In her announcment of 7th July 2014 Theresa May stated that a presumption of "maximum transparency" would apply "where possible".
Nobody, to the best of my knowledge, has asked when the presumption of "maximum transparency" won't apply.
To my mind, that leaves open a huge "loophole" that could fatally compromise the credibility of the Child Abuse Inquiry.
Below is the text of my letter of today's date to Keith Vaz.
I hope that the Home Affairs Select Committee will act to ensure that the loophole is closed.
26th October 2014
To: Keith Vaz MP, Home Affairs Select Committee
Dear Mr. Vaz,
Limits on presumption of “maximum transparency” in Child Abuse Inquiry
When does “maximum transparency” not apply?
You are, I know, very much aware of public concerns regarding the presentation and the substance of the Home-Office sponsored Child Abuse Inquiry.
In her statement to the House of Commons made on 7th July 2014 (see https://www.gov.uk/government/news/home-secretary-oral-statement-on-child-abuse) the Home Secretary stated “where possible” a presumption of “maximum transparency” would be applied.
To the best of my knowledge neither the Home Secretary nor the Home Office has disclosed the circumstances in which the presumption of “maximum transparency” will not apply.
Nor has the Home Affairs Select Committee inquired into the implications of this important limitation on the possible scope and effectiveness of any Child Abuse Inquiry.
I ask that, as a matter of urgency, the Home Affairs Select Committee requires the Home Secretary and the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Sedwill, to give oral evidence on this cause for serious potential concern.
Each time the principle of “maximum transparency” is not applied the potential exists for a further layer of cover-up.
The public, including survivors of child abuse, MUST know when “maximum transparency” is not to be applied.
Without such disclosure the proposed Child Abuse Inquiry is tainted to a degree whose seriousness is not disclosed to the public.
Where there is the potential for further cover-up it seems to me that the Home Affairs Select Committee has a duty to ensure that such potential for further cover-up by the Home Office and/or others is removed without delay.
In addition to inquiring into the scope of any limitation on the principle of “maximum transparency” I ask that the Home Affairs Select Committee inquire in detail into the consequences of such a limitation.
For example, would a hypothetical lack of access to MI5 documents preclude any meanginful investigation into the alleged role of MI5 in relation to child abuse at Kincora?
Further, I ask that the Home Affairs Select Committee requires the Home Secretary and the Home Office to justify any situation where the presumption of “maximum transparency” is to be disapplied and to consider whether action could be taken to limit or remove limitations.
Could, for example, a change in the Law be appropriate to allow “total transparency” in a particular circumstance?
If not, on what grounds are such changes in the Law excluded from consideration?
It seems to me that the Home Office has created a “loophole” which would allow the dishonest, whether inside or outside the Home Office, to conceal at least part of the truth about child abuse and its cover-up.
The Home Secretary should be asked to justify the loophole for a continuing cover-up.
In my view any credible Child Abuse Inquiry can only proceed on a basis of “total transparency”.
If something is hidden from the public the inevitable effect is that the public will suspect that something important is being hidden.
In other words at least some in the public will suspect that the Home Office “inquiry” is a further, more subtle continuation of the cover-up of child abuse which it purports to investigate. I look forward to your early reply.
(Dr) Andrew Watt