THE job description for Telford’s child sexual exploitation inquiry chairman contains a potential “gagging clause” that could be read as blocking publication of a report that was “only 0.1 per cent” incomplete, a councillor has warned.

Tim Nelson, a member of the CSE Inquiry Advisory Group, pointed out that the document says the commissioners will receive the report “subject to it meeting all elements of the terms of reference”.

Lawyers from Eversheds Sutherland – the law firm appointed as inquiry commissioners – reassured him that the word “all” should not block publication, and offered to re-word the clause.

Telford and Wrekin cabinet member Lee Carter praised the firm’s “significant track record and professional competence”, which includes work on other high-profile inquiries including Shipman and Bloody Sunday.

The job advert for the inquiry chair role is currently being advertised, and the recruitment pack describes the role and responsibilities for potential applicants.

It says: “The commissioning body will receive a draft report from the independent chair and review it against the terms of reference and, subject to it meeting all elements of the terms of reference, receive a final report”.

Speaking at a full session of Telford and Wrekin Council, Cllr Nelson said this was challenged as a potential “gagging clause” when the Inquiry Advisory Group met two weeks previously “since it meant that, if only 0.1 per cent of one term of reference was not met, they could block the whole draft report, forever.”

The Conservative member added: “Eversheds agreed immediately that this was not the intention and the wording would be changed to make clear that, if a term of reference was only part-met, the draft report could still be made public.”

Cllr Nelson asked Cllr Carter to clarify the situation.

The Labour cabinet member said: “That is the member’s interpretation of the recommendation from Eversheds. That’s not what it actually states within that paper.

“I think everyone should be reassured that Eversheds, who have got a significant track record and professional competence in terms of inquiries, are there to offer that assurance and an independent assessment that the terms of reference have been met at the end of that inquiry.

“I will make sure that your comments are passed on to Eversheds via the monitoring officer.”

Cllr Nelson replied that he had checked his understanding with council officers before asking the question.