Parliament Demands Boris Govt Answer Grooming Gangs Petition

West Yorkshire Police

British parliamentarians overseeing the country’s official petitions process have written to Boris Johnson’s government demanding a real answer to a petition to release a buried report on the ethnicity of grooming gangs.

The petition, signed by over 125,000 people, had demanded that the government release a report announced with great fanfare by the previous Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, which would investigate the ethnic dimension of the grooming gang phenomenon — which typically involves Muslim, usually Pakistani-heritage predators and non-Muslim, usually white working-class victims.

Concerned members of the public who wondered what had happened to this investigation when it appeared to disappear off the government’s agenda were shocked to be told that it would remain “internal”, with requests to release it under Freedom of Information laws rejected on the grounds that government ministers needed a “safe space” to consider policy.

It was hoped that an official petition would put pressure on the government to reconsider this position — petitions signed by more than 10,000 people are entitled to a government response, and petitions signed by over 100,000 people must be considered for a parliamentary debate — but in the end this was not successful, with petitioners receiving a late, rambling response from the Home Office which never directly addressed the demand for the report to be released but rejecting it implicitly.

Parliament is now demanding a fresh response, however, with the Petitions Committee which oversees the petitioning process saying it was not acceptable for the Home Office to not only fail to meet the petitioners’ request, but to even give it a straight answer.

In a letter addressed to the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, committee chairwoman Catherine McKinnell MP noted that the government “did not directly address the request made by the petitioner” in its response, “and therefore did not meet the standard for Government responses that has been agreed with the Leader of the House [of Commons]” — currently Jacob Rees-Mogg, who was CC’d in the message himself.

“Your department’s response explains the Government’s current work on child sexual abuse, which includes investigating the characteristics of group-based child sexual exploitation, and states that this work will inform the Government’s forthcoming strategy. However, the response fails to respond to the petitioner’s request for this work to be published,” McKinnell observed.

“My Committee has already received a significant volume of correspondence complaining about the Government’s response, and I am sure that your department has been receiving similar correspondence directly,” she added.

The Petitions Committee chided the Home Office for providing a response which was both “substantially late” and not even a real response, insofar as it did not address the request for the report to be released.

It, therefore, requested a new response, which “should clearly state whether the Government will publish its research into the characteristics of group-based child sexual exploitation” — and if not, why not.

“I would be grateful if you could provide a revised response before the House rises for Whitsun, on Wednesday 20 May, given the substantial time that signatories to this petition have already been waiting for the Government response,” McKinnel concluded.

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