MPs insist: it must investigate cases fully and not be limited to review of existing inquiries
By David Hencke | 21 July 2014
“She was very serious about setting up a proper inquiry”
– MP at meeting with Theresa May, home secretary
Home secretary Theresa May has promised to consult interested parties before appointing someone new to chair the inquiry into child sex abuse.
May gave the undertaking at a meeting with six of the seven MPs who initiated a call for the overarching inquiry into a wide array of institutions in the UK.
The six unanimously pressed her on the need for the inquiry to examine why there had been failures to investigate specific cases properly. They stressed that it cannot be limited to a review of existing inquiries.
One MP at the meeting told Exaro: “It was quite clear that she was very serious about setting up a proper inquiry.”
Another MP said: “She was very much in listening mode.”
They regard May as being seriously committed to a proper inquiry, although there are concerns that other figures in the establishment will seek to undermine the attempt to uncover the truth.
According to the MPs, May accepted that the inquiry would take evidence from survivors of child sex abuse.
However, she expressed concern that the overarching nature of the inquiry means that some limitations would be needed in the scope of its work, MPs reported. Everyone at the meeting recognised that the terms of reference will become a key issue.
The six also unanimously told May at the meeting that the inquiry panel must include a survivor of such abuse, as set out by the initial cross-party group of seven MPs in a letter to the home secretary.
May announced the inquiry into a wide range of institutions in a statement to the House of Commons a fortnight ago. Her statement came after the government resisted the idea and as the number of MPs who backed the call for the inquiry grew to 146.
The six MPs who were at the meeting with May were Zac Goldsmith, Tom Watson, Simon Danczuk, Caroline Lucas, Tessa Munt and John Hemming. Tim Loughton, former children’s minister and the seventh member of the initial cross-party group, was unable to attend.
May was burnt by the rushed appointment of Baroness Butler-Sloss to chair the inquiry. She stood down after a series of stories that raised questions about the appointment, culminating in Exaro’s disclosure that her late brother, Lord Havers, had, as attorney general, limited an investigation into the sexual abuse of children 30 years ago at Kincora boys’ home in Northern Ireland.
Goldsmith and other sources have made clear that the revelation about the role of Havers in the Kincorainquiry made it completely impossible for Butler-Sloss to chair the inquiry.
Whitehall sources say that the decision to appoint Butler-Sloss was made in Downing Street.
May is said to have agreed with the six MPs that the panel should include a survivor, and that she should take time to find someone else to chair the inquiry.
One MP said that she would run proposed names by the group of seven in an attempt to avoid the debacle over Butler-Sloss.
The MPs believe that there will be no decision on who will chair the inquiry until September at the earliest.
In addition, the MPs asked May to consult other ministries about what survivors see as a profound lack of support for those who come forward to testify, whether to police investigations or inquiries. The MPs told May that such witnesses needed proper counselling.
Civil servants who accompanied May to the meeting took detailed notes of the concerns that were raised by MPs.
The MPs understood that May would continue to consult the group during the preparatory stages of what is to become the UK’s biggest inquiry into the organised sexual abuse of children.
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