MPs and peers debate abuse inquiries past and present

Steve Messham met Welsh Secretary David Jones on Tuesday

Was the Waterhouse inquiry a whitewash?

When the report was published 12 years ago, it was widely welcomed, even by the victims of abuse.

One of them, Stephen Messham, was photographed with a copy of the report. He told the BBC: "We believe this report puts the record straight."

Mr Messham's recent criticism of the inquiry has persuaded the UK government to launch two inquiries - one into the scope and conduct of the Waterhouse tribunal and the other into the way the police in North Wales handled allegations of abuse.

Stephen Messham was in Westminster yesterday to watch the home secretary's statement to MPs and to meet the secretary of state for Wales. He told me the quote from 12 years ago reflected his satisfaction that his story had been told. It didn't reflect his unhappiness that the inquiry didn't identify alleged abusers he had named.

Today's Guardian reviews Mr Messham's evidence to Waterhouse and quotes his solicitor's concerns about the inquiry's terms of reference.

Waterhouse was ordered by the then Secretary of State for Wales, William Hague, and was set up after a vote in parliament.

One MP did challenge the way it was set up - Ann Clwyd risked the wrath of her party leadership because she thought the then Conservative government had errected "a wall of silence" preventing MPs from discussing key issues.

On publication, one MP did describe the Waterhouse report as a "whitewash". Martyn Jones said it would be seen as a cover-up because it did not name politicians, police officers and judges suspected of abuse.

As Nick Robinson has suggested, the UK government's swift response to Mr Messham's allegations owes much to Downing Street trying to learn from the BBC's handling of the Jimmy Savile scandal.

Yesterday, in the House of Lords, the former Welsh Office Minister Lord Roberts of Conwy, defended the Waterhouse report as "a very thorough piece of work".

He asked the Home Office Minister Lord Taylor of Holbeach: "Do you really think that, after all these years, any new evidence will actually emerge as a result of these further inquiries?

"I have heard most of the media reports over recent days and, frankly, I have heard nothing new."

Lord Roberts said that the Waterhouse report contained a subsidiary report by Sir Ronald Hanlford, who was "critical of some of the police operations".

You can read the Commons statement - and MPs' questions to the home secretary - here. Two former Wrexham councillors - Karen Lumley and Stuart Andrews - are now Tory MPs. Mrs Lumley said an original supressed report was "horrendous".

The Lords statement - with peers' questions - is here.

You can also, for the next seven days, download last night's Today in Parliament to hear a comprehensive report on what Mrs May - and several Welsh MPs - had to say.

Correction 10 November 2012: The BBC has apologised unreservedly for broadcasting a report on Newsnight on 2 November over allegations of child abuse which transpired to have involved a case of mistaken identity. As a result the video of the original report has been removed from the website. More details can be found here.

David Cornock Article written by David Cornock David Cornock Parliamentary correspondent, Wales

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