have been experienced in bringing prosecutions under the existing law. Even if those who allow their daughters to undergo FGM believe that it is in the girl’s best interests to conform to the prevailing custom of their community, there can be no excuse for such a gross violation of their human rights. It is wholly unacceptable to allow a practice that can have such devastating consequences for the health of a young girl. The physical and psychological effects can last throughout her life.

The amendment provides that if an FGM offence—that is, one of the offences set out in Sections 1 to 3 of the 2003 Act—is committed against a girl under the age of 16, each person who is responsible for the girl at the relevant time will be guilty of an offence. My noble friend Lady Hamwee queried why this offence applies only to girls under the age of 16 whereas the existing FGM offences apply to girls and women of any age. We recognise that parental responsibility can be exercised in relation to a girl under the age of 18. However, in the context of FGM where, as I have said, victims are typically aged between five and eight, and given the diminishing control that a parent would have over a 16 or 17 year-old, let alone an older woman, we believe that the offence should apply where FGM has been committed on a girl under the age of 16.

The maximum penalty for the new offence will be seven years’ imprisonment or a fine or both. We believe that this is proportionate when it is considered against the maximum penalties for offences of violence, and bearing in mind that this is an offence of failure to protect rather than of directly perpetrating violence. My noble friend Lady Hamwee also raised a couple of points on the new offence. The offence has been carefully drawn to avoid criminalising people unnecessarily or unjustifiably, so the requirement for frequent contact is intended to ensure that a person who in law has parental responsibility for a girl but who in practice has little or no contact with her would not be caught under this provision. The courts have held that what constitutes frequent contact is a simple question of fact which does not require further elucidation or definition.

On the question of how the new offence applies to children in care, the Children Act 1989 refers to people who have care of the child. This seems to us to be too

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broad a category to make liable for the new offence. Instead, new Section 3A(4) makes liable, in addition to those who have parental responsibility and frequent contact, the more specific category of those “aged 18 or over”, who have current responsibility for,

“caring for the girl in the manner of a parent”.

The new offence is not a panacea for the long-standing difficulties in prosecuting FGM, but it will help to overcome some of the barriers to prosecution, in particular by reducing if not avoiding the need for a girl to give evidence or to identify who actually performed FGM on her. In so doing, it will enable the Crown Prosecution Service to bring prosecutions in cases where they could not have been brought before. At the request of the Northern Ireland Minister of Justice, David Ford, this new offence, and indeed the other two new provisions, will extend to Northern Ireland as well as to England and Wales. The other government amendments in this group are consequential on the three substantive new provisions.

5.15 pm

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: Everything that the Minister has said is music to my ears, and I congratulate her and the Government. However, she has just mentioned Northern Ireland and that provokes in my mind the question about what happens beyond England, Wales and Northern Ireland. What will be the position if someone goes to Scotland or to another country? The same problem arises with forced marriage. Will the Government take steps to try to persuade other jurisdictions to collaborate, if necessary by amending their laws, so that when people move from this country to carry out this vile procedure, it can apply not only to England, Wales and Northern Ireland?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: I thank my noble friend for bringing up that point. In actual fact, Scotland has very strong provisions in this area, and in a certain sense we are catching up, so I hope that answers his questions.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: Sorry, I said not only Scotland but any other country. Scotland sounds as though it is fine. But what happens with any other part of Europe or the Commonwealth?

Baroness Williams of Trafford: I apologise to my noble friend. I am sure that if other countries or jurisdictions want to take on our legislation, that would not be a problem. I will confirm that with the noble Lord in a letter and also put a copy of that letter in the Library, but I assume that to be the case.

I have been on my feet for some time, but I hope that I have set out in a little detail the effect of the government amendments. I am grateful to the House for bearing with me and commend the government amendments to the House.

Baroness Smith of Basildon: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. She need not apologise for having been on her feet for a long time, as she did as much as she could to address the many issues which were raised in the debate.

