Criminal checks needed to make sure MPs are safe to work with children, Commons told

A North East MP has called for checks to ensure MPs are safe to work with children and vulnerable adults

PA/PA Wire Home Secretary Theresa May
Home Secretary Theresa May

Every MP should go through a criminal check to ensure they are fit to work with children, the Commons has been told.

North East MP Helen Goodman called for MPs to go through the same sorts of checks as teachers or youth workers.

She was speaking as Home Secretary Theresa May announced two inquiries into historic claims of child abuse.

Mrs May said Government would set up an independent inquiry panel of experts in the law and child protection to consider whether public bodies have done enough to protect children from sexual abuse.

She said: “In recent years, we have seen appalling cases of organised and persistent child sex abuse. This includes abuse by celebrities like Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris, as well as the systematic abuse of vulnerable girls in Derby, Rochdale, Oxford and other towns and cities. 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.”

She added: “The Government will establish an independent inquiry panel of experts in the law and child protection to consider whether public bodies – and other non-state institutions – have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse.”

The inquiry would be a non-statutory panel inquiry, similar to the Hillsbrough inquiry which reported back in 2012.

At the same time, Peter Wanless, the chief executive of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, will lead a review into information provided to the Home Office about child abuse allegations.

It will look at claims that the Home Office failed to act on allegations of abuse provided to the department by the late Geoffrey Dickens, who was an MP from 1979 to 1995.

Speaking in the Commons, Mrs Goodman, MP for Bishop Auckland, said MPs often worked with children and should undergo Criminal Records Bureau checks, known as CRB or DBS checks, to ensure they are not a threat.

She said: “In the course of doing constituency case work, every member of this house will come across vulnerable adults and children. Does the Home Secretary agree with me that Members of Parliament and caseworkers should undergo CRB checks?

“We’ve legislated for this for everybody else in similar positions of responsibilty. Isn’t it time that we did so in this House too?”

Mrs May said this was an issue the inquiry could consider.

Newcastle MP Pat Glass asked for assurances that the inquiry would be able to look at files held by the police or security services.

The announcement in the House of Commons came after Prime Minister David Cameron promised to leave “no stone unturned” in seeking the truth about widespread allegations of a paedophile ring with links to the establishment in the 1980s.

A series of allegations have emerged that Rochdale Liberal MP Cyril Smith, who died in 2010, abused vulnerable children.

An inquiry last month reported horrific abuse by television celebrity Jimmy Savile at Leeds General Infirmary and London hospital Broadmoor.

The Government’s inquiry could be converted into a full public inquiry if its chairman feels it is necessary.

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