how have all the issuess been mentioned when theres still abuse going on behind the doors of the systems

Child Abuse Inquiry

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  1. The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May)

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    With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the independent panel inquiry into child abuse, which has been established to consider whether institutions in England and Wales have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse.

    The House will remember that in July, I made a statement in which I announced my intention to establish the panel inquiry. I did so because of the growing evidence of organised child sexual abuse, conducted over many years, and serious allegations about the failure of some of our most important institutions to protect children from this disgusting crime. I established a panel inquiry, because it is the best way of making sure that the inquiry is conducted by a team of experts with empathy and sensitivity to the feelings of the survivors of child abuse. The fact that it is a panel consisting of several people means that it has within it more expertise than any one person could offer. Importantly, the public can have extra confidence in the integrity of its work, because no one individual can take important decisions or come to judgments alone.

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  1. Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab)

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    I welcome the Home Secretary’s statement to the House today.

    Two years ago this month, the Home Secretary came to the House to announce investigations into abuse in north Wales care homes. I asked her then if she would set up an overarching inquiry into child abuse. In July this year, she rightly agreed to do so and said that she wanted it to start as quickly as possible. Four months later, that inquiry has not started and has been mired by confusion. I therefore welcome the changes she has announced today and her apology to survivors of abuse for the things that have gone wrong.

  2. Mrs May

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    I thank the right hon. Lady for the tone and approach she has taken to this matter. As I said in my statement, across the House we all feel that we have an opportunity to do something that can deal with the terrible abuses and crimes that have taken place in the past and to learn the lessons that are necessary for the future. As we have seen with the recent reports into Rotherham and the report about Greater Manchester from the hon. Member for Stockport (Ann Coffey), these issues have not gone away. We continue to see abuse taking place and we continue to see failures, sadly, in our institutions—some of them the very institutions that children should expect to be able to trust to protect them from these sorts of crimes.

    The right hon. Lady asked a number of questions. On engagement with survivors, as I indicated, I will be meeting with survivors groups. The secretariat to the panel inquiry has also started some separate meetings with survivors groups already. As I indicated, there will be further opportunities for such meetings and for some open forums in different parts of the country, where it will be possible for people to come forward. I recognise the importance of that process; it is an important part of the work that the panel inquiry will be undertaking.

  3. Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con)

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    I commend the Home Secretary for the very measured way in which she has approached this issue, and I remind the House that it is only because of her that this inquiry is now taking place in response to Back Benchers’ requests. I remind my right hon. Friend that this is an overarching inquiry, encompassing everything from Savile to Rotherham, and not about individual children or individual people who may or may not have been implicated. This is not a one-woman show; it is a panel of experts open to scrutiny. Will she reiterate to me that to put survivors at the heart of this inquiry, it will be necessary to consult them about the possibilities for a future chairman and to have a sounding-board of survivors and victims, who have not been listened to for so many decades, so that they can continue to shape the inquiry as it goes forward and gain their confidence every step of the way? That is vital and I know she supports it.

  4. Mrs May

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    My hon. Friend makes very important points, and I am grateful to him for the conversations we have had. As I indicated, I have spoken to a number of Members who have been campaigning on this issue over the years. He is absolutely right that the terms of reference mean that the panel inquiry will look at a period of 44 years—from 1970 to today—and that it is open to the panel to decide whether it wishes to go beyond that period. It is indeed overarching, looking at cases of historical abuse and more recent cases to find out what were the institutional failures when it came to protecting children, and what further lessons need to be learned. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that we must remember the survivors in this work; it is for them that we are trying to find the answers to what happened in the past and trying to ensure that in future people will not have to go through the terrible experiences that some did. I will set up a liaison group, whose aim will be exactly as my hon. Friend suggested—to ensure that the survivors are kept in touch and able to contribute as the inquiry goes along.

  5. Mr David Blunkett (Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough) (Lab)

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    I commend the Secretary of State and my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) for the tone of the statement and the response. The emphasis on survivors and victims raises the issue, as the Home Secretary mentioned, of the scale of the problem. What immediate steps could be put in place not just to help the historical victims but to prepare for further revelations? It is beyond belief that this is not a nationwide problem rather than one confined to the areas that have already been identified. Given the enormity of the task confronting the panel, would it be reasonable in practical terms at least to consider having a joint chair, so that two people could address not only the historical lessons but where we need to go in changing the culture and altering the nature of how this country’s institutions have worked?

  6. Mrs May

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    The right hon. Gentleman makes an interesting suggestion, which was proposed to me by another Member this morning. The point of having a panel is that not just one individual or indeed potentially two co-chairs will be undertaking this work. The idea is to have a group of people coming together with different experience and different expertise. Unlike in simple judge-led inquiries where one person leads, it is very much the case that all the panel members will contribute. The chairman’s role is about the management of the inquiry, but the management in this case will be through a team of people brought together to ensure that the work is done properly.

  7. Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con)

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    The Home Secretary is to be commended for the tone in which she has delivered the statement. Is there not a problem, however? If the chairman asked for an Inquiries Act 2005 inquiry—I experienced this when I had to demand the public inquiry into the Mid-Staffordshire hospital, which proved to be a significant success—does the Home Secretary realise that she would have to disband the whole thing and go back to square one? Would it not be far better to start off with an Inquiries Act 2005 inquiry, which would allow evidence on oath, compulsion of witnesses and other matters to help us get to the bottom of this as we did with the Mid-Staffs inquiry?

