The story would stretch credulity if it formed the basis of a subplot to “House of Cards.” But in fact it’s real: In 1983, Leon Brittan, the former Home Secretary and member of Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet, was handed a 40-page dossier naming eight senior civil servants and politicians who were allegedly involved in a secret ring of pedophiles.
And then the dossier … vanished.
Thirty years later, the now-Lord Brittan is facing some uncomfortable questions about what happened to the dossier. Since its disappearance, one member of parliament — the late Cyril Smith — has been unveiled as a lifelong child abuser. Another government official, Sir Peter Hayman KCMG, CVO, MBE, was Her Majesty’s High Commissioner to Canada from 1970 and 1974. He had also held posts in the Ministry of Defence and NATO. He died in 1992, but not before being named a decade earlier as a pedophile in the House of Commons.
Yesterday, Brittan said that the dossier was worthy of investigation and he had handed it to the Attorney general’s department, the Daily Mail reports.
The dossier was created by Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens, who died in 1995. Back in ’83, Dickens claimed that he had given the names of eight people to the Director of Public Prosecutions. He told the Express: “I’ve got eight names of big people, really important names, public figures.”
Yesterday, Brittan gave his version of events. He said the papers should have been investigated:
As I recall, [Mr Dickens] 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.’
In March 1984, Brittan wrote to Dickens to update him on the dossier, the Mail continues:
You drew my attention to a number of allegations concerning pedophilia when you called here on November 23 and in subsequent letters.
I am now able to tell you that, in general terms, the view of the Director of Public Prosecutions is that two of the letters you forwarded could form the basis for inquiries by the police and they are now being passed to the appropriate authorities.
And that was pretty much the last anyone ever heard of the papers.
But now Labour MP Simon Danczuk, who exposed Cyril Smith, is calling for a full “Hillsborough”-style inquiry into the fate of the dossier. One hundred and twenty MPs have backed the call. (Hillsborough a reference to a recent inquiry into the deaths of 98 soccer fans at the Hillsborough stadium in 1989, which revealed a years-long coverup of incompetence by the local police.)
Today, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said there was no need for such an inquiry, and noted that the police were looking into it as a regular criminal investigation.
Here’s what we know about the possible contents of the dossier:
- At least two senior government figures, Smith and Hayman, did turn out to be actual child molesters.
- Smith was able to live as both a politician and a child abuser because his friends and colleagues ignored his activities.
- Smith frequently visited the Elm Guest House in South-West London. Elm was a privately run home for orphans and children taken into care by the social services.
- Other visitors to Elm who abused boys there allegedly include Hayman, the former Russian spy Anthony Blunt, a Sinn Fein politician, a Labour MP, and several Conservative politicians, according to The Independent.
- Police officers at Scotland Yard have a list of establishment figures who visited Elm, the Independent reports.
- Dickens alleged eight senior government figures were “operating and networking” in Westminster as pedophiles.
- The dossier also allegedly names a figure linked to Buckingham Palace — although in retrospect that could be Hayman.
- The Home Office says the dossier was not “retained.”
- The Mail says a copy of the documents were destroyed by Dickens’ late widow “because she thought it ‘toxic’.”
- Danczuk says the dossier contained information about an organisation called the Pedophile Information Exchange (PIE), which operated as a lobby group trying to legalise sex between adults and minors.
- Dickens said before he died that his parents’ house was burgled twice — although nothing was taken — after he handed ther dossier to Brittan. He regarded the break-ins as a “professional” job, according to the Telegraph.
All of that puts in perspective Danczuk’s request, republished today by the Mail: “I do think it would be helpful for Leon Brittan to share his knowledge of how he dealt with these allegations that were made at the time.”