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Child Abuse Inquiry

Volume 591: debated on Thursday 22 January 2015

In July last year, I announced the establishment of the independent panel inquiry into child sexual abuse. The inquiry will consider whether public bodies and other, non-state institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse. As I said when I established the inquiry, it must expose the failures of the past and must make recommendations to prevent them from ever happening in the future.

The House is aware that the first two nominees for chairman of the inquiry resigned after it became apparent to them that they did not command the full confidence of survivors. I am clear that the new chairman must be someone who commands that confidence, and who has the necessary skills and experience to carry out this vital work. In my work to find that person, as I told the House I would do, I have undertaken a number of meetings with the survivors of child abuse and their representative bodies. I have been deeply moved by the courage and the candour they have shown in telling me their harrowing stories and the experiences they have been through. I am absolutely committed to finding the right chairman to ensure they get the answers they deserve.

Not only does the inquiry need the right chairman, but it needs the right powers. That means the ability to compel witnesses and full access to all the necessary evidence. In December, I wrote to panel members to set out the three options that could give the inquiry those powers. I confirmed the options in my evidence that month to the Home Affairs Committee. I also confirmed to panel members that I would make my decision on the right model for the inquiry and the chairman by the end of January. It remains my intention to make a statement to the House shortly after I have made that decision, and after the necessary interviews and careful due diligence work have taken place.

It is important that the inquiry can get on with its work, but it is also vital that it has the right chairman, the right structures and the full confidence of the people for whom it has been established. We face a once-in-a-generation opportunity to expose the truth, to deliver justice to those who have suffered and to prevent such appalling abuse from ever happening again. That is what survivors of child abuse deserve and that is what I remain determined to deliver.

It is now 200 days since the Home Secretary agreed to set up the inquiry into historic child abuse. On 14 July, the first chair stood down and on 2 November the second chair stood down, both times because the Home Secretary had not done proper checks or consulted survivors. She promised then that the best way forward was for the panel to get started without the chair, and said that it would hold meetings with survivors and start gathering evidence. Yesterday the inquiry website announced that all further listening sessions were cancelled. She said in November she had confidence in the panel, yet over Christmas there were reports that she was writing to panel members asking them to re-apply for their own jobs, and there have been troubling accounts of disagreements and tensions within the panel. She said in November she would consult the Opposition and others on a new chair, but we have heard nothing. She said she would make sure that the inquiry had the powers it needs, yet we are six months from the initial start of the inquiry, and we still have no chair, no clarity on the powers and no clarity on the timetable for something that is so important.

The Home Secretary will know how serious the inquiry is and how much it means to those who endured awful abuse in childhood and were not listened to then but deserve to be listened to and to have the chance of justice now—yet they are being let down.

In November, the Home Secretary made much of apologising to the survivors and she promised personally to sort things out. She said she had a direct message to them:

“I know…you have questioned the legitimacy of this process…I understand that. I am listening.”

Despite the fact that she had already messed up twice, we and many others supported her in November because we were very keen to see an effective inquiry up and running, and we took her commitment in good faith. She is now at risk, however, of making a fool of everyone because the inquiry has stalled again—yet it has become more important than ever.

Since November, the allegations have become more serious. The police are now investigating allegations of child murder, involving senior figures linked to Dolphin square. A Government file has emerged, containing further potential allegations of abuse, clearly not seen by the Wanless review. These need to be investigated by the police—not just by the inquiry—but this makes it even more vital that a serious and credible inquiry is under way with the confidence of the public and survivors.

Given the seriousness of this matter, I say there is now no choice but to start this inquiry again properly, with a new chair and statutory powers and proper consideration given to the scope and purpose, involving the survivors themselves. This should not be beyond the wit of a Home Secretary. Other people have set up effective inquiries—Hillsborough, the Northern Ireland inquiry into child abuse and the Soham inquiry—and we are now six months on, with still no chair, still no powers, still no clarity. It is deeply unfair on survivors of abuse, who need to be listened to and who need justice. When will she sort this out?

The right hon. Lady is trying to make an argument between us about this inquiry where I think none exists—or certainly none should exist. She has indicated in her response that she believes an inquiry should be set up with a new chairman and with statutory powers. That is exactly what I said I would be doing when I last made a statement to this House.

