Concerns over "hysterical" sex abuse report

PM David Cameron at PMQ's

David Cameron has insisted the Children's Commissioner has his full support after Government sources apparently described a report into the sexual exploitation of youngsters as "hysterical".

The interim report by Deputy Children's Commissioner Sue Berelowitz found 2,409 youngsters were the victims of gangs intent on carrying out sexual abuse, while another 16,500 children remained at "high risk".

There had been fears the Government was trying to undermine the findings after several reports quoted a Government source calling the findings "hysterical", "highly emotional" and "half-baked".

But the Prime Minister insisted the Children's Commissioner Dr Maggie Atkinson must be allowed to produce the final version of the report, as he described the initial findings "extremely disturbing".

Mr Cameron told MPs: "This is a very serious issue that is being examined.

"It is an interim report that has been produced which we need to study very carefully.

"It has some extremely disturbing findings.

"We need to give every encouragement to the Children's Commissioner to ensure the final version of the report is produced."

His comments came after a question from Simon Danczuk, Labour MP for Rochdale, who said many victims could be put off coming forward as a result of such comments.

In a question to the Prime Minister, he said: "I am sure you agree with me that a Government spokesman describing the (Deputy) Children's Commissioner's report into child abuse today as hysterical is extremely unhelpful.

"Victims of abuse already find it difficult to come forward, including those who were abused by Cyril Smith in Rochdale."

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg described the spokesman's criticism of the report as "idiotic and absurd".

He said: "This is obviously a serious and credible report that needs to be taken seriously and taken seriously by the Government."

Mr Danczuk also urged the Prime Minister to ensure there is a full investigation into abuse carried out by former MP Sir Cyril Smith at a former children's home in Lancashire.

He said: "Will you now help these victims by publishing all the police files on Smith and ensuring a police investigation takes place into all the allegations and into any cover-up?"

Mr Cameron said the allegations were "very serious" but the police must be left to investigate them, as he made a thinly-veiled attack on those who had taken to Twitter to wrongly accuse Tory peer Lord McAlpine of abuse.

The Prime Minister said: "On the specific issue you raise, which is a very serious allegation about a former member of this House, I understand Greater Manchester Police have today confirmed they will investigate any allegations of sexual abuse involving the late Sir Cyril Smith that happened from 1974 onwards.

"I would say to you, and to all members of this House, that particularly in light of what has happened in the last few weeks, that if anyone has information or facts, then take them to the police. That is the way we should investigate things in this country."