This afternoon (Wednesday October 21st, 2015), the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) will be taking evidence relating to allegations and investigations into the abuse of children committed by VIPs (and in at least one case, alleged rape of an adult woman) from five important people: Detective Chief Inspector Paul Settle, formerly of Operation Fernbridge, Assistant Commissioner Patricia Gallan and Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Rodhouse of the Metropolitan Police, Tom Watson MP, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and a prominent campaigner on child abuse, and Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions. A report this morning makes clear that the committee have decided not to interview Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park and Conservative candidate for London Mayor.
Over the last two weeks, ever since the broadcast on October 5th of the BBC Panorama programme on the alleged VIP Paedophile Ring, there has been a concerted media campaign targeting Tom Watson above all, who has been labelled a ‘witchfinder general’, as responsible for supposedly unfounded claims of high level abuse. I do know Tom personally, vouched for the importance of his work on abuse as part of his deputy leadership campaign materials, and so obviously am far from impartial, but can see in absolute honesty that I do not recognise the figure portrayed by much of the press, and also have very strong reason to believe Tom has acted with integrity and in good faith. I suspect that his conciliatory position as deputy to new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, despised by the right-wing media and many Blairite elements in the party, is fuelling this campaign. Furthermore, there are complicated reasons which may become apparent this afternoon why some conflicts have arisen between various parties all devoted to uncovering and preventing child abuse by prominent persons. Last week I posted a detailed timeline of events relating to Leon Brittan, which I believe show clearly that the decision to pursue further the rape investigation into him, after it had been dropped, came from the Met, not from Tom.
The following are issues I implore all members of HASC to consider before questioning this afternoon.
Allegations of a statement taken by an ex-customs officer about the late Lord Brittan
The distinguished journalist Tim Tate has written what to my mind is the most important piece on the allegations surrounding Leon Brittan (later Lord Brittan). Tate does not accept the claims, printed in Exaro and elsewhere, that a video seized in 1982 from Russell Tricker featured the Home Secretary themselves, but crucially claims that a statement was taken from the customs official in question, Maganlal Solanki, attesting to having seized video tapes from Brittan upon entering the country at some point in the 1980s. If a written statement exists attesting to this, it is of crucial importance in establishing whether there might be any truth in the allegations against Brittan. HASC should ask Settle to explain whether this exists or not. Furthermore, at the time of the 1982 siege of Elm Guest House, a then-eight-year-old boy was found and questioned, later (now an adult living in the US) questioned by detectives from Operation Fernbridge. On at least one occasion, this boy identified an ‘Uncle Leon’ from the ‘big house’ as being involved. It is equally vital that Settle is questioned about this. Furthermore, Solanki should also be summoned to speak to HASC.
Tate sent the following questions to the Independent Inquiry on Child Sexual Abuse (to the best of my knowledge he has not yet received an answer) – I suggest these are equally relevant for HASC:
1. Has the Inquiry yet established direct contact with Operation Fernbridge ?
2. Will the Inquiry be examining documentary evidence held by Operation Fernbridge concerning its investigations into the late Baron Brittan ?
3. Specifically, will the Inquiry secure from Operation Fernbridge copies of all such documents including, but not limited to, formal statements made under caution, officers’ notebooks, internal memoranda and historical documents acquired during its investigation into the late Baron Brittan ?
4. Does the Inquiry plan to require public testimony from the current head of Operation Fernbridge, AND its former senior investigating officer, [NAME REDACTED HERE] concerning the late Baron Brittan?
5. Does the Inquiry plan to require public testimony from the former Customs and Excise officer Maganlal Solanki who gave evidence to Operation Fernbridge concerning the alleged seizure of child pornography from the late Baron Brittan ?
6. Does the Inquiry plan to take evidence from the US Marshall formerly attached to Operation Fernbridge in connection with a visit he made at the request of Operation Fernbridge to a suspected victim of Baron Brittan ?
7. Does the Inquiry plan to publish the documents acquired and/or generated by Operation Fernbridge during the course of its investigation into Baron Brittan ?
Involvement of other MPs
By far the majority of the focus has been on Tom Watson, but other MPs have been equally involved with campaigning on abuse, and some have made more extravagant claims or threats. Specifically:
1. The Labour MP John Mann has handed police a list of 22 politicians alleged to have been involved with the abuse of children. Furthermore, in July last year, Mann indicated the possibility of using Parliamentary privilege to name abusers.