I said in my response to her urgent question today that I set out the timetable to panel inquiry members in the letter I sent them in December and that I would make the decision on the right model for the inquiry and the chairman by the end of January. Three options are available in order to get statutory powers for the inquiry. One is to set up a royal commission, and the others are two variations on setting it up as a statutory inquiry: one to start again and reset it as a statutory inquiry, the other to await the appointment of the chairman and continue the current panel, but with statutory inquiry powers. I made that clear in the letter I sent to panel members, and I set out those three options when I gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee.

The right hon. Lady mentions the very serious issues that have come to light, which are being investigated by the police. It is absolutely right that the police investigate allegations. That is not going to be a job for the panel inquiry: investigation of allegations rests with the police, and will always rest with the police, and it is important that that is what happens.

The right hon. Lady made reference to the file that has come to light. We are checking that today, but I understand that it may be a duplicate of a file that was at the Home Office and was seen by Wanless and Whittam during their review. Of course, we are checking that. Any allegations relating to that file will be passed to the police and those concerned to ensure that they are looked at properly.

The right hon. Lady talked about the role of the panel inquiry. It has been meeting survivors and has had a number of listening meetings with them. It was decided yesterday that from now on their work will focus on issues such as methodology that will assist the new chairman in making decisions. The panel wrote to say that it will not have any more listening meetings with survivors until the new chairman has been announced and the model for the inquiry has been announced. I respect that decision. I understand that it must have been difficult, but it was a decision for the independent inquiry panel members to take.

I am sure that everybody recognises that we want to get this right and that we want to ensure that we have the right chairman and the right powers.We received more than 150 nominations for the post of chairman following the resignation of Fiona Woolf. It is right for us to take our time in considering those nominations, and to apply due diligence to them, so that when I announce the name of the new chairman, everyone—I hope—will feel fully confident that that individual has the capability that is needed to ensure that the inquiry can do the job we all want it to do, which is to get at the truth.

I am sure that we are all grateful for the concern and sincerity that the Home Secretary is bringing to this incredibly difficult and sensitive inquiry. She should rest assured that we all want it to start work as soon as possible. However, she must know that organisations that support victims of child sex abuse are experiencing an increase in demand following the setting up of the inquiry. How can we further help those organisations to meet their funding needs as more and more people come forward requiring help?

My right hon. Friend has made an important point, which has been raised with me by groups who are representing and working with survivors. On 19 December, we announced that an extra £7 million would be available to such groups, and £2 million of that will be available specifically to groups that have received more requests for support as a direct result of the setting up of the inquiry. That is the child abuse inquiry support fund; a further £2.85 million will be available to child and adult victims of sexual abuse. The fund will be launched at the end of this month, and there will then be a very simple bidding process. We hope that that will provide the necessary support for groups that have experienced increased demand.

The Home Secretary has always been eloquent and sincere in her support for the victims of child abuse, but she is in danger of losing control of this process, which has been lamentable. If she reads the evidence given to the Home Affairs Committee by members of the panel on Tuesday, she will see that there were allegations of bullying by some of them, and that after the evidence session the inquiry’s counsel called for Sharon Evans, one of only two survivors, to be removed from the panel. Moreover, the Minister for Crime Prevention, the right hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Lynne Featherstone), who is sitting next to the Home Secretary and who has responsibility for these issues, said that she had not seen the letter that the Home Secretary had sent to the panel, because she was in Burma.

This is a regrettable situation, and it needs to be brought to a conclusion. The Home Affairs Committee stands ready for confirmation hearings, and this is a big opportunity to draw a line under the past. Will the Home Secretary give a categorical assurance that once she has made her statement, the full package will be put before the House so that we know exactly where the inquiry is going to go?

It is indeed the case that a member of the panel said that she had made a complaint to the Home Office about the conduct of the inquiry’s counsel. The Home Office can confirm that that complaint has been fully investigated, and that no evidence of bullying was found. As for the right hon. Gentleman’s final question, I intend to announce the name of the nominated chairman to the House, together with the details of the form that the inquiry will take thereafter. The Home Affairs Committee will then be able to hold its hearing, which, as we have discussed, is an important part of the process.

I welcome the emphasis that the Home Secretary placed on the fact that the investigation of individual cases remains the task of the police. Justice will not be achieved unless, whenever possible, offenders are brought before the courts, and, if necessary, a police force other than the one in whose area the offence took place is involved.

