» Friday, January 20, 2006

Ruth Kelly Statement

Asked if it could still be said that 88 was a small number of sex offenders to be teaching children, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that original questions were about the number of cases in which Ministers had made decisions.

Interrupted by the comment that that was not what his question was about, the PMOS gave the journalist a "Paddington Bear" stare and continued that in terms of the other cases, Ruth Kelly had set out the circumstances in which they arose. The important thing for parents was that in each of those cases, they had been carefully considered by police and officials, and therefore, a proper assessment had been made of whether there was any risk. Parents could therefore be reassured at the end of today.

The PMOS said that overall, what today had shown was that it had been worth us taking heed on this issue for ten days, as Ruth Kelly and her department had done a proper, thorough, exhaustive review, both of the cases, but also of the process. It had come up with reassurance for parents in the cases, and to assist them, which would be tightened in keeping with the hardening of public attitudes in this area.

Asked where the Prime Minister was when the statement was being made, and was he chaired a meeting about welfare reform, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister did not make it a habit of sitting in the Chamber when other Ministers were making statements. The Prime Minister thought that Ruth Kelly’s statement was excellent, and as the PMOS had said this morning, when Ruth Kelly had spoken in Cabinet, the Prime Minister had expressed his strong support, as did other members of the Cabinet.

Asked if we knew whether the 88 cases identified now effectively faced a lifetime bar from schools, and also, what would happen to those identified, the PMOS replied that anybody who was applying for a job would have to disclose their conviction. It would now be mandatory for schools to make the check on the Criminal Records Bureau. The other factor was that these cases had now been monitored, and would continue to be monitored by police and the authorities. The PMOS said that legislation was not retrospective in that sense.

Asked what effect legislation brought about by the Bichard report etc would have on the timing of the Education White Paper, the PMOS said it would have no impact at all. As the PMOS had said earlier this week, the Schools White Paper would be published in February, and the first vote would be by mid-March.

Asked why legislation could not be retrospective, and was it on human rights grounds, the PMOS suggested that the journalist spoke to the department.

Asked how the system worked whereby referrals were made to the DFES, as Ruth Kelly said today that there were 32 cases that no-one knew about, and how could that have happened, the PMOS said that that was part of the on-going investigation. They were being reviewed by police, which was why parents should be reassured about it. What was part of the proposals today was issuing the guidelines to schools, authorities and the police to ensure that this did not happen in the future. It would be made easier by the way in which now we were going to compile a new list, and the grey areas had been considerably cut down by this process.

Asked who was responsibility would it be in future to refer to the department, the PMOS said there would now be the situation in which it was mandatory for schools to check, and it would be part of the new process which would be overseen by the panel which was being set up, both on an interim basis, and then on a statutory basis. It will therefore be its responsibility to ensure that all the processes came together.

Put that he was rather confused about the legislation being retrospective and did that imply that the people who were known about would not be allowed to work in schools, the PMOS replied that in terms of the schools now, it would be mandatory to check. Schools would have all the evidence in front of them.

Put that the people could still be employed, the PMOS said that it would be the school’s responsibility, but they would have all the evidence in front of them.

Put that the PMOS had used the phrase "retrospective", and it was not a phrase used by Ruth Kelly, and could there be some clarification about it all, the PMOS replied that we were going through these cases and we had already gone through them to 1997. Ruth Kelly had reported on those cases today where there was any element of concern. As part of the work of the new panel, they would now start reviewing cases before 1997 to see whether there were any issues of concern there, as they would not have been placed on the Sex Offenders Register. There was, therefore, reassurance that we had gone through the cases to 1997, and now we were going through the cases pre-1997. It was not that this process stopped today; rather, this process continued on into the future.

Asked if it would not be retrospective if someone had previously accepted a caution, the PMOS replied that in terms of the pre-1997, what the reassurance there was that the cases would be reviewed. The police would be consulted as part of that review.

Put that the Prime Minister thought Ruth Kelly’s statement was excellent, and did he therefore think that as of now, it would be unreasonable for any parent to leave their child with a sex offender who was working in a school, the PMOS replied that in terms of parents, they could be reassured that we had tightened the system consistently since 1997 in line with public expectations in this area. We had now equally tightened the system further. Therefore, what parents could legitimately ask was: was the Government doing everything it could to try and ensure that their children were safe? That was what the whole point of what the past ten days was about, i.e. making sure that that was the case. The PMOS said he was not going to get into simplistic answers on this, as we were doing everything we could to ensure that children were safe.

