Claims of a deal to hush up abuse are ‘total fantasy’
AFORMER Rochdale MP has dismissed as ‘total fantasy’ claims that disgraced Cyril Smith orchestrated a deal between Labour and the Liberal Party to hush up allegations that he abused boys at a residential school.
Paul Rowen – Rochdale’s MP between 2005 and 2010 – was giving evidence at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.
The inquiry in London is examining allegations of abuse at the former Knowl View residential school in Rochdale and Cambridge House Hostel, a privately-run care home for boys.
Claims of a ‘pact’ between the political parties surfaced at the inquiry when ex-Knowl View social worker Martin Dignan claimed Smith, who died in 2010, had threatened to expose another politician.
Mr Rowen was asked about the pact at the inquiry - ‘that the Labour Party wouldn’t mention rumours about Smith if the Liberal Party didn’t mention rumours about a different politician’.
He said: “I became aware of that a few years ago. It is total fantasy. Let’s be very clear.
“Unfortunately, Jim Dobbin [the former Heywood and Middleton Labour MP who died in 2014] is not with us, but I’m sure if he was he would say exactly the same as me. To me, as I say, it is total fantasy.”
Mr Rowen was a Liberal Party councillor in the Brimrod and Deeplish ward in Rochdale between 1983 and 2007.
He became leader of the council in 1992, serving in that role until 1996 and became the town’s MP in 2005. He lost his seat to Simon Danczuk in 2010.
Mr Rowen told the inquiry that he first got to know Smith as a teenager through campaigning for him in the 1972 by-election, sparked by the death of Rochdale’s sitting MP.
Smith, Mr Rowen said, was ‘always’ going to stand as the party’s candidate.
He said there was no discussion over his selection because ‘as far as most people were concerned, he was Mr Rochdale’, and said he found Smith ‘quite friendly’.
Asked if over the course of years he discovered Smith ‘had a different side to his personality’, Mr Rowen replied: “I knew nothing about the allegations that have been made since.” ●●Former Rochdale MP Cyril Smith is alleged to have sexually abused young boys at Knowl View School and Cambridge House Hostel
‘I knew nothing about the allegations’
He said he first became aware of rumours regarding Smith’s ‘unhealthy interest in young boys’ in 1979 following allegations printed in the publication Rochdale’s Alternative Paper.
Mr Rowen said he was told Smith denied the allegations.
He said he knew Smith believed in corporal and capital punishment and said he had ‘claimed that it was just that he had to sort some boys out who needed sorting out’.
By the time Mr Rowen became more involved in the party in later years, he said: “It was not an issue that was ever raised with me, for example, in all the time I was leader of the Liberal Democrat group or leader of the council. That was never an issue anybody raised.”
Smith served as Rochdale MP from 1972-1992 before his death aged 82.
The national inquiry is examining how he and others were able to allegedly prey on young boys at Cambridge House hostel and Knowl View.
The hearings in London are expected to conclude next Friday, with closing statements from counsel to inquiry and counsel for participants.
●●An inquiry in London is examining allegations of abuse at Knowl View and Cambridge House. Inset, former MP Paul Rowen