5 Mar 2004

We welcome and fully support the principle of establishing a Children’s Commissioner for England. This means that all parts of the United Kingdom will soon have someone who is championing the interests of children and young people.

There are elements of this Bill that do cause us concern. For example, we would have welcomed a stronger focus in the Bill on safeguarding children’s rights as set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This is the position in the legislation for all the other UK commissioners.

An additional fundamental weakness lies in the proposed arrangements for dealing with non-devolved matters. We believe that the ability to act on children’s behalf should rest with the Commissioner nearest to the children. It will cause confusion in the minds of children living in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, if they must turn to someone other than the Commissioner for their own country.

We are also concerned that the England Children’s Commissioner as set out in the Bill, would appear not to be able to launch investigations without the approval of Ministers, which undermines independence – a key feature of such posts.

We trust that these issues will be resolved during the passage of the Bill through Parliament, and will work towards that end.

In due course we look forward to welcoming the Children’s Commissioner for England to the United Kingdom Children’s Commissioner’s Group.

Ends

Peter Clarke Children’s Commissioner for Wales
For further information contact: Sara Reid 01792 765600
Nigel Williams Commissioner for Children and Young People for Northern Ireland
For further information contact: Marlene Kinghan 028 9031 1616

Note : Peter Clarke, Children’s Commissioner for Wales, was appointed in March 2001, and Nigel Williams, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, in October 2003. Professor Kathleen Marshall will take up her post as Commissioner for Children and Young People in Scotland in April.