We must see report into activities of grooming gangs

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt praised Suffolk Police's reaction to lockdown. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt praised Suffolk Police's reaction to lockdown. Picture: PAUL GEATER - Credit: Archant

With regard to non COVID-19-related issues, a number of constituents have contacted me over the past few weeks regarding a petition that has been established calling for the publication of a report, commissioned by the Home Office in 2018 into the “characteristics” of grooming gangs.

At the time the report was commissioned, the then Home Secretary Sajid Javid stated that there would be no “no go areas of inquiry”. It was also made clear that the inquiry wouldn’t be held hostage by any political or community sensitivities.

I agreed with all these statements. What happened with the grooming gangs was a national scandal and to this day it continues to be an issue. It’s thought that between 2018-2019 just under 19,000 young girls were the victim of it.

This is a live issue and represents a form of evil that needs to be stamped out fully. Bearing in mind the seriousness of this issue it’s only right and proper than any Government review on the issue is robust and no holds barred, and is published fully with no redactions so the public at large can gain an understanding of what happened and how it was allowed to happen.

In addition to the Education Select Committee I also sit on the House of Commons Petitions Committee which considers Parliamentary petitions for Westminster Hall debates. So far the petition demanding the publication of the grooming gangs report is at 123,600 signatures meaning that in normal times it would have been scheduled for a Westminster Hall debate.

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Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, all Westminster Hall debates have been suspended. When we get back to more normal times it will be scheduled for debate unless it’s been overtaken by events.

I have written to the Government urging for the report to be published in full with no redactions.

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I am confident that in time the Government will publish the review. I’m actually of the view that publishing it in the midst of a pandemic isn’t the best thing to do and that when it is published it should be done at a time that allows some sober lesson drawing.

The fact that so many in positions of authority turned a blind eye to the evil that was going on within their communities was shocking.

What I also find shocking is that someone who liked and shared the following comment, “those abused girls in Rotherham and elsewhere need to shut their mouths. For the good of diversity”, Naz Shah, now sits as the Labour Party’s Shadow Community Cohesion Minister.

‘Virtual’ parliament not as good as the real thing

This week Parliament have been running trials of the new online voting system. The initial glitches with the system appear to have been overcome and I do think it’s necessary in the short term along with the other virtual measures, however, I do believe that ultimately there has been a cost in terms of representation as a result of the virtual Parliament.

It’s simply not the same for representation and accountability as when Parliament is properly sitting. We are unable to make interventions in the Chamber, debate is much more stilted and the virtual Parliament is not sitting on Thursdays.

The impact of Parliament not sitting on Thursdays has been changes to the timetable that have limited the ability of MPs to hold the Government to account and represent their constituents in the House of Commons Chamber.

Two questions I was down to ask (both linked to issues in Ipswich) were dropped as a result of changes to the timetable. I was able to table these questions in written form but it’s not the same.

Yes, it’s good that Parliament has been able to still sit during this crisis in virtual form and I completely understand why it’s needed to do so in order to ensure we all comply with the social distancing rules.

However I think it would be dishonest to say that there hasn’t been a small cost to representation in this country as a result. The sooner we’re able to go back to normal sitting the better for our shared Parliamentary democracy.

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