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On the issue of FGM protection orders, I think there is not a cigarette paper between us on what we are trying to achieve. However, I still do not fully understand—I am not a lawyer, but even the noble Lord, Lord Lester, could not help me out on this one—why the Government have chosen this approach and not the family law approach. That is the other point. I will look again in Hansard to see what she said, but given the comments that have been made around the House, I thought there was a willingness from the noble Baroness and from others for the Government to talk to us and say, “Have we got it right? Can we look at this?”.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: I thank the noble Baroness, and I think there is a further conversation to be had, perhaps outside the Chamber. I am very willing to engage with her and other noble Lords who may wish to meet with me before Third Reading.

Baroness Smith of Basildon: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that, because we just want to get it right. On the basis that she is prepared to discuss it and bring something back at Third Reading, we will be happy to withdraw our amendment. I am grateful and I appreciate that.

However, I must express my disappointment with her comment around the legal definition. I was unusually —and somewhat, I would say, embarrassingly—graphic about what reinfibulation actually means. I know that the Government believe that it is covered in law, and I said that in my comments. We believed that we covered reinfibulation when we brought in the law in 2003, but the evidence is that it is not. If the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists say that it is not covered, we have to accept that there is a lack of clarity and there is some doubt. With the best will in the world, the noble Baroness saying to me that the Government believe that it is covered is not good enough. I ask her whether, on the same basis, she would be prepared to look at this and discuss this with us.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: Certainly.

Baroness Smith of Basildon: I am extremely grateful. On both those issues, therefore, we would be happy not to press our amendments on the basis of further discussion before Third Reading.

Amendment 44 withdrawn.

Amendment 44A not moved.

Amendment 45 had been retabled as Amendment 45A.

Amendment 45A

Moved by Baroness Meacher

45A: After Clause 66, insert the following new Clause—

“Offence of encouraging or assisting with the promotion of the practice of female genital mutilation

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(1) The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 2 (offence of assisting a girl to mutilate her own genitalia) insert—

“2A Offence of encouraging or assisting the promotion of the practice of female genital mutilation

A person is guilty of an offence of encouragement or promotion of female genital mutilation if he encouraged or assisted another or others to commit an offence knowing or believing that the other or others would commit that offence.”

(3) In section 5 (penalties for offences) insert—

(a) after “under” insert “sections 2 and 3 of”,

(b) at end insert—

“(2) A person guilty of an offence under section 2A is liable—

(a) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years or a fine or both;

(b) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or both.””

Baroness Meacher (CB): Following legal advice, I amended Amendment 45, and it has now become Amendment 45A. The aim of this amendment is to tackle FGM at its heart. I applaud Ministers, the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, and others for tabling amendments which seek to protect young girls from the threat of this terrible torture and to protect their identity. All these are important, although we know that to achieve a prosecution of families committing FGM is not straightforward, and even with all the improvements in the new amendments, I still believe that it will be difficult. I understand that FGM is increasingly happening to tiny children who cannot yet speak, which will make prosecution even more difficult until very much later on because of course the families are trying to avoid detection. Prevention will be very difficult to achieve through protection orders, for example, if this is happening very early on in a child’s life.

Amendment 45A creates an offence of encouragement or promotion of FGM if a person,

“encouraged or assisted another or others”—

that is very important—

“to commit an offence knowing or believing that the other or others would commit that offence”.

The amendment seeks to ensure that if a community or religious leader encourages the practice of FGM, whether to a congregation, a small group of parents or indeed an individual parent, they would be committing an offence and could be charged. We are seeking something very different from the amendments so far, which have focused very much on an individual child and their family, but that is not where the focus should be when the core of the problem is actually in the culture of certain communities. If we want to stamp out the practice, we have to change the culture and the religious preaching.

The Minister explained to me just before this debate that the Bill team believes that the amendment does not achieve what we believe that it will. However, I sought legal opinion from Keir Starmer and his colleague Catherine Meredith, and they came back to me over the weekend and assured me that the amendment is fine and will achieve what we want it to. Of course,

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this was very late on; although I approached them some time ago, they are busy people and did not come back to us until very late. We therefore have not had an opportunity for the Bill team and government lawyers to sort this out. Not surprisingly, we therefore have a slight disagreement, but I am satisfied on the basis of my legal advice that the amendment will achieve what we want it to achieve and I will therefore speak to it on that basis.

