Child abuse inquiry: May to make decision on new chairman next week
Theresa May has announced that she will make a decision on a new chairman for the official inquiry into child sexual abuse by the end of next week, in an effort to rescue the troubled investigation.
The home secretary has told MPs that a shortlist of names has been drawn up from 150 people who were nominated and that she will consult with survivors before her preferred candidate is announced. She said that a lot of the due diligence on the existing shortlist had already been undertaken.
May made the announcement after facing accusations that she was losing control of her attempt to get the inquiry under way.
May also told MPs that a newly discovered Downing Street file dating from 1980, entitled unnatural sexual proclivities, may be a duplicate of a Home Office file that had already been seen by an internal inquiry.
She said it may now be made public subject to redactions and would be passed to the police so they can investigate any allegations contained within it.
“We are checking that today but, as I understand it, we believe it may be a duplicate of a file that was at the Home Office which was seen by Wanless and Whittam during their review, but of course we are checking that. Any allegations in relation to that file will be passed to the police and those concerned to ensure that they are looked at properly,” she said.
The existing eight-member inquiry panel announced late on Wednesday that it was suspending a series of seven “listening events”, including one due to take place in York on Friday, until the home secretary has decided on the future form of the inquiry and appointed a new chairman.
The listening meetings had been organised to hear the views of victims.
May, who had been summoned to the Commons to answer an urgent question on the issue by the shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, also made clear that she would make a decision by the end of the month on the future form of the inquiry.
The attempt to get the inquiry going has been repeatedly hit by problems. The first two nominees for chairmanship were forced to step down after losing the confidence of child abuse survivors over allegations of conflicts of interest. This week, allegations of bullying within the existing panel inquiry became public.
The shadow home secretary told May that six months after the home secretary had announced her intention to set up the inquiry it was still without a chairman and without any clarity on its powers or its timetable. “It is time to start again,” Cooper told her.