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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 May, 2004, 08:34 GMT 09:34 UK
Child 'champion' row escalates
Peter Clarke, Children's Commissioner
Peter Clarke has been in his post for three years
Welsh children's commissioner Peter Clarke has said he is "perplexed" at an attack by the UK children's minister.

Mr Clarke said Margaret Hodge's criticism of the amount of work he did was "not very accurate."

She said it was disappointing the commissioner had completed only one report during his three years in office.

Ms Hodge said he was doing a good job, but little work on developing policy was being done in Wales.

The minister was speaking to MPs on the Welsh affairs committee, whose members have opposed plans to allow an English children's commissioner to have powers in Wales.

There seems to be a problem with the government at Westminster not knowing or not having consulted enough about what happens in Wales
Julie Morgan MP
She said she was disappointed Mr Clarke had not responded earlier to the proposals for the English commissioner.

But she acknowledged he was currently preparing two reports, one on children's toilets which she said "is very important", and investigating 500 individual cases.

However, Mr Clarke rejected the UK minister's criticisms of his workload.

Mr Clarke told BBC Radio Wales: "I don't think the criticisms are at all justified. I'm rather perplexed by the comments and I'll carry on championing the rights of children."

He said he had spent an hour with Ms Hodge explaining what his job was about and what he did.

"My job is to promote and safeguard the rights of children, report writing is just one of the areas."

'Grandstand gestures'

Ms Hodge's comments came as AMs voted for the Welsh commissioner to have powers over non-devolved areas of policy.

Under the plan, areas of policy such as criminal justice and the police, which are run from Westminster, would be covered by the English commissioner in relation to children.

Ms Hodge told MPs it was "not appropriate" to allow Mr Clarke to involve himself in non-devolved areas.

Margaret Hodge
Margaret Hodge: Called Peter Clarke's record 'disappointing'

Mr Clarke said he had made his views known and regarded the situation as "a mess," but hoped they would be resolved as the legislation passed through Parliament.

He said he may have to eventually consider his position but would not be making "grandstand gestures."

The committee reacted angrily to Ms Hodge's criticisms.

Cardiff North MP Julie Morgan also said she believed Ms Hodge had been "misinformed" about the commissioner's work, which she said had led to policy changes on mental health and anti-poverty work.

"There have been two annual reports which have had far reaching consequences within Wales.

"Margaret Hodge has been misinformed if she thinks Peter Clarke spends all his time dealing with individual children's cases, as a large part of his work is strategic."

Ms Morgan added: "There seems to be a problem with the government at Westminster not knowing or not having consulted enough about what happens in Wales."

Since the children's commissioner for Wales post was established, Peter Clarke's work has included the Clywch inquiry into the former drama teacher John Owen.

The inquiry, which ran from March 2002 to November 2003, investigated allegations of abuse made by former pupils of Mr Owen while he was teaching at Ysgol Gyfun Rhydfelen, Pontypridd, from the 1970s to the early 1990s.

Mr Owen, who created the Welsh teenage drama Pam Fi, Duw? for S4C, committed suicide while awaiting trial on indecency charges.


SEE ALSO:
Council leader's court summons
08 Apr 04  |  Wales
Teacher abuse inquiry ends
06 Nov 03  |  Wales
School catchments 'must change'
04 May 04  |  Wales



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