British PM orders probe into Welsh abuse allegations

AP, LONDON

Wed, Nov 07, 2012 - Page 6

British Prime Minister David Cameron ordered an investigation on Monday into newly raised allegations related to a major child abuse scandal in north Wales in the 1970s and 1980s.

Cameron said he had also asked a Cabinet minister to meet with a victim of child abuse, who alleges a senior figure at the time within the Conservative Party was involved in a pedophile ring.

“These actions are truly dreadful and they mustn’t be left hanging in the air,” Cameron, who now leads the Conservative Party, said in Abu Dhabi during a three-day tour of the Gulf and Middle East.

His announcement comes amid national scrutiny of the alleged sexual abuse of hundreds of young people by Jimmy Savile, the well-known BBC TV host who died last year. Police say that since the complaints against Savile were made public last month, hundreds of people not linked to his case have emerged to report their own allegations of past abuse.

Cameron said he would appoint an independent figure to lead an investigation aimed at determining if a previous major public inquiry into the north Wales scandal was sufficiently thorough. The Waterhouse Inquiry reported in 2000 on abuse at several Welsh children’s homes, foster homes and other care facilities in the 1970s and 1980s.

In an interview with the BBC’s Newsnight program broadcast on Friday, abuse victim Steve Messham alleged that the Waterhouse Inquiry had stopped short of examining claims made against a Conservative Party figure. The BBC did not name the political figure and no one connected at the time to the party has ever faced charges related to the abuse scandal.

The Conservative Party was led by former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher from 1975 to 1990 and it governed Britain between 1979 and 1997. Cameron took office in 2010.

Cameron’s office also announced that the Home Office would launch a separate investigation aimed at checking whether police had properly responded during the 1970s and 1980s to allegations made by abuse victims.

“I would also urge anyone who knows anything about these matters to go to the police,” Cameron said. “That is where evidence should be taken, so that action can be taken and we can deal with this dreadful, dreadful issue.”