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Theresa May delays decision on call by 141 MPs for CSA inquiry

Zac Goldsmith asks home secretary for meeting with MPs to discuss key issue ‘more fully’

By David Hencke | 4 July 2014

Theresa May delays decision on call by 141 MPs for CSA inquiryHome secretary Theresa May has put off the decision on whether to set up an overarching inquiry into child sex abuse, Exaro can reveal.

She has written to Zac Goldsmith – Conservative colleague and one of seven MPs who initially called for the inquiry a month ago in a joint letter, to explain that she will not order it yet – but may do so later.

Her letter in response came as the number of MPs who back the call for the inquiry grew to 141, all included in the updated and fully-verified list of the supporters.

Goldsmith replied immediately to May by asking for a meeting on behalf of the cross-party group of seven signatories, along with other “interested” MPs.

He told Exaro: “I am sure that the home secretary will agree to meet colleagues to hear the case for a proper inquiry, and I am equally sure that the breadth and scale of support from MPs will convince her of the need to act.”

May’s letter to Goldsmith came just after one her predecessors, Lord Brittan issued two statements on Wednesday in an attempt to explain what he did with a dossier on VIP paedophiles that was submitted to the Home Office by Geoffrey Dickens, the late Conservative MP, in 1984.

May rejected immediately setting up an inquiry into child sex abuse, but said in her letter to Goldsmith: “Nothing has been ruled out.” She continued: “It is important that those inquiries, reviews and investigations that are currently underway progress as quickly as possible, and I do not want anything to get in the way of that vital work.”

“Once the criminal investigations have concluded, I will thoroughly examine the case for an inquiry into the matters you have raised with me.”

Goldsmith made clear that he was unsatisfied by the home secretary’s response, telling May: “The next step is for us to meet you, along with other interested members of Parliament, to discuss the issue more fully.

“It would make sense for this meeting to happen sooner rather than later, and we would therefore appreciate it if you could let us have a date as soon as possible.”

Exaro can also reveal that the issue of whether to set up the inquiry has split the cabinet.

While the home secretary has delayed the decision, she indicated in her letter that she may order such an inquiry later. “I have shown,” she added, “that I am ready to introduce independent scrutiny of matters of grave public interest.”

However, Chris Grayling, justice secretary, earlier this week wrote to a constituent to reject outright the idea of an inquiry into child sex abuse. “I do not support a public inquiry,” he wrote, “I believe that it would take years, cost enormous amounts of money, and delay the kind of action that is really needed, which is to allow the police to investigate allegations of child abuse.”

Grayling was also out of step with David Cameron, who told Parliament when he was questioned about the issue at prime minister’s questions three weeks ago, that he would consider the call after a series of inquiries were completed.

Cameron told MPs that he was discussing the question with ministerial colleagues, and added: “If there is a need for any more overarching process to be put in place, I am very happy to look at that.”

But Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister, yesterday told LBC radio in London that he rejected the call for an inquiry.

However, he later told Sky News: “I would support anything that helps get to the truth.”

Meanwhile, the government faces growing unrest from its own benches and across the House of Commons as demands continue to grow for the inquiry.

One supporter, John Mann, Labour MP, bluntly tweeted yesterday: “If there is no public inquiry into historical child abuse, then some MPs will have to set up their own. Count me in.”

The list of supporters was boosted yesterday by Sir Nicholas Soames, former defence secretary, just after several other grandees of the Conservative party also came out to back the inquiry call.

Theresa May’s letter and Zac Goldsmith’s reply on behalf of the group of seven MPs in full.

Update 4 July 2014 11.59pm: Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary, tonight called on the prime minister to set up an “overarching review led by child-protection experts to draw together the results from all these different cases, investigations and institutional inquiries.”

Cooper was responding to David Cameron’s decision earlier today to order the permanent secretary at the Home Office, Mark Sedwill, to carry out another review into what happened to a dossier on VIP paedophiles after Leon (now Lord) Brittan received it when he was home secretary in 1984.

Sedwill completed a review last year, concluding that the file was no longer at the Home Office, but that the material had been passed to appropriate authorities.

A statement from Cooper contrasted with May’s letter to MPs, which explained why she was delaying a decision on whether to set up an overarching inquiry.

Cooper said: “The prime minister is right to intervene to demand a proper investigation into the allegations of child abuse not being acted upon by the Home Office, because we have not had answers from the home secretary.

“The prime minister should ensure that  the action now taken by the Home Office amounts to a proper investigation into what happened, and also that Theresa May publish the full review conducted in 2013.

“We also need assurance that the police have been given full information now, and are investigating any abuse allegations or crimes that may have been committed.

“The prime minister should also establish an overarching review led by child-protection experts to draw together the results from all these different cases, investigations and institutional inquiries. This should make sure that inquiries have been as full as needed, and we learn all the lessons, and make comprehensive recommendations to keep children safe in the future.”

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