  8. Mrs May

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    I hesitate to question my hon. Friend’s comments on such matters, but my advice is that it would be possible to turn the inquiry into a statutory one—namely, an inquiry with the powers of a statutory inquiry to compel witnesses—but for that to happen it would be necessary to have a request from the chairman. At the moment, it is not possible because we do not have a chairman. Once the chairman is in place, they will be able to make that judgment and come forward if they wish to turn this into a statutory inquiry.

  9. Mr Jack Straw (Blackburn) (Lab)

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    Will the Home Secretary follow up the—in my view—very sensible suggestion from her right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), the former Attorney-General, that the net should be cast more widely on this occasion, and that the search for a chair should extend to jurisdictions abroad that are similar to ours?

  10. Mrs May

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    Our initial consideration of potential candidates did involve looking more widely than the United Kingdom, and I should be happy to repeat that process. It should be borne in mind that it is not only the United Kingdom that has seen examples of child abuse of this sort. If we do look more widely, we must be careful to ensure that individuals will again be able to have the confidence of survivors.

  11. John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD)

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    Leah McGrath Goodman, an American journalist, was banned from entering the country by the UK Border Agency, as a result of which she was prevented from investigating child abuse in Jersey. The allegations involved a senior UK politician. I hear what the Home Secretary says about terms of reference, but the terms of reference would exclude investigation of an issue that falls into two jurisdictions. Why, for instance, was Leah McGrath Goodman arrested at Heathrow airport recently? Will the Home Secretary look carefully at such issues, which are evidence of the way in which things have been covered up during the present decade?

  12. Mrs May

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    I know that my hon. Friend has long campaigned for events that took place in Jersey to be included in any inquiry that is held. As I explained earlier, I will take steps to ensure that no work that is done by the inquiry into matters in Jersey is lost to this inquiry, if it is relevant to this inquiry, and that no one falls through the cracks. As for the case of the journalist coming through the border, I was not aware of it, but if my hon. Friend writes to me about it, I will respond.

  13. Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab)

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    I welcome the tone and content of the Home Secretary’s statement, which drew a line under the flawed process that we have seen so far, and which will give hope to the victims who have been waiting for this inquiry. The Select Committee accepts her proposal that we should conduct pre-appointment hearings, which may well set a precedent for parliamentary scrutiny of future public inquiries. In the meantime, she has set a very ambitious programme for the panel, and it is right that it should begin its work by meeting every Wednesday until Christmas. Who will chair those proceedings, or will the chair rotate between the panel members?

    I am glad that the Home Secretary will be publishing the Wanless-Whittam report. The Committee hopes to examine both gentlemen next week. Will the Home Secretary assure us that there are no other documents that are relevant to the inquiry and have not been published, and that, if there are any such documents, she will make them available to the Committee and to the panel?

  14. Mrs May

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    It would be possible for me to appoint an existing member of the panel to chair it on an interim basis, but I think that that should be discussed with the panel members to ensure that they are comfortable with any arrangements that are made. They will have their own proposals about how they wish to conduct their work. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman and the Select Committee for their willingness to take the process on board, and to hold a pre-confirmation meeting. I asked for that to be done because I think it important for the appointment to have a public element that can further guarantee the confidence of survivors in the process.

    I certainly intend all Government documents to be made available to the inquiry, but I caution the right hon. Gentleman that it will be for the panel to consider the appropriateness of publishing some of the material that is put before it. The same process applied to the members of the Hillsborough inquiry panel. There were some matters that they considered, for a range of reasons, in relation to individuals with whom they discussed those matters, and it is possible that there are matters of that sort that this panel would not wish to be aired in public.

  15. Maria Miller (Basingstoke) (Con)

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    The whole House will welcome the Home Secretary’s determination to get to the truth. Can she reassure constituents who have been victims of child abuse and have contacted me that the inquiry will start its work as soon as possible, and that the appointment of the chair will not cause unnecessary delay? I think that the victims deserve answers, and they are concerned about the delay that they are seeing.

  16. Mrs May

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    I can give my right hon. Friend that reassurance. We had previously been waiting for the chairman to be in place before the inquiry set forth on its work. I think it is important that it does start now. As I have said, it is possible for it to start without a chairman, because it is a panel of members. I think everybody in this House wants to see this work started, and to get it going so we can see results coming from the work of the inquiry, because that is what is due to survivors. I am sure that that sentiment will be supported across the whole House.

  17. Ann Coffey (Stockport) (Lab)

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    I also welcome the Home Secretary’s statement. One of the shocking facts in historical child abuse cases is that institutional and wider public attitudes at the time enabled abusers to prey on children at will because children were not listened to. Does the Home Secretary agree that part of this inquiry’s job in learning from the past must be to bring forward recommendations about how we tackle wider cultural attitudes that mean that vulnerable children are still too often blamed for their own abuse because of how they look or what they wear?

  18. Mrs May

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    I absolutely agree. What has been shocking in the Rotherham case and in the hon. Lady’s report into Greater Manchester—and we have also seen this in the historical cases—is the fact that those who were being abused often raised their voices but were not heard because they were not believed, or because, and I think is truly shocking, people felt that those young people were in a circumstance such that they should not be listened to. As the hon. Lady said, in some sense this was seen as just the sort of thing that happened to those sorts of young people. This is an appalling attitude. We have seen it, and, sadly, we see it still today, in the work that is being done out there, as the hon. Lady has revealed. We see police officers, people in social services and others almost casting to one side certain individuals and not being willing to take up their cases. It is time that people looked not at the credibility of the individual, but at the credibility of the allegation.

