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Macur Review of Historical Child Abuse

Volume 607: debated on Tuesday 22 March 2016

I beg to move,

That this House has considered the Macur Review into historic child abuse.

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Sir Edward. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship today. I am sure we are all saddened by the news we are hearing from Brussels.

I will start by putting on record my thanks to the right hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb) for his statement last week. I also congratulate him on his new role in government. I also congratulate the Secretary of State for Wales and the Minister on their promotions. I look forward to working constructively with both of them in what I am sure will be an eventful year. I also pay tribute to many colleagues across the House for their work, especially the right hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd), who I am delighted to see with us this afternoon. She has campaigned tirelessly for the victims and survivors of child abuse in Wales and beyond.

The publication of the Macur review’s report was long overdue. For the survivors of these abhorrent events, it represented hope: that they would see justice; that their accounts of events would be vindicated; that the nagging doubts and conspiracy theories would be either verified or dispelled; and that the whole would be conducted disinterestedly without fear or favour. Unfortunately, the report, which includes more than 600 redactions, adds virtually nothing to our understanding of how the state failed so many children over so many years in north Wales.

I am sure that, like me, the hon. Lady has already had survivors contact her to say how disappointed they were. The report was their hope that there would be recognition, but all it does is leave unanswered questions still unanswered.

I agree. It seems to have been very much a matter of process and documentation, with survivors and victims as a second consideration. I will return to that.

The report culminates in a bland list of eight conclusions, which mainly state that Waterhouse was necessary, agree with the instigation of this inquiry, say that neither is a substitute for criminal proceedings and that the experience of giving evidence is difficult for survivors. The six recommendations include the platitudes that inquiries should be “above reproach”; that evidence should not be lost; that there is no purpose in further inquiries; and about the hazards of hindsight. I will return to recommendation 5 later.

Macur was the third review of its kind after the Jillings panel and the Waterhouse tribunal. We will have to wait a further two and a half years before we learn of the findings of Goddard’s independent inquiry into child sexual abuse. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in particular criticised the timescale, saying that despite the “drawn out process”, the report reveals “barely anything”. It expressed concern that that might deter victims from coming forward during the ongoing Operation Pallial.

I turn to redactions: the removal of names and details by which people might be identified. On my count—I may be wrong, although I counted twice—there are 633 redactions in the report. Although many will be duplications, the Secretary of State and the Minister must appreciate that that number is extremely high. The previous Secretary of State for Wales, the right hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire, said in his statement last week that redactions had been “kept to a minimum”. While I, and I am sure many people here, accept that some redactions must be made, particularly given the ongoing court proceedings and the potential for further actions, I put it to the House that to claim that redactions in the report have been kept to a minimum is frankly disingenuous.

I am particularly concerned about the extremely high number of redactions in chapters 7 and 8 on freemasonry and establishment figures respectively. Lady Justice Macur made recommendations in her report to the Secretaries of State on what should be redacted in the published report. She said:

“It is for the Secretaries of State to determine any further redaction of my Report weighing public interest with the caution”.

I congratulate the hon. Lady on securing this important debate. One of the few positives to come out of Waterhouse was the setting up of the Children’s Commissioner for Wales. Given the strong statement that the commissioner made, does she agree that the Government must be clear about the methodology that arrived at so many redactions?

I agree entirely. I will refer to what the Children’s Commissioner for Wales said anon and I hope that the Minister will be in a position to respond to her call as well as those we are making today.

The previous Secretary of State also said that the rationale behind making the redactions, as set out in the letters to the Secretaries of State by the Treasury Solicitor and the director general of propriety and ethics, “explain the reasons…fully”. However, I put it to the Minister that those justifications are weak and bland. I sympathise with the views expressed by victims and by the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, as just mentioned, who believe that the UK Government need to be more open about the process by which redactions were made. First, I ask the Minister to tell the House how many redactions were made in addition to those suggested by Lady Macur. Secondly, will he publish further information about why those additional redactions were made and what the process was in coming to a decision on them?

Especially alarming—possibly more so—are the numerous serious cases of missing or destroyed evidence at several different points during the various inquiries. Lady Justice Macur’s report refers to individuals who have implied in written evidence that they hold information about abusers who were not investigated by the police or the tribunal. She states that following an interview with—redacted name—she made a request for materials said by that person to be relevant to the review and stored by a solicitor. She goes on to say that that solicitor had since left the relevant practice and that the files in question were destroyed. She even says that the person at the firm dealing with her request recalled that, before the files were destroyed, the solicitor in question had visited the office and

“may have taken any documents he considered worthy of retention.”

