Westminster paedophile claims: May reacts to inquiry pressure
With suspicions growing of an Establishment cover-up, Home Secretary finally gets her act together
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, is desperately trying to get a grip on the child sex abuse scandal engulfing the Home Office by announcing a wider-than-expected inquiry into allegations of an Establishment cover-up over a 1980s paedophile ring that reached right to the heart of Westminster.
She is planning to tell MPs this afternoon in a Commons statement that the inquiry will take evidence from the public and will cover institutions such as the NHS, care homes and the BBC as well as any failures at the Home Office. She is setting a far-reaching remit in a bid to head off Opposition calls - and demands by the victims’ lawyers - for a full Hillsborough-style public inquiry.
A Home Office spokesman said: "Her statement will address the two key public concerns. First, the Home Office's response in the 1980s to papers containing allegations of child abuse. And second, the wider issue of whether public bodies and other institutions have taken seriously their duty of care towards children."
May already has ordered a fresh Home Office internal review by a senior legal figure into why an “explosive” dossier naming names in the alleged paedophile ring went missing. There are concerns that it was shedded by paedophiles working inside the Home Office.
More pressure on the Home Office comes with the revelation – as reported by Radio 4's Today programme - that Steven Adrian Smith, the former head of the Paedophile Information Exchange, which lobbied for child sex to be legalised, was cleared to work inside the Home Office as an electrical contractor in the early 1980s. He has admitted storing campaign material inside filing cabinets because he knew the police would not go there.
The Home Secretary's decision to include the NHS and the BBC in the inquiry follows revelations that the late Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris – now beginning his prison term - used their VIP access to the health service to prey on victims and appeared to enjoy virtual immunity for sex abuse inside the BBC.
Nick Robinson, the BBC's political editor, said the inquiry to be announced by May will investigate “why allegations of child sex abuse were missed at best or ignored at worst… it is likely that it will be carried out by a panel of experts and take evidence from the public”.
The announcement will fall short of the calls for a full Hillsborough-style public inquiry – though not by far, it seems - and it will be seen as an effort by May to regain the initiative over the sex scandal which some are saying is worse than the MPs’ expenses scandal.
Until now, May has been left flat-footed in her response since Labour MP and campaigner Simon Danczuk claimed at a meeting of the Home Affairs Commons select committee that in 1983 an “explosive” dossier naming names in the Westminster paedophile ring was handed by the late Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens to the then Home Secretary, Leon (now Lord) Brittan.
Danczuk called on Brittan to explain what action had been taken – at which point it turned out the the files had gone missing.
Lord Tebbit upped the temperature by agreeing on Sunday's Andrew Marr Show there may have been an Establishment cover-up of child abuse by senior figures, while Danczuk claimed in a Mail on Sunday article that the night before he told the select committee about the Dickens dossier, a senior Conservative had warned him off naming Brittan as its recipient.
"A Tory minister stepped out of the shadows to confront me," wrote Danczuk. "I'd never spoken to him before in my life but he blocked my way and ushered me to one side.
"He warned me to think very carefully about what I was going to say the next day before the Home Affairs Select Committee when I'd be answering questions on child abuse.
"I hear you're about to challenge Lord Brittan about what he knew about child sex abuse,' he said. It wouldn't be a wise move, he advised me. 'It was all put to bed a long time ago."
The Home Affairs select committee reconvenes tomorrow to take evidence from Theresa May when – regardless of her inquiry announcement - Danczuk’s explosive claims will need answers.