  19. Mr Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire) (Con)

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    I welcome what the Home Secretary said about the panel proceeding with its work, but it does depend in part on the results of other inquiries into institutions, including those by Kate Lampard on the NHS and Dame Janet Smith on the BBC. Can the Home Secretary tell the House any more about the progress being made in the production of those reports? Clearly the panel will be able to access disclosure of documents, but I think we should assume that it will wish to go beyond that to independent investigations. Will she tell the House what kind of investigative resources would be available to the panel, should it seek them?

  20. Mrs May

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    My right hon. Friend is right. I am not able to give him an absolute timeline on the other reports he referred to, but I am very happy to write to him, or for the Secretaries of State responsible for the Departments affected by those inquiries to write to him, to indicate where they are at the moment. It is important that all the evidence that is brought before this panel inquiry is available to it and it will obviously be looking at both historical cases and, as the reviews become available, looking into those reviews.

    As far as investigations taking place, it is not the task of the inquiry to determine criminal or civil liability for any individual. Where it is the case that allegations are made against an individual as a perpetrator, those allegations will be passed to the police. There will be an ability, through setting up various processes, to ensure allegations go to the police and are properly dealt with. So the investigation into specific allegations will be a matter for the police.

  21. Simon Danczuk (Rochdale) (Lab)

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    I also welcome the Home Secretary’s statement, but does she agree that the role of the Home Office in the redrafting of Fiona Woolf’s letter in many ways displays the kind of self-preservation instincts held by the Home Office that got us into this mess in the first place? Who instructed the civil servants to assist Fiona Woolf in redrafting that letter?

  22. Mrs May

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    The process, as I understand it, was that Fiona Woolf wanted to ensure that she was as transparent as possible in the information she gave in the letter she sent to me, and therefore went through a number of drafts in order to ensure that all information was available. As I have indicated, I was not aware of those iterations of drafts of the letter. I think it is important that we have ensured that there was transparency from Fiona Woolf, but, of course, other members of the panel were also asked to write to me to indicate whether there were any matters they felt should be known and people should be aware of before the panel started its work.

  23. Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD)

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    I welcome the tone adopted by the Home Secretary. It is absolutely right that survivors must have confidence in the work of the inquiry. May I press her on the matter of the Kincora boys home in Northern Ireland? In her statement, she has said that she will not expand the terms of reference to cover Kincora, but I understand that she wrote to the First Minister of Northern Ireland last week to say that if there was not enough co-operation from the security services, she would seek agreement to bring that matter inside the terms of reference. Will she make it clear what is likely to happen in that regard?

  24. Mrs May

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    I am not able to look ahead and see how this is going to progress, but I am clear that we need to ensure that the Sir Anthony Hart has all the information he needs to be able to undertake his investigation into Kincora. I have made it clear today that we need to ensure that nothing happens to allow any information or any individual to slip between the cracks in terms of the work of the two inquiries. We will be talking to the panel inquiry about what needs to be put in place to ensure that information can be exchanged where it is relevant to both inquiries, precisely so that people will not slip between the cracks as a result of there being two inquiries.

  25. Mr Tom Watson (West Bromwich East) (Lab)

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    I thank the Home Secretary for putting survivors at the centre of this inquiry. She made a very personal statement today, which I am sure will be appreciated. In a previous statement, she said that a mechanism would be found to allow panel members to have access to intelligence service files, where relevant. Will she give us a little more detail on the progress on that front?

  26. Mrs May

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    I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who has campaigned long and hard on this issue on behalf of survivors. This is an issue that we have looked at in relation to Kincora boys home, and we are also looking at it in relation to this inquiry. It is my expectation and intention that all Government agencies will make information available to the inquiry when they are requested to do so. We are in the process of working out the protocol to ensure that that is possible between all agencies and the inquiry, so that no stone is left unturned.

  27. Michael Ellis (Northampton North) (Con)

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    I join others in commending the Home Secretary for her tone. I also commend the tone of those on the Opposition Front Bench. I particularly commend the Home Secretary for setting up the inquiry in the first place. By doing so, she has transcended the issues of the past, and we now hope to arrive at some important truths. What is often not mentioned is the vast expertise of the members of the inquiry panel. They bring with them a vast amount of experience, and two of the panel’s members are themselves survivors. Will she confirm her confidence in the panel as it stands? I commend her for factoring in the crucial importance of survivors being at the forefront of this exercise.

  28. Mrs May

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    I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. He is absolutely right: we brought the panel members together precisely because of the breadth of their experience and expertise. As he said, Graham Wilmer, who established the Lantern Project, is himself a survivor who has worked to help and support other survivors. Another member of the panel, Professor Pearce, has been working on these issues in an academic setting. There is representation from the health service, as well as from Dru Sharpling, an inspector of constabulary who brings the law enforcement angle to the panel. The members of the panel possess a significant amount of expertise and individual experience, and I believe that all of them coming together will lead to them being able to get to the truth.

  29. Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP)

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    I should like to add my voice to those who have expressed appreciation of the Home Secretary’s sincerity today. No one doubts her sincerity for a moment. However, most people do not get a second chance, never mind a third one, to get something right. Will she now listen carefully to the unanimous representations from the Home Affairs Select Committee and the Northern Ireland Assembly—it is a difficult enough task to get a unanimous view from the Assembly—that Kincora should be included in the inquiry? Will she now get this matter right as well?