The report states that the solicitor in question had failed to respond to correspondence from Lady Macur. Does the Minister consider that a satisfactory conclusion to that line of inquiry? Is simply ignoring correspondence until the problem goes away all one needs to do to get away with a crime? Even ignoring the allegation that the solicitor may have removed evidence, is the Minister satisfied that it would be standard practice to destroy recently archived data?

Unfortunately, that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to missing or destroyed evidence. The greatest cause for concern in relation to the process and documentation is of course the fate of the Waterhouse tribunal’s evidence originally handed over to the Welsh Office in 1998. Those documents—it says this in the report—were supposed to be archived securely for 75 years. That did not happen. The evidence received scant respect at the Welsh Office and it was then shuffled over to the Welsh Government.

This is simply a catalogue of data mismanagement: dependency on technology that becomes dated and corrupted; destruction of hardware and tapes; boxes of evidence in disorder; and a reference index that lists 718 boxes while only 398 were initially made available. It remains unclear how many boxes of evidence were finally handed over to Lady Justice Macur, but documents were still coming to light on 1 December last year. It should be noted that the report was presented on 10 December. That methodology does not instil confidence.

The significance of the destroyed computer database cannot be overestimated. That was the record of all documentation. Against that database, if extant, it would have been possible to come to a view as to whether significant evidence was present or missing. Macur states:

“It is impossible to confidently report that I have seen all the documentation that was before the Tribunal.”

We cannot therefore come empirically to an opinion on whether material has been lost, removed or concealed.

I interviewed six young men some years ago in the Cynon Valley. Those boys were taken to north Wales, and that may be true of boys from other parts of south Wales as well. This is talked about as the north Wales abuse inquiry, but it is sometimes forgotten that the children came from all over Wales. Those boys’ reports were harrowing, as Members can imagine. It is an absolute disgrace that there are so many missing documents; I entirely agree with the hon. Lady. Where have they gone? Who is responsible? Lots of the evidence given to the Jillings report, which preceded the Waterhouse inquiry, has also gone missing. Where is it? Who did that, and what were they hiding?

I agree. There is a history, as the right hon. Lady mentioned, of a loss of evidence associated with child abuse. I refer also to the Geoffrey Dickens dossier. I ask the Minister to consider whether victims and survivors of abuse in Wales—not only north Wales, of course—can, in all honesty, be satisfied with the findings of this report.

Now that the Macur review has been published, we are left with the overall lasting impression that documentation and process have been more important than securing justice for the victims and survivors of the abuse that was perpetrated, which should have been the overarching responsibility and purpose of the review. Symptomatic of that concern for documentation and process rather than for the victims and survivors of abuse was the failure to speak to them individually. The review held a public session in Wrexham in June 2013. The review’s website states that, on that day, Lady Justice Macur

“met privately with anyone who asked to do so”

and that the review

“met with numerous individuals with relevant information.”

However, I have spoken with one of the survivors, Keith Gregory, who is a point of contact for other victims and survivors of abuse, and he has informed me that arrangements for interviews were forgotten by the review.

Adding to the undermining of the victims and survivors of abuse are the definitions of “unreliable witnesses” and “multiple hearsay”. Those unfortunate terms were used at the time by people working within the Wales Office to dismiss those who had approached them to demand that attention be focused on investigating abuse that later turned out to be true and to be widespread. The terms are still in use today and are very potent.

It is unfortunate that, due to misguided and wild accusations that emanated from multiple investigations into prominent public figures, sympathy for the survivors and victims of historical child abuse has swung away from them to incorrectly accused individuals. Obviously, the cases of figures such as Lord Edwin Bramall and Harvey Proctor—this, of course, is relevant to news we have heard in recent days—have demonstrated the need to proceed with care and caution when investigations are carried out. However, the danger is that the popular and media perception focuses on sympathy for wronged figures at the expense of genuine victims and survivors. The sensationalist and prurient nature of the subject matter makes a good tabloid story, but surely society should make every effort to respect the suffering of all innocents caught up in both perpetration and accusation.

Ultimately, after reading the Macur review, I am left with the impression that many points still need to be explained and explored under the public gaze. I am particularly concerned about recommendation 5, which I do not interpret in the same way as the Secretary of State for Wales did in his statement last week. He referred to one alleged incident of criminal charges, but Lady Justice Macur’s recommendation seems far more wide-reaching. It concerns me that the Secretary of State appears to have been at pains to restrict the scope of recommendation 5, and I seek a further explanation of what steps will be taken.

