Ditch “meddling and intrusive” inspection of sports clubs and youth groups, MPs tell Government in new poll
The Christian Institute
Monday, 07 March 2016
For immediate release
Members of Parliament believe the Government should scale back or ditch “meddling and intrusive” inspections of out-of-school settings, according to a major new poll.
The poll from ComRes, commissioned by The Christian Institute, found widespread scepticism of the proposals and of the Government’s ability to inspect out-of-school settings such as sports clubs, youth groups and Sunday schools without threatening “legitimate and reasonable” activities.
Opinion is evenly split between those who think public safety will be enhanced by Government monitoring of what under-19s are being taught, and those who think it will not.
Asked whether they agreed with the statement: “The proposal will enhance public safety by ensuring the Government can monitor what those under 19 years old are being taught”, almost four in ten (39 per cent) agreed, while a similar number (37 per cent) believed it will not. Even among Conservative MPs, there is no clear majority backing the plans – with 41 per cent in favour compared to 37 per cent who are not.
Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, commented: “It is clear from this poll that MPs, far from being fully supportive as Nicky Morgan (the Education Secretary) would have us believe, are actually widely concerned about these draconian proposals.
“They recognise that the extension of these meddling and intrusive inspections will have a serious effect on many small community groups, such as bell ringers, sports and youth clubs, scouts and guides – even amateur dramatics. These measures will almost certainly force some of them to close.”
Worryingly for the Government, a substantial majority of MPs felt the proposals had been too widely drawn and should be scaled back.
A full two-thirds (66 per cent) of MPs agreed that “while the need to tackle extremism is clear, the proposal defines too widely the activities which would be covered by it”, rising to nearly seven in ten (69 per cent) among Conservative MPs. Among all MPs, just one in seven (15 per cent) disagreed.
In addition, MPs expressed concern that the proposals for checks by Ofsted could threaten legitimate and reasonable activities. More than half (55 per cent) believe they will, with fewer than a third (31 per cent) believing they will not.
This figure leapt amongst Conservative MPs, with almost two-thirds (62 per cent) saying they will and just one in four (25 per cent) disagreeing. Even among Labour MPs, more than 46 per cent thought the proposals would be detrimental compared to 44 per cent who believed they will not.
And in a clear rebuke to Ofsted, a large proportion of MPs said the embattled schools inspectorate could not be trusted to carry out the inspections than felt it could.
Asked whether they “trust OFSTED to conduct any such checks in a fair, reasonable and measured way”, just 35 per cent agreed and 38 per cent disagreed. Among Conservative MPs this figure rose with just over one in four (28 per cent) trusting the Government agency and approaching a half (45 per cent) who did not.
Mr Hart continued: “In a further blow to the credibility of this policy, when we asked MPs whether this type of proposal was necessary to ensure extremism of all kinds is tackled, 43 per cent said no and 39 per cent said it was. Among Conservative MPs the poll found an even split (41 per cent each way) on the policy, which even the cleverest spin doctors would struggle to argue was a ringing endorsement of the proposals.
MPs also warned that the policy appeared “panic-driven” and risked “the freedom of law-abiding citizens”. A clear half (50 per cent) agreed while just three in ten (31 per cent) disagreed. Again among Conservative MPs, the figures rose with 53 per cent agreeing with the question.
Interestingly, the criticism of the policy by Labour MPs was more modest with 43 per cent believing that the proposals are panic-driven and risk the freedom of law-abiding citizens (43 per cent – 40 per cent).
In a final blow to the policy, MPs warn that it could be counter-productive. In a separate question asked of a smaller sample of 97 MPs, 42 agreed that “the proposal may detract from public safety by distracting resources away from where extremism is actually being taught,” while just 32 said it would not.
Conservative MPs were most concerned that resources will be diverted from where they are needed, with more than half (27 out of 52) saying they will and less than three in 10 (15 out of 52) disagreeing.
Mr Hart concluded: “Day by day this policy unravels. As MPs have rightly reflected, the policy is rushed, ill-judged and could be counter-productive. How on earth does subjecting the scouts, bell ringers and sports clubs to bureaucratic inspections – possibly forcing them to close – promote British values and combat extremism?”
Notes for editors:
The Christian Institute
The Christian Institute is a non-denominational registered charity, which seeks to promote the Christian faith in the UK.
It was founded in 1991 by Christian church leaders and professionals and it currently campaigns on a range of issues including marriage and the family, child protection, pro-life concerns, drugs, religious liberty and education, as well as Christianity and the constitution.
ComRes polled 150 Members of Parliament by self-completion postal and online between 13th January and 23rd February 2016. Data were weighted to be representative of all Members of Parliament.
ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.