Theresa May faces fresh backlash over delay to inquiry as 11 Lords join call by 146 MPs

By Mark Conrad and Frederika Whitehead | 7 July 2014

“It is time we had the disinfectant of investigation in the full light on this”
– Baroness Brinton, Liberal Democrat

Former High Court judge Baroness Butler-Sloss and the bishop of Durham are joining the call for an overarching inquiry into child sex abuse.

Exaro can reveal that they are among 11 eminent Lords – including six specialists in child protection  –  who are supporting the call by 146 MPs so far for the inquiry.

It marks a fresh wave of pressure on Theresa May, home secretary, just as she wrote to MPs to say that she would not order an inquiry now, but may do so at a later stage after several police investigations are completed.

Butler-Sloss rose to become president of the family division of the High Court and was chairwoman of the Cleveland Child Abuse Inquiry in 1987-8. In an e-mail, she said: “I am happy to add my name to the proposal for an inquiry into sex abuse of children.”

Paul Butler, bishop of Durham and joint chairman of the Church of England’s national safeguarding committee, has indicated his support for the call as made in a joint letter to Theresa May, home secretary, by seven MPs last month.

The baroness, the bishop and four other peers who are backing the inquiry played a key role in the upper house’s assessment of the Children and Families Bill before it became law earlier this year. The act is aimed at giving greater protection to vulnerable children.

To date, 11 Lords in total have signed up to the call – led by two Conservative MPs, Zac Goldsmith and Tim Loughton, former children’s minister – for an investigation into sexual abuse of children, modelled on the inquiry into the Hillsborough football disaster of 1989.

The peers also include other specialists in child protection: Labour’s Lord Warner, former health minister, and Baroness Massey; and Baroness Brinton and Baroness Walmsley, both Liberal Democrats.

Brinton said: “I am more than happy to have my name added as a supporter. It is time we had the disinfectant of investigation in the full light on this. Child sexual abuse, especially by those in positions of responsibility, must always be found out for the children who come after.”

Walmsley told Exaro that she also supported the inquiry call.

She is also seeking to amend the Serious Crime Bill to introduce mandatory reporting by staff in schools, care homes and other institutions of abuse of children and vulnerable adults. She moved a debate on the issue in the House of Lords a fortnight ago.

In the debate, she added: “I also support the call from 88 MPs [as it was then], led by Tim Loughton MP, to ask the home secretary to set up a Hillsborough-style inquiry into organised sexual exploitation of children.

“We need to restore trust in the system by learning the lessons of all the cases that have come to light, rather than just having the present drip-feed of information.”

In addition, other senior Labour peers have also joined in backing the inquiry. These include the shadow leader of the House of Lords, Baroness Royall, the shadow Home Office minister Baroness Smith, and the former chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority, Lord Harris.

Lord McConnell, Labour’s former first minister of Scotland, and Baroness Hussein-Ece, a Liberal Democrat peer, are also supporters of an overarching inquiry.

Royall encouraged peers who are recognised in the House of Lords as experts in the field of child protection to back the call. She sent an e-mail to them, beginning: “I write regarding an important petition led by a cross-party group of MPs.”

She referred peers to the Exaro article with full the text of the letter from the initial cross-party group of seven MPs, and urged them to add their support.

She also linked to a series of articles about organised sexual abuse of children in the UK, and evidence of links to powerful people, published over more than a year and a half on Exaro.

The Lords share the determination of the initial group of seven MPs to press the issue, despite May’s refusal to agree so far to order the inquiry.

Meanwhile, Goldsmith has asked May for a meeting on behalf of the cross-party group of seven signatories, along with other “interested” MPs. He is expected to add “interested” peers to the invite list.

This is the full list of Lords who are supporting the call so far. We have added comments of support from Lords after the list.

Bishops
Bishop of Durham

Crossbench
Baroness Butler-Sloss

Liberal Democrat
Baroness Brinton
Baroness Hussein-Ece
Baroness Walmsley

Labour
Lord Harris
Lord McConnell
Baroness Massey
Baroness Royall
Baroness Smith
Lord Warner

Lords’ comments

Bishop of Durham said: “I am happy for my name to be added to the petition regarding an inquiry into organised child sex abuse.”

Baroness Butler-Sloss made a similar comment, saying: “I am happy to add my name to the proposal for an inquiry into sex abuse of children.”

Baroness Brinton said: “It is time we had the disinfectant of investigation in the full light on this. Child sexual abuse, especially by those in positions of responsibility, must always be found out for the children who come after.”

Baroness Hussein-Ece, former councillor at London’s Islington council, tweeted: “Some of us really care about this.”

Baroness Walmsley told the House of Lords: “I also support the call from 88 MPs [as it was then], led by Tim Loughton MP, to ask the home secretary to set up a Hillsborough-style inquiry into organised sexual exploitation of children. We need to restore trust in the system by learning the lessons of all the cases that have come to light, rather than just having the present drip-feed of information.”

Lord Harris, former chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority, asked on Twitter whether he supported the MPs’ call, responded: “I am not, of course, a member of the House of Commons, but I do nonetheless support the call for a full independent inquiry.”

Lord McConnell, Labour’s former first minister of Scotland, tweeted: “An independent, gloves-off national inquiry into child sex abuse cover-ups is now long overdue. More victims than phone-hacking. Just do it.”

Baroness Massey said: “I am happy to support the petition.”

Baroness Royall, shadow leader of the House of Lords, said: “The time is perhaps right… to help victims achieve some form of justice, and also provide the public with greater confidence in the UK’s child-protection systems.”

Baroness Smith said: “What really matters now is the truth. Allegations of lies, conspiracies and cover-up must be investigated. Fragmented enquiries and investigations have to be brought together or we may never get the true facts.”

Lord Warner, former health minister: “Count me in,” he said.

Related Stories : Child sex abuse, ‘Fernbridge’ and ‘Fairbank’: Exaro story thread

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