Operation Midland: Henriques Report

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:56 pm on 13th December 2016.

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Photo of Gerald Howarth Gerald Howarth Conservative, Aldershot 3:56 pm, 13th December 2016

I am most grateful to all right hon. and hon. Members who have taken part in the debate. It has been a seminal debate and has been very powerful and useful indeed.

I agree entirely with Richard Arkless that child abuse is the most heinous crime. That is why it is so serious for those who have been falsely accused; it is the most heinous crime. Patricia Gibson was also absolutely right that accusations must be investigated, and Simon Danczuk said that the police must not be intimidated.

That is common ground among us all, but I think the hon. Member for Rochdale was right when he said that the pendulum had swung too far the other way. We know of the ghastly things that happened in his town; blind eyes were turned to the most heinous of crimes there, which must never be allowed to happen again. The issue is getting the balance right, which we have to do. I think that the guidance has to change. I cannot believe that we can carry on, as is required at the moment, having to believe people making these sometimes very wild accusations.

It is important that the point made by Sir Richard Henriques is taken on board—that some people in public life, particularly entertainers, are especially vulnerable to fantasists’ made-up accusations. In winnowing out all of these cases, it is important to recognise that some people may themselves be the target of fantasists who are interested simply in making money. I readily understand, as Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said in his February article in The Guardian, that investigating these cases is exceptionally difficult. However, this debate has illustrated that the pendulum has gone too far, and that the police have to adopt a different standard. They must call people “complainants” and not “victims”, because otherwise they have prejudged the case at the outset.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Minister for his comments. I am delighted that he is meeting Chief Constable Bailey next week, because the issue is the nomenclature and the police’s approach to these claims. I particularly welcome his meeting next week with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, and his belief that compensation, particularly in the case of Harvey Proctor, must be resolved before Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe retires. That is a precondition, and I hope that my hon. Friend will reinforce that message and secure that result. I end by thanking all hon. Members for taking part in the debate, and by reminding them that this inquiry has cost the British taxpayer between £2.5 million and £3 million.

Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 10 (6)).