Asked when the panel moved to statutory basis, would Sir Roger Singleton still retain control of the Committee, and also, Ruth Kelly had said that she would still retain ultimate discretion over cases, so would the panel still have to put every case that they decided upon past her, the PMOS replied in legislative terms, until there was new legislation, Ruth Kelly could not give up her powers in this area.

At this point in lobby, there was some discussion amongst journalists about the statement, and the PMOS said again that Ruth Kelly could not say that she was resigning her powers until there was new legislation. The PMOS quoted Ruth Kelly when she said " I will not fetter my discretion on individual cases, I cannot presently envisage the circumstances in which I would not follow their expert advice". The PMOS clarified that that was in the interim period.

Put that one of the risks of treating a caution as a conviction was that fewer people would end up on the Sex Offenders Register, the PMOS said it was one of the legitimate questions that had to be weighed in the balance. On the other hand, there was precisely the sort of situation which people were concerned about. The reality was that anyone who did accept a caution, was in effect, admitting guilt to a sex offence. Therefore, given the demand for as tight as possible control on these cases, that was what had come out on the balance as being the right thing to do.

Asked where people who were on the Sex Register for a minimum period of two years stand in all of this, and would they be banned for life, the PMOS replied that that was why anyone who now committed a sex offence would now be put on the List, even though they might be off the Register.

Put that the Secretary of State had said in answer to am MP that police would now in light of the changes today, have to look again at how they issued cautions, so what would that mean, and how would they change, the PMOS replied that there would also be a consistency in interpretation of what it was that had to be done to receive a caution, and an interpretation of what was a sex offence and what was not, and to create a uniformity of interpretation.

Put that in the full statement, Ruth Kelly had outlined the full details the ten cases approved by Ministers, and that there were two in 2000, two more in 2002, one in 2004 and five in 2005; given that those five were on Ruth Kelly’s personal "watch", was that bad luck, the PMOS said that in terms of the number of cases, it would depend not on the Secretary of State or her Minister at the time, but rather on the number of cases put forward by officials. Therefore, it had been down to officials to assess how many needed to go to the Minister, and that was the way it was.

Asked again if it was just "bad luck" the PMOS said they were the journalist’s words, and not his, but he took the meaning!

Put that the police would have to make clear when issuing a caution and when someone was accepting a caution that this was an offence that would put them on List 99, the PMOS said that that was already the case, and the implications of it would now be spelt out. One of the "benign" effects of the controversy of the past ten days was that that clarity was there, and it would have been given a lot more publicity over the past ten days than ever before.

Put that at the end of the day, Ruth Kelly was to blame, the PMOS said that what was more important than to cast blame elsewhere was that what Ruth Kelly had done today had been to bring clarity to a process which had grown up on an ad hoc basis over the years. That clarity meant that the procedures were more streamlined, and that everyone after this would be absolutely clear on what their responsibilities were. That included the schools, agencies, police and the departments. The PMOS stressed it was the clarity which had been worth taking heed for ten days for, and it had not been comfortable, but if there was that greater clarity, then that would be a good result.

Asked if there was a need to have something in the press that would clear up the past ten days’ ad hoc confusions, the PMOS replied that what was already happening was that 13 of Sir Michael Bichard’s recommendations had already been implemented. As Ruth Kelly said, Sir Michael Bichard had already paid tribute to the way in which departments and others had responded to his report, so it was completely false to suggest that this suddenly arose in the past ten days. Undoubtedly, what Ruth Kelly had done had been to use the past ten days to do a root and branch review, and as a result of it, there was a great clarity than ever before, and a tighter set system.

Asked how did it increase clarity and accountability for Ministers who had been taken out of the decision making process, as if there were "nameless, faceless officials taking decisions" how did that increase accountability, the PMOS replied that there would be a system whereby there was an expert panel which was made up of experts who would decide these matters in a rational way. Therefore, their professional judgements would be brought in on this. That was a good result, and Ruth Kelly had said that she would consult about the exact role of the body, and no doubt about precise membership of it. That would be something that would reassure the public, as professional experts would be involved in effecting these cases.

