Former Home Secretary Leon Brittan claimed today that he did act over serious allegations of a paedophile network in Westminster. Mr Brittan was responding to claims he failed to take action after reports were made to him of widespread child abuse at children’s homes, according to the Daily Mail.
His intervention follows allegations made by Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk at the Home Affairs Select Committee, in which he said that Westminster was “the last refuge of child abuse deniers”. He told the committee that Leon Brittan met with Geoff Dickens MP in the early 1980s, who presented a dossier on child abuse and asked for an investigation. Mr Danczuk then demanded to know what action the then Home Secretary had taken.
Amidst mounting pressure, Brittan issued the following statement: “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.”
Simon Danczuk has gained widespread respect in the child protection community for exposing the late Cyril Smith, the former Liberal MP for Rochdale, who got away with abusing large numbers of children. During his life, Smith was the subject of widespread rumours and allegations to the Police, but none of them seem to have been acted upon properly.
This has led Danczuk to call for a full enquiry into historic child abuse allegations, and how public bodies like the Police and the BBC acted on them. The call for a full enquiry comes after a number of celebrities and politicians have been accused of child sex abuse, relating to incidents that appear to have been ignored at the time.
They include DJ and television star Sir Jimmy Saville who is now believed to be one of Britain’s more prolific sex attackers. There are now hundreds of allegations against him, but they only became public after his death. One hundred and twenty MPs have now signed up for calls to have a full enquiry.
Mr Danczuk said: “I do think it would be helpful for Sir Leon Brittan to share his knowledge of how he dealt with these allegations that were made at the time.
“I think that politics is the last refuge of child sex abuse deniers. Other institutions, the police, have dealt with this and changed their culture.”
He went on to say that politics suffered from “a continual view that we should sweep it under the carpet, that we shouldn’t speak about it, that we shouldn’t name people, that there shouldn’t be a discussion about what’s gone on… I don’t have all the answers, but we have to understand why the authorities failed to investigate such high-profile cases.”
It has now come to light that Cyril Smith wrote to the BBC in 1976 claiming that allegations about the “private lives” of MPs was in fact a smear organised by South African intelligence agents. His letter is widely believed to have been a threat to stop journalists from properly investigating offences that the Police and political class were covering up.
Any investigation is likely to be hugely embarrassing to politicians at the time, because whatever their involvement in a cover-up, it is clear that they failed to discharge their duty because high profile individuals clearly got away with large scale abuse.
A lack of proper scrutiny of allegations has also caused some famous figures to be wrongly accused. Shortly before his death earlier this year, Lord McAlpine had to spend a fortune in legal fees when he was wrongly accused of abusing children at a care home he had never even visited.
It appears Police had got him confused with someone of a similar name who did visit the home. The matter was only cleared up when the victim saw McAlpine’s photo and confirmed he had never met him, and he was not his abuser.
Leon Brittan left British politics to become a European Commissioner. He is well known for his pro-European views.