She stressed the need for support of the victims – and to bring to justice those guilty.
She reiterated Labour’s call for the South Yorkshire police to refer themselves – or be referred – to the Independent Police Complaints’ Commission.
She confirmed that the Labour Party has taken further action against local councilors in Rotherham – four councilors and former councilors have been suspended from the Party.
She renewed Labour’s demand – made two months ago – for an overarching inquiry.
She called for mandatory reporting of child sex abuse.
Below is the full text of her speech in the Commons.
‘In Rotherham 1,400 children were groomed, raped and exploited; 1,400 lives were devastated by abuse. Criminals, rapists and traffickers have got away with it and may be harming other children now. The council, social services, the police—people supposed to protect our children—failed time and again to keep them safe. Alexis Jay’s report is damning. It is never an excuse to turn a blind eye to evidence of children being abused. It is never an excuse that vulnerable girls may have consented to their own abuse. It is never an excuse to use race and ethnicity or community relations as an excuse not to investigate and punish sex offenders. That is why the Government need to act.
First, what is being done to ensure that the victims get the support and help that they need now?
Secondly, what is being done to catch and prosecute those who committed the dreadful crimes? The Home Secretary will know that there is considerable concern that South Yorkshire police do not have the capacity to pursue both historic investigations and current child protection. What is she doing to ensure that all forces have the resources they need and give child exploitation and protection the priority they deserve?
Thirdly, what is being done to investigate the failings in the police force at the time? The Jay report found:
“the attitude of the Police at that time seemed to be that they were all ‘undesirables’ and the young women were not worthy of police protection.”
The chief constable is right to agree to an independent investigation of South Yorkshire police, which we called for, but can the Home Secretary tell the House why that is not being supervised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission?
Fourthly, what is being done on accountability? The leader of the council has rightly stood down. The Labour party has started further disciplinary action against individual councillors, but is the Home Secretary concerned that the police and crime commissioner has not stood down and that there appears to be nothing in the legislation to hold him to account? Will she say what the Government can do to ensure that appropriate disciplinary action is taken against individuals involved? What is being done to find out what other institutions, including the Home Office, were informed?
Where is the overarching inquiry? It is two years since we called for it. It is two months since the Home Secretary agreed to it, but we still have no chair and no terms of reference, despite the seriousness of the issue.
This is not just about Rotherham. If we look at Oxfordshire, Rochdale, the abuse by Savile ignored or covered up in the BBC and the health service, north Wales care homes, and allegations around Westminster and Whitehall, we see that this is about every town and city in the country. It is about every community. Time and again, it is the same problems: children not being listened to, victims treated as though they were responsible for the crimes committed against them, and institutions that just looked the other way.
This is not just historic; it is happening today. That is why we need the overarching inquiry urgently in place. But we also need to go further. Child protection has rightly been strengthened over many decades but it has not yet gone far enough.
I agree with the Home Secretary that action is needed by different Government Departments and different councils, agencies and police forces across the country, but I also call on her to consider changing the law because we need mandatory reporting to underpin a culture change, so that no one ever feels that they can just turn a blind eye or walk away when children are at risk. That means that Parliament and Government cannot turn a blind eye, too, and that is why all of us need to act.’