New Clause 3 - Child maltreatment

Part of Crime and Courts Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:15 pm ar 12 Chwefror 2013.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Minister of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) , The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice 2:15, 12 Chwefror 2013

I am not sure whether I am being probed or pursued, but either way, I am happy to acknowledge at  the outset of my remarks that the issue is serious and important and that it clearly engages colleagues on both sides of the House. It is extremely worth while for the Committee to engage in this subject, and we will continue to do so in the coming months.

I am aware of the concerns raised by Action for Children in its report published last year. I want to thank Action for Children not only for its work on this issue, but for its continuing engagement with officials in discussions about the best ways of tackling this important issue. I am also grateful to the right hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East for moving the motion in the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate.

It is clearly not a matter of debate that the ill-treatment of children, whether physical, emotional, sexual or through neglect, can have major, long-term, damaging effects on all aspects of a child’s health, development and well-being. The Government are committed to doing everything they can to support children to grow up in a safe environment, and thereby achieve their full potential. To that end, we are seeking to address the concerns that Action for Children raised. I know that my colleagues at the Department for Education are continuing to work to shift the focus on to earlier intervention, recognising that the earlier help is given to vulnerable children and families the more chance there is of turning lives around and protecting children from harm. Early intervention is often the key to addressing problems to prevent them escalating, thus protecting vulnerable children from neglect and cruelty.

As many on the Committee know, Action for Children has made recommendations in respect of the existing offence of child cruelty, the focus of this new clause and amendment, as set out by the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Darlington. They want to remove section 1 of the 1933 Act and in place propose an offence of child maltreatment, which would apply to conduct that impairs or is likely to impair the health or development of a child. I readily acknowledge that the new clause is well-intentioned. To accept the new clause, the Committee would need to be persuaded that the existing offence is no longer fit for purpose and to have a clear picture of how the new offence might work in practice.