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 senior writer at the New Statesman.

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Why Angela Merkel's comments about the UK and US shouldn't be given too much weight

The Chancellor's comments are aimed at a domestic and European audience, and she won't be abandoning Anglo-German relationships just yet.

Angela Merkel’s latest remarks do not seem well-judged but should not be given undue significance. Speaking as part of a rally in Munich for her sister party, the CSU, the German Chancellor claimed “we Europeans must really take our own fate into our hands”.

The comments should be read in the context of September's German elections and Merkel’s determination to restrain the fortune of her main political rival, Martin Schulz – obviously a strong Europhile and a committed Trump critic. Sigmar Gabriel - previously seen as a candidate to lead the left-wing SPD - has for some time been pressing for Germany and Europe to have “enough self-confidence” to stand up to Trump. He called for a “self-confident position, not just on behalf of us Germans but all Europeans”. Merkel is in part responding to this pressure.

Her words were well received by her audience. The beer hall crowd erupted into sustained applause. But taking an implicit pop at Donald Trump is hardly likely to be a divisive tactic at such a gathering. Criticising the UK post-Brexit and the US under Trump is the sort of virtue signalling guaranteed to ensure a good clap.

It’s not clear that the comments represent that much of a new departure, as she herself has since claimed. She said something similar earlier this year. In January, after the publication of Donald Trump’s interview with The Times and Bild, she said that “we Europeans have our fate in our own hands”.

At one level what Merkel said is something of a truism: in two year’s time Britain will no longer be directly deciding the fate of the EU. In future no British Prime Minister will attend the European Council, and British MEPs will leave the Parliament at the next round of European elections in 2019. Yet Merkel’s words “we Europeans”, conflate Europe and the EU, something she has previously rejected. Back in July last year, at a joint press conference with Theresa May, she said: “the UK after all remains part of Europe, if not of the Union”.

At the same press conference, Merkel also confirmed that the EU and the UK would need to continue to work together. At that time she even used the first person plural to include Britain, saying “we have certain missions also to fulfil with the rest of the world” – there the ‘we’ meant Britain and the EU, now the 'we' excludes Britain.

Her comments surely also mark a frustration born of difficulties at the G7 summit over climate change, but Britain and Germany agreed at the meeting in Sicily on the Paris Accord. More broadly, the next few months will be crucial for determining the future relationship between Britain and the EU. There will be many difficult negotiations ahead.

Merkel is widely expected to remain the German Chancellor after this autumn’s election. As the single most powerful individual in the EU27, she is the most crucial person in determining future relations between the UK and the EU. Indeed, to some extent, it was her intransigence during Cameron’s ‘renegotiation’ which precipitated Brexit itself. She also needs to watch with care growing irritation across the EU at the (perceived) extent of German influence and control over the institutions and direction of the European project. Recent reports in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung which suggested a Merkel plan for Jens Weidmann of the Bundesbank to succeed Mario Draghi at the ECB have not gone down well across southern Europe. For those critics, the hands controlling the fate of Europe are Merkel’s.

Brexit remains a crucial challenge for the EU. How the issue is handled will shape the future of the Union. Many across Europe’s capitals are worried that Brussels risks driving Britain further away than Brexit will require; they are worried lest the Channel becomes metaphorically wider and Britain turns its back on the continent. On the UK side, Theresa May has accepted the EU, and particularly Merkel’s, insistence, that there can be no cherry picking, and therefore she has committed to leaving the single market as well as the EU. May has offered a “deep and special” partnership and a comprehensive free trading arrangement. Merkel should welcome Britain’s clarity. She must work with new French President Emmanuel Macron and others to lead the EU towards a new relationship with Britain – a close partnership which protects free trade, security and the other forms of cooperation which benefit all Europeans.

Henry Newman is the director of Open Europe. He tweets @henrynewman.

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