The amendment would make a distinction between religious leaders who preach from the Koran and are therefore authentic—and, indeed, religious leaders who preach from authentic Hadith—who would not be committing an offence and would not be prosecuted if the amendment became law, and religious leaders who preach on the basis of the inauthentic versions of the Hadith, who would be committing an offence; they would be very clearly differentiated from the others. That is very important.

My concern about the parent-focused offences in the absence of Amendment 45A is that if parents believe that their religion requires them to practise FGM, when parents are arrested for this practice and are subjected to a protection order, they will regard the arrest or the protection order as some terrible action of the infidels. They will not be convinced at all and their thinking will not change. In addition, parents who are not directly affected by an arrest will not be convinced. They will think that these are the actions of infidels and therefore they will try to find a way of carrying on with their FGM practice. That is the importance for me of Amendment 45A.

Baroness Tonge (Ind LD): I have gone into this in great detail since 2003, when the all-party group that I chair held hearings on the subject. We learnt from various groups that gave evidence, and I have learnt since, that it is usually the grandmothers in a family who are most insistent on this practice, and that it is not confined to a particular religious group. I would hate for people to get the idea from what the noble Baroness is saying that this is a practice of the Muslim religion or any other religion. It is confined to small cultural groups. It is often opposed by the religious leaders and men in the community but the grannies insist that it is done.

Baroness Meacher: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her intervention. I completely agree: this is not exclusively a Muslim problem. Indeed, there are Christians, apparently, who promote FGM. However, we know that there are religious leaders who preach from the unauthentic Hadith and are certainly promoting FGM; they are rather effective at doing that. They ally, of course, with the grandmothers, and the grandmothers can look to them for support.

Another question is whether this practice is sufficiently prevalent to justify this new offence. Yes, it is. The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, referred to international figures. I simply want to refer to a few from the British Arab Federation. It estimates that more than 100,000 women have undergone FGM in this country and that some 25,000 girls are at risk of having their lives destroyed in this way. The Local Government Association provides a figure of 144,000 girls born in England and

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Wales to mothers from FGM-practising countries between 1996 and 2010. We do not know how many of these mothers will have changed their minds about this practice, but the figures from the British Arab Federation are certainly alarming and we need to take them seriously.

We must applaud the British Arab Federation for making it its highest priority to work with all organisations to bring an end to this crime. The federation is clear that there is no evidence, as far as Islamic sources are concerned, requiring, justifying or condoning the practice of FGM. This, again, reiterates the point. This is not a problem of the whole of Islam—far from it—or, indeed, only Islam. It affects certain groups and certain leaders.

The descriptions of the way FGM is performed are utterly appalling. Just reading them was a painful experience for me. The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, went into this in great detail and I certainly do not want to repeat what she said. As I have already said, there is no mention in the Koran of FGM and no mention in the authentic Hadith of FGM, so there are perfectly proper Islamic texts that do not in any way encourage this activity. Indeed, Islamic law prohibits partial or complete removal of any bodily organ without proven medical need. Thus FGM is unlawful, as I understand it, according to Islamic law. It is important that, in proposing this amendment, we make this absolutely clear. In no way is this amendment an attack on Islam: quite the opposite. It is an attempt to secure the proper practice of Islam. There is a lot of work going on in communities to encourage them to abandon FGM, but this work is being hindered by these leaders who stick to unauthentic texts.

Currently, under Sections 44 to 46 of the Serious Crime Act 2007, anyone inciting or carrying out FGM in a particular case can be prosecuted for incitement. The LGA argues, quite rightly, that it is not possible under current law to prosecute someone who in general terms says that there are religious, health or other grounds for carrying out FGM. That is the whole point of this amendment and the whole point of referring to the plural: if somebody preaches to “another or others” that FGM is important to their religion, they are committing an offence. This amendment should make it much easier to bring cases against those who promote this practice. Inhibiting the preaching or promotion of this practice is much better than action ex post. That is what we are all working for: to try to prevent this thing ever happening in the first place. A lot of the focus has been on prosecuting people after they have practised FGM and that is just not good enough.