  30. Mrs May

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    I recognise the hon. Gentleman’s concern about the Kincora inquiry, and that there have been representations; indeed, the First Minister himself made representations to me about the inclusion of Kincora. As I have indicated, I want to ensure that the Hart inquiry can do its work and have access to all the information to which it needs to have access. I also want to ensure that there is no question of any problems, individuals or organisations in any sense escaping attention as a result of there being two inquiries. For a number of reasons, not least the fact that the panel inquiry currently covers England and Wales, any work undertaken here obviously could not require changes in Northern Ireland, because this is a devolved not a reserved matter. We are all at one in agreeing that we want to make sure that these inquiries get to the truth, and that nobody and no institution can slip through the net.

  31. Sir Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con)

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    May I urge my right hon. Friend to think about the suggestion made by our hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) about setting up a statutory inquiry as soon as possible? I appreciate what she has said about waiting for the appointment of the chairman, but as soon as the chairman is appointed, will she consult him or her on transferring the inquiry across to the statutory system? It is much better to do that now, rather than when we are halfway through the process.

    Will my right hon. Friend consider appointing, or urging the appointment, of a serving or recently retired senior judge who has experience of family law, children’s law and historical sex abuse, so that we can have an inquiry chairman who brings with them their authority and who commands respect?

  32. Mrs May

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    I thank my hon. and learned Friend for his proposal. The process for a statutory inquiry is that it is for the chairman, once they are in place, to determine whether the inquiry should become a statutory one. I have made it absolutely clear—I do not think that I can be any clearer—that if they feel that that is necessary in order to compel witnesses and have the other powers of a statutory inquiry, the Government will respond to that.

    On the sort individual who should be appointed, the important aspect is to have somebody in whom everybody dealing with the inquiry can have confidence and, crucially, in whom survivors can have confidence. When she wrote to me, Fiona Woolf said that it was that issue that led to her resignation.

  33. Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab)

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    In making the progress that we all want, will the Home Secretary consider the names I will send to her of two people who are sensitive and greatly experienced in this field, but who cannot in any way be classed with the metropolitan elite? We should not move away from this matter without considering the serious situation in which the first of the seven versions of the letter, which was not presented to the Home Affairs Committee, gave the impression of a close friendship between the Brittans and Fiona Woolf, while the final version suggested that they were almost strangers. Was that not an attempt by the civil service to mislead the Committee and, by doing so, to mislead the House? What is she going to do about that?

  34. Mrs May

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    I do not believe that there was any attempt to mislead the House. The letter that I received was the letter that Fiona Woolf agreed. I believe that she intended in that letter to be as transparent as possible about the nature of her relationship with the noble Lord Brittan. I am sure that many Members of the House have proposals about individuals who would be appropriate for the chairmanship, and I will certainly look at the names that the hon. Gentleman wishes to send to me.

  35. Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con)

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    I welcome my right hon. Friend’s desire for the committee’s work to start as soon as possible, but does she share my concern that the longer its work continues, the harder it will be for a chair to pick up that work and assert themselves? May I press her to explain a little further the extent to which she has considered asking a panel member to take the chair?

  36. Mrs May

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    I understand my hon. Friend’s point. We will consider a variety of names for the chair. He and others have suggested that we should look at taking someone from within the panel itself, but as the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) has said, there may be other suggestions that Members wish to make. It is a fine judgment, and I want to ensure that the person who is appointed has our full confidence and can carry on the work of the inquiry. But, as my hon. Friend has also said, that process must not take so long that it becomes difficult for the individual to pick up the work of the inquiry. We will be operating in the knowledge of both those aspects.

  37. Mr David Winnick (Walsall North) (Lab)

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    Whatever the distinguished legal experience was of the two people originally chosen, why did the Home Secretary decide to restrict her choice to a very small part of Westminster? On reflection, would it not have been better for her to have consulted on this serious issue—as she intends to do now, which I very much welcome—from the very start?

  38. Mrs May

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    I did not restrict my choice, as the hon. Gentleman suggests, to a very small part of Westminster. As I said to the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw), we also looked outside the United Kingdom, and I am willing to do that again.

  39. Sir Oliver Heald (North East Hertfordshire) (Con)

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    In joining in the welcome for the Home Secretary’s approach and tone, may I also ask her this: in the preparatory work and the taking of evidence that she has announced that the panel will be doing, can it be borne in mind that there may come a time when the chairman, having been appointed, wants to make a decision under the Inquiries Act 2005? Would it therefore be possible to ensure that the work of the panel is constructed in such a way that it avoids possible later duplication? That is the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) was making when he said that it might be necessary to recall witnesses and so on. If the panel had that in mind, it would be very useful.

  40. Mrs May

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    My hon. and learned Friend has made a practical suggestion about the operation of the panel inquiry, and it is certainly one that I will take on board.

  41. Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney North and Stoke Newington) (Lab)

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    The Home Secretary will be aware that very many survivors of sex abuse were genuinely frightened and upset at the notion of Fiona Woolf chairing the panel. Mr Alex Wheatle, who experienced child abuse in the Shirley Oaks home in Croydon, wrote in The Independent to that effect, so it is for the best that she has now withdrawn. On the question of security services, if the security services refuse to supply information, or if they supply information that is so heavily redacted that it is worse than useless, what recourse will the chair of the inquiry have?

  42. Mrs May

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    As I said when I made the statement in July and as I have repeated here today, I have been very clear to all the agencies involved that it is the expectation and the intention that they should make evidence available to the inquiry. Of course, as has been mentioned, the chair will have to consider whether this is a non-statutory or a statutory inquiry with the powers to compel witnesses that a statutory inquiry would have. I wish to reiterate that, across the whole of Government, we have an opportunity to address this issue, find out what happened in the past, find out the failings and ensure that we learn the lessons for the future, and that is what I expect every part of Government to do.

