HOME Secretary Theresa May refused to confirm if the Operation Bullfinch scandal will be part of a parliamentary inquiry into historical child abuse.

The minister spoke during a visit to Abingdon Police Station yesterday and said it was up to an independent panel to decide what it would investigate.

Justice Lowell Goddard, a New Zealand judge, is leading the inquiry, which was set up in July 2014 to find out whether public bodies had covered up or overlooked allegations of abuse following claims a paedophile ring had operated in Westminster in the 1980s.

Mrs May said: “It’s now up to Justice Goddard and the independent panel to decide what they are going to look at.

“I’m confident this will be not just be cases in the past but also more recent cases.

“The inquiry needs to look at how is it that organisations and institutions allowed this to happen.”

It comes after a Serious Case Review into Operation Bullfinch was published last month, criticising the police and local authorities for not stopping child sexual abuse in Oxford sooner.

Girls were subjected to years of sexual abuse by a grooming gang and seven men were jailed in 2013 for a total of 95 years for raping, grooming and prostituting the girls between 2005 and 2011.

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Mrs May said: “I am aware of the Serious Case Review and I’m aware of the issues around that.

“What happened and the approach taken by authorities was not good enough.

“It is important that lessons are learnt from what has happened and changes do take place.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg had previously told the Oxford Mail he thought the inquiry should include Operation Bullfinch.

He said: “The sheer scale of the abuse means we need a far-reaching and wide-ranging inquiry.”

The Government has appointed a child protection specialist Sophie Humphreys to work with the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board to reassure the public authorities are no longer failing.

Mrs May said: “I’m very clear there does need to be some work done from the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board to look at those issues that have come out as a result of Operation Bullfinch.”

Andrew Smith, who is hoping to retain his Oxford East seat in the forthcoming General Election, has been vociferous in his calls for an independent inquiry.

He said: “No one has taken full and proper responsibility for what was a catastrophic failure to protect children in Oxfordshire.”

Mrs May also revealed there were more than 100 potential victims identified in Thames Valley Police’s Operation Rague, which targeted slavery and exploitation.

Last week, 12 people were arrested following raids across Oxford.

Mrs May said: “It’s an excellent operation. What this has done is highlight the fact there’s this terrible crime taking place in this country.

“With relentless police work, Thames Valley Police has been able to identify over 100 potential victims and charge a number of people.”

Conservative parliamentary candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon Nicola Blackwood added: “Clearly this was shocking that such serious slavery and exploitation was happening on Oxford’s doorstep, but the police work has been very impressive.”