The role of the Children’s Commissioner for Wales should be strengthened, which she mentioned in an interview on “Sunday Politics Wales” at the weekend. The commissioner, Sally Holland, called for greater powers, noting that the commissioner’s powers in relation to complaints, advocacy and whistleblowing should be extended to include any area that involves the abuse of children. Might I suggest the Government examine that point and perhaps, if appropriate, include it when they inevitably strengthen and revise the initial draft of the Wales Bill? Will the UK Government work with the Welsh Government to ensure that the Children’s Commissioner has the full range of powers she believes she needs to ensure the full and adequate protection of children?

The Children’s Commissioner also called for the Government to publish or explain information regarding who identified what number of redactions and in which chapter; that is an important point. We are aware that an unredacted copy of the review has been forwarded to the Goddard inquiry, but that will not report until the end of 2018 and will therefore be another long process for the survivors, who have waited for many years already. Victims and survivors need to know what the methodology and process for deciding upon redactions were; the Government owe them that. I note that the only politicians to have had sight of the unredacted version so far all belong to the Government. That does not seem right. It is also clear that there needs to be a strengthened status for evidence from child abuse inquiries, including its preservation, which is a wider point for any Government inquiry.

There undoubtedly needs to be a commitment to ensure that children’s voices are heard in the criminal justice system, in health and social care and in any other sector that involves the care of children and contains the potential for abuse. Rather than simply a platitude that seeks to soothe and reassure in the face of public anger and is then forgotten as time rolls on, we need to change the way in which children’s voices are heard during such processes, in concrete and administrative terms.

The hon. Lady makes an important point about children’s voices being heard. In many of these cases, because the children were in a home, they were not considered to have any value, and that is why they were treated in the way they were. That, in some ways, is the worst aspect of this whole miserable, dreadful business.

One thing that has saddened me is perceiving how vulnerable these children were, which made them vulnerable to abuse in the first place, and how that abuse in turn has affected them for the rest of their lives and in part condemns them to being unreliable witnesses. We have not served them well; there is no denying that.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the speech she is making. In terms of process, is she surprised, as I am, at the paucity of reference to the linguistic context in which this happened in Wales—specifically in north Wales and north-west Wales, where a percentage of the children would be Welsh-speaking? I detect very few references to that in either the Macur report or, in fact, the Waterhouse report, which I read many years ago.

Indeed. We are talking about children’s voices, and one aspect of that is whether people are able to use their first language, in which they are most confident and express their emotions most fluently.

Finally, one critical lesson to be learned—I again echo the Children’s Commissioner for Wales—is that reviews from now on must be centred on the victims and the survivors. They should have the opportunity to advise on both the remit and process of an inquiry and should be properly supported at all stages. They, of course, are the people who live with this experience for their whole lives, and it has been a terrible experience. Diolch yn fawr iawn.

I am pleased to see you in the chair, Sir Edward. May I take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister on his appointment? This is not the easiest of debates with which to start. I also congratulate the hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Liz Saville Roberts) on her studied and sensible remarks.

This is a really difficult issue for Wrexham. It has cast a cloud over the years that I have been in Parliament, which are many now. The Waterhouse report was published in the year before I became a Member of Parliament and refers to events that occurred very often in Wrexham in the 1980s and 1990s, when I lived and worked in the area. There were great hopes for the Macur review. On Thursday, when the Secretary of State for Wales made a statement, I said that I was astonished. I am afraid that having considered the review to the extent I have been able to thus far, I do not in any way resile from my statement; in fact, I would intensify it.

The reaction within Wrexham has been one of huge disappointment and distress. The hon. Lady referred to Keith Gregory, who is my constituent and a local Plaid Cymru councillor in Wrexham, and to whom I spoke at the weekend. There is intense disappointment, but it simply confirms the view of many survivors about the political class, the political system and the whole world in which many of my constituents see politicians as operating. I am afraid that the report, with the redactions that have been referred to, will intensify the disillusion that the survivors of these incidents feel about the political and judicial system in north Wales.

A lot of issues will arise from the report, and I tell the Parliamentary Under-Secretary and Ministers at the Ministry of Justice that I will be pursuing many of those questions through parliamentary questions and further debate. We need a substantial debate—a full day’s debate—on this report, which is of national importance, in order to address the issues in it, once we have had the opportunity to try to read it. I congratulate the hon. Lady on reading the report: I have had real difficulty doing so because of the number of redactions in it. Many of the most important and controversial aspects of the report are very difficult to extract from the document we have.

The issue of redaction is very important. I was surprised last Thursday that the then Secretary of State for Wales made the statement, because I had expected the Lord Chancellor to make it. I have raised questions in connection with the publication of this report that have always been answered by the Ministry of Justice, which I therefore expected to be dealing with the matter. Although the report was jointly commissioned by the Wales Office and the Ministry of Justice, it is very important that Justice Ministers—I mean no disrespect to the Wales Office—should answer, because there are very technical and difficult legal questions relating to it.