  43. Duncan Hames (Chippenham) (LD)

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    I thank the Home Secretary for her statement and her support for this inquiry and look forward to the publication of the Wanless and Whittam report next week. Will she confirm that the reasons for the delay in the publication of that report are exclusively those that she gave in her statement and that officials in her Department are not engaged in redacting any material from that report that they do not consider suitable for placing in the public domain?

  44. Mrs May

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    I can assure my hon. Friend that there are two reasons why the report has not yet been published. One is, as I said in my statement, that it is important that it is published separately and on its own, so that people can look at it and then look at this statement and what I have announced today and consider them both properly. Receiving a report of this sort is not just a formality. I have had to consider it and I have asked some questions to ensure that it has addressed the terms of reference that were given.

  45. Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green)

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    I particularly welcome the fact that the Home Secretary will be consulting the survivor groups before appointing a chair, but may I press her on the terms of reference a little further? Will she confirm that they can be amended and broadened as the inquiry progresses if new evidence comes to light suggesting new avenues to be covered, not just on Jersey, but in any other direction the evidence might suggest?

  46. Mrs May

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    We were very clear in the terms of reference about one particular aspect: it would be open to the inquiry panel to come forward if it wished to extend the timeframe we have set. What I am keen to ensure, as I am sure are other Members, is that the terms of reference are such that the inquiry is able to do its work, and do it within a reasonable time scale, so that we can see some answers coming. We do not just owe that to survivors; if there are lessons to be learned and actions that need to be taken to protect children, currently and in the future, we need to see those lessons and be able to put those actions into place. If the chairman and the panel were to reach a point where they felt that their terms of reference were such that there was an important aspect they were not able to consider that was preventing them from getting to the truth, of course the Government would look at that.

  47. Sir Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con)

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    My right hon. Friend has rightly set broad terms of reference and has rightly set a wide time scale so that nothing can be excluded. But the panel is going to be required to consider the behaviour over many years of broadcasters, children’s homes, churches, clubs, Government agencies and organisations, hospitals, schools, youth organisations and others, so does the House not have to recognise that that is a herculean task and that we have to be patient? If this work is going to be done properly, it cannot be done instantly; it will take a little time. There is a trade-off between having broad terms of reference and a wide period of examination, and the time it takes for the work to be done.

  48. Mrs May

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    My right hon. Friend makes a very important point. It is essential that we are able to ensure that the inquiry can get on with its work and, as I have just indicated in response to the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), that we start to see results in terms of the analysis that will be undertaken of what has gone wrong in the past, what is continuing to go wrong and what further lessons we need to learn. We owe that not just to the survivors of past incidents of abuse, but to those who are vulnerable and could be potential victims in the future.

  49. Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)

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    I welcome the new start to the inquiry, but may I say to the Home Secretary that anyone who watched the Baby Peter documentary last week will know what a difficult area this is in terms of simply getting to the truth of what really happened in the death of one child? What we need out of this committee is not only independence; we need it to be rigorous so that it finds out who the perpetrators are, because this is a national scandal. Will she also bear it in mind that during my time as Chair of the relevant Committee, I found some deeply damaged people who were the victims of false allegations of abuse? It destroyed them, their careers and their families, so getting the balance right in this and not having a hue and cry is essential.

  50. Mrs May

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    The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point. What is essential is that the results of this inquiry are those in which everybody can have confidence, to ensure that it has got to the truth. As he says, it is very difficult in this area to identify what has happened, but I would say that we have seen, in the reports on child abuse in Rotherham and in the report from the hon. Member for Stockport (Ann Coffey), some good examples recently of people—Professor Alexis Jay and the hon. Lady—who have gone out and been able to identify real failings in institutions which, sadly, are still taking place today.

  51. Charlotte Leslie (Bristol North West) (Con)

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    Further to the questions from my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) and others, I thank the Home Secretary for assurances that there is the potential for the inquiry to be statutory, but given that those potentially implicated may be embedded deep in the marrowbone of the establishment, does she agree that in order to gain the confidence of the survivors, imbue fear into perpetrators who may think they are untouchable and protect existing and future potential victims, the inquiry must have teeth right from the start, not be dependent on the chair’s discretion? Given that it is the establishment itself that is under investigation, those teeth may have to be very long and very sharp indeed.

  52. Mrs May

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    I agree that we want to ensure that the panel is able to get to the truth. In this area and particularly looking at historical cases, this is not an easy task and members of the panel will have to be prepared to go wherever the evidence leads them. My hon. Friend referred to the discretion of the chair. The point of having the panel is that it is not the discretion of the chair that will determine where this inquiry goes, who is called to give evidence or what reviews are considered. That will be for the panel as a whole, which is why it is important to have the breadth of expertise that we have on the panel.

  53. Liz McInnes (Heywood and Middleton) (Lab)

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    It is right that the emphasis should be on support for survivors, but can the Home Secretary give more detail about the survivors liaison group, how it will be set up and, more importantly for me, whether there will be representation from my constituency, Heywood and Middleton?

  54. Mrs May

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    This is my first opportunity to welcome the hon. Lady to the House, and she is already standing up for her constituents, as she has just indicated. The precise model of the survivors liaison group is not yet available. I will discuss with survivors groups how that liaison group should be operated in order to ensure that it has the confidence of survivors and is able to input to the extent to which we wish it to. On that basis, I am not able to confirm who will be on it and therefore which part of the country they will be from.

