Friday, February 26, 1999 Published at 18:18 GMT
Union attacks child abuse Bill
The Bill aims to have those suspected of child abuse reported
Measures to ensure people who are convicted or suspected of child abuse are not allowed to work with children have been put forward in the House of Commons.
Ministers are backing the Bill, which would require employers to check a central register before recruiting anyone to work with young people.
People could be put on the register simply if they were suspected of abusing children.
But Labour MP Debra Shipley, who proposed the Private Members' Bill, said a stringent appeals procedure would protect those who were falsely accused of abuse.
Ms Shipley opened the debate on the Bill with a stern message to paedophiles: "We won't tolerate you or your cruel and destructive activities."
Speaking for the Liberal Democrats, Jackie Ballard warned: "If this list is to have credibility, we have to ensure that those people who are included on it are there because they are a danger to children, and not someone who's fallen out with their employer and subject to malicious allegation."
The Bill, which received its second reading, stands a good chance of becoming law as it enjoys government support as well as substantial cross-party backing.
But the general secretary of the NASUWT union, Nigel de Gruchy, fears it could "sacrifice the basic principles of justice".
He said: "While I welcome the requirement to inform teachers and others if they are included on the 'outlaws' list', together with the right to appeal, I fear that the burden of proof for inclusion on the list is unacceptably lax.
Earlier, Ms Shipley told BBC News Online that she hoped her Bill would stop paedophiles who have left a job because of suspicion of abuse in one region finding similar employment elsewhere.
The Stourbridge MP said referrals to the list would be made on "the balance of probabilities". If an employer "believes abuse is going on they need to refer it and have it investigated", she said.
"We don't want an either-or situation. What I want to do is to improve both the child's position and the civil liberties position," she said.
Ms Shipley's Bill would put in place a "one-stop shop" for employers to check on child abusers.
Those on the current lists are not necessarily informed of their inclusion and there is often no right of appeal.
The Bill has the backing of several children's charities including Childline, the Children's Society and the NSPCC.
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