News today that William Hague is to be elevated to the House of Lords after standing down at the last general general election as the Member of Parliament for Richmond, Yorkshire, a post he had held since the 1989 by-election following Leon Brittan’s resignation to become a European Commissioner.
On the face of it William Hague’s elevation to the Lords is unsurprising. In fact, as one of Parliaments most capable debaters over the last quarter of a century, a former leader of the Conservative Party, and a former Foreign Secretary, it would have been strange if he hadn’t received a peerage in the Dissolution Honours List. Nevertheless, at a time when public concern over Westminster paedophilia and Establishment cover- up, and with very serious and as yet unresolved questions regarding William Hague’s own alleged role in protecting VIP paedophiles when he was Secretary of State for Wales, there will be many who will see William Hague’s elevation to the Lords as at best an insensitive decision and at worst a signal from the Prime Minister that as far as he is concerned it is business as usual for the establishment and the greater media scrutiny of VIP child sexual abuse at this time is only a temporary storm that can be ridden out.
To understand why the decision to give William Hague a peerage is more controversial than the casual observer might otherwise realise we need to examine the decisions that he took while drawing up the Terms of Reference for The Waterhouse Inquiry.
The Terms of Reference for the Waterhouse Inquiry were;
(a) to inquire into the abuse of children in care in the former county council areas of Gwynedd and Clwyd since 1974;
(b) to examine whether the agencies and authorities responsible for such care, through the placement of the children or through the regulation or management of the facilities, could have prevented the abuse or detected its occurrence at an earlier stage;
(c) to examine the response of the relevant authorities and agencies to allegations and complaints of abuse made either by children in care, children formerly in care or any other persons, excluding scrutiny of decisions whether to prosecute named individuals;
(d) in the light of this examination, to consider whether the relevant caring and investigative agencies discharged their functions appropriately and, in the case of the caring agencies, whether they are doing so now; and to report its findings and to make recommendations to him.
Whether it was William Hague’s intention at the time or not, what we do know is that Ronald Waterhouse interpreted point a) as a geographical restriction and that abuse of care home children outside of North Wales, notably across the English border in Chester, was excluded and that further restrictions on examining alleged abusers were the consequence of point c).
Concern that the Terms of Reference might be too narrow was immediate as can be see from Ron Davies’ , Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, reply to William Hague’s announcement of The Waterhouse Inquiry.
“Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the terms of reference will be sufficiently wide to examine the whole question of organised child abuse? The allegations centre on a former local authority children’s home network. Does he accept that the nature of the allegations indicates the possible existence of a wider paedophile network, extending throughout society and into its most powerful reaches?” – Ron Davies 17th June 1996
One thing seems certain and that is that above and beyond the Westminster rumours regarding Sir Peter Morrison’s interest in young boys, William Hague was aware at the time he was drawing up the Terms of Reference for Waterhouse of at least one powerful Tory, Margaret Thatcher’s former Parliamentary Private Secretary, former Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, and formally the Member of Parliament for Chester, Sir Peter Morrison , who had died the previous year. As can be seen by this recollection from Gyles Brandreth who succeeded Morrison as MP for Chester;
The first, and only, official acknowledgement of my predecessor’s possible involvement in child abuse came my way in 1996, when William Hague, then Secretary of State for Wales, came up to me in the Commons to let me know that he had ordered an inquiry into allegations of child abuse in care homes in North Wales between 1974 and 1990 — and that Morrison’s name might feature in connection with the Bryn Estyn home in Wrexham, 12 miles from Chester.
Sir Ronald Waterhouse QC, a retired High Court judge, was appointed to head the inquiry. It took three years, cost £12 million, and when the Waterhouse report appeared it made grim reading.
It named and criticised almost 200 people for either abusing children or failing to offer them sufficient protection. Credible evidence had been found of ‘widespread sexual abuse’, with the existence of a paedophile ring in the Wrexham/Chester area.
But Sir Peter Morrison’s name did not feature.
Perhaps it might have been an idea if Justice Macur had published her report, which is looking into whether the Waterhouse Inquiry’s Terms of Reference were too narrow, before Hague was elevated ?