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Lib Dems suspend ex-leader.

Byline: HILARY DUNCANSON AND KATRINE BUSSEY Reporters

FORMER Liberal leader Lord Steel has been suspended from the Liberal Democrats, pending an investigation into evidence he gave to an inquiry about child abuse allegations against former MP Sir Cyril Smith.

The move, announced by the Scottish Liberal Democrats, comes after Lord Steel, a former Scottish Parliament presiding officer, gave evidence to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) on Wednesday.

The party had already announced they have started disciplinary proceedings against him, after he told the probe a conversation with Smith left him "assuming" the allegations were correct, but the party did not investigate them.

The decision followed a meeting of senior figures within the Scottish party on Thursday evening.

In a subsequent statement, the Scottish Liberal Democrats said: "It is important that everyone in the party, and in wider society, understands the importance of vigilance and safeguarding to protect people from abuse, and that everyone has confidence in the seriousness with which we take it."

At the inquiry, Lord Steel denied he had been "hiding his head in the sand" over the child abuse allegations made against the former Rochdale MP.

Lord Steel said he asked the late politician in 1979 about claims that he abused boys at a Rochdale hostel, and found they dated back to Smith's time as a Labour councillor in the 1960s.

He told the inquiry he came away from the conversation with Smith "assuming" he had committed the offences, because he did not deny them.

Lord Steel recalled Smith had told him police had investigated the claims and taken no action.

The IICSA heard no formal inquiry was then held by the Liberal Party into the claims.

Smith, who was an MP for Rochdale between 1972 and 1992, is accused of sexually abusing a number of boys.

Allegations against him found a greater public spotlight after he died in 2010.

CAPTION(S):

Cyril Smith and David Steel in 1973

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 16, 2019
Words:325
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