2. The Labour MP Simon Danczuk also threatened to use Parliamentary privilege to name a politician alleged to have visited Elm Guest House; whilst Danczuk did not ultimately do so, it is widely believed to have been Brittan.
3. On October 28th, 2014, the Labour MP Jim Hood did indeed name Brittan in Parliament. The following day, Danczuk backed Hood for having done so.
4. On November 27th, 2014, Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith said the following:
We need only consider the Elm guest house in Barnes, which was run by Haroon and Carole Kasir. It was raided more than 30 years ago, back in 1982. The couple were fined and given suspended sentences for running a disorderly house, but at the time there were already questions and allegations around the abuse of young children at the house. Allegedly—we are reliably told this—12 boys gave evidence in 1982 that they had been abused, yet all these allegations simply evaporated at the time, some 30 years ago. They are only resurfacing now.
When Mrs Kasir died a few years after the house was raided, in very odd circumstances, a child protection campaigner from the National Association Of Young People In Care called for a criminal investigation into events at Elm guest house. He said he had been told by Mrs Kasir that boys had been brought in from a local children’s home—Grafton Close, also in Richmond—for sex, and that she had photographs of establishment figures at her hotel. One of them apparently showed a former Cabinet Minister in a sauna with a naked boy. She had logbooks, names, times, dates, pictures of her customers and so on. All that evidence simply disappeared after the raids and no longer exists. That is astonishing.
The Met has since confirmed that Cyril Smith visited the place—the hon. Member for Rochdale has made this point—and at least three other men named in documents as visitors to the Elm guest house were later convicted of multiple sexual offences against children. It is impossible to believe there was not a cover up. This is not sloppiness; there has to be more to it than that.
I was quite surprised when I watched the broadcast of this debate in November to hear these claims, which are thought to be tenuous by many campaigners, presented in Parliament. Questions have been rightly asked about Goldsmith’s source for the claims – the Mail journalist Guy Adams suggests it was like to be either Chris Fay or Mike Broad (Fay has e-mailed me to indicate that he has never met nor had any contact with Goldsmith). Furthermore, Goldsmith participated in an Australian documentary Spies, Lords and Predators, broadcast in July this year and heavily influenced by the reporting of Exaro, which has come under severe criticism.
5. The Conservative MP and HASC member Tim Loughton, who has in the last few days started charging Watson with setting himself up as ‘judge, jury, and executioner’ over individual cases, himself threatened in July 2014 to use what he called the ‘nuclear option’ to name suspected paedophiles in Parliament. He also called for action from the inquiry in November 2014 following allegations from Exaro about MPs throwing sex parties involving the abuse of children, murder, and more.
Many of these are stronger claims or threats than anything by Tom Watson, who in a November 2014 interview with Guardian journalist Decca Aitkenhead said just that at least one politician had abused children.
HASC needs to speak to Mann, Danczuk, Hood, Goldsmith, and Loughton.
Allegations of a Westminster paedophile ring
It is often claimed that Tom Watson has alleged the existence of a Westminster paedophile ring. This would be truer of Danczuk (I am not absolutely sure if he has specifically used the term, but will check); Watson’s question to the Prime Minister on October 24th, 2012 contained the following words:
The evidence file used to convict paedophile Peter Righton, if it still exists, contains clear intelligence of a widespread paedophile ring. One of its members boasts of his links to a senior aide of a former Prime Minister, who says he could smuggle indecent images of children from abroad. The leads were not followed up, but if the file still exists I want to ensure that the Metropolitan police secure the evidence, re-examine it and investigate clear intelligence suggesting a powerful paedophile network linked to Parliament and No. 10.
A network which is linked to Parliament and No. 10 is not the same thing as a Westminster paedophile ring. There is no doubt that a network existed around Righton, at the very least featuring other committee members of the Paedophile Information Exchange, such as Charles Napier, convicted and sentenced last December to 13 years for hundreds of sexual assaults upon young boys, or Righton’s partner Richard Alston, jailed in September for 21 months for child abuse charges, in a trial at which claims emerged of sessions involving Alston, Righton and Napier together.
The link to Parliament and No. 10 rests upon claims made in a document about which I am not at liberty to write now. Tom Watson’s source for his original PMQ was retired child protection worker Peter McKelvie, who last week resigned from the Victims and Survivors Consultative Panel to the inquiry.
