I thank the right hon. Gentleman very much for his questions, and I fully respect the emotion and passion with which he and other Members will be discussing these matters—these very serious matters, as he has set out. He talks about failures and he is right to do so. He is also absolutely right to say that at the heart of this are the young people who have been utterly let down by the system and whose lives have been blighted. It is important that we think about all the victims and their families, and I am pleased to confirm that part of today’s summit and the announcements thereof is a £7 million fund to support those who have been victims. Clearly, however, there is much more that we all need to do.
The right hon. Gentleman asks how the culture arose and why things were not escalated. He also mentions the so-called professional tolerance of these crimes and asked who takes responsibility. On accountability, he set out the position of various people working within Oxfordshire, some of whom are still in their positions and some of whom have moved on. It is not for me to apportion blame—that is a matter for Oxfordshire county council, the police and the health agencies locally—and the purpose of this serious case review is to understand what went wrong and why, and to ensure that we learn the lessons for the future. He is absolutely right to highlight another point, which Maggie Blyth, the independent reviewer, talked about this morning when she said that although
“there was no disregard of clear warnings at top level and no denial by those in charge, their lack of understanding of what was happening on the front line caused unacceptable delays. This allowed offenders to get away with their crimes. The review describes a culture in Oxfordshire where the value of escalation to the top was not understood.”
The review also contains some heart-rending comments from the victims. One that particularly stands out was:
“If a perpetrator can spot the vulnerable children, why can’t professionals?”
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that many more questions will need to be answered.
The right hon. Gentleman asks about future reviews and inquiries, and the letter signed today by Ministers from my Department, the Home Office and the Department of Health makes it clear that we are proposing that the local safeguarding children board leads a specific piece of work on the impact of the multi-agency approach to tackling child sexual exploitation in Oxfordshire. We have appointed Sophie Humphreys to work alongside Oxfordshire county council to gather the evidence on the effect of its reforms to front-line practice.
The right hon. Gentleman correctly highlights the fact that the council has taken action since these allegations all first came to light. As has been recognised by the serious case review, there has been tremendous investment in services to support children at risk of sexual exploitation, including the establishment of the specialist Kingfisher team, a multi-agency front-line service for victims of child sexual exploitation; the training of thousands of front-line staff in raising awareness; and an increase in the number of front-line staff as a whole. The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to highlight the fact that lives have been blighted by these crimes. Questions need to be answered, some of which will be addressed this afternoon in the Prime Minister’s summit in Downing street.
The right hon. Gentleman says that lessons need to be learned, which is a phrase that is often used in these sorts of cases. But that is not enough. We want action. It was very clear that those who came across this information, not just in Oxfordshire but in other authorities, did not act on it and that is unacceptable.