  55. David Rutley (Macclesfield) (Con)

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    I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement and her heartfelt commitment to seeing the inquiry process moved further forward. I also welcome the announcement that the inquiry panel will be able to take evidence remotely, which is vital, given the victims’ experiences. When will the panel be able to use this innovative and appropriate approach? All Members of the House, with her, are keen to move the inquiry forward as fast as possible.

  56. Mrs May

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    We are keen to ensure that we get the technology in place as soon as possible so that the inquiry panel can take evidence remotely, for those who wish to do so. I am sure my hon. Friend will recognise, though, that we need to ensure the security of that process. When the matters being dealt with are as personal as they will be for survivors, it is right that we get the technology in place and ensure that it is secure.

  57. Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab)

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    The Home Secretary has stressed the importance of current protection for children. In the appalling case of the deputy head teacher from Cardiff in Wales who was jailed in May this year for having secretly filmed children in toilets, it turns out that the National Crime Agency did not pass on details about this man to the South Wales police for a whole 19 months. The NCA has information about 20,000 individuals who have accessed child abuse on the internet and only 700 of those have been prosecuted. What will she do to ensure that progress is made in dealing with the issue so that children can be better protected?

  58. Mrs May

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    From the timeline that the hon. Lady set out, the information that she refers to would initially have been with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre before the National Crime Agency was established. The National Crime Agency has been clear about the number of people it has identified who have been looking at child abuse images. Under the National Crime Agency more people who are looking at child abuse images are having action taken against them. In the past year more than 1,000 people have had action taken against them, and Operation Notarise has led to the investigation of over 700 individuals. So the National Crime Agency is working. It is ensuring that every case that comes to it is looked at and considered, and that appropriate action is taken. It prioritises those that are of the greatest potential harm to children.

  59. Mr Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con)

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    I thank the Home Secretary for the compassion and understanding she has displayed today towards the survivors, and for her drive in setting up the inquiry. The scope and nature of the inquiry are unprecedented and she has talked about a reasonable time scale, but it might take some time and, as she has recognised, child sex abuse is taking place today. Should not the panel therefore come forward with some recommendations early on to help stamp out this horrific child sex abuse? Will she give the panel an opportunity, perhaps via an interim report, to bring forward recommendations for her consideration?

  60. Mrs May

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    My hon. Friend makes an important point. I indicated in my statement in July that I expected the panel to publish an interim report before the general election, but obviously the time scales have since shortened. One of the things that I think the inquiry panel will want to look at, and that I believe it should look at, is the question of how it can report throughout the process on the work it is doing. I think that would reinforce the confidence that survivors and others can have in the process and allow the panel, if it comes across issues on which it feels action should be taken sooner rather than later, to report on them so that action can follow.

  61. Mr Michael Meacher (Oldham West and Royton) (Lab)

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    Is not an important dimension of this scandal—the Home Secretary signed off on all this—the fact that her Department made two utterly inappropriate, establishment-ridden appointments and then, to cap it all, drafted and redrafted a letter seven times in order to play down and disguise the relationship between Fiona Woolf and Lord Brittan, who was Home Secretary when all the Home Office files on this alleged Westminster and Whitehall child sex abuse mysteriously disappeared? Can she not understand that because of that background and despite her words today, which I welcome, she has already lost the confidence of much of the public about her capacity to conduct a highly sensitive inquiry of this kind in a properly objective and impartial manner?

  62. Mrs May

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    I am afraid that I do not accept the premise of much of what the right hon. Gentleman said. For example, he said that all the Home Office files relating to these matters have gone missing, but that is not the case; and he made a number of other references. All I will say in answer to his question is that I am not conducting this inquiry; I have established the inquiry, and I have done so because of my concern both about the historical cases and about the continuing cases of child abuse and child sexual exploitation in this country. We should be ashamed of what has happened in the past and, sadly, what we see happening on our streets today. The panel will be conducting what I believe is a once-in-a-generation inquiry that will give us the opportunity to recognise the problems and failings of the past and ensure that we address them so that in future fewer children will become victims of this appalling crime.

  63. Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con)

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    I acknowledge and welcome the huge cross-party support for this most important inquiry, but does my right hon. Friend agree that the shadow Home Secretary’s complaint that the Government have not been listening to the voices of victims would have rather more resonance had the inquiry been instituted under the previous Labour Government, rather than it falling to this Government to institute an investigation into child abuse?

  64. Mrs May

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    I note the point my hon. Friend makes. I shall simply make two points in reply. First, it is this Government who have set up the inquiry, but I have commended the tone with which the shadow Home Secretary responded to my statement. Secondly, I think that the overwhelming view across the House is that we want the inquiry to get on and do its work.

  65. Hywel Williams (Arfon) (PC)

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    In the 893 pages of the Waterhouse report on child abuse in north Wales, there are only five references to the Welsh language. All of them refer to various management issues, all are negative in tone, to varying degrees, and none relates directly to survivors’ experiences. In the spirit of listening properly to survivors, will the Home Secretary ensure that this new inquiry, whoever chairs it, gives proper and active consideration to the languages used by survivors, whether Welsh, English or community languages?

  66. Mrs May

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    The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point that has not been raised with me before. I would expect the panel inquiry to ensure that it is able to take evidence from all survivors who wish to give evidence to it, and to recognise that some may wish to give it in a language that is not English.

  67. Tessa Munt (Wells) (LD)

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    I welcome the Home Secretary’s statement and thank her for taking the time and trouble to consult my colleagues and me, and for recognising the importance of trust in the process. Will she expand a little on her thoughts about the six regional events and their place in the process, protecting survivors against what can be a slightly intrusive press, and making sure that services such as counselling are available to support them?

