Home Secretary Theresa May was last night hunting for a new figure to head up a planned wide-ranging inquiry into child abuse after original choice stood down before she had even begun work.
Mrs May yesterday defended the decision to appoint Lady Butler-Sloss as she was grilled by MPs just hours after the former judge announced her decision to step aside.
The former judge’s appointment had been criticised because it was likely the inquiry would look into the way her brother, former Attorney General Sir Michael Havers, had handled abuse allegations.
Claims also emerged that she told an abuse victim she would not name a bishop in a review of how the Church of England dealt with two paedophile priests because she “cared about the Church” although she insisted that she had always put justice for victims first.
Mrs May told the Home Affairs Select Committee she was “very sorry” that Lady Butler-Sloss had stepped down, but added: “I continue to believe that she would have done an excellent job, given her experience, expertise and absolute integrity...
“I do not regret the decision I made. I continue to believe that Elizabeth Butler-Sloss would have done an excellent job as chair of this inquiry.”
She later added: “It is a mark of the woman that she herself has come to this decision. I respect it. I’m disappointed, but I respect it.”
Mrs May admitted that she had only become aware in recent days of an encounter where it is claimed Sir Michael tried to prevent an MP airing abuse allegations relating to a diplomat in Parliament.