Home secretary to meet Zac Goldsmith and six other MPs to discuss terms of reference
By David Hencke | 12 July 2014
“The government should think again about who should chair this inquiry”
– Simon Danczuk, Labour MP
MPs are to meet home secretary Theresa May to press for survivors of child sex abuse to serve on the panel for the newly-announced inquiry.
The cross-party group of seven MPs who sent the joint letter last month to call on May to set up the overarching inquiry into child sex abuse have written to her again to ask for a meeting to discuss the appointment of the panel.
They write that they are “enormously pleased” with May’s announcement on Monday of the investigation, modelled on the inquiry into the Hillsborough football disaster of 1989.
But, turning to the inquiry panel, they continue: “It is essential that the group as a whole is absolutely robust, with a wide range of trusted representatives, including survivors.”
In addition, the MPs want to discuss with May the terms of reference for the inquiry, to ensure that it covers all relevant issues and areas, including those that were set out in their original letter.
Their letter comes after uproar greeted the appointment on Tuesday of Baroness Butler-Sloss, former High Court judge, to chair the inquiry – in part because of a potential conflict of interests. Her late brother, Lord Havers, was attorney general when claims of a paedophile ring at Westminster were raised with his cabinet colleague, Lord Brittan, then home secretary.
Geoffrey Dickens, the late Conservative MP, passed files on VIP paedophiles to Brittan, who says that he passed them on to relevant officials and authorities. Little action seemed to result, and the Home Office has since lost the material. This is the subject of another review.
The seven MPs all stress that at least one survivor of sexual abuse as a child must be on the panel to work alongside specialists in child protection.
Zac Goldsmith, Conservative, is taking the lead on the issue. He told Exaro: “The strength and credibility of the inquiry will depend on the terms of reference and the composition of the panel, which must be absolutely bullet-proof.”
The six other MPs in the original group are Tim Loughton, former children’s minister, Conservative; Tom Watson and Simon Danczuk, from Labour; Tessa Munt and John Hemming, Liberal Democrat; and the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas.
In their further letter to May, the seven write:
Dear Home Secretary,
We were enormously pleased with your announcement of a Hillsborough-style Inquiry into historical child abuse, and we would very much like to find time on Monday or Tuesday to discuss next steps with you.
In particular, we would like to discuss the composition of the panel that will form part of the Inquiry. If Lady Butler-Sloss is to Chair the Inquiry, and given the many questions that have surrounded her appointment, it is essential that the group as a whole is absolutely robust, with a wide range of trusted representatives, including survivors.
As you will appreciate, it is essential that the public have confidence in this process if it is to have a chance of delivering meaningful results, and I hope you will allow us to help you.
Zac Goldsmith MP
Simon Danczuk MP
Tessa Munt MP
Tom Watson MP
Tim Loughton MP
Caroline Lucas MP
John Hemming MP
The meeting between the home secretary and the seven MPs follows growing disquiet about the appointment of Butler-Sloss to chair the inquiry.
Whitehall sources say that the decision to order the inquiry was taken in Downing Street last Sunday in the wake of a series of disclosures, driven by reports on Exaro. They also say that the decision to appoint Butler-Sloss was rushed, with little thought given to potential problems, such as the fact that she is the sister of Lord Havers.
Danczuk said: “The government should think again about who should chair this inquiry.”
Loughton supported Butler-Sloss as chairwoman of the inquiry panel.
But Goldsmith, Munt, Hemming and Lucas also share unease about the appointment.
- Following the announcement of the inquiry, the Metropolitan Police Service has tripled the number of officers who are scoping wide-ranging allegations against politicians of child sex abuse amid a surge in claims of a paedophile ring in Westminster, writes Tim Wood. A Met spokesman revealed that the number of officers on ‘Operation Fairbank’ rose this week from 7 to 22.
Related Stories : Child sex abuse, ‘Fernbridge’ and ‘Fairbank’: Exaro story thread