On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. On 8 June, the Minister responsible for children, the Under-Secretary of State for Education, the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford), advised that the data regarding the number of children who have been reported missing from care since lockdown would not be available until 2021. On 10 June, the same Minister assured this House that she was closely monitoring the relaxation of legislation under statutory instrument No. 445, which weakened the statutory timescales for visits to children in care. Yesterday, in education questions, she advised that the number of children missing from care had decreased throughout this pandemic.
These are children in the care of the state. Charities are reporting a significant rise in missing children, particularly those who are unaccompanied and trafficked. They are also reporting that these children are missing for longer periods than they have been historically. These children are vulnerable to criminal gangs and sexual exploitation. Mr Deputy Speaker, do you know how I can get some clarity from the Minister regarding whether she does or does not know how many children are missing from care; if she does know, how many; and what exactly she is doing to find them?
I am grateful to the hon. Member for her point of order and for giving me advance notice of it. I trust she has also given notice to the Minister to whom she has referred. While it is not a point of order as such, she has taken the opportunity to draw the House’s attention to the matter, and I will make sure that those on the Treasury Bench pass on her views to the Minister so that she can respond. If she does not respond in the usual way, I am sure that the hon. Member will find other ways to pursue this particular matter.
I will now suspend the House for three minutes.