Child abuse inquiry: ‘Hundred names suggested’ to chair probe
Mark Sedwill, permanent secretary at the Home Office, said the potential candidates had been suggested by survivors’ groups in meetings with Home Secretary Theresa May.
He told the Home Affairs committee he was sorry about the delay in appointing someone to chair the inquiry.
The first two nominations both resigned over links with establishment figures.
The first chairwoman, Baroness Butler-Sloss, stepped down a week after being appointed when concerns were raised about her late brother being attorney general during the 1980s.
The chosen replacement, Fiona Woolf, quit last month over her social links to ex-Home Secretary Lord Brittan, whose handling of abuse claims in the 1980s has been questioned.
Mr Sedwill said he did not think there was a lack of people willing to take the job, with over 100 names of people “who might be prepared to do it” put forward for officials to sort through.
Facing criticism by committee chairman Keith Vaz MP, he defended the way civil servants had managed the appointment process, which he said had followed guidelines set out by law
However, this was a “non-standard inquiry”, he said, adding: “In retrospect, we had not realised that the threshold was different.”
Mrs May told the Commons earlier this month she was sorry the inquiry did not yet have anyone to chair it.
Other panel members have started holding meetings while the search for a suitable candidate goes on.
Mr Sedwill said lessons had been learned from the episode, pointing to the meetings between Mrs May and victims’ groups which were set up after Mrs Woolf’s resignation.
“I am sorry that we’re in the situation we’re in,” he told MPs.
“This has caused a delay and that’s caused a great deal of stress to survivors and their representatives and we’re now trying to put that right.”
No precise timetable had been set for the appointment, he said, but a new name would be put forward in the New Year.
Mr Sedwill also said there was “nothing untoward” about a letter from Mrs Woolf to Mrs May having been redrafted by officials, saying the intention was to create a “complete and transparent record” of Mrs Woolf’s contact with Lord Brittan.