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I have been very clear from the start in my statements to this House and more publicly and in what I have been discussing with survivors and their representatives that this panel inquiry will not have the ability to investigate potential criminal acts that have taken place. That is rightly for the police, and we will be ensuring that where people come forward with such allegations, those allegations will be appropriately treated. The national policing lead in relation to these matters is working on ensuring that a proper system is in place so that any allegations are dealt with appropriately by police forces.

I am afraid that this whole inquiry has now become a farce. It is very frustrating that my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary has had to call the right hon. Lady to come to the House, because we need transparency and clear communication. We also need not just an inquiry but a national taskforce, because this is a national issue and the regional forces do not have the capacity to deal with it.

I commend the hon. Lady once again for the work she has done, particularly on the child sexual exploitation that has taken place in Rotherham, but also for the way in which she is using that experience to inform others to try to ensure that we put in place the necessary support mechanism and that the terrible things that happened in Rotherham do not happen elsewhere.

I made it clear in my statement that I will come to this House once a decision about the chairmanship has been taken, and I was very clear in the letter I wrote to the panel inquiry members in December that that decision would be taken by the end of January. It is fully my intention to come to the House when that decision has been taken, as I indicated to the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), to set the whole package before the House and for the House to be able to look at that.

The hon. Lady also raised a point that is not just about the work of the panel inquiry. I am also chairing a group of Secretaries of State who are looking more specifically at the allegations that arose in the Rotherham case, and which have, sadly, been replicated elsewhere, and particularly those from the hon. Member for Stockport (Ann Coffey), who did important work with Greater Manchester Police on what happened in Greater Manchester. We are looking at the issue of support, and work is being done with local authorities to look at the support that is available and how they can identify and make sure these things are not happening.

My right hon. Friend will probably be aware that the Communities and Local Government Committee has conducted an inquiry into what happened in Rotherham, and produced a report. We have now moved on to aspects of the Ofsted regime. My right hon. Friend may be aware from evidence that has now been presented that Ofsted in 2007, and right up until 2009, gave Rotherham a status of “adequate” when clearly it was not adequate at the time. As the same regime operated throughout the country, will my right hon. Friend ensure that when this inquiry takes place, the role of Ofsted, its inspection regime and the potential for failure to have occurred right across the country are adequately looked at?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the issues that have been looked at by the Communities and Local Government Committee. Of course, the Secretary of State asked Louise Casey to review Rotherham council, and she has been doing that. The Secretary of State for Education is part of the Secretaries of State group that I mentioned in response to the hon. Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion), and that group is looking at all aspects. It is looking not just at the local authorities’ response and the policing response, but at parts of the response under the remit of education and the role of Ofsted is coming into that. Work is therefore already being done, but of course the panel inquiry will be looking across the board at the state and non-state institutions that have a duty to protect children and how they are doing their job, and looking at what can be done to ensure that they are properly protecting children in future.

I have always held the Home Secretary in high regard, but this inquiry has become something of a complete shambles. It is so badly run that it is starting to make Chilcot look punctual and efficient. We now have no chair, no proper panel and no apparent means of finding any files. The Home Secretary mentions the file dealing with unnatural sexual behaviour at the top of Government. Why do the Government not now publish that file so that we can judge its importance, and who is going to be held accountable for the failure of this inquiry so far?

I recognise the significant campaigning the hon. Gentleman has done on this issue, as have other Members. A number of other Members of this House have been prepared to put their heads above the parapet on an issue that has sometimes not been easy to talk about, particularly in relation to some of the individuals who have been involved.

The hon. Gentleman said that there is no panel. There is a panel, which continues to meet and to do work. Since the last chairman resigned, it has continued to hold meetings with survivors and listening events. The panel has indicated that it will now delay any further listening events until the chairman is appointed, and I have said to this House, as I have to the panel members, that it was my intention to take a decision on the chairmanship by the end of January.

My understanding is that the Cabinet Office file to which the hon. Gentleman referred is being looked at to make sure that it can be passed to the National Archives, which would effectively make it public. That may require some redaction to take place, but I think everybody is aware that we want to ensure that the information that needs to be available is available.

I welcome what the Home Secretary said in response to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan) about additional support for victim support groups. How does she expect the £2 million fund for organisations experiencing an increase in demand for services will help support the victims of these awful crimes?