I know that the Government have concerns about whether this amendment really would achieve what we hope it would achieve, but I hope that we can have further discussions. I take the point that there will also be debates in the other place. Therefore, we do not even have to resolve these issues, and the issues around the previous amendments, before Third Reading, although I will certainly seek to do that with my legal advisers. I beg to move.

5.30 pm

Baroness Butler-Sloss: My Lords, I intended to put my name to this amendment, which I support. It seems to me that it is more important as a deterrent

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than probably for prosecutions. Among the various groups that exist—one hopes that they are a really small minority—as the noble Baroness just said, it is very important that the English law is made absolutely clear, as well as the law of Islam. Of course, as the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, just said, this occurs across other religions. That deterrent has, in other areas, quite a useful effect on culture, and that seems to me the most important part of this. I suspect that there will be very few prosecutions, but what is said in English law may permeate through a number of groups where those who disapprove of this already would then be able to point to the fact that it was also contrary to English law, and those who might want to get involved in this would be deterred from actually supporting it. I, too, support this amendment.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, towards the end of her speech, the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, referred to what was troubling me, which is whether we are talking about general encouragement—if I can put it that way—or encouragement to commit a specific offence. Like, I suspect, those in the conversations she had just before coming into the Chamber, I am puzzled by the presentation of the amendment as meaning general encouragement, because I do not read it that way either. With the wording, “to commit an offence”—a specific offence—I thought that the noble Baroness was getting to grips with what is meant by “promotion”, which was the bit that I found difficult to get my head around in terms of its application in the predecessor amendment. However, the noble Baroness told us that it is the reference to “the other or others”—in the plural—which changes that. Bluntly, I do not follow that. I hope that, when she winds up, the noble Baroness will be able to convince me. The offence of FGM might surely and not unusually be committed by more than one person in the case of a single girl. That was certainly how I read this. It is not about committing offences; I read the provision as being about a particular, specific victim.

Of course, I do not take issue with the noble Baroness about the cultural problems and so on. However, I hope that my noble friend will convince the House that this is covered by the Serious Crime Act 2007, with its Part 2 on encouraging or assisting crime. There are extensive provisions in that part. If that applies, then I would not be particularly keen on having a specific offence when it should be covered by the general provisions. It is better that the general should apply to all criminal offences and not have something separate which actually does not amount to anything different. It is the difference that I am looking for.

Lord Dobbs (Con): My Lords, I am filled with some trepidation and hope the House will indulge me. I have not involved myself in talking on this Bill before. I will do so now very briefly, with the leave of the House, because I think the issue is so important.

I congratulate the noble Baroness on the objective behind this amendment, but we already have a great deal of law in this area and we are to get a whole lot more once this legislation is passed. However, the law

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itself is not the answer to what I think the noble Baroness seeks to achieve, particularly with an amendment that, I fear, is all too vague. It refers to,

“encouraging or assisting with the promotion of the practice”.

Does that, for instance, include a tribal elder discussing cultural traditions or a parent discussing the family’s heritage and ethnic customs with a daughter? The noble Baroness talked about authentic and unauthentic version of religious tracts. These are very tricky, difficult areas. What precisely do those words mean? I fear that they do not precisely mean anything.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I do not mean for a moment to embarrass the noble Lord, but I wonder whether he is speaking to the original Amendment 45 rather than Amendment 45A.

Lord Dobbs: The new clause in Amendment 45A is headed:

“Offence of encouraging or assisting with the promotion of the practice of female genital mutilation”.

That wording is still there.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I had gone straight to the text of it. Those words were in the text of the previous amendment and they have been changed. I am sorry if I have perhaps diverted the House in the wrong direction.

Lord Dobbs: I think the original wording is still there and therefore has some relevance.