It is clear that this report followed correspondence that took place between the Lord Chancellor and Lady Macur who was conducting an investigation and doing an independent report. The important issue of redaction was at the heart of that correspondence. The review itself makes it clear in paragraph 8.4 that

“the redaction of this report is a matter for the commissioning departments.”

It is very important that everyone out there understands that the redactions in the report were made by the Government, not by the judge. The only people who have seen the full report and have made the redactions are the Government.

However, that was not enough for the Lord Chancellor. Information that is given to us by Lady Justice Macur in paragraph 1.44 of the report tells us that Her Majesty’s Procurator General and Treasury Solicitor, Jonathan Jones, asked for a meeting with her to discuss the

“inclusion of names of individuals subject to unsubstantiated allegations.”

In the review, Lady Justice Macur says that she refused to have such a meeting.

That was not the end of the matter as far as the Ministry of Justice was concerned. I should make it clear that I have written to the Lord Chancellor to give him notice that I will be referring to this report and to him as an individual in this debate, because after the refusal to meet the Treasury Solicitor, the Lord Chancellor—effectively Lady Macur’s boss—wrote a letter to her. She is the head of an independent judicial inquiry investigating an alleged cover-up. He asked her to withhold the names of individuals who were the subject of allegations from the draft review presented to other Government Departments—so the Lord Chancellor asked her to take the names out of the draft report that was being sent, within the Government, to other Departments. I do not regard that as appropriate. This was an independent judicial inquiry and the matter was one for the judge.

I would have liked to question the Lord Chancellor on those points but, unfortunately, he did not present the report to Parliament, so I have not had the opportunity to do so: I will pursue those matters. In any event, the Government have redacted, as we have heard, huge swathes of the Macur review, removing in particular the names of individuals who have been the subject of speculation and who have national recognition. For example, the name Peter Morrison has been redacted from the report, but puzzlingly, other names—Greville Janner, Lord Gareth Williams—have not.

If I may correct the hon. Gentleman, Peter Morrison’s name does appear in the body of the report. It is important that the hon. Gentleman clarifies that, because it is not redacted.

It appears in one part of the report, but it is also redacted in other parts of it. His name appears in the introduction, I believe, but in the part that relates to establishment figures, his name is redacted.

The point I was seeking to make is that his name is not wholly redacted, and since the hon. Gentleman is making a speech that covers very important matters, it is necessary to clarify that point.

I am grateful for that clarification, but in the chapter that relates to establishment figures, the two names that I referred to are not redacted, whereas Peter Morrison’s name is. It is very difficult to deduce a line of principle to see why someone made that decision. I think we need to have that information, and I think it is very important and very appropriate that the Children’s Commissioner for Wales has written to the Secretary of State for Wales, saying that

“more can be done to communicate many of the omissions to be found in the report, and seek a greater level of transparency to be afforded to victims. As such, I call on the UK Government to issue a statement explaining the methodology used for redacting the publically available Macur Review Report, giving a full rationale for the changes made. Without an understanding of the approach employed by the Government’s lawyers, many will continue to question whether there has been protection of individuals because of their position in society, rather than because there are ongoing criminal investigations, or if there is no evidence against them.”

Some of the people whose names have been redacted are dead, so there will not be any continuing criminal investigations as far as they are concerned, and it is very difficult to understand why these redactions have been made and what element of principle is involved. We need that information because we have to try to persuade our constituents that our political system is not rotten and that it does afford them some element of protection.

I am also very concerned about the circumstances in which the review was set up. There is a very interesting section starting in paragraph 1.33 of the review concerning a Wales Office note, and the involvement of the Cabinet Secretary in the compilation of a note that involved the former Secretary of State for Wales, the right hon. Member for Clwyd West (Mr Jones), who is here today. It seems from the report that issues that are directly relevant to the establishment of the Macur review have been left hanging in the air and that a Cabinet note, which is referred to in paragraph 1.40, has not been disclosed. That is one of many documents that are available and should be published. A huge number of questions arise from the report and I am afraid its contents do nothing to resolve the disillusion of my constituents or the many survivors who suffered at the hands of criminals in north Wales in the 1980s and 1990s.

My hon. Friend is making a valuable contribution to the debate. Does he think that handing an unredacted copy to the Goddard inquiry will affect the delay in anyone having any chance of finding out what the redactions are? The Goddard inquiry is very optimistically expected to report in two years, but the scale of the inquiry is so enormous that most people think it will take a decade. Is it right that the abuse of those young people should continue for at least another 10 years?

