May tells MP’s she has no regrets over Butler-Sloss

Home Secretary Theresa May has insisted she does not regret appointing Baroness Butler-Sloss to chair an inquiry into allegations of historical child sex abuse by establishment figures, after the former judge stepped down following controversy over her selection.

Pressure had been mounting on Lady Butler-Sloss ever since her appointment last Tuesday, with critics warning of potential conflicts of interest, as the investigation was likely to look into the role of her late brother, Sir Michael Havers, who is reported to have tried to prevent the naming of an abuser in Parliament by whistle-blowing MP Geoffrey Dickens in the 1980s.

Senior MP Keith Vaz, who was the first to raise questions about Lady Butler-Sloss’s appointment, said her departure after just six days showed the inquiry process launched by Mrs May was becoming “shambolic”.

Questioning the Home Secretary at a meeting of the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, which he chairs, Mr Vaz said that Lady Butler-Sloss’s departure was the latest indication of Mrs May’s department “unravelling”, following the resignation of her special adviser in a briefing war with Education Secretary Michael Gove, crisis at the Passport Office and the admission that 114 files relating to allegations of child sex abuse had been lost.

But Mrs May responded: “I reject any suggestion that it is, in your words, unravelling.”

She said she was “very sorry” that Lady Butler-Sloss had stepped down, but added: “I continue to believe that she would have done an excellent job, given her experience, expertise and absolute integrity…

“I do not regret the decision I made. I continue to believe that Elizabeth Butler-Sloss would have done an excellent job as chair of this inquiry.”

Announcing her decision to step down, Lady Butler-Sloss acknowledged that she “did not sufficiently consider” the difficulties her family connections might cause in the conduct of the inquiry.

A lawyer for alleged victims of abuse said they were “pleased” at the decision of the former president of the High Court Family Division, describing it as “the only sensible decision to ensure that survivors and the public could feel confident that the inquiry was not going to be jeopardised by accusations of bias”.

The process of selecting a replacement is beginning immediately, but a new name is not expected to be announced for some days.

The Home Secretary said she would wait until a chair had been selected to consider the inquiry’s terms of reference and panel membership