A spokesperson for Labour Deputy Leader Harriet Harman has said that she expresses “regret” over the National Council for Civil Liberties’ (NCCL) links with the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) group, the former over which Harman presided as Legal Officer in the 1970s.
While Harman last night accused the Daily Mail of a “politically-motivated smear campaign”, her spokeswoman today said that she “regrets the existence of” the Paedophile Information Exchange.
“Of course she regrets any organisation’s involvement with them, including the National Council for Civil Liberties. But they were immaterial to her work,” the spokeswoman told the BBC.
“She does not regret joining the NCCL. By the time she arrived they were very much under the radar and her work focused on other things, such as marches, apartheid and trade unions.”
The Daily Mail on Tuesday accused Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman of “pedantry and obfuscation” as she hit back at reports alleging historic involvement with a paedophile lobbying group.
Harman accused the paper of launching a smear campaign against her after it carried a series of reports detailing links between the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL), of which she used to be a leading member, and the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE).
PIE was granted affiliate status to NCCL in 1975 and retained it until the mid-1980s, during which time Harman and her husband Jack Dromey and former health secretary Patricia Hewitt were involved in the civil liberties group.
Harman issued a statement saying she had “done nothing wrong”.
“They have accused me of being an apologist for child sex abuse, of supporting a vile paedophile organisation, of having a relaxed attitude to paedophilia and of watering down child pornography laws,” she said. “These are horrific allegations and I strongly deny them all of them.”
But the paper later issued its own statement, accusing Harman of avoiding the main claims and instead responding to allegations not made.
“For ten weeks now the Mail has repeatedly asked three leading Labour figures to answer questions about the involvement of the NCCL, a body in which they played leading roles, with a vile paedophile group whose actions are currently being investigated by the police,” said a spokesman.
“The belated statements today of Ms Harman — full of pedantry and obfuscation — failed to answer the Mail’s central points and deny allegations the Mail has not made.
“More pertinently they have failed to utter a word of contrition or sorrow about the NCCL’s closeness to the notorious Paedophile Information Exchange, an organisation that validated the activities of a monster like Jimmy Savile. Nor do they utter a word of apology to the victims of PIE.”
The paper claims to have files that show that PIE lobbied for the age of consent to be reduced to ten if the child consented and for incest to be legalised.
AFP contributed to this report