Scapegoats are being made of McKelvie and Watson in a bid to stop further investigation of a wide range of claims about politicians of which both are aware. It is vital that HASC also summon McKelvie and ask him about this specific claim mentioned by Watson in 2012.
If HASC will deal seriously with these claims, they will be carrying out their proper role, and not serving simply as a front for political point-scoring. The issue of high-level child abuse is far too serious for this, and it would be a tragedy if the cross-party consensus which was previously built on this were now to be abandoned.
Peter Morrison – the child abuser protected by MI5, the Cabinet Secretary, and Margaret Thatcher – updated July 2015Posted: July 26, 2015
[With great thanks to @Snowfaked and @MySweetLandlord on Twitter for finding some extra pieces of information, especially relating to Morrison and Islay, and the picture of Thatcher, Morrison and Brittan]
In Edwina Currie’s diary entry for July 24th, 1990, she wrote the following:
One appointment in the recent reshuffle has attracted a lot of gossip and could be very dangerous: 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 Tebbit when he became deputy chairman of the party, but added, ‘However, I’m very discreet’ – and he must be! She either knows and is taking a chance, or doesn’t; either way it is a really dumb move. Teresa Gorman told me this evening (in a taxi coming back from a drinks party at the BBC) that she inherited Morrison’s (woman) agent, who claimed to have been offered money to keep quiet about his activities. It scares me, as all the press know, and as we get closer to the election someone is going to make trouble, very close to her indeed. (Edwina Currie, Diaries 1987-1992 (London: Little, Brown, 2002), p. 195)
The agent in question was Frances Mowatt. A 192 search reveals that there is now a Frances Mowatt, aged 65+, living in Billericay in Essex, Teresa Gorman’s old constituency. She may be the same person who is a Local Authority Governor for St Peter’s Catholic Primary School in Billericay.
In 1982, a boy who would then have been around 14 (the same age as I was at the time) has given a vivid account of his experiences at the hands of Morrison (Bill Gardner, ‘Westminster paedophile ring: ‘I allowed my son to go with him. You trusted people more in those days”, Daily Telegraph, January 3rd, 2015). This boy encountered Morrison, dressed in a pin-striped suit in the village of Harting, West Sussex; Morrison told him his car had broken down, offered him money to help him start it, then invited the boy to his ‘nice big house in London for the weekend’. The boy said he couldn’t come, but gave Morrison his phone number when he asked, and then received repeated phone calls imploring him to come, eventually saying yes after refusing repeatedly. Morrison came down to Sussex with a driver, told the boy and his father he had homes in Chester and London, but not that he was an MP (he said he was a barrister). To the boy’s father’s great regret, he let him go; almost immediately on the journey, Morrison began to sexually assault the boy, who said:
He’d leave me alone for a little bit, and then he’d come at me again. . . . Before long, he had my trousers off. At one point we stopped for petrol, and I thought about running out of the car, but I realised the doors had some sort of child lock and I couldn’t get out. I was so frightened.
Matters got worse: Morrison gave beer and wine to the boy and then took him to a house, which the boy (now a man in his mid-40s) thinks was Elm Guest House. There were seven or eight men around the house, and Morrison took him upstairs, stripped him, and raped him for at least an hour; the man says ‘It was the most horrendous experience of my life.’ Morrison then told him they would be going to the sauna together, visiting a ‘party’, and he would be sleeping in Morrison’s bed later. The boy managed to sneak out of the house unseen, get back on a train to Harting, and tell his father what had happened. A local policeman was called, and the boy was taken to a police doctor, with medics telling the father afterwards that his son had ‘certainly been sexually abused’. Two detectives from Scotland Yard took a full statement from the boy, who soon afterwards received calls at home from various men in London asking where he was, which he attributed to Morrison panicking after he had disappeared. Nothing more happened until two Scotland Yard officers arrived on the family’s doorstep a year later, with the boy’s clothes in a bag, saying that the man in question had been convicted in a Chelsea court, had been imprisoned for two years, and nothing else was to worry about. Only years later did the victim recognise Morrison as a prominent MP in the Thatcher government. Operation Fairbank continue to investigate this story (Bill Gardner, ‘Thatcher confidant raped boy and police covered crime up’, Daily Telegraph, January 5th, 2015). The man now says that:
I believe that Morrison was a high-profile guy so he got away with it. Either the police were paid off or they hushed it up because he was an MP.