My hon. Friend makes a valid point. The report took over three years and I would be astonished—to use that phrase again—if the Goddard review reported within that timeframe. That is why it is incumbent on us to ask these questions. It is unacceptable that only members of the Government see the unredacted report. I am a former Minister and an elected Member of Parliament and it is appropriate for the unredacted report to be seen by individuals in Opposition parties. Otherwise, the inference that political motives are involved will continue to be made.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that another disturbing element of the report is the handling of the documentation of the inquiry: its transmission from the Welsh Office to the Welsh Assembly Government, and what happened when it was in the hands of the Welsh Assembly Government? Does he agree that those matters also need further clarification?

The disappearance of documents at so many stages during the history of this matter creates huge difficulty for anyone expecting a proper inquiry. All those matters need to be questioned and investigated further.

The difficult with the Macur review, which in many ways gives valuable information that we did not have before, is that it leaves many questions hanging in the air, and all questions need to be addressed. The content is so dense and difficult that it will take time and hard work to get through to its core. There are many disturbing questions, and more now than before the then Secretary of State for Wales made his statement on Thursday.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Edward. I congratulate the hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Liz Saville Roberts) on securing today’s important debate. I hope that hon. Members will forgive me if I do not refer to all their speeches in detail, but I have a number of questions for the Minister, whom I welcome to his new role. We are all anxious that he can speak for as long as possible on this important subject.

I commend the thoughtful speech of my parliamentary neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Ian C. Lucas), in whose constituency many of the care homes referred to are situated. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd), my hon. Friends the Members for Alyn and Deeside (Mark Tami), for Newport West (Paul Flynn) and for Ynys Môn (Albert Owen), the hon. Member for Arfon (Hywel Williams) and the right hon. Member for Clwyd West (Mr Jones) all took part in the debate.

I will come to the redactions, which are a cause of great concern, but when they are connected with legal proceedings, court proceedings and the like, I hope that new prosecutions will be secured. I also hope that if sentences are passed, the judiciary are not unduly lenient. These were most heinous of crimes, not only because they involved the sexual and emotional abuse of children, great evils though those are, but because they involved a group of children who the criminals who perpetuated these acts knew would never be believed. They were criminal and evil on both counts, and I hope the judiciary do not get soft when sentencing.

The abuse that was carried out in care homes in north Wales shames us all. As the Waterhouse inquiry found, it was widespread and persistent physical and sexual violence against young boys and girls. That it was perpetuated by those who should have been looking after those children, in homes where they should have felt safe, just adds to the sheer horror of what occurred. Those of us who lived in the areas around those homes well remember that it was common parlance to talk about the “naughty boys’ homes”. That was how they were regarded at the time.

Our thoughts must be with the survivors of that abuse, who were let down for a second time when they reached out for help and none was given. It was because of concerns raised by survivors about the scope of the Waterhouse inquiry that the Macur review was commissioned. Lady Justice Macur’s foreword to her review says that she hopes

“to achieve the finality that many participants in this process will desire.”

Indeed, that was what we all hoped for.

Since the review was published last week, however, a number of survivors have expressed their disappointment with its conclusions, and that has been echoed by many Members today. The NSPCC has expressed concern that the “lengthy, drawn out process” of the review

“risks deterring victims from coming forward.”

I sincerely hope that is not the case, and that survivors will have their voices heard clearly by the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse led by Justice Lowell Goddard.

Last week, the then Secretary of State for Wales said that the Goddard inquiry would open an office in Cardiff to engage with survivors in Wales. Can the Minister provide further information about when that will occur, and crucially, will he outline how the Goddard inquiry will engage with survivors and participants in other parts of Wales, including north Wales?

We know that physical and sexual abuse leaves a lasting impact on the lives of those affected and that, no matter how long ago that abuse occurred, survivors need support to rebuild their lives. The publicity surrounding the review will have triggered deeply painful memories for many survivors and may encourage others to seek help for the first time. Will the Minister set out exactly what support is available to those who come forward? Has he or his predecessor had conversations with agencies, including the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, to ensure that help is highlighted to those who need it?

The Children’s Commissioner for Wales has highlighted the need for clarity on why the redactions were made. Redacting information is a highly sensitive area, because it seems to conflict with the transparency that inquiries such as the Macur review should provide. It is vital to get the balance right. We know that it is necessary to redact some information, when criminal investigations are involved, but our view is that it should be done in as few cases as possible and must be justified to survivors. How many redactions were made in addition to those requested by Lady Justice Macur? What methodology was used when deciding which names were redacted?

I want to ask the Minister specifically about the process that led to the redactions, which is described in paragraphs 1.44 and 1.45 of the report and has been raised previously in the debate. Lady Justice Macur writes that she received unsolicited letters, first from the head of the Government Legal Service and then from the Secretary of State for Justice, about the extent to which her report would name those subject to unsubstantiated allegations. The Justice Secretary “strongly urged” Lady Justice Macur not to name those concerned and suggested that she

“underestimated the unfairness and prejudice to such individuals of including their names in the Report”.