There are a number of jobs that need to be done. First, it is important that specific allegations of criminal actions are properly investigated and that, where possible, people are brought to justice as a result. Of course, the panel inquiry then needs to look at whether those state and non-state institutions that had a duty of care were properly exercising it, and, crucially, at what lessons can be learned for the future.

The revelations from Sky News yesterday about the document were significant and illuminating, and there is a clear public interest in knowing whether a former Prime Minister received a briefing by a senior intelligence officer or officers on sexual crimes committed. Regardless of whether the inquiry gets to see the document, can the Home Secretary not commit to publishing the document now, in the public interest, or at least commit to giving it to members of the Home Affairs Committee as part of their inquiry?

I recognise the points made by the hon. Gentleman—another Member of this House who has campaigned long and hard on these issues. As I understand it, and as I said earlier, the file has been passed to the police so that they can look at any issues within that file that they should be properly investigating. I assure the House that the file will be made available—as it is my intention that all files should be made available—to the inquiry panel, so that it can be appropriately looked at and considered in its work.

We have seen in the criminal justice system that delays to investigations matter, not least because of the age, declining health and, ultimately, mortality of the accused, resulting in survivors being robbed of the opportunity to have their evidence heard in court. How does the Home Secretary propose to ensure that the circumstances surrounding such cases do not similarly fall out of the reach of the inquiry?

The hon. Gentleman is right that for those who have specific allegations of abuse, of criminal activity having taken place, it is important that that be properly investigated. It is possible to bring people to justice some years after the events about which allegations were made. I refer the hon. Gentleman, for example, to the work of the National Crime Agency through Operation Pallial in north Wales, where an individual has been prosecuted despite the fact that the allegations concerned incidents that took place some years ago. We are already ensuring that allegations that come forward are properly passed to the police, not waiting for the inquiry to get fully up and running before doing so. Those allegations are being properly looked at.

There have been a lot of casualties in this very sensitive process. Has the Home Secretary, with the great authority the Home Office holds, ever considered that she might be the problem? Has she considered the unthinkable? Has she considered resigning?

I am firmly committed, as are all Members of this House, to ensuring that we get this inquiry up and running fully, with a chairman. I have apologised to the House and to the survivors for the fact that two chairmen have resigned, but I would also say to the hon. Gentleman that it is this Government who agreed to set up this inquiry. Yes, we are now in a position where we have to look for a further chairman, but we have a panel set up and it is our intention to ensure that that inquiry gets fully up and running with a chairman and that we get to the truth. That is what everybody wants.

The Home Secretary is absolutely right to proceed with care and caution in the appointment of a new chairman, because it is essential that whoever is chosen should be the right person for the role. Is she confident, however, that once the new chairman is appointed, the inquiry will report in a shorter period of time than the Chilcot inquiry is taking?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. The inquiry will be looking into significant issues and it will not be able to come to decisions in a short space of time. However, the panel members I have spoken to are clear—as am I—that they should recognise the need for striking a balance between getting to decisions and ensuring that they are doing the full job. This is not an inquiry that should simply be pushed into the long grass, and we need to have some answers for the survivors within a reasonable period of time. I have said before in the House that the inquiry panel, under the new chairman, will have to look into whether they report to survivors and survivors groups, to this House and more widely on a more ongoing basis than would normally be the case, because of the nature of the issues that they are dealing with.

I do not for one moment doubt the Home Secretary’s commitment to holding a thorough inquiry, but does she acknowledge that if someone had set out to wreck the whole process from the very beginning, that person could not have done a more effective job than this? I hope she recognises that this is a tragedy. It goes beyond Ministers or Back Benchers or anything of the kind. As far as the survivors are concerned, what has occurred is a tragedy—first, when they were abused, and now with what appears, to them at least, to have been a farce since the inquiry was established.

I recognise that survivors will rightly be concerned to ensure that the panel inquiry is established on the basis on which they wish it to be established, with a chairman, and that it gets on with its role. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, when the inquiry was first established, it was based on the model that we had used for the Hillsborough inquiry, which had been very successful. We felt that that was an appropriate model to use in the circumstances. In discussions with survivors and others, however, it became clear—particularly from the survivors—that they felt that statutory powers were needed, which is why I have indicated that when the inquiry continues under a new chairman, it will do so on a statutory basis.