“I was never the same after what happened – he ruined my life really. I left school soon afterwards because I lost all my confidence. I couldn’t handle what had happened to me.
Scotland Yard, in January 2015, were unable to confirm whether Morrison had been investigated at the time (Rebecca Camber, ‘Tory MP who was Thatcher’s confidant ‘raped my 14-year-old son at paedophile guest house’, Daily Mail, January 4th, 2015). More ominously, it was revealed that the body of the murdered Vishal Mehortra was found in woodland in Rogate, less than two miles from Harting (‘Thatcher aide could be linked to body found in Rogate’, Midhurst and Petworth Observer, January 10th, 2015).
However, since then reports have alleged that Morrison was arrested twice for picking up men at the toilets at Piccadilly tube, taken to West End Central police station in Savile Row and let off with a caution each time (a second caution is very unusual); the Met are trying to track down officers who were involved with the arrests. There are also rumours of Morrison’s having been caught making similar approaches at toilets in Crew railway station in Cheshire. These have all led to a probe into police corruption and high-level cover-up (Nick Dorman, ‘Probe over claims Margaret Thatcher aide escaped prosecution because of Establishment links’, Sunday People, July 18th, 2015; Martin Beckford, ‘Met launch probe into Maggie aide and its own cover up’, Mail on Sunday, July 19th, 2015). A later report made clear that one of the offences for which Morrison was arrested involved a 15-year old boy (Matt Chorley, ‘Senior Westminster figures from 1970s and 1980s including former Home Secretary Leon Brittan named in government child abuse files’, Daily Mail, July 22nd, 2015).
The following are the recollections of Grahame Nicholls, who ran the Chester Trades Council (Morrison was the MP for Chester from 1974 to 1992), who wrote:
After the 1987 general election, around 1990, I attended a meeting of Chester Labour party where we were informed by the agent, Christine Russell, that Peter Morrison would not be standing in 1992. He had been caught in the toilets at Crewe station with a 15-year-old boy. A deal was struck between Labour, the local Tories, the local press and the police that if he stood down at the next election the matter would go no further. Chester finished up with Gyles Brandreth and Morrison walked away scot-free. I thought you might be interested. (cited in ‘Simon Hoggart’s week’, The Guardian, November 16th, 2012).
Former MP for Chester (1997-2010), Christine Russell
This week, it has emerged that previously undiscovered files exist on Morrison (and Leon Brittan, former Wokingham MP Sir William van Straubenzee, and others including a figure named only as ‘Vanessa the Undresser’) which are thought to relate to abuse, and were not seen by Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam QC when preparing their earlier report (a supplement has been published here) (Tom Parmenter, ‘Key Westminster Figures in Child Abuse Papers’, Sky News, July 23rd, 2015). A report in The Times has named Morrison as an MP about whom communications took place in November 1986 between the late Sir Antony Duff (1920-2000), then head of MI5, and Sir Robert Armstrong, then cabinet secretary. Two sources had approached senior officials with reports that Morrison had ‘a penchant for small boys’. He was questioned about these but the security services accepted his claims that the allegations were false (Daniel Martin, ‘Secret files ‘show MI5 let abuse claim MP off hook’: Security chief said the case would ’embarrass the Government”, Daily Mail, July 22nd, 2015). Duff concluded ‘The risks of political embarrassment to the Government is rather greater than the security danger’ (clearly the interests of the victims did not even filter into Duff and Armstrong’s calculations, as has been commented upon by many, including Wanless and a spokesperson for NSPCC) (Sean O’Neill and Gabriella Swerling, ‘Child abuse suspect was Thatcher aide’, The Times, July 24th, 2015 [see below]; Daniel Martin, ‘Secret files ‘show MI5 let abuse claim MP off the hook’: Security chief said the case would ’embarrass the Government’, Daily Mail, July 22nd, 2015; ‘Child abuse: PM Tells Police – No Limits’, Sky News, July 23rd, 2015; Joseph Watts, ”Child abuse’ files must give justice to victims, says NSPCC chief’, Evening Standard, July 23rd, 2015). Approached a few days ago by The Times, Armstrong had the following to say:
My official business was the protection of national security. I have to stress that there was nothing like evidence in this case. There was just a shadow of a rumour. It’s impossible to take investigative action on shadows of rumours. . . If there is some reason to think a crime has been committed, then people like the cabinet secretary are not to start poking their noses into it. It’s for the police to do that.
