Nick Herbert: Be intensely wary of the State as parent

Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert
Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert

We should be intensely wary when the State takes on the role of a parent. That, surely, is the lesson of two very different tales of child protection this week.

The first is the shocking case of child abuse in Rotherham - 1,400 girls were sexually exploited, revealing a total failure of those charged with protection to investigate and pursue wrongdoing.

Political correctness blinded the authorities to a common factor, that these abuses were overwhelmingly being perpetrated by men in one ethnic group.

Box ticking, rather than the interests of the victim, dominated the response. And there appears to have been no accountability for these failures.

One key councillor at the time is now the elected Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire.

Yet he is meant to supervise a force which itself has questions to answer.

Clearly his position is untenable, and a system of recall should be introduced so that such people can be removed from office.

His failures do not, however, mean that PCCs are a bad idea. The very visibility of the new office leads to a scrutiny that would have been far less acute had he merely continued as one of many members of an invisible police authority.

When I hear Labour blame the system of PCCs, I ask who selected Shaun Wright for office, and who ran Rotherham Council.

The second story this week is the polar opposite: not neglectful State action, but horribly misguided intervention by the authorities, allegedly to protect a child.

It was shocking that Ashya King’s parents should have been arrested and imprisoned in Spain, as a result of a warrant issued by the authorities in Britain, when their only motive was to try and save their child.

Thanks to a public outcry and the Prime Minister’s intervention they have been released and are being helped to secure the treatment that Ashya needs.

But they should have never have been pursued in this way.

We’ve seen in West Sussex, with child protection failures in the Church and the County Council, what can go wrong when those charged with supervision fail to act.

When the State assumes responsibility for children, as sometimes it must, it has a duty to behave as a good parent. And a good parent would never allow a child to be harmed, or deny it the love which it needs.

If you would like to get in touch with me, please write to me at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA, or email me at nick@nickherbert.com.