Casey Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:17 pm on 6th December 2016.

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Photo of Teresa Pearce Teresa Pearce Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Shadow Minister for the Constitutional Convention 1:17 pm, 6th December 2016

I thank the Chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee for asking this important urgent question. For too long as a country we have ignored these complex issues for fear of being seen as racist or as attacking cultural attitudes. Sadly, this approach has left a vacuum that has been exploited by those who exist to promote hatred. It is time that we recognised the problems and opportunities highlighted in the Casey report and addressed them in a realistic and mature way.

One of the issues that was highlighted by the Chair of the Select Committee was the ability to speak English. One of the most concerning aspects of the report is how women in some communities are denied equal rights and opportunities. We are constantly urging people who suffer sexual abuse or violence to speak out, but they cannot speak out if they cannot speak English. If they cannot speak English, they cannot even ring 999. Yet the Casey report found that the Department for Communities and Local Government spent more on promoting the Cornish language between 2011 and 2013 than it did on promoting English. Does the Secretary of State now believe that ESOL classes should not have been scrapped? In the light of this report and of his own experience as a young man, will he commit to reinstating ESOL?

The report highlights the fact that communities have been left behind. It is not acceptable to blame the people living in those communities for that, when many of the projects recommended in the report that would empower marginalised women, promote social mixing and tackle barriers to employment for the most socially isolated groups have been scrapped over the past six years as a result of devastating cuts to local government. Does the Secretary of State recognise that cuts to local government funding have contributed to these problems, and will he push for fairer funding in the coming spending review?

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with the Muslim Council of Britain that although any initiatives that facilitate better integration of all Britons should be welcomed, taken as a whole the report could be perceived as a missed opportunity to emphasise that integration requires the active participation of all Britons?

The report looked at education, recommending strong safeguards for children not in mainstream education. Will the Secretary of State outline what is being done by his Department and other Departments to make sure that those children are safeguarded?