Tory MP Clashes With Local Bradford Leaders After Calling For Inquiry Into Child Sexual Exploitation
Conservative MP Robbie Moore will lead a debate in the Commons this evening on child sexual exploitation in the Bradford district, an issue the parliamentarian claims is being “swept under the carpet” by West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Bradford Council.
Moore is calling for a “Rotherham-style” independent inquiry into the issue, which the MP argues is the only way the “true” extent of the problem will ever be comprehensively understood.
A review into sexual exploitation, carried out in July this year by The Bradford Partnership, found that children in the region “remain unprotected”.
But Moore told PoliticsHome the “light” study, which examined five cases of child exploitation, “failed to address the quantity of what is going on”.
With Labour-led local and regional governments at odds with him over launching a Rotherham-style inquiry, the MP for Keighley says he has been left with no choice but to campaign for it on the national political stage of the Commons.
“The most common themes that come up when you knock on a door in Keighley are the drug-related issues that we have and issues with grooming not being addressed once and for all,” Moore told PoliticsHome.
“This for me is not a party-political issue. This is about a difference between what is right and what is wrong.”
Bradford Council leader Susan Hinchcliffe told PoliticsHome she supports a national inquiry into child exploitation across Britain, but a Rotherham-style inquiry specifically looking at Bradford “won’t find anything new”.
“This is not just a Bradford issue,” the council leader told PoliticsHome.
“Nobody is immune from this. Government needs to put more data out there about how much child sexual exploitation and criminal exploitation of children is going on in this country as we speak. We're very open and honest and transparent about it in Bradford.”
In the past six years Bradford Council has “published and discussed” 57 reports on present and historic issues with child exploitation.
Moore is adamant that another inquiry is necessary, despite assurances from Bradford Council that its own evidence suggests otherwise.
When asked by PoliticsHome for evidence as to why such an inquiry is necessary, Moore claimed: “In most areas across the UK, councils haven’t missed ‘clear signs’ of child exploitation – but here in the Bradford District, Bradford Council has.
“In most areas, children’s services haven’t been rated inadequate and put under government control – but they have in Bradford.
“In most areas, children do not actively ‘remain unprotected’ from child sexual exploitation – but a recent report says they are in Bradford.”
“I think that local leaders, and I am most definitely referring to the leader of Bradford Council and West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin, are frightened of exposing the absolute huge scale of these grooming networks and... the damning impact it will have on what their leadership abilities have been like over the time they've been in office," he alleged.
Responding to the Keighley MP’s allegation, Brabin said: “I passionately believe that the voices of victims and survivors of all types of exploitation should be heard, ensuring that their experiences contribute to our future partnership response.
“The recent independent thematic review has robustly scrutinised the approach locally and identified new opportunities for learning, which Bradford has already acted on.
“I will… continue to work closely with safeguarding agencies right across West Yorkshire to encourage change and improvements, which give the most vulnerable in our communities the confidence to come forward.”
Meanwhile, Hinchliffe told PoliticsHome: “I have nothing to hide. All I'm focused on is making sure we do the right thing by the victims who have come forward and by the children here and now that we have to protect.
“I'm personally hurt by (Moore’s) comments”.
She added: "There have been 57 public reports on child sexual exploitation debated in Bradford over the last six years. We don’t shy away from these issues. These reports detail the action being taken by all agencies to tackle CSE along with intelligence about its prevalence in our district. But the debate needs to have a national focus, not just on Bradford, and it needs to focus on how we can make children safer now and in the future.”
Jane Booth, Chair of the Bradford Partnership, said: “While we disagree with a call for a local public enquiry into CSE as it would divert resources away from front-line child protection, we do want to see a wider debate that highlights this national issue and which has the power to bring additional resources to protect children."
The Bradford district comprises three Labour and two Conservative MPs, Moore and Philip Davies.
Three of the MPs: Imran Hussein, Judith Cummins and Naz Shah – did not confirm to PoliticsHome whether they supported a Rotherham-style inquiry.
Cummins and Hussein did, however, say they will attend Moore’s Commons debate.
“Any measures which can protect and safeguard our children from this abhorrent crime whilst ensuring that those guilty of such offences are brought to justice has my full support,” Hussein told PoliticsHome.
Cummins said that she is “planning to attend the debate in Parliament” and is “committed to doing whatever it takes to protect and safeguard children”.
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