Former Labour minister Patricia Hewitt has apologised and said she takes responsibility for allowing a pro-paedophile campaign group to affiliate with an organisation she chaired in the 1970s.
The former Health Secretary finally issued an apology after new paperwork emerged, detailing the disturbing links between the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL), of which Hewitt served as General Secretary in the 1970s, and the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE).
PIE officially affiliated with the NCCL in the mid-70s, and its members were broadly welcomed, some even serving on various NCCL committees and contributing to policy ideas.
She was the only name on an NCCL press release from March 1976 that says, “NCCL proposes that the age of consent should be lowered to 14 with special provisions for situations where the partners are close in age.”
This was issued at the same time as the NCCL published a report sex crime laws.
In further remarks, she said: “The report argues that the crime of incest should be abolished. In our view, no benefit accrues to anyone by making incest a crime when committed between mutually consenting persons over the age of consent.”
As the new information emerged, Hewitt said the NCCL was “naive and wrong” in its dealings with PIE and added: “As General Secretary then, I take responsibility for the mistakes we made. I got it wrong on PIE and I apologise for having done so.”
Earlier this week, Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman, the NCCL’s former legal officer, took a rather different tone when she expressed “regret” over links between the group and PIE, but refused to apologise.
She then took on a combative tone and accused the Daily Mail, who first published the allegations, of waging a “politically-motivated smear campaign” against her.
By contrast, Miss Hewitt, has now given a full apology, adding that she should never have let PIE leader, Tom O’Carroll, join the NCCL’s gay rights subcommittee.