Cameron orders two more inquiries into alleged north Wales sex abuse ring --- PM to establish urgent probe into conduct of Waterhouse inquiry as senior Tories are accused of being part of paedophile ring
The Guardian, Monday 5 November 2012 15.24 EST
David Cameron orders an investigation into child abuse allegations linked to a senior Thatcher-era Conservative Link to this video David Cameron battled to stay ahead of the swirl of allegations about child sex abuse in the UK, including the potential involvement of a close ally of Lady Thatcher, by announcing two further urgent inquiries into an alleged paedophile ring in north Wales in the 1970s and 1980s.
Faced by claims that senior Conservative politicians and other establishment figures may have been involved in the scandal – and a subsequent cover-up – Cameron announced he would establish an urgent investigation by a senior independent figure into the conduct of the official Waterhouse inquiry into the child sex abuse ring, which was held between 1996 and 2000.
The prime minister is on an official visit to the Middle East. His spokesman in London said a separate inquiry was also expected to be held into the way the North Wales police had handled complaints at the time. That inquiry is likely to be conducted by the National Crime Agency.
Up to five different inquiries are now under way, or imminent, looking into various aspects of child abuse. But ministers feel they must be seen to be taking the allegations seriously, especially since the government has condemned the BBC for failing to be alert to allegations of child abuse by Jimmy Savile.
There is also a concern in government circles that victims' allegations about abuse were not taken seriously in the past, and that there must be a clear signal from the top of government that any culture of complacency is changing.
Speaking in Abu Dhabi, Cameron said: "Child abuse is an absolutely hateful and abhorrent crime … These allegations are truly dreadful and they mustn't be left hanging in the air, so I'm taking action today.
"I'm going to be asking a senior independent figure to lead an urgent investigation into whether the original inquiry was properly constituted and properly did its job and to report urgently to the government."
Cameron also called on anyone who knows anything about the allegations of abuse to contact the police.
Cameron and the cabinet secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, rushed to act as the media threatened to identify the senior Tory figure close to Lady Thatcher alleged to have been involved in the child abuse.
The government said they were acting largely due to the allegations made by the BBC Newsnight programme on Friday night, and not due to the campaign launched by the Labour MP Tom Watson.
Nevertheless Watson also urged the government to act after one of the alleged victims, Steve Messham, said that the Waterhouse inquiry of 2000 had only covered a fraction of the assaults.
Messham will meet the Welsh secretary, David Jones, on Tuesday.
On Newsnight, Messham said he had been abused by the senior Tory and said the claims had been "swept under the carpet". According to reports at the weekend, as many as three victims have named the Tory grandee as one of their abusers. Newsnight said at least one other victim of abuse in the homes said he was abused by the politician.
In an extraordinary letter to the prime minister, Watson praised Cameron for acting swiftly, but then made a series of further allegations about the extent of the cover-up in other police forces.
"It is certainly important that government departments trawl their archives to see what documents they hold," said Watson. "But my experience of uncovering massive establishment conspiracies leaves me in no doubt that what you have suggested does not go anything like far enough. Its limited scope may even slow things down, muddy waters, damage trails. What is needed is a much wider, but equally immediate, investigation."
He adds: "Since sharing my concerns with you at PMQs, a number of people have come forward to say that they raised their suspicions with the police, but investigations were not carried out. One allegation involves alleged child abuse and a former cabinet minister. We both know that many untruths are told about politicians, but this allegation was specific, informed and appeared well corroborated."
The prime minister's official spokesman insisted Cameron was "very keen to ensure that everything is looked at properly and thoroughly and that no stone is left unturned".
Another alleged victim, Keith Gregory, claimed names of abusers were excised from the inquiry report, apart from individuals in the care homes, and that the culprits included "MPs, solicitors, factory directors, shopkeepers, senior police officers. The list goes on".
The Welsh first minister, Carwyn Jones, said: "The Welsh government takes these allegations very seriously but could I ask that in the first instance victims of abuse who feel the abuse they suffered was not investigated properly should report their cases to the police. My officials have been in touch with North Wales police regarding these matters."
Jones said the Waterhouse inquiry had been "extensive" and many of its recommendations for improving child protection were implemented by the Welsh government.
But he added: "I have asked for urgent advice on the terms of reference of the Waterhouse inquiry. I want to fully understand what was included and what was not. That will enable me to consider whether any further inquiry will be necessary."
Jones said he would meet with the children's commissioner – a role set up following the inquiry – so he could "hear his thoughts directly".