Chris Philp, the Conservative MP for Croydon South and the government’s Minister for London, is to hold an urgent meeting over the activities of the controversial cult-like church SPAC Nation with Steve Reed, Labour’s Croydon North MP.
Top of the agenda will be the lack of action over the allegations against the church being taken by the Metropolitan Police, Charity Commission, and by Croydon Council’s social services and children’s services departments.
Philp was one of only a handful of government MPs to attend Wednesday night’s adjournment debate in the House of Commons that had been called by Reed, as he seeks action to call a halt immediately to SPAC Nation’s activities.
As was first reported by Inside Croydon in November, SPAC Nation is under investigation by the police and by multi-national banks over allegations of loan fraud, in which senior members of the church coerce vulnerable young members to take out business loans in their own names, handing over the money to the church as “seed”.
Further allegations have since emerged, and were debated in the Commons this week, including sexual exploitation of minors.
Reed, who provided a dossier of evidence over a dozen cases to the police two months ago, has become increasingly frustrated and concerned over the apparent lack of action by the police to put a stop to SPAC Nation’s questionable activities.
While it has been suggested that SPAC Nation could have its charitable status suspended while the organisation is subject to two separate investigations by the Charity Commission, sources at Westminster have told Inside Croydon that social services at Croydon Council have suggested that there is nothing their officials can do to step in to rescue any vulnerable youngsters from the church.
On Wednesday, Reed drew comparisons with some of the worst possible examples of a breakdown in social care in this country in recent years. “What concerns me further are the worrying echoes of the Rotherham child abuse scandal,” Reed told parliament.
“In that case, vulnerable young girls’ allegations of serious abuse were dismissed because they came from poor or difficult backgrounds, and it is the same with SPAC Nation. I cannot help wondering, as one desperate mum told me: if this was happening to white middle-class children, would it have been ignored for so many years? Would it have been allowed to go on in this way?”
And Reed had a series of questions to put to the government ministers attending the debate. “Allegations about this organisation have been circulating widely in the black community and on social media for up to four years, so why has police intelligence failed to pick anything up?” he asked.
“I was able to find out most of this information over a couple of days by speaking to people and Googling on social media. If I can do that without the resources of the police, why has police intelligence failed to recognise what is happening to potentially thousands of vulnerable young kids across this city?
“What action can be taken immediately to stop this organisation recruiting any more vulnerable young people for abuse and exploitation in my constituency and beyond?”
The government put up a junior minister from the culture department, Helen Whately, to respond in the debate, and she was flanked by Victoria Atkins, from the Home Office, and Philp.
Of course, it was only a few weeks ago that Philp was out on the streets of Croydon campaigning on behalf of a Jayde Edwards, the Tory candidate in a council by-election, and a pastor in the SPAC Nation church.
In the Commons on Wednesday, Whately’s answers were, frankly, piss weak and offered no promises of action. According to Whately, who seemed completely out of her depth despite having been briefed on Reed’s questions well in advance, and more than once, the government can do nothing whatsoever because… one of its agencies, the Charity Commission, is investigating.
When Philp and Reed have their meeting, it is likely that the minister will be urged, once again, to get the Home Office to intercede with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, perhaps to seek to have a special unit set up for SPAC Nation, as was suggested during the debate, and for SPAC Nation to have their charitable status suspended pending the outcome of the Charity Commission investigation.
And while SPAC Nation has a national presence an operates in boroughs across London, it is inevitable that when two of Croydon’s MPs have their meeting, the role of the council’s children’s services department will be raised.
Croydon’s children’s services have been in special measures since July 2017, when it was found to be badly understaffed and unable to cope with casework. Sources close to Reed suggest that the council’s social services managers have claimed that investigating allegations of abuse against a cult-like church are not in its remit.
“It is hard not to consider as a real possibility that one of the reasons that SPAC Nation has been able to grow and prosper with such ease here in Croydon is because the council’s children’s services department has simply not been able to cope with its existing workload, to such an extent that going out and investigating allegations of abuse was barely considered as a priority,” a Katharine Street source said tonight.
Croydon’s third MP, Sarah Jones, who represents Croydon Central, and who has previously appeared on national television to state what a wonderful job SPAC Nation has been doing to reduce gang and knife crime, did not attend Wednesday’s adjournment debate in the Commons.
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