LIBERAL Democrat peer Lord David Steel has quit the party after investigators found that he "did nothing" despite knowing of the activities of prolific paedophile Cyril Smith.

The peer, who was an MSP and Scotland's first presiding officer, has also announced his retirement from the House of Lords.

A report published today by the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA) stated: "It is clear that Lord Steel assumed from what Cyril Smith told him that he had committed the offences which Private Eye had reported, yet he did nothing about it."

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Responding to the report, Lord Steel said: "Knowing all I know now, I condemn Cyril Smith's actions towards children.

"Children deserve protection from predators, especially those in authority. Dealing with such cases is the IICSA's legitimate role. I believe in the highest standards of human rights, particularly for young and vulnerable people."

He added: "I regret the time spent on pursuing Leon Brittan, Lord Bramall and others, who it is clear had done no wrong. Not having secured a parliamentary scalp, I fear that I have been made a proxy for Cyril Smith."

The former Liberal leader was critical of the IICSA, saying: "Nowhere do IICSA explain what powers I was supposed to possess to investigate 14-year-old allegations against someone (who at the time of the actions alleged was not even a member of my party), that the police and successive DPPs reviewed with access to all files.

"IICSA refused my offer of clarification on my oral testimony to them, which has since been widely reported."

Lord Steel added: "Contrary to some reports, at no point did Cyril Smith admit to me the truth of the allegations in the Private Eye report.

"He admitted that there had been an investigation by police of acts alleged against him whilst he was a councillor in another political party, as was reported. Smith and I did not discuss further what IICSA counsel himself correctly described as 'a very very brief conversation' in 1979."

He continued: "My legal advisers have expressed concern to me that the Inquiry should have delayed my appearance until they had sorted their failed "loop" hearing system for my hearing aids.

"They are right, and I did not have legal representation when giving evidence to IICSA. I should have asked for a delay myself as the transcript shows, I had difficulty hearing their questions."

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Lord Steel said he had now quit the Liberal Democrats, and would be retiring as a member of the House of Lords, saying: "I have received indications that some in the Liberal Democrat Party wish me suspended and investigated again, despite a previous disciplinary process in Scotland which concluded that no further action was required.

"I am told that others are threatening to resign if a new investigation is started.

"I wish to avoid any such turmoil in my party and to prevent further distress to my family. I have therefore thanked my local party secretary for their stalwart support through the whole IICSA process, and have informed the local party that my resignation is with immediate effect."

He added: "As to membership of the House of Lords, friends and colleagues including The Lord Speaker are aware that I have been contemplating retirement next month to coincide with the 55th anniversary of my election as an MP.

"With considerable personal sorrow, and thanks to all I have worked with in the party and more widely, I have now decided this is what I should do as soon as possible.

"My wife has suffered poor health this past year. I shall now stop the weekly travel from Scotland to London and enjoy a quiet retirement from public life."