Sunday 25 June 2017

British PM 'must now come clean' on inquiry

Theresa May is under pressure. Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images
Theresa May is under pressure. Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Gavin Cordon London

British Prime Minister Theresa May is facing calls to "come clean" about what she knew about the problems at the troubled inquiry into child sex abuse after she disclosed she had been aware of concerns about its former chair.

Mrs May - who, as home secretary, set up the inquiry - told MPs there had been "stories" circulating about Lowell Goddard but said she could not have intervened on the basis of "suspicion, rumour or hearsay".

She insisted the home office was not officially notified of concerns about the New Zealand high court judge until late July - less than a week before she finally resigned - by which time Mrs May was in Downing Street.

On Tuesday, the commons home affairs committee was told a member of the inquiry panel had privately raised concerns with a director-general in the home office in April when Mrs May was still home secretary.

However, Mrs May told MPs: "That conversation was asked to be confidential and it was, as far as I am aware, treated as such.

"I think it is important for us to recognise that, when the home office was officially informed of issues, the home office acted. It's now for the inquiry to get on and deliver for victims and survivors."

Labour MP Lisa Nandy, who raised the question with Mrs May at prime minister's questions yesterday, said: "Theresa May set up the abuse inquiry and appointed its chair. She was the home secretary when serious concerns were raised with her department, and only she had the power to act on them.

"Today she suggested that she did know of problems but did nothing at all. For this investigation to regain the trust of survivors, the prime minister must now come clean about what she knew when, and why she failed to intervene."

Some MPs remain angry that when current home secretary Amber Rudd appeared before committee last month she made no mention of the issues that had been raised.

The home office finally issued a statement last week following press reports about the conduct of Ms Lowell, disclosing that it had been formally contacted by the inquiry on July 29. Six days later the judge resigned.

Ms Lowell has strongly denied allegations against her - including claims she used racist language - describing them as "falsities" and part of a "vicious campaign" against her.

At the committee hearing, MPs were told by members of the inquiry panel there had been "challenges" working with Ms Lowell. The new inquiry chairwoman, Professor Alexis Jay, said: "It was clear from the beginning that Lowell Goddard really would have preferred to sit on her own without the assistance of a panel."

Irish Independent

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