To be clear, those names have been redacted in the published version of the report, but the Justice Secretary was arguing that they should not have been included in the first place. Lady Justice Macur decided not to follow that course of action. It is unfortunate that the Justice Secretary made that approach, given the understandable sensitivity that surrounds the question of redactions. Is the Minister satisfied that the Justice Secretary was right to make that approach, particularly in light of the fact that his was one of the commissioning Departments, and does he support Lady Justice Macur’s approach to those subject to unsubstantiated allegations?

My hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham referred to the need for a longer debate on this issue. Can the Minister confirm that that might be granted in Government time?

The abuse described in the Waterhouse inquiry and again in the Macur review is truly staggering. I hope that the review is the start of a process whereby survivors will feel that their voices are being heard. As we move forward, it is imperative that anyone who has committed these gravest of crimes against the most vulnerable, no matter how long ago, is promptly brought to justice. The survivors of this abuse, and the people of Wales, have waited long enough.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Edward. I thank hon. Members for their warm welcome for my appointment to this position; it is appreciated. The hon. Member for Wrexham (Ian C. Lucas) made the point that this is not the baptism that one would have expected or anticipated, and this has been a difficult week of trying to get to grips with a very difficult subject area, but the way in which the hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Liz Saville Roberts) has approached the debate and the way in which other hon. Members have contributed are to be applauded and are certainly appreciated from my point of view.

As a north Walian MP, I am acutely aware of the dark shadow that this issue has thrown over north Wales, and the rest of Wales for that matter, for far too long. Therefore, it is appropriate to congratulate the hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd on securing the debate and on how it has been conducted. All the contributions made by MPs from north Wales have shown the seriousness with which we want to approach the issue and the importance of ensuring that lessons are learned in order to ensure that we can give some clarity and confidence to the people in north Wales, in accordance with the comments made by the hon. Member for Wrexham.

I accept that point. I also pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) for her work on these issues, and while I am paying tributes, I would like to say that the hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd is clearly following in her predecessor’s footsteps in highlighting concerns on this issue.

It is important that I try to respond to the questions that have been asked. It would be easy for me to comment on how the Waterhouse inquiry was established and the concerns about the Waterhouse inquiry. We could talk about how the Macur review was established and the concerns there. However, the key point is that I have limited time to deal with the questions that have been raised, so I will try to respond to all of them, and if I fail, I will certainly ensure that I write to hon. Members on those specific issues.

It is important to make this clarification at the outset. The hon. Member for Wrexham highlighted a degree of concern that the previous Secretary of State for Wales made the statement on Thursday and subsequently this debate is being responded to by the Wales Office. It is important to point out that the Macur review was jointly commissioned. In view of the fact that the original Waterhouse report was commissioned by the Wales Office and in view of the fact that this report was a joint commission, I think it is appropriate that the Wales Office responds, but clearly questions can be asked of both Departments. The Departments will consult each other in responding to any further questions from the hon. Gentleman; and clearly, if there are any omissions in the speech that I make today, further questions can be asked. The Departments will work together to try to give answers that will satisfy hon. Members in relation to the concerns that they have raised.

Clearly, the key concern highlighted by hon. Members across the Chamber this afternoon relates to redactions. Those concerns have been expressed not only by hon. Members, but by civil society in Wales and of course by the Children’s Commissioner for Wales. I am very pleased to be able to report that I have spoken this morning to the Children’s Commissioner for Wales. It is clearly appropriate that we take her concerns seriously. I will write, on behalf of the Department, to the Children’s Commissioner to respond to some of the concerns that she has expressed, and will highlight the reasons and the methodology, which have been provided in the public domain, in relation to why some of the redactions were undertaken. The Children’s Commissioner is more than welcome to put that letter in the public domain in due course. There is no intention whatever to hide from any of the questions in relation to redactions.

In responding fully on the issue of redactions, I think it is fair to say that this concern was raised before publication of the report, by the right hon. Member for Cynon Valley, and the statement was very clear that the redactions would be as minimal as possible. That is why, when we published the report, we also published the two letters: the letter from the Cabinet Office and the letter from the Government’s legal department explaining why there was a need to do some redactions in the report. It is fair to say that in the report Lady Justice Macur herself states that there are certain details that should be considered for redaction; and again, the important thing here is for me to try to explain on what basis those decisions were taken.