To the Mail, Armstrong (who would not name Morrison to them), said:
I thought MI5’s actions were correct at the time. I think they were right to report the rumour, they were right to make what inquiries they could and they were right to come to the conclusion they did. I think if there was evidence it would have been properly examined at the time. I don’t think this is a matter of important people being protected. You can’t pursue inquiries unless you have evidence on which you can base the enquiry. A shadow of a rumour is not enough.
He went on to say ‘I think he [Morrison] was interview but he denied it. It is not my position to name him’, and did not know if Thatcher was made aware of the MI5 decision, which drew a furious response from Rochdale MP and long-term campaigner against child abuse Simon Danczuk (Vanessa Allen, Claire Ellicott and Daniel Martin, ‘I won’t name child abuse MP; Fury as Mrs Thatcher’s Cabinet chief defends failure to act over senior Tory’, Daily Mail, July 24th, 2015). See also Armstrong’s non-committal response to questions sent to him by investigative journalist Tim Tate, and Tate’s own blog on this.
Armstrong, who once became notorious for using the phrase ‘economical with the truth’ when involved in trying to prevent the publication of Peter Wright’s Spycatcher (Sue Reid, ‘Mandarin who can’t help being economical with truth: Lord Armstrong at centre of accusations of child abuse cover-up’, Daily Mail, July 24th, 2015), also has past form in terms of his dismissive responses to the entreaties by pianist and whistleblower Martin Roscoe for the Royal Northern College of Music, of which Armstrong was the chair of the board of governors in 2002, not to employ violinist Malcolm Layfield as their Head of Strings, after his record of sexually exploiting girls at Chetham’s School (see Charlotte Higgins, ‘After Michael Brewer: the RNCM teacher’s story’, The Guardian, February 13th, 2013; ‘Correspondence over appointment of Malcolm Layfield at Royal Northern College of Music’, The Guardian, February 8th, 2013).
On top of everything else, the Labour MP John Mann published a series of important tweets: ‘In 1984 Geoffrey Dickens gave Leon Brittan as Home Secretary a further list of alleged paedophiles linked directly to Peter Morrison’; ‘What happened to the list of Peter Morrison linked paedophiles given to Home Secretary in 1984? And why was no action taken?’; ‘I have just met person who gave list of Peter Morrison linked paedophiles to Geoffrey Dickens. Astonishing developments and cover ups’; ‘The new list of Dickens names was entirely different to first. It was given to him precisely because of publicity about his initial action’ all of which suggests new dimensions to the files supplied by Dickens to then Home Secretary Leon Brittan.
Sir Peter Morrison (1944-1995) was known, according to an obituary by Patrick Cosgrove, as a right winger who disliked immigration, supported the return of capital punishment, and wished to introduce vouchers for education. He was from a privileged political family; his father, born John Morrison, became Lord Margadale, the squire of Fonthill, led the campaign to ensure Alec Douglas-Home became Prime Minister in 1963, and predicted Thatcher’s ultimate accession to the leadership (Sue Reid, ‘Did Maggie know her closest aide was preying on under-age boys?’, Daily Mail, July 12th, 2014, updated July 16th). The young Peter attended Eton College, then Keble College, Oxford. Entering the House of Commons in 1974 at the age of 29, during the first Thatcher government he occupied a series of non-cabinet ministerial positions, then became Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party in 1986, replacing Jeffrey Archer after his resignation, and working under Chairman Norman Tebbit. His sister, Dame Mary Morrison, became a lady-in-waiting to the Queen (Gyles Brandreth, ”I was abused by my choir master’: In a brave and haunting account, TV star and ex MP Gyles Brandreth reveals the years of abuse he endured at prep school’, Daily Mail, September 12th, 2014).
