Sir Peter Morrison 'seen' at abuse care home

Bryn Estyn care home Credit: PA Images

There are claims that one of the region's best known politicians from the 1980s was seen at the children's home in North Wales where abuse of children took place.

The allegation came from a former resident of the Bryn Estyn home.

He says he saw Sir Peter Morrison - who was Conservative MP for Chester for 18 years - drive away with another boy who lived there.

The Conservative Party says it will carry out a full investigation into the claims. Sir Peter was a close aide to Margaret Thatcher- and was frequently seen at her side until he lost his seat in 1992. He died three years later.

The Government "will not hold back" in taking further action if new inquiries into allegations of child sexual abuse show that more needs to be done, Prime Minister David Cameron pledged today.

Mr Cameron was speaking after Home Secretary Theresa May announced a National Crime Agency investigation into abuse in children's homes in north Wales in the 1970s and 1980s, which will run alongside a separate judge-led review of the original Waterhouse Inquiry into the scandal.

Each of the inquiries - as well as the investigations set up by the BBC and Department of Health into abuse allegations against Jimmy Savile - should focus in a "laser-like" way on the institution it is examining, he said.

The Prime Minister has faced calls from Labour for an over-arching and wide-ranging inquiry, taking in all the outstanding issues of child abuse, including the Savile allegations and the Rochdale child grooming case.

But, speaking during his visit to the Middle East, he said: "The first thing to do, with all these allegations, is to focus laser-like on the institution itself.

"The BBC I think now has set up a good independent inquiry into what happened at the BBC. The health service is holding independent inquiries... into all the hospitals and care homes concerned. And in the case of Wales, the Government has moved very fast to put in place the most rapid possible investigation of the key issue at hand which is: was the Waterhouse inquiry conducted properly; was information withheld; were witnesses not listened to?

"I would stress that what I am going to establish here is an independent figure, a judge or a judge-like figure as it were, to get rapidly to the truth. This is an investigation on behalf of the Government. If then subsequent action has to be taken we will not hold back in taking it but we shouldn't pre-judge that first piece of work."

Over recent days, former residents of the Bryn Estyn children's home in north Wales have complained that the Waterhouse inquiry, which reported in 2000, focused too narrowly on abuse by staff within the institution. There have been claims that boys were taken outside the home for abuse by a paedophile network, with allegations that at least one senior Conservative Party figure was involved.

One former resident, Alan Leyshon, told ITV News he had been taken from the home by "people in power" for abuse, while another man - who was not identified - told Channel 4 News that he recognised former Tory MP Sir Peter Morrison, who died in 1995, as having visited the home on a number of occasions.

On the review of the Waterhouse inquiry, Mr Cameron said: "I'm not saying now let's have a totally new inquiry into the whole thing. Let's find out as quickly as possible if we have a problem here. If we have a problem here then we have to take further steps."

He said he did not rule out future inquiries in terms of "learning lessons"

"Let's first of all make sure that each of the institutions is getting to the bottom of what happened and then we can take a decision as to whether there is more that needs to be done."

The new investigations follow allegations last week by one of the victims, Steve Messham, who said Waterhouse examined only a fraction of the claims of abuse.

He told BBC2's Newsnight that he was taken out of the Bryn Estyn children's home and "sold" to men for sexual abuse at a nearby hotel and that a senior Tory from the time was among the perpetrators.

Mr Messham yesterday met Wales Secretary David Jones to discuss his allegations, with the politician afterwards saying he hoped he had been reassured by the Government's response.

But Mr Messham said that, while he believed the victims were now being taken seriously, he had concerns about the way the new inquiry would be conducted.

"I haven't got confidence that it's going to be done properly yet, I've got to be convinced of that," he said. "If I feel nothing's being done, then names will come out.".

He later told Channel 4 News he broke into the flat of one of his abusers in Wrexham when he was 16, stealing photographs of boys being abused in which the faces of the attackers were clearly visible.

He claimed that after he gave them to police, only two people were prosecuted - with one receiving a caution.

Mrs May told the House of Commons yesterday that NCA director general Keith Bristow will review the original police handling of the north Wales case as well as looking at the latest allegations by one of the victims.

"The Government is treating these allegations with the utmost seriousness," she told MPs in a statement.

"Child abuse is a hateful, abhorrent and disgusting crime and we must not allow these allegations to go unanswered."

Mrs May said she would also consider Labour calls for a wider inquiry into child abuse if the evidence was shown to justify it.

However, Labour backbencher Tom Watson, who has raised claims of a past paedophile ring linked to No 10 and of a former Cabinet minister allegedly involved in child abuse, dismissed the latest moves as simply "the next stage of a cover-up".

"It would guarantee that many sickening crimes would remain uninvestigated and some of the most despicable paedophiles will remain protected by the establishment that has shielded them for 30 years," he said.

"Does she sincerely want to start making amends or can she live with being what she has just announced - the next stage of a cover-up?"