Clearly, the first reason for redactions, which is crucial and understood, I suspect, by all Members of the House, is that we would not want to do anything that would potentially compromise any ongoing police investigations and any criminal proceedings. It is clear that a tribute was paid in the main Chamber on Thursday to the work of the National Crime Agency through Operation Pallial. It would be a travesty of justice if the publication of names in the Macur report without being redacted properly were to threaten in any way, shape or form the possibility of further criminal investigations and further charges being levied. The danger is of undermining any further criminal proceedings, which would be a further betrayal of the needs of the victims in north Wales, who want to see justice done at the end of the day. In terms of redactions, it is clear that we have an obligation to ensure that nothing printed and published in this report could in any way, shape or form damage the possibility of any further criminal proceedings or of further legal action being taken as a result of criminal investigations that are now forthcoming.

I come now to the second category. Clearly, a significant number of names of victims of abuse have been redacted. That, again, is a legal requirement. We are required under the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992 to ensure that the identities of those who have suffered sexual abuse are protected; they have a right to anonymity. Therefore, those redactions have been done in order to protect people who have already suffered. It would be wrong to have people’s names dragged through the public sphere once more. Those people have already suffered so much as a result of the abuse that they suffered.

The redactions in those two categories have been overseen by Sue Gray, the director general of propriety and ethics in the Cabinet Office. The letter from Sue Gray was published at the same time as this report, so again, the reasoning behind the redactions was certainly communicated and will be communicated again to the Children’s Commissioner, as I stated.

The third category, which I suspect is the one causing most concern to hon. Members in view of the speeches that have been made, is those individuals who have been accused of abuse or speculated to be involved in abuse, who have not been subject to a police investigation, who have not been convicted of a criminal offence and whose name is not in the public domain in the context of child abuse. It is important to state that in the report Lady Justice Macur advises that the publication of those names would be

“unfair in two respects and unwise in a third.”

That is not the Government—not the Wales Office—it is Lady Justice Macur herself. She states:

“First, the nature of the information against them sometimes derives from multiple hearsay”.

I understand the concerns expressed by the hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd in relation to the use of hearsay, but again, that was not a recommendation coming from Government; it was from Lady Justice Macur herself. She also states that

“second, these individuals will have no proper opportunity to address the unattributed and, sometimes, unspecified allegations of disreputable conduct made against them”.

Again, that is a statement made by Lady Justice Macur. She continued,

“and third, police investigations may be compromised”.

Now, I have already touched on the issue of criminal investigations. We do have an obligation to highlight where we believe there is wrongdoing but we also have an obligation to ensure that we are not pointing the finger at individuals who might be completely and utterly innocent. We all know that there is a danger that publishing names without any specific allegations being made and without any specific justification could create a witch hunt, which is the last thing that a responsible Government or Parliament should be involved with.

It is important to highlight that the redactions were not undertaken to protect any individuals or to damage the report. They were undertaken to ensure the integrity of the report. I understand the concerns because, as a Member from north Wales, I read the report on Thursday in no way anticipating that I would be responding to the debate today. However, I think that the arguments presented by the Treasury Solicitor and by the Cabinet Office are not without merit. Indeed, I challenge hon. Members to state whether they believe that those arguments are incorrect.

I accept many of the arguments that the Minister makes, but why were the two names I mentioned earlier unredacted while many other names were redacted?

I will try to respond to that in my next few comments. Just to finish the comments I was making, I understand the frustration and the feeling that there could have been fewer redactions, but it is imperative that the reasoning, in the round, is understood by hon. Members. I have tried to explain why those redactions have been made. I have explained very clearly that they were undertaken as a result of advice given, which I think was quite reasonable. I hope that hon. Members will take that into account. There has been no attempt to mislead or to not be very clear as to the basis for the changes. We are more than happy to correspond on the issue if the hon. Member for Wrexham feels the need to take it any further.

On the issue of redaction, does the Minister understand the concerns of many people that only Government Departments saw the unredacted version? He may be coming to that. I think it is hugely important.

Yes, I will touch on that issue, which was also raised by the hon. Member for Wrexham. It is simply not correct that only Government Ministers have seen the uncorrected report. It might be correct that the only politicians who have seen the report are Government politicians but it is not only the Government who have seen it. Clearly, an unredacted copy has been sent to the Goddard review, Operation Pallial, Operation Orion and Operation Hydrant.

It is simply not correct to say that the only people who have seen an unredacted version of the report are Government Ministers. If the argument is that we should provide that information to all elected politicians but not to the general public, it is a completely different argument. Given the way in which politicians are viewed, I am not sure that would contribute any further to the trust that the hon. Member for Wrexham seeks.

