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Operation Augusta — [Sir Christopher Chope in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:28 am on 5th February 2020.

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Photo of Mary Robinson Mary Robinson Conservative, Cheadle 10:28 am, 5th February 2020

My hon. Friend hits the nail on the head. Without action to tackle that, we will see more of these cases. It is imperative that such issues are taken seriously in Greater Manchester and across the country.

I am not wholly satisfied with the response that we received from the Mayor to our letter. While recognising the bravery of the whistleblowers in this case, he offers no indication of what action he will take to ensure that future whistleblowers are valued and protected. If people are afraid to speak out or suspect they will not be listened to, negligence, malpractice and abuse will continue to go unchallenged.

A recent report by the all-party parliamentary group on whistleblowing highlighted the case for having an independent office for the whistleblower and a ban on non- disclosure agreements in whistleblowing cases, as well as protection against retaliation. I hope the Minister will be able to consider some of those potential resolutions.

The Manchester Evening News and its investigative reporter Jen Williams have given this case extensive coverage, and we owe them thanks for their reporting. One of the headlines read: “A paedophile grooming gang was left to roam the streets of Manchester—and police knew who they were and exactly what they were doing”. Amid ongoing concerns that a cover-up took place in the case of Operation Augusta, questions remain. Who knew about the scale of the abuse of those children? Why did nobody speak out? Could it happen again? In the light of today’s revelations that the iOPS system is not properly recording, or allowing officers to access, information on potentially serious cases, that is a live issue.

I welcome the Home Office’s intention to publish a national strategy across law enforcement and government authorities to tackle child sexual abuse. When can we expect that strategy to be published? Will the protection of whistleblowers form part of it so that the shocking incidents of abuse, neglect and abject failure highlighted today are not repeated?