I think my right hon. Friend said that she had received 150 nominations for the post of chairman. Given that we have now moved on from that long list, will she tell us how short the shortlist is from which she is now operating?

We have brought that list down, and it is now quite a short list. I will not give the House any more details at this stage because I have undertaken that we will discuss this matter with the survivors and their representatives. I believe that that is an important first step.

One consequence of the ongoing delays and confusion surrounding this important inquiry is the continuing lack of a clear understanding of, and provision for, the needs of survivors in terms of support, counselling and mental health treatment, where appropriate. Practices and capabilities are very different around the country. Will the Home Secretary tell us what she is doing financially to support the delivery of better practice in this important area?

Yes, that is an important aspect. It is something that has emerged not only in relation to this inquiry, but post the Rotherham work and the report from Professor Alexis Jay. The whole question of what support is available to victims has been an important issue. A number of things have been happening. As I mentioned earlier, in response to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan), a sum of money is being made available to groups that are dealing with the victims and survivors who have come forward. Often it is those groups that are the first port of call for individuals, and it is important that they are giving that support. But we are doing other things as well. We have been working with the Department of Health in looking at the specific support that it can offer. We are also looking at the interaction of the various agencies in a particular area, including local authorities—we have been actively doing that post-Rotherham—and the availability of support for survivors and victims. Not everybody will have the same needs or the same wishes with regard to support. What is important is that a range of support is available, and that people can see where they can access the support that suits them best.

The Home Secretary said earlier that this missing file may turn out to be a duplicate, which would obviously put a different complexion on events. Given the cloud of suspicion, I cannot believe that it can take more than a couple of days to clarify whether it is a duplicate or a withheld file. Will she agree to come back to the House next week and tell us which it is?

Work is being actively done to look at that file to see whether it is a duplicate. I have made it clear to the House that I intend to take a decision on the chairmanship and the nature of the inquiry by the end of January and that shortly after that I intend to report to the House on that matter. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman might recognise that the end of January is only about a week away. Shortly after that, I intend to come to the House to make a statement, in which I will include the issue that he has raised.

Having served on an inquiry team that looked into abuse in residential child care in Edinburgh, I have some understanding of the issues and the sensitivities involved. However, I have been horrified at the delay, which is obviously having an impact on survivors. Will the Home Secretary assure us that whatever model she adopts, there will at least be a representative of the survivors organisation on that panel and that the survivors will continue to be fully informed, otherwise this inquiry will have no credibility whatever?

I am happy to give that undertaking. When we set up the initial panel, we ensured that survivors were on it to give their experience. I am very happy to give the undertaking that there should be survivors and/or their representatives on the panel inquiry as it goes forward. Another issue that we have been considering, and that the new chairman will wish to consider, is how to ensure that we have the maximum ability to work with survivors. As membership of the panel will be limited, we may have to do that through groups that are advising the panel and that are additional to it.

The Home Affairs Committee was told that there will be an investigation into allegations that Whips in this House have concealed evidence of paedophilia by Members in order to blackmail them in the Division Lobby. The range of investigations being carried out by this committee is vast, involving tens of thousands of incidents. Is it not right that we look again at the scope of the investigation, because it is unlikely that it can achieve the expectations of the victims within a reasonable time, and should we not look at more forensic investigations that can be attainable with results in a reasonable time?

It is important that the terms of reference do not leave out anything in the work of the inquiry panel. How the chairman, when appointed, will wish to take that forward as regards the specific areas they want to consider will be a matter for them. It has been made very clear by survivors in discussions with me and others that they want to ensure that the inquiry does not inadvertently or deliberately leave out areas that they feel it should cover within the geographical limits that we have set, of England and Wales. On the hon. Gentleman’s first point, I have written to party leaders to ask them to ensure that their parties co-operate fully with any requests from the inquiry.

The Home Secretary set up the Macur review into the Waterhouse inquiry in north Wales more than two years ago and it is yet to report. There is growing expectation in north Wales that it will not report until after the general election. Is the Home Secretary aware that that is contributing to a collapse in confidence in the political process that has affected all of our reputations? Will she please pull the inquiry together and hasten the release of the Macur review?

