Lord Steel has quit the Liberal Democrats and will retire as a member of the House of Lords.
It comes following the release of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse’s report into politicians and institutions at Westminster turning a blind eye to the exploitation of youngsters.
It cited as an example the evidence of the former Liberal party leader, who told the inquiry last year how he failed to pass on abuse allegations against prominent colleague Sir Cyril Smith, even though he believed them to be true, because it was “past history”.
He later recommended Smith for a knighthood.
Announcing his resignation from the Liberal Democrats, Lord Steel said: “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.”
Richard Scorer, a specialist abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon, representing eight of Smith’s victims, said: “(Lord) Steel’s total inaction after being told by Smith himself that he had molested young boys is unforgivable, most of all for those victims whose abuse he could have stopped.”
This story is being updated…
Agencies have contributed to this report