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Child Sexual Abuse Inquiry

Volume 626: debated on Monday 3 July 2017

1. Whether she has held discussions with the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse since the withdrawal of the charity Survivors of Organised and Institutional Abuse from that inquiry. (900114)

May I take the opportunity, first, to welcome the new shadow Front-Bench team—the hon. Members for Torfaen (Nick Thomas-Symonds), for Derby North (Chris Williamson), for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh) and for Manchester, Gorton (Afzal Khan)? They are welcome indeed.

I agree that it is regrettable that Survivors of Organised and Institutional Abuse has withdrawn from the inquiry. The inquiry is making good progress, in line with the plan it published last year. This is evidenced through public hearings and other events with victims and survivors. I retain my confidence in this independent inquiry to deliver its important work, to get the truth and to learn lessons for the future.

I thank the Home Secretary for that, but this is now really serious: this is the fourth victims’ group that has left, and today we have had the Sutton review, which reads like a total whitewash and suggests that no lessons have been learned by the inquiry or by the Government that set it up. What message does she think that sends to everybody in this country who is currently relying on a public inquiry to deliver justice for them?

I ask the hon. Lady to reconsider her view. The inquiry has said that the group can always come back if it wants to, and I ask her to think again about the people who are already being helped by the inquiry. There are 60 to 80 people whose experiences and attacks have been referred to the police, which may lead to prosecutions, and there are up to 1,000 people whose lives have been changed and who are getting the answers that they want. Those are real differences, which I ask the hon. Lady not to underestimate.

Last year, the inquiry attracted some unhelpful headlines on the back of its internal workings and certain personalities, since when, I am glad to say, it has been getting on with its important work. But we were promised an interim report and greater transparency, particularly after the Home Affairs Committee sittings, so when might we expect those?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question, and I remember well giving evidence about this very matter when he was the acting Chair of that Committee. Like him, I have confidence in the new inquiry chair, Alexis Jay; she is getting on with the job, and as I said to the hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy), we are seeing real action and real results from the progress that is being made. I have been told that we will get an interim report during 2018.

Does the Home Secretary have any concerns about the fact that the police have announced that they are going to curtail annual checks on people who are on the sex offender register, when it is growing year on year?

I refer the hon. Lady to the fact that different police chiefs are taking different positions on this, depending on their experience in their particular communities. If she has a particular concern about the situation in her community, I encourage her to come and talk to myself or the police Minister in due course.

Does the independent inquiry have a role to play in considering the outcome of the £1 million, two-year Operation Conifer—the inquiry into the allegations against the late Sir Edward Heath? If it does not, who does?

That is a matter for local policing. It is up to local operations to decide how they will proceed with that matter; it is not for the inquiry. The inquiry is making its inquiries, having the truth sessions and then referring, where appropriate, to the police.