  68. Mrs May

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    My hon. Friend makes some important points. The intention of the secretariat and panel in having the regional events is to ensure that the panel is more accessible for people across England and Wales, and to make it easier for people to give evidence. As I have said, we will also ensure that evidence can be given remotely, in recognition of the fact that some will find it difficult to come to a hearing. I also expect that the inquiry panel will want to look at the balance between the occasions it takes evidence in public and in private. Many survivors may wish to give their evidence in private, and I would expect the inquiry panel to recognise that and deal with it. The secretariat is talking to Department of Health officials about the counselling and support that should be available to victims, not just after they have given evidence but possibly before they give it too.

  69. Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab)

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    Following on from the previous question and from the welcome that has been given for the survivors liaison group, I know the Home Secretary said that further details are not yet available, but has she thought about what practical support will be available for survivors who want to travel to London to give evidence or to be part of the survivors liaison group, as well as the psychological support and counselling they may need when they have to relive and recount what was obviously a very traumatic experience?

  70. Mrs May

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    Yes, we are indeed considering those aspects. It is commendable that the secretariat has already indicated that it wants to have some regional events, so that people do not have to come to London to give their views. Although it has announced a number of events over the coming months, given the length of the time the inquiry will take, I would expect that that is a matter it will return to. Everybody wants to ensure that survivors can give their input into the panel inquiry’s work, while recognising that for many it will be traumatic and difficult, and it will be necessary to build trust so that survivors feel able to come forward.

  71. Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con)

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    To what extent have other countries undertaken historical child sex abuse inquiries, what are the key lessons to be learned, and has any nation ever embarked on as ambitious an inquiry as the Home Secretary has set out?

  72. Mrs May

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    I am aware that some abuse inquiries have taken place in other countries, Australia being one that comes to mind. I cannot say what work the panel inquiry will look at; it might well wish to see whether lessons can be learned from work done elsewhere, as well as looking at the reviews that have taken place. I am not aware of another inquiry with such a wide breadth, in terms of the type of matter being dealt with or the historical span.

  73. John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab)

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    Next week is one of these new parliamentary half-holiday weeks. Will the Home Secretary confirm that she will make a statement on the Wanless report so that Members of the House can ask her questions about it?

  74. Mrs May

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    I will ensure that the Wanless report is available to Members of this House. As to whether I make a statement, the hon. Gentleman will have to wait until business is announced as usual.

  75. Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP)

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    I know that the sensitivity expressed towards survivors extends also to the victims who unfortunately have not survived up to this point. The Home Secretary knows that many of us in Northern Ireland have not been persuaded by the line call in respect of Kincora. Regardless of whether people are giving evidence to the Hart inquiry or to the panel inquiry, who will make the call in relation to the Official Secrets Act? She has referred to agencies that will co-operate. Will those agencies control the evidence that might be given by former officers or agents, or will those people be able to give evidence to these inquiries on an unfettered, unfiltered basis?

  76. Mrs May

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    As I said in response to an earlier question, we are currently in the process of looking at the protocols that will need to be in place to ensure that the evidence that needs to be available to these inquiries will be available.

  77. Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab)

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    My constituents who were subject to abuse at Beechwood and other children’s homes in Nottinghamshire have already waited long enough for their voices to be heard. I welcome the Home Secretary’s assurance that she will listen to survivors, but will she also ensure that Nottinghamshire police have sufficient resources to conduct their ongoing criminal investigations in a timely manner so that the survivors secure justice?

  78. Mrs May

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    I recognise that a number of forces around the country are conducting investigations both into current issues of child abuse and historical cases. I have been discussing matters relating to resources with the national policing lead on such matters, who is Chief Constable Simon Bailey from Norfolk.

  79. Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab)

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    I am sure that most people now want to see the inquiry proceed without any further setbacks. However, given the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the choice of persons to chair it, is the Home Secretary absolutely certain that all other members of the panel have been thoroughly checked and that there is nothing in their backgrounds or contacts that could lead people subsequently to question whether they are the right people to serve on it?

  80. Mrs May

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    Of course, due diligence was done on the members of the panel. In addition, as I said earlier, each member of the panel has written to me with an indication as to whether they believe that there are contacts or other matters that would affect the inquiry that they are taking part in, and those letters are available.

  81. Mr Michael McCann (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow) (Lab)

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    Nearly 900 men have made complaints to County Durham police force about the abuse they suffered as youngsters at Medomsley detention centre in the 1970s and 1980s. Will the Secretary of State confirm that the inquiry’s terms of reference will be wide enough to include an examination of Government-endorsed abuse such as the “short, sharp shock” treatment introduced by a previous Administration?

  82. Mrs May

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    The inquiry panel will be looking at all the views and all the issues that have been raised in relation to historical child abuse. As I said, it is absolutely my intention to ensure that all Government Departments and agencies make sure that the inquiry panel has available any evidence that it wishes and needs to see in order to be able to undertake its duties properly and to look at the historical cases of child abuse but also the more recent cases of child abuse.

  83. Angela Smith (Penistone and Stocksbridge) (Lab)

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    Will the Home Secretary tell the House why the Home Office felt it necessary to remove a specific reference in the early drafts of Fiona Woolf’s letter to allegations of child sex abuse in Edinburgh?

  84. Mrs May

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    The letter that I received from Fiona Woolf was the letter that she agreed and signed off, and ensured, as far as I am aware, that it was as transparent as possible to ensure that it contained all information that was appropriate.

