Yet another blow for child abuse inquiry after it’s revealed that the Home Office coached ‘independent’ experts about how to answer ‘difficult questions’
The troubled inquiry into historic child abuse is facing fresh criticism after it emerged that panel members were told what to say to MPs by a long-serving Home Office official.
Experts and abuse survivors were given a 23-page document advising them how to answer ‘difficult questions’ when they appeared before a high-profile committee, prompting fears that the huge Government-ordered investigation is not independent.
It can also be revealed that the woman in charge of administration for the inquiry was seconded from the Home Office, where she has worked for 36 years – even though the department is at the centre of many of the allegations of cover-ups and VIP paedophile rings.
Last night critics said it was yet another blow to the reputation of the inquiry, which has barely begun work more than six months after it was announced.
Baroness Butler-Sloss and Fiona Woolf both had to quit as chairman over conflicts of interest, with the replacement due to be announced this week.
Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, told The Mail on Sunday: ‘We are concerned that members of the secretariat, who have been seconded from the Home Office, have told witnesses what to say.’
He led the questioning of police watchdog Dru Sharpling and academic Jenny Pearce when the panellists appeared before his committee last month to discuss the turmoil.
Internal emails now reveal that the two witnesses had been given detailed ‘key messages’, ‘key facts’ and a ‘chronology’ to learn, as well as instructions on ‘difficult questions’.
It is just the latest blunder to hit the inquiry, after Fiona Woolf (left) and Baroness Butler-Sloss (right) were forced to resign as chairman over possible conflicts of interest
The email was sent by Angela Kyle, ‘head of secretariat’ for the inquiry, who is effectively running its administration.
She has been a Home Office employee since October 1978, a time when the department was allegedly giving funding to the Paedophile Information Exchange.
The late Leon Brittan was criticised for failing to outlaw PIE when he was Home Secretary in the 1980s and for not taking action on a dossier of alleged high-profile child abusers.
Responses given by panel members to the Home Affairs Committee on January 16 matched the answers suggested in advance by Mrs Kyle, including those on questions on whether the panel was going to be disbanded and who should chair the inquiry.
A spokesman for the inquiry said: ‘There was no coaching of panel members, but advice was legitimately given.’
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