UK Politics

May's abuse inquiry request 'inappropriate' say MPs

Theresa May Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Theresa May asked the committee to suggest three candidates to chair the abuse inquiry

MPs on a Commons committee have rebuffed a request from the home secretary to suggest a new head of the historic child abuse inquiry.

Theresa May asked the home affairs committee to put forward three names of possible candidates after the two women appointed to run the inquiry resigned.

Mrs May said she was seeking views in a process of consultation.

But committee chair Keith Vaz called the request "inappropriate", saying Mrs May herself should identify a nominee.

Mrs May announced the independent inquiry in July, to look at how public bodies dealt with historic allegations of child sex abuse.

The first chairwoman, Baroness Butler-Sloss, stood down within days, and her replacement, Fiona Woolf, resigned last month after victims of abuse questioned their links to figures involved in an investigation into allegations from the 1980s.

'Totally inappropriate'

Mrs May apologised to victims and told the House of Commons that her department was compiling a list of new candidates.

She also agreed to allow the cross-party Home Affairs Committee to vet the new nominee before they are officially appointed.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Keith Vaz and other MPs will question the new nominee before they are appointed

The BBC has seen a letter, written by Mrs May on 5 November, to Mr Vaz in which she restated her intention to "consult with survivors' groups and relevant parliamentarians".

In the letter, she also wrote: "As part of this process, I should be most grateful if you and your committee members would like to suggest perhaps three individuals as candidates for the role of chair."

In his reply a week later, Mr Vaz said it would be "totally inappropriate for us to make any such suggestions".

The Labour MP added: "The best way to proceed would be for you to identify a suitable nominee as you suggested in your phone call to me, and for us to conduct a pre-appointment hearing in the usual way."

In a statement, the Home Office said: "It is important that we find a candidate who can win the confidence of survivors and has the necessary expertise to carry out this vital and demanding role. The home secretary is currently seeking the views of survivors' groups and parliamentarians.

"Nominations can also be made through the inquiry's website."

Abuse inquiry: How we got here

1 July - MP Simon Danczuk calls on former Home Secretary Leon Brittan to say what he knew about paedophile allegations passed to him in the 1980s

7 July - Government announces independent inquiry into the way public bodies investigated and handled child sex abuse claims. Baroness Butler-Sloss chosen as head

9 July - Baroness Butler-Sloss faces calls to quit because her late brother, Sir Michael Havers, was attorney general in the 1980s

14 July - She stands down, saying she is "not the right person" for the job

5 September - Lord Mayor of London Fiona Woolf named the new head of the inquiry

11 October - Mrs Woolf discloses she had five dinners with Lord Brittan from 2008-12

22 October - Abuse victim launches legal challenge against Mrs Woolf leading the inquiry, amid growing calls for her resignation

31 October - Mrs Woolf steps down

3 November - Home Secretary Theresa May apologises in the Commons for the inquiry being without a chair for four months

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