Clegg orders aid for Smith probe
Nick Clegg has ordered all Liberal Democrat MPs and peers to cooperate with police and hand over any relevant information on former MP Cyril Smith.
Smith, who died in 2010, was the subject of sex abuse allegations and investigations over decades during his career, first as a prominent local councillor in Rochdale and later as the town's Liberal MP. He was never prosecuted.
A former Metropolitan Police officer has told LBC an operation into a paedophile gang in the late 1970s was shut down after the men said they were connected to Smith. The operation focused on a cafe near a school in east London.
The officer, known as John, said: "When we put it to them and given times they went in, times we'd seen them previously and how they coincided with young people in there, a couple of them put their hands up and started talking to try and get themselves out of trouble. They did name a prominent politician.
"They said they'd been in establishments with Cyril Smith where the abuse of children was taking place."
Speaking on his weekly phone-in show on LBC, Mr Clegg said it was vital to find out why the investigation was stopped and to get to the bottom of the allegations now.
He said: "We will cooperate of course.
"What is really shocking is he said he reported it up to his senior officers, he then said 'they reported it elsewhere' - I guess further up the chain within the police.
"For some reason then, the police, someone, somewhere, in the chain of command decided not to pursue the inquiry.
"Very, very serious questions need to be asked now about why on earth the police didn't at that time do what they are supposed to do - which is to investigate evidence of crime when that is presented to them, as it clearly was in this case.
"If the police didn't do so in the past they must do so now and I'm sure they are and the Liberal Democrats and, indeed anyone else, who has any information should make that available to the police."
The Deputy Prime Minister rejected suggestions the Liberal Democrats should be pursuing an internal investigation, adding: "No organisation can replace the police and the police must now do the job which clearly wasn't done by the police in the past.
"I have written to all Liberal Democrat MPs and all peers to tell them to cooperate fully with the police if they are approached by the police.
"For starters, the allegations about Cyril Smith actually stretch back to the time when he was a Labour politician.
"Then he was a Liberal politician, a party which became subsumed into what is now the Liberal Democrats.
"What I can do, what I must do and what I have done is told all peers and MPs that if you think you have any information about this ... certainly come forward to the police."
Mr Clegg said there is no "treasure trove" of documents waiting to be found which is held by his party and insisted he was not "going to elevate a political party to replace the police".