Embattled Hodge to create 'voice for children'

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A commissioner for children, who will act as an advocate for 11 million young people in England and Wales, is to be announced in a government Green Paper this autumn.

Margaret Hodge, the embattled minister for Children, shrugged off criticism yesterday as she announced plans to give children a direct voice in government. "I would find it inconceivable to do my job without having direct access to and knowledge of children and young people's views," she said.

Sources close to the minister said later that a new children's commissioner would have powers to canvass children's views on government.

Ms Hodge, in her first speech since taking office, responded to accusations that she had failed to act effectively against child abuse in Islington when she was council leader. She said she would "stand ready to be judged on what I achieve". She told the Local Government Association conference that she wanted to see better co-ordination between local services "so that children are not left at risk of abuse".

But some delegates were concerned at the delay in publishing the Green Paper, due out yesterday but delayed because of the furore over Ms Hodge's appointment. Eleanor Laing, the shadow Children's minister, accused Ms Hodge of being "all talk and no action".