Former home secretary Leon Brittan (right) is to make a statement today about what he knew of the allegations in the Eighties. Photo: Getty
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MPs call for historical allegations of paedophile MP ring to be investigated

MPs are calling for an alleged network of paedophile politicians in the Eighties to be investigated. It's a story that has been under the radar until now.

It’s a story that has been rumbling away in the background for some time, a significant development of which was almost completely muffled yesterday due to coverage of the outcome of the Rolf Harris trial.

Yesterday, the former home secretary Leon Brittan, who served in the role under Margaret Thatcher in 1983-85, was called upon to make public what he knew about allegations in the Eighties of a network of paedophile politicians operating in Westminster.

The MP who called for Brittan to help uncover the truth about these claims is Simon Danczuk, Labour MP for Rochdale, who has recently published a book about a former Rochdale MP and abuser of young boys Cyril Smith, whose crimes he helped expose.

Danczuk was speaking at a home affairs select committee hearing, and claimed that a dossier of allegations about a ring of paedophile MPs was presented to Brittan while he was in office. Danczuk also called for a full inquiry into the historical allegations to help identify perpetrators other than Smith.

He called politics, “the last refuge of child sex abuse deniers”.

Brittan, who is now a Conservative peer, said last night that he will issue a statement this lunchtime “about the handling of such papers in the Home Office”, as the Mail reports. His account could well bring this story above the radar.

I spoke to Danczuk last month, and this is what he told me about the historical allegations:

… there were people out to protect Smith because he was part of a network of paedophiles. I’m absolutely, wholly convinced of that. And more will come out I think in the near future to show that Smith could’ve easily been part of a Westminster network of paedophiles.

He also commented to me that along with a cross-party group of MPs, including Tom Watson, Zac Goldsmith and Tessa Munt, he is working on, “exposing other politicians [of the past] who’ve been implicated in this stuff.”

Although the facts have yet to be ascertained, it will be worth watching how this story unfolds.

UPDATE (11am):

Brittan has issued his statement on the alleged paedophilia in Westminster. Here it is in full:

During my time as Home Secretary (1983 to 1985), Geoff Dickens MP arranged to see me at the Home Office. I invariably agreed to see any MP who requested a meeting with me.

As I recall, he came to my room at the Home Office with a substantial bundle of papers. As is normal practice, my Private Secretary would have been present at the meeting.

I told Mr Dickens that I would ensure that the papers were looked at carefully by the Home Office and acted on as necessary. Following the meeting, I asked my officials to look carefully at the material contained in the papers provided and report back to me if they considered that any action needed to be taken by the Home Office.

In addition I asked my officials to consider a referral to another Government Department, such as the Attorney General's Department, if that was appropriate. This was the normal procedure for handling material presented to the Home Secretary.

I do not recall being contacted further about these matters by Home Office officials or by Mr Dickens or by anyone else.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

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Jeremy Corbyn challenged by Labour MPs to sack Ken Livingstone from defence review

Former mayor of London criticised at PLP meeting over comments on 7 July bombings. 

After Jeremy Corbyn's decision to give Labour MPs a free vote over air strikes in Syria, tonight's Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) meeting was less fractious than it could have been. But one grandee was still moved to declare that the "ferocity" of the attacks on the leader made it the most "uplifting" he had attended.

Margaret Beckett, the former foreign secretary, told the meeting: "We cannot unite the party if the leader's office is determined to divide us." Several MPs said afterwards that many of those who shared Corbyn's opposition to air strikes believed he had mishandled the process by appealing to MPs over the heads of the shadow cabinet and then to members. David Winnick declared that those who favoured military action faced a "shakedown" and deselection by Momentum activists. "It is completely unacceptable. They are a party within a party," he said of the Corbyn-aligned group. The "huge applause" for Hilary Benn, who favours intervention, far outweighed that for the leader, I'm told. 

There was also loud agreement when Jack Dromey condemned Ken Livingstone for blaming Tony Blair's invasion of Iraq for the 7 July 2005 bombings. Along with Angela Smith MP, Dromey demanded that Livingstone be sacked as the co-chair of Labour's defence review. Significantly, Benn said aftewards that he agreed with every word Dromey had said. Corbyn's office has previously said that it is up to the NEC, not the leader, whether the former London mayor holds the position. In reference to 7 July, an aide repeated Corbyn's statement that he preferred to "remember the brilliant words Ken used after 7/7". 

As on previous occasions, MPs complained that the leader failed to answer the questions that were put to him. A shadow minister told me that he "dodged" one on whether he believed the UK should end air strikes against Isis in Iraq. In reference to Syria, a Corbyn aide said afterwards that "There was significant support for the leader. There was a wide debate, with people speaking on both sides of the arguments." After David Cameron's decision to call a vote on air strikes for Wednesday, leaving only a day for debate, the number of Labour MPs backing intervention is likely to fall. One shadow minister told me that as few as 40-50 may back the government, though most expect the total to be closer to the original figure of 99. 

At the end of another remarkable day in Labour's history, a Corbyn aide concluded: "It was always going to be a bumpy ride when you have a leader who was elected by a large number outside parliament but whose support in the PLP is quite limited. There are a small number who find it hard to come to terms with that result."

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.