Theresa May updated the Cabinet this morning on the inquiry she has launched into how public bodies have dealt with allegations of child abuse. The name of the inquiry panel chair and the terms of reference haven’t yet been announced, but when the Prime Minister’s official spokesman was asked when they might emerge, he said ‘I would expect an announcement on the chair of the panel soon’. Asked to define ‘soon’, the spokesman said ‘pretty soon’, which suggests that we will get more answers either before the Home Office Permanent Secretary Mark Sedwill sits down at 3.15pm to give evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee, or that these announcements will form part of his evidence.
The government is doing everything it can to announce everything as swiftly as it can so that there can be no accusations of heels being dragged on this. But there has been a clear change in stance from the weekend, when ministers were still not keen for a full public inquiry. Why was this? The spokesman tried to explain:
‘The reason why the Home Secretary was setting out what she did yesterday with the full support of the Prime Minister, is because firstly there was I think a specific question around what information the Home Office had in the period 79-99 and I think you already had on Saturday the permanent secretary of the Home Office setting out that there would be a further detailed consideration of that work, so there was this setting out the detail of how that would progress yesterday but we have already clearly indicated that type of process would take place, and secondly in terms of the overarching panel type inquiry, I think it is a response to the, I think significant questions and concerns that have been raised in a number of areas and I think that explains why the Home Secretary made the announcement she did.’
That last section sounds rather like an official way of rephrasing what Simon Danczuk said yesterday, which was that ‘the Home Secretary had to bend to the will of people power or face government being engulfed in a tide of public anger’.