Jane Ellison, MP for Battersea, is urging schools in Wandsworth to take advantage of a once in a lifetime opportunity. Schools have less than a month left to sign up for free tickets to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
I warmly welcome the Chancellor’s announcements on infrastructure. In particular, there is a hugely warm welcome for the announcement of Government backing for the Northern line extension to Battersea, which is key to unlocking many new jobs and homes in the Nine Elms/Vauxhall/Battersea development area. Does he agree that it is also important for the existing communities in that area, many of which are among the most disadvantaged in my constituency? It is good news for them, too.
Nominations are open for the vinspired National Awards which celebrate the contribution that young volunteers, aged 16-25, make to their communities. There also awards for youth leaders and for outstanding National Citizen Service teams.
Jane Ellison, MP for Battersea, has welcomed new measures from the Government to ensure young people and small businesses feel the full benefits of the successful expansion of apprenticeships.
I thank my hon. Friend for securing this debate. I wonder whether it is helpful to intervene on behalf of the Backbench Business Committee. As there is such enormous interest in this debate and in the issue of Babar Ahmad, we are more than happy to take further representations from other Back-Bench Members for time in the Chamber to return to this subject in the event that all Members do not get the chance fully to explore the issue today.
Further to that reply, one of the consequences of the dangerous dogs debate has been the stigmatisation of an entire breed, the Staffordshire bull terrier, which makes up a huge percentage of the abandoned dogs that Battersea Dogs and Cats Home takes in and a vast bulk of those that are hard to rehome. Yesterday, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home launched a campaign in Parliament to reclaim the good name of the Staffordshire bull terrier. May I invite the Minister to endorse that campaign?
I am intrigued by what the hon. Gentleman has said about the barriers to entry into this work. I have been following the fortunes and recruitment patterns of a care home close to me in
my constituency, which is struggling to get local youngsters to apply. We have talked through all the reasons for that, and the home thinks there are some cultural barriers. The hon. Gentleman made reference earlier to the different attitudes of people from different backgrounds and different parts of the world, and I think there is a cultural barrier to young people entering the workplace and spending their life giving care to older people. We have to admit that and address it.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the public reaction, but would he not admit that one of the things that we most commonly hear from members of the public is about using intelligence-led checks at our borders? Everyone I speak to—lots of constituents—constantly asks why we do not use a more intelligence-led approach, rather than frisking schoolchildren and so on. The right hon. Gentleman is wrong. The public would have every sympathy with an intelligence-led approach.
I watched the film, and I was astonished to see the young teenagers who made it say towards the end, “We want girls to have an informed choice about this.” No one can have an informed choice about a crime that is committed against them. However, those involved in campaigning on the issue are often forced to make such compromises in their language, essentially because of concerns about how they will be dealt with in their communities, which goes exactly to what the Minister said about changing attitudes in communities.
That is a very powerful intervention. That is a Department for International Development responsibility, as the hon. Lady knows, and DFID is being urged to do more on the matter. It is doing things, and astonishing grass-roots movements are growing up all over sub-Saharan Africa, with women in the lead. They are going from village to village urging people to stop the practice, and re-educating the cutters to do something else. She is absolutely right to highlight that as one way in which we can help. There is an extraordinary link on this issue between communities in the UK and the diaspora communities around the world.
Does the Minister think the health passport could help prevent FGM from happening to British girls when they are taken overseas? Should we consider whether it could work here?
I do not believe there is any argument about the fact that female genital mutilation is a terrible thing, yet for too long the issue has been talked about at the margins of public life, if at all. If we are to send a clear signal to the girls affected by this abhorrent practice that they are not at the margins of our national life, we in this Parliament must take every opportunity to address the issue. I am grateful for the opportunity to do so this evening, and I thank colleagues for their support and pay tribute to those campaigning outside the House. I very much look forward to hearing from the Minister, who I know has been very supportive of us and feels very strongly about the issue. We must aim to stop FGM in this generation and break the cycle of abuse that blights the lives of so many girls and women in the UK.