LONDON: David Cameron is battling to stay ahead of the swirl of allegations about child sex abuse in Britain, including possible involvement of a close ally of Margaret Thatcher. He has announced two further urgent inquiries into an alleged paedophile ring in North Wales in the 1970s and 1980s.
Faced by claims that senior Conservative politicians and other establishment figures may have been involved in the scandal - and a subsequent cover-up - Mr Cameron announced on Monday a senior independent figure would investigate the conduct of the official 1996-2000 Waterhouse inquiry into the child sex abuse ring.
The Prime Minister is n an official visit to the Middle East. His London spokesman said a separate inquiry was also expected to be held into the way the North Wales police had handled complaints at the time. That inquiry is likely to be conducted by the National Crime Agency.
Up to five inquiries into various aspects of child abuse are now under way, or imminent.
Ministers feel they must be seen to be taking the claims seriously, especially since the government has condemned the BBC for failing to be alert to the Jimmy Savile child abuse allegations.
There is also concern in government circles that victims' allegations were not taken seriously in the past, and that there must be a clear signal that any culture of complacency is changing.
Speaking in Abu Dhabi, Mr Cameron said: ''Child abuse is an absolutely hateful and abhorrent crime. These allegations are truly dreadful and they mustn't be left hanging in the air, so I'm taking action today.
''I'm going to be asking a senior independent figure to lead an urgent investigation into whether the original inquiry was properly constituted, and properly did its job, and to report urgently to the government.''
He also called on anyone who knows anything about the allegations of abuse to contact police.
Mr Cameron and the cabinet secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, rushed to act as the media threatened to identify the senior Tory figure alleged to have been involved in the child abuse.
The government said it was acting largely due to allegations made by the BBC Newsnight program on Friday, and not to the campaign launched by the Labour MP Tom Watson.
Mr Watson urged on Monday that the government act after an alleged victim, Steve Messham, said that the Waterhouse inquiry had covered only a fraction of the assaults.
On Newsnight, Mr Messham said he had been abused by the senior Tory and the claims ''swept under the carpet''. According to weekend reports as many as three victims have named the Tory grandee as one of their abusers. Newsnight reported at least one other man claimed abuse by the politician.
Another alleged victim, Keith Gregory, claimed names of abusers were excised from the inquiry report, apart from individuals in the care homes, and that the culprits included ''MPs, solicitors, factory directors, shopkeepers, senior police officers. The list goes on.''
Guardian News & Media