Clause 128 - Offences by bodies corporate and

Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:00 pm ar 17 Ionawr 2002.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Julian Brazier Julian Brazier Opposition Whip (Commons)

I want to ask the Minister how the clause will be enforced. We could have asked the same question about clause 14, but that has been and gone. The clause's purpose is self-explanatory, and I am sure that the Committee will approve of it. If there is no independent body for people to complain to, how will offences be identified? Or does the clause relate only to those rare cases in which a criminal trial or formal inquiry has taken place?

Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Minister of State, Department of Health 3:15, 17 Ionawr 2002

I hope to come to enforcement in a moment. Clause 128 makes provision on offences by bodies corporate or unincorporated bodies. Where an offence is committed by a body corporate—as we discussed previously, a body corporate has a legal existence separate from those people who make it up—and when the offence has also been proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or due to the neglect of, an office of a body corporate or an unincorporated body, that officer, as well as the body, is guilty of the offence. In other words, it ensures that we are dealing not only with offences committed by legal entities, but that we can ensure that the officers of incorporated bodies are made liable. In cases when the affairs of a body corporate are managed by its members rather than by officers, the provisions apply equally to members and officers.

As with the other offences that we have considered, enforcement might happen in a variety of ways. Offences may be identified by the National Care Standards Commission, as part of its inspection process—for example, offences committed by adoption support agencies. Other offences may be

reported to the police, or the police may be prompted by complaints to make an investigation.

Photo of Julian Brazier Julian Brazier Opposition Whip (Commons)

Is it therefore possible for members of the public to ask the National Care Standards Commission to investigate complaints?

Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Minister of State, Department of Health

I think that individual members of the public will be able to go to the National Care Standards Commission. My previous comments were about the fact that the commission, when carrying out its regulatory and inspection function, might find that offences had been committed of the sort that we have been discussing. However, individuals might also have the ability to complain. It might be best if I clarify that point by writing to the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Julian Brazier Julian Brazier Opposition Whip (Commons)

I think that if I intervene, a brief might be made ready for the Minister. I do not mean that facetiously; the Minister may be able to give at least a partial response in a moment if you, Mrs. Roe, will let me make a slightly longer intervention than usual. I do not know what Hansard will make of it, but we are nearly there. If necessary, however, the Minister may write.

Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Minister of State, Department of Health

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, especially its duration. I reassure him that, as I thought, individuals may make complaints to the NCSC, and the commission may investigate complaints about regulatory functions. Complaints may also be made by relatives. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is reassured that the commission, as well as the police and other enforcement bodies, will have a role.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 128 ordered to stand part of the Bill.