David Steel steps down as report criticises responses to Westminster abuse claims
Inquiry says Lib Dem put ‘political expediency’ ahead of ‘child protection’
David Steel has quit the Liberal Democrats and will retire from the House of Lords “as soon as possible” following yesterday’s publication of a report into allegations of child sexual abuse linked to Westminster.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse accused Steel of an “abdication of responsibility” when he learned about allegations of child abuse against his fellow MP, Cyril Smith.
The 173-page report said: “Lord Steel should have provided leadership. Instead, he abdicated his responsibility. He looked at Cyril Smith not through the lens of child protection but through the lens of political expediency.”
The 81-year-old said: “I have received indications that some in the Liberal Democrat party wish me suspended and investigated again, despite a previous disciplinary process in Scotland which concluded that no further action was required.
“I am told that others are threatening to resign if a new investigation is started. I wish to avoid any such turmoil in my party and to prevent further distress to my family.”
The report described a culture in Westminster of “failing to recognise abuse, turning a blind eye to it, covering up allegations and actively protecting high-profile offenders including politicians”.
It found that politicians valued reputation “far higher than the fate of the children involved”. The Daily Mail says the inquiry has produced a “bombshell report”.
The Guardian adds that the long-awaited report found that political parties, police and prosecutors “turned a blind eye” to allegations of child sexual abuse connected to Westminster, ignored victims and showed excessive “deference” to MPs and ministers fighting to clear their reputations.
Senior Conservatives are also criticised over the case of former Cabinet member Sir Peter Morrison, who had a “penchant for small boys”.
The report said “Margaret Thatcher was aware of rumours about Morrison but did nothing” and neither did party chairman Norman Tebbit.
However, the report stressed that “there was no evidence of any kind of an organised ‘Westminster paedophile network’ in which persons of prominence conspired to pass children amongst themselves for the purpose of sexual abuse”.
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