Health Committee

 No. 35 Session 2002-03                         23 June 2003




EMBARGO  00.01 am Tuesday 24 June 2003:

The Victoria Climbi© Inquiry Report -Report published

Mr David Hinchliffe MP, Chair of the Health Committee said:

"We would first like to place on record our sympathy and compassion for Francis and Berthe Climbi©, Victoria's parents: their daughter's tragic and appalling death must lead to changes.

Our brief in this inquiry was not to attempt to analyse all the evidence presented to the original Inquiry: Lord Laming's analysis there has been widely praised, in our view entirely justifiably. What we wanted to look at was the prescription for change, to see how feasible it was and whether it would have an impact on the current situation which sees around 80 children in England die each year from abuse and neglect (a figure unchanged for 30 years). There have, as we note, been around 70 public inquiries since 1948 into major cases of child abuse.

Lord Laming told us that in his view too little attention had been devoted to children because of the pressures on services in areas such as delayed discharge. We urged the Department to examine whether current health service priorities have had a deleterious effect on local priorities for children and families. We now note that immediate ministerial responsibility for children has now moved out of the Department of Health with the appointment of Margaret Hodge to the DfES, a development we will monitor.

Lord Laming raised with us the suggestion that the case highlighted deficiencies in the implementation of the Children Act 1989 and we support his suggestion that the various frameworks and guidance on implementing the Act need to be unified and clarified.  However, we caution against unnecessary further structural change and upheaval for local government, and we recommend that the Government should consider carefully what revisions might be required to Lord Laming's proposals to ensure that new national and local accountability arrangements are properly located within local government structures and mechanisms.

So far as the methodology of Lord Laming's inquiry was concerned we felt that his use of seminars with some of the key stakeholders had been a little selective and we would have favoured a broader approach perhaps taking account also of the experience of other countries.  It is to be hoped that a wide debate will take place following the publication of the forthcoming Green Paper on Children at Risk.

One country from which we believe much can be learned is Sweden, and in this regard we note that that country has outlawed the physical punishment of children including within the family. What happened to Victoria involved the apparent escalation of discipline and punishment: as Manning told the inquiry, her injuries began with "little slaps". So we urge the Government to use the opportunity of the forthcoming Green Paper on children at risk to remove the increasingly anomalous "reasonable chastisement" defence from parents and carers, which can impede the prosecution of child abuse cases.

Notes to Editors

The Health Committee will publish its Sixth Report of Session 2002-03 (HC 570) on The Victoria Climbi© Inquiry Report on Tuesday 24 June at 00.01 am. A press conference will be held at 11 am in Committee Room 16 on Tuesday 24 June.

  Background

The Committee held a single evidence session with Lord Laming on 27 March 2003. The purpose of the session was not to attempt to repeat the detail of the Inquiry, but rather to consider and assess the recommendations that Lord Laming made. The Committee did not invite written evidence, nor did it  take oral evidence from witnesses other than Lord Laming. This report is based solely on the evidence taken at that session, and does not pretend to be a comprehensive analysis of all the evidence presented to the original inquiry. The Health Committee placed on record its gratitude to Lord Laming for agreeing to give  evidence.

Confidential advance copies of the report, which will be embargoed until 00.01 am on Tuesday 24 June, will be available for collection on Monday 23 June between 12 noon and 1 p.m. from the reception desk at 7 Millbank, London SW1.

Please present this Press Notice; a signature will also be required.

Advance copies of the report will also be made available to the Press from the Press Gallery, House of Commons, at 12 noon on Monday 23 June.

The Health Committee is a Select Committee of the House of Commons. It is appointed under Standing Order No. 152 to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Department of Health and associated public bodies. The Committee has power to send for persons, papers and records. The Maternity Services Sub-committee, which was nominated on 12 December 2002, is appointed under Standing Order No. 152 and has the power to send for persons, papers and records.