Questions over lost dossier on VIP paedophiles increase pressure for overarching inquiry
By Tim Wood, Mark Conrad, Alex Varley-Winter and David Hencke
Statements by former home secretary Lord Brittan and others sparked yet more calls for an inquiry into organised sexual abuse of children in the UK.
The campaign for the inquiry was driven by Exaro’s Twitter followers after the disclosure of a joint letter from seven MPs to Theresa May, home secretary, asking her to set up an investigation similar to the inquiry into Hillsborough, the football disaster of 1989.
“The public will not be satisfied with Sir Leon’s glib response”
Simon Danczuk, Labour MP
Tim Loughton, Conservative MP and former children’s minister, and his Tory colleague, Zac Goldsmith, led the initiative. Loughton and Goldsmith then wrote to all MPs with the full text of their letter to May, asking them to back it.
A series of statements were issued in the wake of evidence from Simon Danczuk, Labour MP, to the House of Commons home affairs committee on Tuesday.
He raised the dossier on VIP paedophiles that was compiled by the late Conservative MP, Geoffrey Dickens, and submitted to the Home Office in 1984. It started with this exchange at the parliamentary hearing between Danczuk and Keith Vaz, Labour MP and committee chairman.
Danczuk: “Geoffrey Dickens, a Conservative MP, produced a dossier in the 1980’s that he presented to the then home secretary about the Paedophile Information Exchange, about paedophiles operating a network within and around Westminster.
“I think there are questions to be answered.”
Keith Vaz: “What year was that?”
Danczuk: “It was the mid-1980’s, so ’84.”
Vaz: “Who was the home secretary?”
Danczuk: “Well, the home secretary was Sir Leon Brittan, and I think it would be helpful if he stepped forward and shared his thoughts on where that dossier–
“This is all in the public domain. But I do think it would be helpful if Sir Leon shared his knowledge of how he dealt with these allegations that were made at the time.”
Vaz: “What happened to the dossier?”
Danczuk: “That is an interesting question. We know that it arrived at the Home Office but we do not know where it was sent. And the inquiry that we talk about I think has to get to the bottom of this, and I think people like Sir Leon – and others – need to share their knowledge and understanding of what was going on at the time.”
Vaz: “It is probably a point that we should put to other home secretaries as well.
Danczuk: “Quite possible.”
Vaz: “We shall do that.”
Leon (now Lord) Brittan issued a statement today at around 10.30am through his solicitors:
“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.”
Nigel Pantling was one of Brittan’s two private secretaries from 1984. Asked whether he recalled the meeting, Pantling told Exaro: “I have no comment to make whatsoever. I am not saying that I can, I am not saying that I cannot. I have no comment to make whatsoever.”
Meanwhile, Danczuk issued a statement in response to Brittan’s:
“People will be very disappointed in this statement, as it demonstrates a shockingly casual attitude. The job of the home secretary is to protect the country from criminals, and paedophilia is one of the worst crimes imaginable.
“To hear a former home secretary dismiss evidence from Geoffrey Dickens, a member of his own party who has a strong track-record in campaigning on paedophilia, in such a casual, procedural manner is extremely worrying. The impression conveyed is that Sir Leon does not want to talk about this. It goes right to the heart of an attitude in politics that I described yesterday: that child abuse is a subject best avoided.
“The public will not be satisfied with Sir Leon’s glib response. They will want to know why did he not press his officials to take action, what happened to the substantial bundle of papers and what Geoffrey Dickens told him during their 30-minute conversation.
“This was not a meeting to discuss a local planning matter. Dickens would no doubt have pressed upon Sir Leon the seriousness and scale of organised paedophilia, and everyone would expect a home secretary to show leadership when faced with such allegations, not just pass the dossier on and forget about it.
“He should reveal what he knew at the time about paedophile networks and what action he took.”
And Zac Goldsmith, one of the seven MPs who sent the joint letter to May, told Exaro: “The question now is… who chose not to progress the matter, and where is the file?”
Next, the Home Office issued a statement:
“In response to concerns raised in Parliament and the media relating to the handling by the department of historical allegations of abuse, the permanent secretary commissioned an independent review of all relevant papers received by the department between 1979 to 1999 to identify any information received and the outcome.
“The review concluded that the Home Office acted appropriately, referring information received during this period to the relevant authorities.”
Brittan issued a second statement through his solicitors within two hours of his first:
“In the last hour, I have been alerted to a Home Office independent review conducted last year into what information it received about organised child sex abuse between 1979 and 1999.
“The review found information had been dealt with properly. It also disclosed that material received from Mr Dickens in November 1983 and January 1984 had not been retained. However, a letter was sent from myself to Mr Dickens on March 20, 1984 explaining what had been done in relation to the files.
“The Home Office independent review is entirely consistent with the action I set out in my earlier statement. Whilst I could not recall what further action was taken 30 years ago, the information contained in this report shows that appropriate action and follow up happened.”
The developments came after Exaro disclosed on Tuesday how Danczuk had asked the director of public prosecutions to review the dismissal by prosecutors of historical allegations of child sex abuse.
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