A toxic mix of misuse of power and official silence has become Britain's shame as the country faces up to a growing web of evidence that the abuse of vulnerable children by powerful men was covered up for decades.

Several lawmakers said Tuesday that former detectives and intelligence officers should be guaranteed protection from prosecution if they speak out about child abuse by prominent people.

"I would just very much hope the police now can investigate this very thoroughly without fear or favor, get to the bottom of the truth," Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said.

The latest allegations came Monday, when BBC's Newsnight program reported that an ex-detective had told it that a lawmaker, Cyril Smith, was arrested in the early 1980s as part of an investigation into child-sex parties but was released hours later. - AP