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, LibDem leader and the Scottish Parliament's first Presiding Officer has also announced his retirement from the House of Lords.

HeraldScotland: David Steel, 1986David Steel, 1986

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 reported in Private Eye yet he did nothing about it."

Cyril Smith had first been subject to reports of abuse of young boys as far back as 1979, with Private Eye's Paul Foot later following the scandal.

The full extent of his abuses only came to light after his death, with Lord Steel later being questioned about what he knew. 

Lord Steel told the IICSA that he had asked Smith about the abuse claims, with Smith confirming that they were true. However he refused to take action as he said the crimes happened before Smith was a LibDem member, or an MP. 

HeraldScotland: Cyril Smith was being protected over child abuse claims, says Labour's John Mann

Later, however, Lord Steel claimed he could not properly hear the questions being asked of him during the inquiry and denied that he knew Smith had committed the abuse. 

The inquiry concluded today that: "Lord Steel had every opportunity to correct or clarify his evidence to this Inquiry if it lacked clarity, or was misunderstood or misrepresented. He did not do so at that time.

"He also had every opportunity to say if he was struggling to hear or understand the questions. As the video recording and the transcript of Lord Steel’s evidence show, there was only a single occasion when Lord Steel said he could not hear a question but that question had nothing to do with Smith’s account to him.

"For the rest of his evidence, Lord Steel answered the questions immediately and without seeking or providing clarification." 

In a statement released this afternoon, 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.

"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..."

He added: "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.

"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."

Lord Steel was suspended from the LibDems last year, after he gave evidence to the inquiry admitting that he knew Smith, the MP for Rochdale, had sexually abused young boys. 

However following a LibDem investigation, Scottish party leader Willie Rennie said he had "nothing to account for" that the internal investigation "determined, after careful consideration, that there are no grounds for action against David Steel”. Steel was then reinstated. 

Today Rennie said it was "right" that Lord steel resign from the party and retire from the Lords. 

He made no remark about his party's investigations process and whether they got it wrong by allowing Lord Steel back in last year.

He said: "Cyril Smith’s acts were vile and repugnant and I have nothing but sympathy for those affected.

“This is a powerful report that has lessons for everyone including David Steel, the Liberal Democrats and the wider political sphere.

“It is therefore right that David Steel has decided to resign from the Liberal Democrats and retire from public life including the House of Lords.”