LORD STEEL came under pressure yesterday as the Liberal Democrats launched an investigation over remarks he made to a child abuse inquiry about the late MP Cyril Smith.
The peer told the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse that he asked Smith in 1979 about claims he had abused boys at the Cambridge House hostel, in Rochdale, a decade earlier.
He said Smith had told him news reports about an investigation into the claims were ‘correct’ and he left the meeting ‘assuming’ the allegations were true.
But he took no action at the time because ‘it was past history’.
A party spokesman confirmed last night: ‘Following remarks at the inquiry, the party has begun an investigation into Lord Steel.’
Lib Dem leader Vince Cable refused to comment on the matter, telling reporters: ‘I’ve nothing to say. Serious accusations will be properly dealt with’. But MP Jo Swinson tweeted: ‘The party has rightly begun a disciplinary investigation into Lord Steel following his revelations.
‘This is incredibly serious and he should be suspended while this takes place.’
Following Lord Steel’s comments, Richard Scorer, a lawyer for some of Smith’s alleged victims, said the ex-party leader should be stripped of his peerage.
‘We know Cyril Smith went on to abuse boys in the 1980s, so it’s very clear that Lord Steel’s inaction at that time had direct consequences for boys who were abused subsequently,’ he added.
Smith served as MP for Rochdale from 1972 to 1992. Since his death in 2010, more historic child abuse allegations made against him have emerged.