This is actually the second piece that I have written about the current scandal, but events are moving so quickly that by the time I had finished the first it was immediately out of date.
At the time of writing this (assuming that events haven’t moved on again before I finish), the situation is as follows:
1/ Simon Danczuk MP brought to public attention that Geoffrey Dickens had passed a dossier of alleged child abuse to Leon Brittan (then Home Secretary) in 1983. It has been reported that:
- First, Brittan advised that he had never received the dossier.
- Then, Brittan said that he had received the dossier but passed it to officials and heard nothing further, from them or Dickens.
- Then the story changed again – that Brittan had written to Dickens after receipt of the dossier.
- Finally, it was reported that the dossier was “lost or destroyed”.
Now, as an ex-civil servant, let me tell you that it is inconceivable that this dossier was lost or destroyed. Any communication from an MP to a Minister is treated with the utmost seriousness. This isn’t because of any constitutional or legal reason, it’s simply because an MP has the ability to embarrass a Minister in the House of Commons if they don’t get the attention that they require.
Furthermore, we are told that Brittan does not “recall being contacted further about these matters by Home Office officials or by Mr Dickens or by anyone else”.
To suggest that the dossier went missing or was destroyed and was never followed up by Dickens is, frankly, not credible. Having invested the time to prepare the Dossier – and be sure enough about the impact of its contents to pass it to the Home Secretary – Dickens was happy just to let the Home Office ignore it? Sorry, I just don’t believe that.
2/ David Cameron instructed the Permanent Secretary of the Home Office (Mark Sedwill) to review the situation. Mr Sedwill said, in a letter to Keith Vaz, that he would engage a senior lawyer to review.
This amounted to the Prime Minister requesting that the Home Office investigate itself. The Home Office would employ a lawyer, instructed by the Home Office – to investigate the Home Office.
At this point, even loyal Tories I know started to whisper “cover-up”.
3/ On Sunday, Lord Tebbit entered the fray, saying the Andrew Marr program that there “may well have been” a cover-up. This was seen as a milestone, as he is such a senior Conservative figure.
However, I’m afraid that Lord Tebbit’s intervetion does not make things any clearer. Edwina Currie (Cabinet Minister under Margaret Thatcher) said in her diaries:
“Peter Morrison has become the PM’s PPS. Now he’s what they call ‘a noted pederast’,’ with a liking for young boys; he admitted as much to Norman Tebbitt when he became deputy chairman of the party, but added, ‘However, I’m very discreet’ – and he must be!” Source
So, was Edwina Currie lying in her diaries? Or is Lord Tebbit’s recollection not what it once was? Lord Tebbit now says that “rumours had got to my ears” and that he had confronted Morrison, who denied being a paedophile and Tebbit accepted his word.
So, Currie or Tebbit – who are we to believe? They can’t both be telling the truth.
4/ To make matters worse, it then came to light that Tim Fortescue (Tory Whip under Ted Heath) in a 1995 BBC documentary had explained how such scandals were dealt with:
“It might be debt, it might be… a scandal involving small boys, or any kind of scandal in which, erm er, a member seemed likely to be mixed up in, they’d come and ask if we could help and if we could, we did.
And we would do everything we can because we would store up brownie points… and if I mean, that sounds a pretty, pretty nasty reason, but it’s one of the reasons because if we could get a chap out of trouble then, he will do as we ask forever more.” source
Let that sink in for a moment. He’s saying that if the whip’s office learned that an MP has been abusing children, they would fix it and use the information for party discipline purposes.
5/ Now we learn that, after the expected noises from the government about “transparency” and “openness”, Theresa May has appointed Lady Butler Sloss to head in “independent enquiry”.
The problem is that she is already compromised, by virtue of her brother (Sir Michael Havers) having been Attorney-General for England and Wales between 1979 and 1987 – which includes the period in question.
I’d like to make clear that I am not suggesting that Lady Butler Sloss is guilty of any wrong-doing, but it has been reported that Michael Havers:
– Was accused of a “whitewash” after he backed a decision not to prosecute Sir Peter Hayman.
– Tried to dissuade Geoffrey Dickens from naming Hayman as a paedophile in the House of Commons.
How is Lady Butler Sloss to remain objective if her own brother should come to be implicated in a cover-up scandal?
As Lady Butler Sloss sits in the Upper House, can she be considered objective when the potential scandal involves previous members of the Lower House who may now sit alongside her in the House of Lords?
This whole business is looking very murky indeed. I’m only too glad that UKIP didn’t have any MPs at the time in question – you can be sure that is we had, the media would have tried to implicate us.
Photo by Rajan Manickavasagam