Put that the public would not know who the people were, the PMOS said that there would be no more reason why if something did go wrong, why the cases would not go to the media in those circumstances than in these ones. Nothing would change on that.

Put that the decisions in the future would be made in a "rational" way, which implied that they had not been in the past, the PMOS said he thought the journalist was being mischievous, and far be it for the PMOS to ban mischievousness from the lobby! The PMOS continued that clearly, what the public wanted was for issues like this to be given due seriousness. As Ruth Kelly said, she paid tribute to the Ministers from both Parties who had had to take these decisions, as they were difficult, down through the decades. Attitudes in this area had changed over the years, and people had demanded that these decisions were taken with the best possible advice. What we had constituted was a panel system that would result in that.

Put that the PMOS had said the Prime Minister had thought that Ruth Kelly’s statement was excellent, and that when she had spoken in Cabinet today, the Prime Minister had expressed his strong support, at what point did the Prime Minister say her speech was excellent, i.e. was that before or after she had made it, and had they spoken since the statement, the PMOS asked what was the real question behind the question?!

The journalist asked if the Prime Minister had said the statement was excellent at the Cabinet meeting, because if so, that was before Ruth Kelly had made it, in which case how did he know it was excellent, the PMOS said that at the risk of complicating things, the Prime Minister thought that about Ruth Kelly’s presentation to Cabinet, and he also thought her statement was excellent. The Prime Minister expressed his strong support at Cabinet, as did other Cabinet colleagues.

Put that all this was before Ruth Kelly had made her statement, the PMOS said: yes. It was a separate event.

Asked what did the Prime Minister think of the statement now Ruth Kelly had made it, the PMOS said again that the Prime Minister thought it was excellent.

Asked if the Prime Minister and Ruth Kelly had spoken since she had made her statement, the PMOS said he was not aware if he had yet, but he was sure that the Prime Minister would at some point today.

Briefing took place at 16:00 | Search for related news


  1. Paddington Bear stare? I really need to know how this one got transcribed… (-:

    Comment by John Lettice — 20 Jan 2006 on 9:01 am | Link
  2. "Parents could therefore be reassured at the end of today."


    "The important thing for parents was that in each of those cases, they had been carefully considered by police and officials, and therefore, a proper assessment had been made of whether there was any risk"

    Bullshit. Once again, the PMOS is sadly out of touch with reality. The important thing for parents in THIS universe is that they don’t have to worry about their kids when they are at school, for ANY reason. And if this government or any other has trouble grasping this very simple concept, they should all fuck off and get another job – preferably one where they have absolutely no authority over people, as their tenure in government clearly demonstrates that they just aren’t up to the job.

    "It would now be mandatory for schools to make the check on the Criminal Records Bureau."

    Wasn’t it already mandatory? And if not, why not?! And if not, why didn’t fuckwits like Kelly make sure that it was? Hasn’t he/she heard of Ian Huntley?!

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. We’re being groomed for failure. And I can smell (at the very least) compulsory ID Cards at the end of it, to protect us from terrorists and perverts and ID theft and so on. It’s only a pity that they won’t protect us from politicians and bankers; more to the point, once we’re all ID-carded up and all on electronic databases, we can then be deleted at the click of a button if we piss anyone off or speak out of turn. Nothing to do with this thread? Wait ‘n’ see…!!!

    Comment by PapaLazzzaru — 21 Jan 2006 on 8:53 pm | Link
  3. Paddington Bear has much to answer for. His creator, a Mrs Clarkson, made so much money that she was able to send her fat useless gabshite son to journalism school and then buy him a place at the BBC. We license payers have been funding the useless turd ever since. I don’t suppose there’s any chance of one of his hairy rides going wrong and him dying in a fiery cauldron of melting blubber and hand tooled Mercedes leather. Is there? If he had that mouthy midget, wotsisname, Richard, with him, that would really lubricate my conrods. Things weren’t like this when Mr Blunkett was Education Secretary.

    Comment by rev tasty macfadden — 28 Jan 2006 on 12:22 am | Link
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