Andrew Smith MP

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Andrew Smith MP today succeeded in getting an urgent question in the House of Commons, requiring the Government to send a Cabinet Minister to provide answers.

The points Andrew pressed the Secretary of State for Education on are set out below:

Does the Secretary of State agree that the victims who so bravely testified, the 370 other children identified at risk, their families and the public, horrified that these crimes were allowed to continue unchecked for so many years, are owed answers to crucial questions which this Serious Care Review could not address:

1) How was it that there was a culture in the County Council and Police whereby such serious incidents were not escalated to senior officers?

2) How was it that a professional tolerance of under-age sexual activity developed, as the report says, to the extent that it contributed to failure to stop the abuse?

3) Who takes responsibility for the catastrophic failings? The Chief Constable and the Council Chief Executive have apologised, but didn't know what was happening. In any case, the Chief Constable is moving on. The former Directors of Social Services and Children and Families have left. The former Leader of the Council retired. The Lead Member for Children's Services has been reshuffled. In recent weeks of chaos, the Chief Executive of the Oxfordshire Council saw her position made redundant at the end of January, only for the Council Leader last week to admit they'd made a hash of it and the situation has to be reviewed.

Does the Secretary of State agree that the much commendable work done by the Council, the Police and other agencies to improve protection and prosecution since the Bullfinch investigation, cannot distract from the horrors of what went wrong?

Failure to act on clear evidence of organised child sexual exploitation, failure to provide protection to children, failure to draw serious issues to the attention of senior management, failure to heed the concerns of junior staff, chaotic arrangements for child protection, unminuted meetings, and a professional disregard for the illegality of young girls forced to have sex with older men.

Isn't it the case that the SCR is based largely on the evidence of the internal management reviews undertaken by the agencies concerned? Should these not be subjected to wider independent scrutiny?

Doesn't the public interest, and redress for victims, dictate that those responsible for these failings are fully held to account, and all the lessons learnt? Will the government set up an independent enquiry into what went wrong, and who made the mistakes which enabled this depraved exploitation of vulnerable girls to go on for so long — so that the lessons are truly learned from these awful crimes and the failure of public bodies to provide the protection it was their duty to provide to children suffering such unspeakable abuse?

Andrew raises Bullfinch Serious Case Review questions in Commons

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Andrew Smith has welcomed Ed Miliband's announcement today that the next Labour government would ensure anybody starting a course in 2016 would see their university tuition fees cap come down from £9,000 to £6,000.

Students from lower-income backgrounds would receive up to £400 extra per year in maintenance grants.

This change would be funded by restricting pension tax relief for the highest earners while the student grants increase would be paid for by asking the highest earning graduates to contribute a little more.

Andrew said, "After promising to sort out undergraduate financing in 2011, Ed Miliband is doing just that with this announcement today. Having a huge amount of debt is understandably a big worry for young people. We need a Government that will invest in our young people, so that they can make the most of their potential. Saddled with unaffordable debt, young people are among the biggest victims of the Liberal Democrats, who made a promise before the last general election to abolish tuition fees then went into Government and trebled them."

By stopping the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, the Coalition Government affected schoolchildren's ability to get the high-quality education they deserve. By eliminating the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), the Government affected the ability of high school leavers from low income background to go to College. And by trebling the tuition fees cap, the Government saddled students with significant debt.

Andrew welcomes promise to cut tuition fees to £6000

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Andrew has pledged his support to the Energy Bill Revolution campaign for warm homes and lower fuel bills. Our homes are the least energy efficient in Europe and the poorest in our society are the hardest-hit by the resulting fuel poverty. On average, 25,000 people die in cold homes every year.

Andrew said, "When the Government's own figures show more families in fuel poverty than at any time for a decade and The Children Society says more than half of children in poverty cannot get the Government's Warm Home Discount to stay warm, we've got to take practical action to push down fuel bills and end fuel poverty."

Making our homes more energy efficient is a permanent solution to high energy bills and fuel poverty. Andrew is calling for carbon taxes already collected from our bills to be used to make 2 million low income homes energy efficient by 2020 and all low income homes energy efficient by 2025.

Unfortunately, the Government's recognition that making homes more fuel efficient permanently is the way to end fuel poverty is not matched with action. The Government says it will only improve homes 'where reasonably practicable'. The result has been meaningless fuel poverty targets at a time when we need the target to be met for all low income households with very few exceptions. The Government also proposes to meet the target by 2030, not 2025 as the campaign demands.

The Government's failings has pushed Oxford City Council to enact energy efficiency measures in its buildings and sheltered housing blocks. Three of the City Council's now have solar panels generating own clean, efficient electricity. A 'Warming Barton' pilot project that aims to create warmer homes in the city's most deprived area has now received extra funding to add 100 households.

With vulnerable people struggling to pay their bills, Andrew looks forward to a government that helps people on low-incomes to support themselves in warmer homes.

Andrew backs campaign for warm homes and lower fuel bills

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Oxford's campaign against carbon emissions will be weakened by a County Council proposal to axe all funding for county environmental groups.

Community Action Groups (CAG) Oxfordshire are the largest network of waste and carbon reduction groups in the UK. Their local and national award-winning expertise and experience have helped to make the low-carbon economy a greater part of our overall economy.

Andrew said, "I have written to the County Council underlining the importance of the contribution of the community-based low-carbon effort. I am very disappointed that the Conservative-led County Council are pulling the rug out from under the feet of over fifty community environmental groups. I have seen first-hand the tremendous work done by some of these groups, most recently the bike recycling workshop Broken Spoke Bike Co-Op. Cutting back on the biggest network of its kind in the country signals a total abdication of political leadership in the fight against climate change."

A recent report on the future of Oxfordshire's Low Carbon Economy, undertaken jointly by the University of Oxford's Environmental Change Institute and the Low Carbon Hub, forecast that 85,000 extra jobs could be great in environmental enterprises before 2030. The elimination of county support would hit the ambition to sustain a low-carbon economic change and the Council's own target of reducing carbon emissions by 50 per cent. by 2030.

Andrew calls on County Council to reconsider budget cuts to environmental groups

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