It’s been a busy 48 hours for Home Secretary Theresa May and the Child Abuse Inquiry.
May responded to an Urgent Question asked by Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, in the House of Commons today, on the child abuse inquiry and its delay. The full transcript of the meeting in the House can be read here.
Points of note at the meeting included May promising to appoint a Chair for the Inquiry by the end of next week, the discovery of a file entitled “unnatural sexual proclivities” a redacted version of which will be made public shortly (if it is not a duplicate of a pre-existing file which May suspects it might be), the cancellation of several survivor meetings whilst the Home Secretary contemplates the fate of the Inquiry and a promise by May that she would decide once and for all, and before the end of January, what form the Inquiry should take and what to do with the current panel members.
There are 150 names on the candidates for Chair list, who have apparently all been background checked, but the final selection will be made with the approval of survivors.
May is also currently proposing three options in relation to form, for the Inquiry: One is to set up a royal commission, another is to start again and reset it as a statutory inquiry, and another is to await the appointment of the chairman and continue on with the current panel, but with statutory inquiry powers.
Still, internal conflicts within the Inquiry continue. The latest member to be criticised for his approach towards survivors, and the Inquiry in general is legal counsel for the Group, Ben Emmerson QC. Panel member Sharon Evans has accused Emmerson of intimidation and bully tac tics as well as a need to dominate and manage the inquiry. The remaining panel members appear to be supporting Emmerson, who says Evans’ allegations are unfounded.
Meanwhile, another Downing Street file listed in the National Archives catalogue as “Security – allegations against former public [missing word] of unnatural sexual proclivities; security aspects 1980 Oct 27 – 1981 Mar 20.” has come to light. This material will be made available to the panel members in due course – whoever they may be.
It’s a sorry state of affairs. An inquiry of this kind requires dignity, discipline and diplomacy in all things. It also requires compassion, consideration and a rather large dose of team spirit. The current panel is sadly lacking.