On Monday, Amber Rudd found herself in a difficult position in the Commons over the Home Office’s blunder-ridden child sexual abuse inquiry. In response to an urgent question from Lisa Nandy, she was forced to confess that despite her previous statements, she had known that Dame Lowell Goddard quit as chair amid allegations of racism rather than loneliness. Now onto its fourth chair, Alexis Jay, MPs are fast losing patience with the inquiry.
While Rudd has the undesirable task of taking the heat over an inquiry set up by her boss Theresa May, today it was the turn of Home Office staff and inquiry members to offer their version of events to the Home Affairs Select Committee. What followed was a chaotic picture of the inquiry to date as it emerged the Home Office had been aware of concerns regarding Goddard since April — but, despite this, she had not departed her role for several months.
While child abuse inquiry member Drusilla Sharpling said she had raised concerns in the spring, her fellow panel member Ivor Frank revealed that things had got so bad that the inquiry had to bring in a ‘facilitator’ to help the panel communicate with Goddard — rather than speak to her directly. Meanwhile Mark Sedill, the Home Office permanent secretary, worryingly claimed that he only knew about the racism allegations on reading the Times last week.
As for the new chair Alexis Jay, the inquiry members were keen to stress that she had their full confidence. Jay used her appearance to reiterate her comments that the inquiry would not reduce its scope despite the delays it has so far encountered. She said she hoped to get most of the work done by 2020, with an interim report by 2018 — stressing that she was keen for results. This claim led an audience member to interrupt that the public were waiting for results too. While this is true, the issue is that few still have faith the inquiry can deliver this.