Leading article: An overdue apology

It's easy to be cynical about apologies made by politicians for scandals long past in which not even their worst enemies would find a shred of personal culpability. And you might well think that the Prime Minister, before he looked elsewhere, owed the country just a tiny bit of "sorry" for the banking crisis whose seeds were sown so liberally when he was Chancellor.

But it is hard to find fault with Gordon Brown's decision to join the Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, in the apology he will deliver today. Over almost 40 years, Britain sent thousands of children to Australia, Canada and elsewhere from orphanages and children's homes, many of whom found themselves condemned to a life of hard labour or abuse.

Mr Rudd is responding to a 20-year campaign by the Child Migrants Trust, and his apology marks official recognition that the policy was inhumane and wrong. It is right that the British Government should not only associate itself with Australia's regret but issue an apology of its own. As with President Clinton's apology for slavery, the point is not only to accept that a great wrong was done, but to recognise the legacy of pain it left, and pledge publicly that nothing similar will ever happen again.

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