Wales child abuse: Chris Bryant MP calls for single inquiry

  • 12 November 2012
  • From the section Wales
Chris Bryant
Image caption Chris Bryant says an overarching inquiry is needed to get to the bottom of what happened

An MP says there should be one overall inquiry looking into the child abuse scandal and subsequent BBC row rather than nine separate investigations.

Chris Bryant spoke after a Newsnight report into an abuse victim's claims led to former Tory politician being wrongly linked to abuse in north Wales children's care homes in the 1980s.

On Saturday, the BBC director general quit in the fallout over the affair.

Two BBC news executives "stepped aside" over the matter on Monday.

Rhondda MP Mr Bryant, a former BBC executive, said: "We have now got nine inquiries. There's a real danger we won't learn anything, one from another.

"What we really need is one major overarching inquiry that has the full power to get to the bottom of what went on in this country because for far too long, in relation to child abuse, we have brushed things under the carpet.

"The one thing we should remember in all this sort of media panic about all this story is that actually a stranger is far less likely to be the abuser of a child than a member of the family - most child abuse happens within the family."

He said the single inquiry could either replace the existing investigations or draw them all together.

Director general George Entwistle had been dealing with the fallout from a 2 November Newsnight report into an abuse victim's claims which led to Lord McAlpine, a former Tory politician, being wrongly linked to abuse in north Wales children's care homes in the 1980s.

The victim, Steve Messham, withdrew his accusation a week later, saying he had been mistaken. The BBC issued an unreserved apology for the broadcast.

Mr Entwistle was criticised for not knowing about the programme until after it was screened, for not being aware of a newspaper article which revealed the mistaken identity, and for not knowing about a tweet saying Newsnight was poised to broadcast the revelations.

He was in post as BBC editor-in-chief for only 54 days.

On Monday, the BBC's director of News Helen Boaden and her deputy Stephen Mitchell "stepped aside" from their roles, pending Nick Pollard's report into the management of Newsnight's report into allegations of sexual abuse by the late TV presenter and radio DJ Jimmy Savile, which was dropped.

Welsh Secretary David Jones MP said that the BBC must tackle "organisational issues" to ensure the quality of its journalism.

He told The Wales Report: "There should have been a process of reporting to the director general if there were a programme such as Newsnight that was apparently at one stage going to name a senior Conservative politician - clearly no such arrangement was in place.

"I think that there must be organisational issues below DG (director general) level which need to be addressed."

Mr Jones said that restoring confidence would be the next step for the BBC.

He said: "What we need is to have someone at the helm of this organisation which is an important British institution after all, who is capable of inspiring the confidence of the staff of the BBC but also of the audience of the BBC, who are no doubt very badly let down by this episode."

Mr Jones also said that it was important that the victims of abuse were not forgotten.

"I know that there have been concerns in north Wales for many years about whether or not the Waterhouse inquiry was sufficiently in-depth. I think that the process that we have put in place over the last week should address that," he said.

Media captionFormer BBC Wales controller Gareth Price says he expects more BBC management resignations following George Entwistle's resignation, as two senior BBC executives announce they are stepping aside

Former BBC Wales controller Gareth Price, speaking before Ms Boaden and Mr Mitchell stepped aside, said he expected more BBC management resignations to follow Mr Entwistle's resignation.

"Basic errors in journalism are not about money it's about competence and ultimately the competence must be judged by management," he said.

Meanwhile, the decision to pay a year's salary to ex-BBC director general George Entwistle, who quit after eight weeks, has been criticised by senior MPs.