Once inquiries are set up, it is up to those who are conducting them to decide how they wish to conduct them and when they will publish the results. As I have already said, the work in north Wales has resulted not just in the review but in Operation Pallial, which has had an impact and has identified at least one individual who has been prosecuted.

Key to the success of the inquiry will be the stalwart confidence of the survivors and relatives and of the broader public, yet that confidence has drained away day by day, week by week and month by month. I do not doubt the Home Secretary’s sincerity and commitment one jot, but what assurance can she give that she can restore that confidence? Without it, the inquiry is doomed.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that the inquiry must have the confidence of the survivors and that is why the two chairmen who had previously been appointed resigned. They felt that they did not have the confidence of survivors. I do not see quite the same picture as him as regards survivors, as in the meetings that I and others have with survivors we have been keeping them informed about matters as they go forward. Of course it is important that survivors have confidence in the inquiry, and that is why it is my intention to involve them in discussions about the appointment of the chairman.

More survivors are coming forward to the police, so could the Home Secretary say something about police practice in dealing with them? In particular, is she encouraging the police to go beyond what I understand to be current guidance, which is to hand victims an agency referral sheet and on an exceptional basis to make an introduction to support services? What is she doing to encourage the police to facilitate access to support for those survivors who seek it?

The hon. Lady makes an important point. Obviously, the police have one role to play and, generally, supporting victims requires others to step in. I will look at the guidance she mentions. I have had discussions with the national policing lead on the approach they are taking to allegations and Home Office officials have continued to talk to the police about ensuring that we set out the right route so that people who make allegations are given the right support during the investigation. Work is also being done on the support that will be available for those who come to the inquiry with allegations, which would of course follow a separate track to any information given by the police. We need to ensure that whoever the survivors interact with they are given the information they need and that they can have access to support.

Further to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies) about the confidence of survivors, in my experience, having talked to some survivors, these people have very little confidence in a system that they feel has failed them. The appearance over the past six months or so is of an establishment stitch-up. I appreciate that that is not necessarily the fault of the right hon. Lady, who has good intentions, but that is how it appears to the public. She says, “I make a decision,” but can it be, “We make a decision,” so that we can be inclusive and so that from the outset survivors have confidence in the chairperson?

I have already said in response to a number of hon. Members that we will be talking to survivors about the future chairmanship of the inquiry. We have already been speaking to survivors about what they want to see from the inquiry, and the sort of person they want to see as chairman of the inquiry, and we will be having discussions with survivors about exactly that. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. It is important that people have confidence in the inquiry and that they do not believe that there is any attempt to cover anything up or somehow to push the inquiry off. That is absolutely not the case. It is my intention that the inquiry will be fully up and running with a new chairman soon, and I have given the timetable on which I wish to make a statement to the House.

The Home Secretary has repeatedly said that the decision on the new chairman will be made by the end of January, which is next week on Saturday. She has also said that there is quite a short list, that she wants to consult on that shortlist with survivors, and that once the appointment is made due diligence needs to be carried out. Is she confident that all that can be done next week without the risk of yet another farce and another chairman who is not acceptable to the survivors?

I think that the hon. Lady has slightly misunderstood my comments on due diligence. Due diligence has already been done, and further due diligence work is being done, so we will not be starting ab initio from the nomination of an individual. Obviously, in getting to the shortlist, a lot of work has been done in terms of the suitability of individuals to undertake this role. So a lot of the work has already been done.

As the Home Secretary will understand, one of the problems identified in past reviews of child abuse cases is that children’s services and police did not always recognise that the children were being sexually exploited. They were often referred to as making lifestyle choices or as child prostitutes. Does she agree that if a lesson is to be learned it is that language is important, and that this place should take the lead in stripping “child prostitution” from all the existing legislation and substituting “child sexual exploitation”, which is what it is?

I fully understand the point that the hon. Lady makes. The language of “child prostitution” has come up elsewhere, particularly in the Modern Slavery Bill that is going through the House. She is right: language does matter. But what also matters is the attitude that leads to that language. Using the correct term of “child sexual exploitation” is important. The sort of attitudes that were set out so graphically in Professor Alexis Jay’s report, whereby police and others appeared to take the view that this was the sort of thing that would happen to girls like that, is utterly appalling—a point I have made to the House previously. We cannot allow that attitude to continue, and we must ensure that we take every measure to ensure that those attitudes change.