Establishment covered up child abuse claims to protect senior MPs, British inquiry finds

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The political establishment spent decades turning “a blind eye” to allegations of child sexual abuse in the UK, with high-profile politicians protected from police action as whips sought to avoid “gossip and scandal” which would damage the parties, a scathing report has found.

The long-awaited investigation into historical allegations against British MPs, peers and civil servants working in Westminster found political institutions “significantly failed in their responses to allegations of child sexual abuse”.

It cited as an example the evidence of former Liberal party leader Lord Steel, who told the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) last year how he failed to pass on allegations against prominent colleague Sir Cyril Smith, even though he believed them to be true, because it was “past history”.

He later recommended Smith for a knighthood.

Lord Steel told the child abuse inquiry he ‘disapproved’ of Cyril Smith’s conduct but said ‘it was past history

The report found no evidence of a coordinated “paedophile ring” in Westminster, following claims by fantasist Carl Beech of its existence, and also stated there was no proof such a network was covered up by security services or police.

But it said institutions “regularly put their own reputations or political interests before child protection”.

Professor Alexis Jay, who chaired the inquiry, said: “It is clear to see that Westminster institutions have repeatedly failed to deal with allegations of child sexual abuse, from turning a blind eye to actively shielding abusers.

“A consistent pattern emerged of failures to put the welfare of children above political status although we have found no evidence of an organised network of paedophiles within government.

“We hope this report and its recommendations will lead political institutions to prioritise the needs and safety of vulnerable children.”

The report identified how former prime minister Margaret Thatcher and ex-Conservative party chairman Norman (now Lord) Tebbit were aware of rumours about MP Peter Morrison having “a penchant for small boys” but did nothing about it.

The report said the allegations “should have rung alarm bells in government”.

But, instead, “considerations of political embarrassment and the risk to security were paramount, while the activities of an alleged child sexual abuser who held senior positions in government and the Conservative Party were deliberately overlooked, as was the course of public justice”.

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