Nick Clegg is blocking an inquiry in Cyril Smith paedophilia allegations
Nick Clegg refuses to hold inquiry into Cyril Smith child abuse allegations
The Liberal Democrat leader says allegations of child abuse spanning decades are a matter for police as he denies having any knowledge of rumours surrounding the former Rochdale MP
By Georgia Graham3:15PM BST 14 Apr 2014
Nick Clegg has refused to hold an inquiry into the “repugnant” actions of Cyril Smith and insisted he had never heard rumours about allegations of child abuse spanning decades.
The leader of the Liberal Democrats distanced himself and his party from the former Rochdale MP, who is accused of abusing young boys at schools and residential homes over more than 40 years.
The Deputy Prime Minister told a Westminster press conference that he and his party had been unaware of the “truly horrific” actions allegedly carried out by Sir Cyril, who died in 2010, but that any investigations were a matter for the police.
Greater Manchester Police have previously said Sir Cyril abused young boys in the 1960s in his role as secretary of the Rochdale Hostel for Boys Association.
He had been accused of abusing eight youngsters at Cambridge Hostel in the town by spanking and touching them.
Mr Clegg said that he had never heard of any rumours around Sir Cyril’s behaviour despite the allegations being reported in Private Eye in 1979.
The Liberal Democrat leadership was also unaware as the party had not existed in its current form at the time of the abuses, Mr Clegg said.
Mr Clegg, who paid tribute to the former Rochdale MP on his 80th birthday in 2008 and again when he died two years later, said he would not have “dreamed” of making the supportive speeches if he had been aware of the allegations.
Sir Cyril was elected a Liberal MP in 1972 and became a Liberal Democrat on the formation of the new party before leaving Parliament in 1992. He was knighted in 1988.
Despite describing the revelations as “serious revelations, repugnant ones,” he said his party would not be holding any investigation into the alleged crimes.
He said: “My party, the Liberal Democrats, did not know about these actions. It’s up to the police – these are very serious matters which the police may well want to look into and it will be up to the police to conduct those investigations. They are the right people to look into these things.”
He added: “Cyril Smith stood down as an MP 13 years before I became an MP. Many of the actions, the repugnant actions, which we now learn about took place well before the party I now lead even existed – in fact, took place before I even existed.
“Given those facts and that chronology it is – as my party has made quite clear – not surprising that the Liberal Democrats, who were founded in 1989, two or three years before Cyril Smith stood down, were not aware.
“I would never have dreamed of saying the things that I said about Cyril Smith on his 80th birthday and when he died if I was aware of the truly horrific nature of the actions which he is alleged to have undertaken over a long period of time.”
Mr Clegg’s comments come as victims of Sir Cyril threaten to sue the Liberal Democrats for “covering up” decades of abuse following the publication of a book which alleges politicians, police and MI5 were involved in a cover-up lasting four decades to protect the former MP from prosecution.
A senior detective is now leading the investigation into abuse at Knowl View, a residential school in Rochdale where Sir Cyril was MP for 20 years.
She said on Saturday there was growing evidence of widespread abuse linked to Smith at the school where he served as chairman of governors.
Det Insp Caroline Ward said: “Following the publicity surrounding Sir Cyril Smith last year, seven people came forward to report physical and sexual abuse which occurred at Knowl View from the 1970s onwards.
“Those allegations relate to physical and sexual abuse that took place between pupils and adults at the school and these complaints are being investigated by officers from Greater Manchester Police’s Public Protection Division.
“The complaints relate to at least 11 potential suspects but as not all victims knew the full names of their abusers we cannot as yet confirm the exact number of different suspects. Also, we are working to establish if any of the potential suspects are now deceased.”
The scale of abuse is disclosed in a new book, Smile for the Camera: the Double Life of Cyril Smith, which was co-written by Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP for Rochdale, and Matthew Baker.