GROOMING GANGS DEBATE: The appalling crimes committed by those involved in grooming gangs have destroyed the lives of thousands of young predominantly white working-class girls and if the lessons are to be learnt to avoid further pain and suffering then the facts need to be fully established and cultural sensitivities and political correctness cannot be allowed to get in the way of this.
Yesterday I led the Grooming Gangs debate in the House of Commons Chamber following two petitions signed by hundreds of thousands of people calling for the issue to be debated.
Ahead of the debate I touched base with the petition creator and some of the victims of this appalling crime. It’s clear that many of the victims believe that they were targeted specifically because of their ethnic background.
A report was published last December into this issue however it was limited in the conclusions it drew and doesn’t really us to get to the bottom of the issue. I therefore welcomed the Minister’s promise that more work will be done and that going forward data relating to the ethnic background of all those found guilty of child sex exploitation (CSE) will be collected. I’m at a loss as to why this wasn’t the case in the past and the lack of such data has made it very hard to drawn clear conclusions and therefore to robustly tackle this issue. Fully understanding whether there are cultural reasons and explanations for the widespread nature of this appalling crime in certain parts of the country, and particularly in Towns such as Rotherham and Rochdale, is clearly incredibly important.
The victims have too often been let down by the establishment. Both at local and national level. Too often those with knowledge have been too scared of speaking out for fear of being branded a racist. This must not be allowed to happen going forward. Clearly it is totally wrong for different communities to be stigmatised and we must always guard against racism, but we cannot sweep difficult issues under the carpet. This doesn’t help the situation and in the long run it can make community relations even more difficult.
If it is the case that certain crimes are disproportionately committed by members from within certain communities, we need to be open and honest about it, simply sweeping it under the carpet and refusing to confront the hard truths won’t help the situation. In my view that really needs to be one of the key lessons.
Opposition debate today on cladding. I was able to get in an intervention on the Housing Minister. I’ve been very active on this issue since I was first contacted by St Francis Tower leaseholders just over 1 year ago and continue to work closely with Ipswich Cladiators to ensure the concerns of Ipswich leaseholders are addressed.
I’m pleased that St Francis Tower leaseholders have secured support from the Building Safety Fund but there are a large number of my constituents in other buildings across Town who still have uncertainty hanging over them. In my intervention I asked about the £30 million “Waking Watch Relief Fund”. I’m pleased that my constituents will be able to bid in to the fund but I share many of their fears that the £30 million set aside will be insufficient to cover every leaseholder effected right across the country.
I am one of 34 Conservative MPs to have signed an amendment to the Fire Safety Bill that would make sure that leaseholders do not have to pay for the cost of remediation work to address fire safety issues in the buildings in which leaseholders live. This is a legally binding amendment to a Government Bill and if passed would have legal “teeth”.
Today I abstained on a non-binding opposition day motion calling for something very similar. I would encourage the opposition to back the legally binding amendment that I’ve signed. It is through backing this amendment that I believe real change will be delivered. The Government have stated that there are some technical issues with the amendment, if this is the case then I encourage the Government to work with the two Conservative MPs leading on this amendment to ensure that it works as intended and provides certainty to leaseholders asap.
It is morally wrong that leaseholders are being asked to pay for defects with the buildings in which they live when they have no responsibility for it whatsoever. I’m will continue to push for more clarity and action for leaseholders over the coming weeks.
I asked the Education Secretary a question yesterday about the quality of remote education. I appreciate that not all online classes will be “live” but I do believe that a good proportion should be.
As always I was keen to ensure that those with special educational needs get the support they need. Pupils with EHCP (Education and Health Care Plans) are eligible to come into school at the moment but many who have special educational needs but don’t have an EHCP plan are not.
A number of teachers and parents have made clear to me how important it is for these pupils to have a certain level of online classes that are live, particularly those with speech and language difficulties. Pupils with special education needs often process information very differently and therefore having a live lesson does provide them with the opportunity to question and make it clear if they’re struggling with a given topic. Ultimately though I do understand why a mixture of live and pre-prepared is likely to be the most common outcome at most schools.
I can also see mental health benefits to a proportion of the classes being live. Tackling loneliness and providing a certain level of human engagement (though remote) with their teachers and classmates.
As you will see I also pay thanks at the start of my question to all teachers in Ipswich who I appreciate are operating in very difficult circumstances. The majority are balancing continuing to teach some classes in person at their school with the children of key workers and vulnerable children with the online classes that they are also having to lead.
I can understand fully why it may be the case that not all online learning providing by schools is live but I am keen that a good proportion is.
None of this is a substitute however for real time lessons which is why I’m keen for all schools to reopen again as soon as it’s safe for them to do so. Ideally after the February half term.
On Thursday I sought assurances from the Government that when it comes to freeport bids, the Government would consider the hugely beneficial impact a freeport in Felixstowe would have on some of the most deprived communities in Ipswich.
A freeport would be hugely beneficial for Felixstowe. The port is already responsible for the employment of 6,000 of my constituents whether directly or indirectly and it would be a huge boost for us. When it comes to the government’s levelling up agenda, it is of course important that attention is paid not only to northern towns but also to measures which will help some of the most deprived communities in our town. This should be at the centre of the Government’s thinking when it comes to these freeports.
The Minister informed me that that was precisely the thinking behind these freeports and that it was right that we should be advocating for them on behalf of those who need opportunities and need to benefit from the levelling up agenda. He agreed that the benefits of the Governments free trade agenda should be shared across the country including in Ipswich. It would attract new investors, drive up trade, and create regenerate our communities by creating more jobs and providing better infrastructure.
I appreciate that pandemic has been difficult for all this year, particularly those who are vulnerable and have been shielding for many months now. I know that many people have had their livelihoods badly affected and my thoughts are with those who has lost loved ones.
I’m putting out this survey which I hope you will make the most of, because I want to make sure I am best representing the views of my constituents with regards to lockdown measures, thoughts about vaccination priorities and people’s livelihoods.
The survey is very short and it would be great to get some responses which I can look over.