Yorkshire MP backs Straw in Pakistani 'grooming' row

A YORKSHIRE MP has backed Jack Straw's controversial remarks linking some British Pakistani men to child sexual exploitation as it emerged a Parliamentary inquiry could be launched into the issue of grooming.

Keighley Tory MP Kris Hopkins said although Mr Straw had used a "sledgehammer approach" it was an issue "that needs to be debated and needs to be discussed".

He said it was important to recognise it only involved a minority but added: "There is an issue with some young men from that particular community who don't respect women, I think that's what it fundamentally starts off with.

"This involves the second and third generation (British Pakistani men) – there has been a lack of a challenge over behaviour towards women. There needs to be a broad debate and not just among politicians but among community leaders, individuals, families – we need to address this."

Meanwhile party colleague Graham Stuart MP, chairman of the Commons Education Committee, said the committee might now initiate its own inquiry.

The Beverley and Holderness MP said: "I'm sure it's something the committee would wish to consider. The welfare of children has to be of enormous concern to everyone and the issue of child sexual exploitation concerns constituents and MPs acutely."

Mr Stuart said any inquiry would be likely to look at the overall issue and the incendiary issue of race would only be covered if there was evidence of specific groups playing a specific role in exploitation.

He added: "The whole issue of sexual exploitation of children is one which the committee will want to keep a close eye on and I'm sure we will reflect on what Jack Straw has said in deciding whether a formal inquiry would be the right way to proceed to look at the issues involved."

Mr Straw, Blackburn Labour MP and former Home Secretary, sparked controversy over the weekend after claiming Friday's indefinite jailing of two Asian men for abusing girls aged between 12 and 18 was an example of a wider problem among some young British Pakistani men who viewed white girls as "easy meat".

Mohammed Liaqat, 28, and Abid Saddique, 27, were jailed for raping and sexually abusing several girls, often after giving them alcohol or drugs. They were the prime movers in a group of men who befriended vulnerable girls aged 12 to 18 in the Derby area and groomed them for sex.

A clutch of previous court cases, including one involving a group of five Asian men from Rotherham found guilty of grooming last year, prompted Mr Straw to say such crimes were a "specific problem" in the Pakistani community which needed to be "more open" about the reasons.

But fellow Labour MP Keith Vaz, who chairs the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, insisted the case was not symbolic of any "cultural problem".

Children's charity Barnardo's and Muslim youth group the Ramadhan Foundation also said Mr Straw was wrong to highlight one community.

The judge in the case said he did not believe the crimes were "racially aggravated", but Mr Straw said he thought vulnerable white girls were at risk from some Asian men.

Mr Straw acknowledged most sex offenders in prison were white but added "there is a specific problem which involves Pakistani heritage men... who target vulnerable young white girls.

He added: "We need to get the Pakistani community to think much more clearly about why this is going on and to be more open about the problems that are leading to a number of Pakistani heritage men thinking it is OK to target white girls in this way."

Mr Vaz said the comments were "pretty dangerous" and added: "I don't think you can stereotype an entire community.

"What you can do is look at the facts of these national cases, give it to an agency, make a proper investigation and see how we can deal with these networks of people who are involved in this horrendous crime."

Barnardo's chief executive Martin Narey said street grooming was "probably happening in most towns and cities" and that victims were Asian as well as white.