On the methodology, I have tried to explain why the redactions were undertaken. The two letters that we received have been published. I will write to the Children’s Commissioner for Wales highlighting again the reasons for the redactions. I am not claiming that the response will satisfy all people’s concerns, but it is clear that the Wales Office and the Government ensured that the advice that was provided was published at the same time as the report. We have provided the explanation for the methodology and we will provide further explanations.

I understand that the hon. Members for Clwyd South (Susan Elan Jones) and for Dwyfor Meirionnydd highlighted concerns but I think that those have been addressed. If they need to be addressed in further detail, I hope that our letter to the Children’s Commissioner for Wales will provide that. I am more than happy to respond to any questions received.

Does the Minister know that there is a precedent for revealing to Members of Parliament reports that are entirely secret? The report that I saw as a member of the Select Committee on Home Affairs—the Operation Tiberius report—was an extraordinary document that named many people including criminals and police, who worked together through the freemasonry movement. We inspected that report under strict terms of security. We were not allowed to take our phones in. We were watched the whole time and we were not allowed to take any notes. There is a precedent for allowing Members of Parliament to see the unredacted report.

I take the hon. Gentleman’s point but hon. Members have made arguments that the redactions are damaging public confidence. I am unsure how the idea he offers would contribute to solving the issue of public confidence because a very limited amount of people in the political sphere would be responding. A couple of other questions were asked by the hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd—

Could I just answer this question because I am aware of the time? Another question was asked by the hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd about recommendation five. The issue relates to the consideration of criminal charges relating to events referred to in paragraphs 645 to 675 of the report. It does not relate to the actions of the Wales Office or of any Government Department. The police and Crown Prosecution Service are aware of the specifics of the matter, and that issue is a matter for them to consider, not the Government.

The hon. Members for Clwyd South and for Dwyfor Meirionnydd asked how many redactions, in addition to those that were a result of the advice given, were made by the Government. The answer is zero. Not a single further redaction was made. The redactions that have been made were all in accordance with the advice given and the explanation that has been provided.

The hon. Member for Wrexham asked about the publication of some names and not others. Again, the letter from the Treasury Solicitor sets out the methodology for redacting such names, saying very clearly that they are the names of people who are rumoured or speculated to be involved in abuse, who have not been convicted of a criminal offence and/or whose name is not in the public domain in the context of child abuse. That is in the letter from the Treasury Solicitor so the reasoning has been provided.

I do not accept for one moment that those principles apply to the name Peter Morrison. I do not think that any reasonable person could reach that conclusion. That name is in the public domain and it is in the report. I cannot understand why that name has been redacted. The redaction of that one name has had a massive impact on the public confidence in the whole report.

I hear what the hon. Gentleman is saying but I have attempted to provide an explanation as to why the redactions have been as they have been.

I need to touch on a few other issues. I do not think there is any denial of the inadequate nature of the records management, which is a point that was raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd West (Mr Jones). It is acknowledged that the records management has been poor. It was not to anybody’s satisfaction and it is fair to say that lessons have been learned by the Wales Office, and I presume that the Welsh Assembly will take some of the report’s advice on records retention very seriously. However, it is fair to state that Lady Justice Macur is clear that she received

“the majority of, if not all, relevant documentation”

and that she is

“confident in the conclusions I reach in this Report in light of numerous, varied and cumulative sources of information available”.

Again, that is not the Government’s line. That is a comment from Lady Macur regarding the lack of record-keeping or the problematic element of the record-keeping.

An important point is contained in paragraph 2.6 of the report, in which Lady Macur states quite clearly that 523 boxes of files were received, some 400 of which originated from the Wales Office. Although that is unsatisfactory compared with what we would expect from a Government Department, I stress the fact that Lady Macur does not believe that her conclusions would have been different if she had received more information than that which was provided.

We have touched on establishment names only very quickly. I have tried to explain why redactions have happened, and we are more than happy to respond to any further questions from hon. Members who believe that there is an issue there.

The other point that I would like to touch upon just before I finish is that Lady Justice Macur adds, for the sake of clarity,

“At no time have Ministers or their officials attempted to influence me in the conduct of the review or the conclusions I have drawn.”

There is a view here that there is a lack of transparency and clarity but, on every aspect, we have tried to offer an explanation and even Lady Justice Macur has said that she was not subject to any undue pressure.

I do not think I will have time to respond to the question from the hon. Member for Arfon (Hywel Williams) about the Welsh language or to the question from the hon. Member for Clwyd South about the Goddard inquiry, but I will write to both Members.

The debate has been difficult and there are lessons to be learned. We will write to the Children’s Commissioner for Wales and respond to any further questions. The Macur report was certainly worth doing and it has been of value.

Motion lapsed, and sitting adjourned without Question put (Standing Order No. 10(14)).