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UK PM drawn into row over Goddard

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 6 days ago

UK Prime Minister Theresa May is facing calls to "come clean" about what she knew about the problems at the troubled inquiry into child sex abuse after she disclosed she had been aware of concerns about its former chair.

Mrs May - who, as home secretary, set up the inquiry - told MPs there had been "stories" circulating about Dame Lowell Goddard but said she could not have intervened on the basis of "suspicion, rumour or hearsay".

She insisted the Home Office was not officially notified of concerns about the New Zealand high court judge until late July - less than a week before she finally resigned - by which time Mrs May was in Downing Street.

Mrs May said: "There were stories around about the inquiry and about individuals related to the inquiry, but the home secretary cannot intervene on the basis of suspicion, rumour or hearsay."

On Tuesday, the Commons Home Affairs Committee was told that a member of the inquiry panel had privately raised concerns with a director-general in the Home Office in April when Mrs May was still home secretary.

However, Mrs May told MPs: "That conversation was asked to be confidential and it was, as far as I am aware, treated as such.

"I think it is important for us to recognise that, when the Home Office was officially informed of issues, the Home Office acted. It's now for the inquiry to get on and deliver for victims and survivors."

The Prime Minister's official spokeswoman declined to be drawn on what action the Home Office took, but stressed that, as an independent inquiry, it was first and foremost the responsibility of the panel to deal with the issue.

The Home Office issued a statement last week following press reports about the conduct of Dame Lowell, saying it had been formally contacted by the inquiry on July 29. Six days later the judge resigned.

Dame Lowell has strongly denied allegations against her - including claims that she used racist language - describing them as "falsities", "malicious" and part of a "vicious campaign" against her.

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