A NEW law protecting children from kidnappers - sparked by The Press' Change it! campaign - could come into force by St Valentine's Day.

MPs last night approved new legislation giving judges powers to place child abductors on the sex offenders' register, ensuring they can be monitored on their release from prison.

York MP Hugh Bayley said the law could be in place by mid-February, providing it goes through the Commons without objection - as he expects.

He told a Commons committee last night of the important role played by The Press in persuading the Government to bring in the new rules, which will also apply to cases of attempted child abduction and certain stalking cases.

He said: "The Press campaign undoubtedly focused attention on the need to change the law. The statements of support it received from the Prime Minister and opposition leaders ensured that the law was changed quickly.

"I congratulate The Press on its campaign and for its balanced coverage of an emotional issue."

The MP also paid tribute to Natalie Hick, the Strensall teenager who came close to being kidnapped and then waived her right to anonymity to back Change It!

The campaign was launched after a man, Terry Delaney, was jailed for four years for attempting to abduct Natalie from a bus stop but a York Crown Court judge was unable to place him on the register because of a loophole in the law.

Natalie and her mother went down to London last autumn to hand over a petition calling for a change in the law, signed by thousands of readers.

Within weeks, the Government announced that it was laying an order before Parliament to make the necessary legislative changes, marking an historic victory for the campaign.

Mr Bayley said that a Lords committee had voted in favour of the reform last week, when Government Minister Lord Bassam of Brighton said the change was partly in response to general concern but also to the particular case in York.

"We are ensuring that judges have sufficient powers to make offenders subject to the register, in cases where they deem that the child abduction had a sexual motive," he said.

Mr Bayley said that following last night's committee vote, the change would be put to the Commons as soon as today or tomorrow. There would be no debate, but if any objection was raised, it would go to a ballot next week, when he would expect it to be passed. It would become law within 14 days of the change being approved by the Commons.