Theresa May faces call from 81 MPs – and rising – to set up independent panel for probe
By Alex Varley-Winter, David Hencke and Frederika Whitehead | 19 June 2014
“I would strongly urge you to do this to show that you too want an urgent, robust and independent inquiry” – Tim Loughton, former children’s minister
Many MPs have contacted former children’s minister Tim Loughton personally to pledge their support for a national inquiry into child sex abuse.
Their backing means that the number of MPs who are calling for an independent panel to investigate organised abuse has jumped to 81, and the total is constantly rising.
The campaign ballooned thanks to a crowd-sourcing campaign by Exaro’s Twitter followers since a cross-party group of seven MPs decided to write a joint letter to Theresa May, home secretary, a fortnight ago to call on her to set up a panel inquiry into the organised sexual abuse of children in the UK over many decades.
Zac Goldsmith, Conservative MP, co-ordinated the group, which also included Tom Watson and Simon Danczuk, from Labour; Tessa Munt and John Hemming, Liberal Democrat; and the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas.
After a week, the number of MPs who were pressing for the inquiry rose to 40. Most responded to Exaro’s Twitter followers who had asked MPs whether they backed the inquiry call.
As the groundswell of support in Parliament grew, David Cameron was challenged about it at prime minister’s questions last week. By the beginning of this week, more than 50 MPs were supporting the inquiry.
Exaro understands that Loughton sent the letter to every MP with the backing of the original seven signatories. Loughton, a Conservative MP, was children’s minister in the Department for Education in Cameron’s government from 2010 to 2012, a post that he shadowed in opposition for seven years.
He told colleagues: “You may have seen on social media the cross-party campaign that has been initiated by Zac Goldsmith and me to urge the home secretary to set up an independent inquiry into the plethora of child abuse cases which now seem to be hitting the media weekly. The campaign has so far taken the form of a letter to Theresa May signed by seven MPs from across the House.”
He referred to stories on Exaro, and said that many MPs had been approached through Twitter about the campaign.
“I am now therefore writing to all colleagues on behalf of the seven of us with a link to the Exaro website and the full letter to the home secretary to ask whether you would like to add your support to this campaign.”
He referred MPs to Exaro’s previous piece on the story, ‘Every MP asked to back inquiry into organised child sex abuse’.
He continued: “Exaro is keeping a running list of MPs who have signed up, which currently amounts to 53 [as it was then] without any organised lobbying thus far.”
With reference to Jimmy Savile, the late BBC star and paedophile, he said: “I would strongly urge you to do this to show that you too want an urgent, robust and independent inquiry into this whole sorry catalogue of historical abuse that has mushroomed since the Savile revelations in October 2012.”
Loughton told MPs that he aims to restore “public confidence” in child protection in the UK, which, he said, “threatens to undermine the many initiatives under successive governments.”
Exaro knows of at least 22 MPs who quickly responded to Loughton with their support.
One e-mailed Loughton, copying in Exaro, to say that she had just spoken to one of our reporters to confirm her backing.
Lisa Nandy, Labour MP and shadow Cabinet Office minister, told Exaro that the Labour frontbench is considering whether it would order the inquiry if it won the general election next year. So, she was awaiting that decision, but said that she already called for such an overarching inquiry last year when she was shadow children’s minister.
Update 12.55pm: In Parliament today, Tim Loughton asked for a debate in the House of Commons about the inquiry.
He told the Commons during questions about “business of the House” this morning: “The leader of the House may be aware that together with our hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) and five other colleagues across the Chamber, I have written to the home secretary to ask for an independent inquiry in to historical child abuse. That call has now been joined by over 70 honourable members from across the House [the number has since risen to 81].
“Given that we now have almost daily new stories of grotesque sexual abuse of children going back to the 60’s, does the leader of the House agree that it is time that such an inquiry was held, and will he give time for a debate in this House to set the scene for it?”
Andrew Lansley, leader of the House of Commons, replied: “My honourable friend has done important work on tackling those issues. He will be aware of the range of inquiries that have taken place, and some of which, I hope, are approaching a conclusion.
“As the prime minister has said and recently reiterated to the House, we have not been persuaded of the case for an overarching inquiry. Indeed, we have felt that there is a significant risk that this might impede and delay the resolution of some of the issues in the separate inquiries that are taking place. As the prime minister rightly said, however, he will continue actively to keep the question under review.”
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