Yesterday, an Urgent Question was tabled by my Labour colleague Lisa Nandy MP into the revelations surrounding the departure of Dame Lowell Goddard from the child sex abuse inquiry.
This inquiry was established by the former Home Secretary, and now Prime Minister, Theresa May MP, with a vast remit covering all historical child sexual abuse in the country. This inquiry has stumbled from the very first day and has now seen its chairmanship change four times.
We were first informed that Dame Lowell Goddard resigned for personal reasons of being so far away from her family in New Zealand. However, on Friday last week it was reported in The Times that Dame Lowell has been accused of making racist comments and being rude to junior staff, and that senior Home Office staff and advisers knew about the alleged comments and other complaints.
Dame Lowell called the claims “false” and “malicious”.
We later learnt that the Home Office had been made aware of concerns about professionalism and competence of Justice Goddard on 29 July 2016, six days before she resigned.
I asked the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd MP, about what due diligence had been taken to ensure that Dame Lowell was up to the job. Also, I asked what the cost and time frame that this inquiry will be completed.
The Home Secretary failed to provide a response about the due diligence that was taken by the former Home Secretary, Theresa May MP. She did inform me that an interim report will be published in March/April 2017 and that the inquiry will be completed by 2020.
It is vitally important that this inquiry is completed to the highest of standards, leaving no stone left unturned. Victims and their families deserve all the support they can be given and be shown that the Government has installed a competent chairman to carry out this inquiry.
The Home Affairs Committee is contemplating taking evidence from the key people involved to discover what failings happened to result in this inquiry becoming undermined.