Theresa May: Politicians must have 'freedom to speak out' about child abuse

Posted On: 
6th September 2017

Theresa May has made a pointed attack on Labour over the resignation of shadow minister Sarah Champion, saying politicians must have "freedom to speak out" about child abuse.

Theresa May at PMQs today
Credit: 
Parliament TV

The intervention comes weeks after the Shadow Equalities Minister stepped down after an outcry over a column she wrote in The Sun claiming Britain had “a problem” with British-Pakistani men raping vulnerable white girls.

The Rotherham MP later apologised for the article, while Jeremy Corbyn said his colleague was wrong to "label a whole community” over child abuse crimes.

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A number of other MPs, including minister Sajid Javid condemned Ms Champion's dismissal, adding that an "honest debate" on the issue was needed, including "racial motivation" for attacks on women.

Addressing MPs at the first Prime Minister’s Questions since Parliament resumed, Mrs May said ministers and shadow ministers must be allowed the “freedom to speak out” on the issue without fear of retribution.

"Anyone who abuses a child must be stopped regardless of their race, age or gender,” she said in response to a question from Tory MP Tim Loughton.

“Child sexual exploitation is not exclusive to any culture, community, race or religion it does happen in all areas of the country, it can take many different forms.

“But I'm clear and the government is clear that political or cultural sensitivities must not get in the way of preventing and uncovering child abuse and the freedom to speak out must apply to those in positions of responsibility including ministers and shadow ministers are both sides of the house.

"If we turn a blind eye to this abuse, as has happened too much in the past, then more crimes will be committed and more children will be suffering in silence.”

In her article, Ms Champion wrote: “Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls. There. I said it. Does that make me a racist? Or am I just prepared to call out this horrifying problem for what it is?”

The column was published after 17 men of British-Asian background and one woman were convicted over the abuse of girls, some as young as 14, in Newcastle.