Telford CSE inquiry ‘like slow gravy train’, MP says

Lucy Allan

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UK Parliament

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Lucy Allan has led calls for an independent inquiry

An MP has likened the progress of an inquiry into reports of child sex abuse by grooming gangs in Telford to a “slow-moving gravy train”.

Conservative Lucy Allan said there had been a “shocking lack of urgency” in launching the independent probe since claims first emerged last year.

She told a Parliamentary debate survivors in the Shropshire town had been left wondering what was going on.

A Telford councillor said her 12-minute speech was “feckless and fact-free”.

The inquiry was set up after the Sunday Mirror claimed up to 1,000 girls had been abused by gangs since the 1980s. The figure is disputed by police.

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Tasnim Lowe’s mother Lucy gave birth to her at 14. Lucy was legally incapable of consent when she was groomed at 12 years old by Tasnim’s father

On Monday, the local council said a meeting next week would allow the body leading the inquiry to start the process of recruiting a chairperson.

Ms Allan said the lack of a chair meant there there had been “no progress” in a whole year.

‘Justice delayed’

Speaking in Westminster Hall, she said the process had become a “slow-motion gravy train” for solicitors and “expensive people fussing over logos and letterheads”.

This sent a message “that getting to the bottom of what happened in Telford is just not a matter of urgency,” she said.

“Rather than getting to the bottom of a history of sexual exploitation in the town”, she said Telford and Wrekin Council was “creating a tangled bureaucracy that benefits no-one”.

She called on the authority to be open about the cost of the inquiry, its estimated timescale, and its objectives and possible outcomes.

Speaking to the BBC after the debate, she added: “Survivors, members of the community I talk to are asking what is happening?

“I think justice delayed is justice denied.”

Tasnim Lowe, whose mother gave birth to her at 14 before being murdered in a fire started by Tasnim’s father Azhar Ali Mehmood, said she hoped the inquiry would give her and her family closure.

“I hope it will let us move on from everything that happened to do with the fire and especially might help me understand… a bit about my parents and the family that I didn’t have.”

Responding to Ms Allan’s comments, Labour councillor Lee Carter accused her of delivering “12 minutes of fact-free and feckless words about a process that means so much to so many courageous people”.

“The words just didn’t add up,” he tweeted.

In a further statement, he said “great progress had been made” and the council had “moved at a pace which is comfortable with the survivors”.

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Telford Labour councillor Lee Carter criticised the Conservative MP’s comments

Government minister Rishi Sunak, who also spoke at the debate, praised the council’s “openness to scrutiny”.

The junior communities and local government minister praised the work being done by the authority to support victims, but added: “They need to properly and expeditiously deliver on it and provide answers and justice for the survivors.”

Telford and Wrekin Council said the organisation of the inquiry is now in the hands of law firm Eversheds Sutherland.

Earlier this week, the authority reported the Survivors’ Group had welcomed the timeframe for the inquiry.

It said they agreed it was more important to ensure it wasn’t “rushed” and that time was taken to “ensure it provides the answers survivors and their families are looking for”.

A report from Eversheds said it had met with survivors and set up IT and communications systems for the inquiry since being formally appointed on January 22.

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