FORMER Liberal Party leader Lord Steel has told an inquiry he ‘assumed’ historic child abuse allegations about Cyril Smith were true — but took no action at the time because ‘it was past history’.
Police investigated claims the late MP, who died in 2010, had abused teenage boys at Cambridge House hostel, Rochdale in 1969, but no arrest was made.
Lord Steel said he discussed the claims with Smith (pictured) in 1979, after articles about the investigation appeared in Private Eye and the Rochdale Alternative Press.
‘He accepted the story was correct. Obviously, I disapproved but, as far as I was concerned, it was past history,’ Lord Steel told the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse yesterday.
Asked why his party held no formal inquiry into the claims, he said the alleged offences ‘related to a period some years before he (Smith) was an MP and member of the party’.
‘Therefore, it did not seem to me I had any position in the matter,’ he added.
Asked why he had recommended Smith for a knighthood, he added: ‘If I had any suspicion these activities had been continuing I certainly would not have.’ Lord Steel also denied ‘hiding his head in the sand’ over the allegations.
Smith served the party as MP for Rochdale between 1972 and 1992.
When he died in 2010, the claims made against him found a greater public spotlight, the inquiry heard.
After the hearing, one of the MP’s alleged victims, who gave evidence to the inquiry said: ‘Smith was a monster.’
The man, who is now aged in his 70s, accused Lord Steel of ‘letting victims down’. ‘They (the party) came first. We were cannon fodder,’ he added.