THE LibDems last night suspended David Steel following the peer’s admission that he knew and did nothing about a notorious paedophile MP.

On Wednesday, the former Holyrood presiding officer shocked the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse in London, when he said that Cyril Smith had confessed to him in 1979 about spanking boys and conducting “medical examinations” at a council-run hostel he had helped set up in Rochdale.

READ MORE: David Steel under investigation after doing nothing to stop paedophile MP Cyril Smith

Steel, who sits in the House of Lords as a LibDem peer, and was leader of the Liberals at the time, chose not to suspend Smith, who was the MP for Rochdale.

In 1988 Steel even nominated Smith for a knighthood. Smith stepped down as an MP in 1992 and died in 2010.

A Scottish Liberal Democrat spokesman said an investigation would take place. He said: "Following the evidence concerning Cyril Smith given by Lord Steel to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse on 13th March 2019 the office bearers of the Scottish Liberal Democrats have met and agreed that an investigation is needed.

"The party membership of Lord Steel has been suspended pending the outcome of that investigation. That work will now commence.

"It is important that everyone in the party, and in wider society, understands the importance of vigilance and safeguarding to protect people from abuse, and that everyone has confidence in the seriousness with which we take it.

"We appreciate the difficult work that the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is doing on behalf of the victims and survivors of abuse, and the country as a whole."

In April 2014, it was reported that there had been 144 complaints against the former MP. Some of his alleged victims were as young as eight.

Steel had previously denied knowing Smith was a child abuser. In an interview with the BBC’s Newsnight last year, he said the allegations were “scurrilous hearsay”.

Under questioning, Steel said he had confronted Smith about the allegations in the late 1970s after reading about them in Private Eye magazine.

The magazine claimed that a series of young boys in Rochdale children’s homes had claimed that as a punishment for minor misdeeds, Smith had stripped them, spanked them and bathed their buttocks, and on occasion fondled their genitals.

Steel told the inquiry he questioned Smith: “What I said to him was: ‘What’s all this about you in Private Eye?’

“He said, rather to my surprise, ‘It is correct’ that he had been in charge of or had some supervisory role in a children’s hostel, that he’d been investigated by the police, and that they had taken no further action, and that was the end of the story.”

Inquiry counsel Brian Altman QC asked: “So you understood that he’d actually committed these offences, from what he said to you?”

Steel responded: “I assumed that.”

Altman suggested: “He could for all you knew still be offending against children.”

Steel said: “I have to admit that never occurred to me and I am not sure it would occur to me even today.”

Des Wilson, a former Liberal Party officer, told the inquiry in a statement that Smith was a “monstrous character” who intimidated Steel.

Wilson wrote: “I have no idea why no action was taken after the Private Eye article, but then I was not around and perhaps Steel did discuss it with him, though Steel’s natural tendency, in my view, would be to hide his head in the sand rather than get involved in a nasty confrontation.”

Steel said Wilson’s statement was a “pardonable exaggeration”.

He also denied Wilson’s claim that the party could not afford another sex scandal so soon after the Jeremy Thorpe affair, in which the previous Liberal leader was accused of trying to murder his male lover.

LibDem deputy leader Jo Swinson said yestreday the party had “rightly begun a disciplinary investigation into Lord Steel following his revelations”.

She added: “Clearly this is incredibly serious and he should be suspended while this takes place.”