Two West Yorkshire MPs spoke today during a House of Commons debate on the issue of grooming gangs.

Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin (Labour) talked of how her constituency had been “rocked far too often” by announcements and police investigations into grooming gangs, and pointed to the importance of justice being served "in recognition of the unquantifiable bravery of the victims who have come forward."

Meanwhile, Keighley MP Robbie Moore (Conservative) called for open discussion on the issue, adding: “Let us call this problem out for what it is: predominantly a small minority of largely Muslim men in West Yorkshire - including, I am sad to say, in Keighley - have been sexually exploiting young children for far too long.”

The debate related to two petitions, with one urging the release “in full” of the Home Office’s grooming gang review and the other requesting a public inquiry into grooming gangs.

Last year, Home Office commissioned research found most group child sex offenders are men under the age of 30, and the majority are white.

It added there is not enough evidence to suggest members of grooming gangs are more likely to be Asian or black than other ethnicities.

High-profile cases including in Rotherham, Rochdale and parts of West Yorkshire have involved groups of men of mainly Pakistani ethnicity.

Here is everything Ms Brabin and Mr Moore said during the debate:

Tracy Brabin, MP for Batley and Spen (Labour)

"The fact that we all want to debate this topic—it is particularly poignant that the debate falls within Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week—hopefully means that the petitions that brought it to the Chamber are not necessary.

"The campaign’s hashtag, #ItsNotOk, feels like something of an understatement, as the crimes that we are discussing are among the most heinous imaginable, with so many communities blighted by grooming gangs. The exposing of historical cases will continue to rise as victims find the incredible courage necessary to come forward.

"The communities I represent in Batley and Spen have been rocked by announcements and police investigations into grooming gangs far too often. In January 2019, 55 men from the Kirklees local authority area and adjoining areas in West Yorkshire were arrested. A few months later, in June, a further 44 men were arrested. In December last year, 32 men were charged, and they will be in court in October 2022."

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Tracy Brabin, Batley and Spen MP.

Ms Brabin, pictured above, continued: "There are those who believe that court cases should come sooner than 22 months after the arrests were made. I have sympathy with that point of view. However, when it comes, it is important that justice is served, in recognition of the unquantifiable bravery of the victims who have come forward.

"Kirklees Council has already apologised to victims for its failings in relation to the Huddersfield grooming gang—a case that has been through the courts, with long sentences now being served. That court case and subsequent reports will have been sobering reading for many authorities. It is important that we learn lessons.

"We have heard of other cases in other areas from MPs today. I hope that survivors of those crimes, who may not yet have come forward, will hear the message from this Parliament: 'We do believe you. You will be listened to, and everything will be done to bring your attackers to justice.' The unavoidable truth is that these long and complex investigations place a significant financial burden on police forces, which are struggling financially.

"I worked with West Yorkshire police force in making a successful appeal for £1.4 million from the Home Office to investigate historical CSE. I am really glad that that bid was successful, but I was concerned then, and I remain concerned, about what would have happened to that case, and cases like it, if funding had not arrived. Surely the Home Office should put in place a system that does not involve forces going to Ministers, cap in hand.

"What brought us to the Chamber today are two public petitions, one requesting a full public inquiry, the other requesting the research for the public inquiry promised by the Home Secretary’s predecessor, the right hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Sajid Javid). In place of that inquiry came a review in the name of the Home Secretary, which I doubt will placate those calling for an inquiry.

"On the release of that report, the headlines yet again focused on the ethnicity of the abusers, stating that the majority of abusers are white men rather than the promoted myth that this is only British Asian men. Of course demographics and ethnicity are important, but not to the children who find themselves locked into a life of cruel abuse. Children are vulnerable because they are children, and predators will exploit that. We need a system that raises alerts when children are vulnerable, before they fall into crime.

"Today’s debate is humbling, and our thoughts are with the young girls, predominantly from troubled or unstable backgrounds, who are failed. However, we will listen to you, and we believe you."

Keighley MP Robbie Moore (Conservative) 

“This is not by any means a subject that I, or I suspect any of us, find easy to discuss, but the difficult conversations are always the most important to have, and it is our duty, for our constituents, to have them.

"It is now more than 20 years since one of my predecessors as MP for Keighley, Ann Cryer, first raised her concerns about grooming gangs and child sexual exploitation within the Pakistani community in West Yorkshire.

"Ann did a good job; she brought the issue to the forefront of the conversation and did the right thing in raising it. I have been a Member of this House for only just over a year, and I have been taken aback by the amount of correspondence that I have received on this issue. I am afraid to say that more than 20 years have gone by and nothing has really changed. Luckily, I am able to represent one of the best communities we have in this country."

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

Mr Moore, pictured above, continued: "I am incredibly conscious of just how delicate this subject is, but it should not be. My view is that unless we talk about it openly we are failing, so let us call this problem out for what it is: predominantly a small minority of largely Muslim men in West Yorkshire—including, I am sad to say, in Keighley—have been sexually exploiting young children for far too long. The Muslim community are quite rightly outraged at the entire community being branded with the same accusation. It is not fair and it is deeply offensive.

"The consequences of not taking action are extremely serious. If we tiptoe around the edges or fail to talk openly about these challenges, we are failing both the victims and the Pakistani community. These victims, mainly young girls, are having their lives ruined at a young age by this vile and disgusting sexual abuse.

"In 2016, a group of 12 men who committed serious sexual offences against two girls in Keighley and Bradford were jailed for a collective 130 years. One of those girls was raped by five men in succession. Live cases involving grooming gangs are still working their way through the courts. Only last October, 21 men from Keighley and Bradford were arrested for being linked to offences that allegedly occurred against a young female between 2001 and 2009. I know the police are working on many other cases.

"If we fail to address all these interlinked social and societal issues, we run the real risk of failing our communities and making them suffer even more, and unfortunately the worst of humanity will exploit it for their own game. This has already happened. In the 2005 general election, on the back of these very issues, the British National party made my constituency of Keighley their No. 1 target seat. It was a campaign that damaged race relations and caused huge upset and hurt. The people of Keighley, quite rightly, rejected the BNP’s nonsense, but if we do not tackle this issue with urgency, we run the risk that others will try to take advantage of it.

"These are difficult issues to tackle, but all of us in this House have a responsibility to take action, because if we do not, we will have failed, and the consequences for our communities will be far too great. I say to everyone across Keighley that I will represent them as best I can."