  85. Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab)

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    The Home Secretary has indicated that Fiona Woolf made her letter of disclosure available to the Department for review in order to ensure that she fulfilled her obligation for transparency. The problem the Department has is that, in the seven successive reiterations of that letter, it became less rather than more transparent. Will the Home Secretary ask the permanent secretary to interview the senior official in the Department who effected and initiated those changes in consultation with Fiona Woolf, and ensure that that civil servant can explain why those changes were suggested at each stage to Fiona Woolf and whether they did in fact increase or reduce transparency?

  86. Mrs May

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    The hon. Gentleman has made a number of assumptions about the process. I reiterate what I said earlier: Fiona Woolf wrote to me with the intention of being as transparent as possible about any issues and connections she felt it appropriate to refer to me. Obviously, it has been shown that the secretariat looked at a number of drafts. The letter that came to me was the letter that Fiona Woolf agreed.

  87. Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab)

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    On preventing future child abuse, the two cases of grooming I have dealt with during my time as an MP have both involved 15-year-old girls in relationships with men where the police and other agencies simply described them as having bad taste in boyfriends. It was almost as though there was a countdown to their 16th birthdays, when they thought they could wash their hands of them. Does the Home Secretary agree that, even if people present as being in a relationship, that is still clearly a case of child abuse and something we ought to be seeking to prevent?

  88. Mrs May

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    That is another example of the issue raised earlier by the hon. Member for Stockport (Ann Coffey)—namely, an attitude to young people that has dismissed some instances. It could very well be the case that a girl of 15 is in an abusive relationship. If so, it needs to be considered as an abusive relationship and the allegations need to be considered properly, rather than simply dismissed because of the age of the individual. Everybody needs to recognise that there is an age of consent, below which people should look very seriously at the allegations made.

  89. Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab)

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    One of the conclusions of the report by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Ann Coffey) is that we need to address the cultural issues that underpin much of the abuse, including the sexualisation of children as young as primary school age. On that basis, will the Government reconsider their opposition to compulsory personal, social, health and economic education, including age-appropriate relationship and sex education?

  90. Mrs May

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    I am having a number of discussions with the Department for Education and I understand that the Education Secretary is looking at the advice available in relation to PSHE. A number of issues that have been discussed in this House over time come under that particular heading. We all want to ensure that young people and children are being given appropriate advice and guidance.

  91. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab)

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    I commend the Home Secretary, particularly for her earlier remarks about assessing the credibility of the accusations rather than the credibility of either the accuser or the accused. That is a very important starting point. She also seemed to indicate that there would be a degree of interim reporting, which I welcome, because this is clearly going to be a massive undertaking. Does she envisage that the whole inquiry could turn into almost a standing commission? That might not be a bad thing, because it might be necessary in the longer term.

    Finally, in my own borough there have been complaints about Islington children’s homes in the past and the council has investigated them. The council is in a very different place now, but nevertheless it welcomes the inquiry and will co-operate with it. As the Home Secretary is fully aware, many of the children who were abused in children’s homes also went to homes in other parts of the country—in some cases to the Channel Islands. It is therefore very important that the inquiry is able to investigate across local authority administrative areas and, indeed, across jurisdictions to ascertain what happened, tragically, to many very vulnerable young children who were taken to homes in the Channel Islands.

  92. Mrs May

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    I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments, especially his remarks on the willingness of Islington council to participate in the work of the inquiry. His idea of a standing commission has not been raised before. Although it will take time for the panel of inquiry to complete its work, I do not want there to be an expectation that it will just carry on because the impact of its report might be lost and, crucially, that would affect our ability to act on its findings. I expect the panel to make interim reports, as I said earlier, so that any necessary actions can be undertaken as soon as possible, and so that survivors and others can see the ongoing work and continue to have confidence in that work.

  93. Mr Gordon Marsden (Blackpool South) (Lab)

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    The Home Secretary has rightly asked the Home Affairs Committee to conduct pre-appointment scrutiny. She also mentioned the involvement of survivors. Will she reflect on how the involvement of survivors in the selection process could be brought closer to the public part of the confirmation through the Select Committee to increase their confidence and our confidence that there will not be a third stumble along the way?

  94. Mrs May

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    I will certainly reflect on the process that we will put in place for survivors to have an input. Ultimately, it will be my decision, but I am putting the parts of the process in place to ensure that people can have confidence that we have explored all the avenues that it is necessary to explore before proceeding.

Recall of MPs Bill (Programme) (No. 2)

Ordered,

That the Order of 21 October 2014 (Recall of MPs Bill (Programme)) be varied as follows:

(1) In paragraph (2) of the Order (number of days for proceedings in Committee), for “three days” substitute “two days”.

(2) In the Table in paragraph (4) of the Order (order of proceedings etc. in Committee), for the entries for the Second and Third days substitute:

Second dayClause 6, Schedule 1, Clauses 7 to 10, Schedule 2, Clauses 11 to 16, Schedules 3 to 5, Clauses 17 to 20, Schedule 6, Clauses 21 to 25, remaining new Clauses, remaining new Schedules, remaining proceedings on the BillThe moment of interruption on the second day

(3) In paragraph (5) of the Order (proceedings on Consideration), for “one hour before the moment of interruption on the day on which those proceedings are commenced” substitute “five hours after the commencement of the proceedings”.

(4) In paragraph (6) of the Order (proceedings on Third Reading), for “at the moment of interruption on that day” substitute “six hours after the commencement of proceedings on Consideration”.—(Mr Gyimah.)

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