Morrison was close to Thatcher from when he entered Parliament (see Thatcher, The Downing Street Years (London: Harper Collins, 1993), p. 837), working for her 1975 leadership campaign and, after she became Prime Minister, putting her and Denis up for holiday in the 73 000 acre estate owned by his father in Islay, where games of charades were played (Jonathan Aitken, Margaret Thatcher: Power and Personality (London: Bloomsbury, 2013), pp. 158-160, 279-281); Thatcher stayed there after her 1979 election victory, together with Morrison and also Leon Brittan (see the image below of the three of them, from Tom Shields, ‘Mrs T weathers rainy day blues’; Glasgow Herald, August 17th, 1979; see also Michael White’s his obituary of Brittan on how he helped to ‘keep her entertained during her reluctantly taken holidays’; Michael White, ‘Leon Brittan: Thatcher’s protege turned scapegoat’, The Guardian, January 22nd, 2015) Lord Margadale had previously entertained Princess Alexandra, Harold Macmillan and Ted Heath there. Morrison himself said in 1979 that Thatcher likely knew the people of Islay better than any others, except for in her constituency of Finchley (Tom Shields, ‘Not even on Islay can Mrs Thatcher get away from it all’, Glasgow Herald, August 16th, 1979; Tom Shields, ‘Islay estate sacks half its workers’, Glasgow Herald, August 2nd, 1982).
After being appointed as Thatcher’s Parliamentary Private Secretary in 1990, Morrison ran what is generally believed to have been a complacent and lacklustre leadership campaign for her when she was challenged by Michael Heseltine; as is well-known, she did not gain enough votes to prevent a second ballot, and then resigned soon afterwards. Morrison was known to some others as ‘a toff’s toff’, who ‘made it very clear from the outset that he did not intend spending time talking to the plebs’ on the backbenches (Stephen Norris, Changing Trains: An Autobiography (London: Hutchinson, 1996), p. 149).
Jonathan Aitken, a close friend of Morrison’s, would later write the following about him:
I knew Peter Morrison as well as anyone in the House. We had been school friends. He was the best man at my wedding in St Margaret’s, Westminster. We shared many private and political confidences. So I knew the immense pressures he was facing at the time when he was suddenly overwhelmed with the greatest new burden imaginable – running the Prime Minister’s election campaign.
Sixteen years in the House of Commons had treated Peter badly. His health had deteriorated. He had an alcohol problem that made him ill, overweight and prone to take long afternoon naps. In the autumn of 1990 he became embroiled in a police investigation into aspects of his personal life. The allegations against him were never substantiated, and the inquiry was subsequently dropped. But at the time of the leadership election, Peter was worried, distracted and unable to concentrate. (Aitken, Margaret Thatcher, pp. 625-626).
An important article by Nick Davies published in The Guardian in April 1998, also made the following claim:
Fleet Street routinely nurtures a crop of untold stories about powerful abusers who have evaded justice. One such is Peter Morrison, formerly the MP for Chester and the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party. Ten years ago, Chris House, the veteran crime reporter for the Sunday Mirror, twice received tip-offs from police officers who said that Morrison had been caught cottaging in public toilets with underaged boys and had been released with a caution. A less powerful man, the officers complained, would have been charged with gross indecency or an offence against children.
At the time, Chris House confronted Morrison, who used libel laws to block publication of the story. Now, Morrison is dead and cannot sue. Police last week confirmed that he had been picked up twice and never brought to trial. They added that there appeared to be no trace of either incident in any of the official records. (Nick Davies, ‘The sheer scale of child sexual abuse in Britain’, The Guardian, April 1998).
Recently, the former editor of the Sunday Mirror, Paul Connew, has revealed how he was told in 1994 by House of the stories concerning Morrison. Connew has revealed that it was a police officer who was the source, dismayed by the lack of action after Morrison had been arrested for sexually molesting under-age boys; the officer revealed how Morrison had attempted to ‘pull rank’ by demanding to see the most senior officer, and announcing proudly who he was. All the paperwork relating to the arrest simply ‘disappeared’. Connew sent a reporter to confront Morrison at his Chester home, but Morrison dismissed the story and made legal threats, which the paper was not able to counter without naming their police source, which was impossible. The story ultimately died, though Connew was able to establish that in the senior echelons of Scotland Yard, Morrison’s arrest and proclivities were no secret; he had been arrested on multiple occasions in both Chester and London, always hushed up (Paul Connew, ‘Commentary: how paedophile Peter Morrison escaped exposure’, Exaro News, September 26th, 2014).
In an article in the Daily Mail published in October 2012, former Conservative MP and leader of the Welsh Tories Rod Richards claimed that Morrison (and another Tory grandee who has not been named) was connected to the terrible abuse scandals in Bryn Estyn and Bryn Alyn children’s homes, in the Wrexham area of North Wales, having seen documents which identified both politicians as frequent, unexplained visitors. Richards also claimed that William Hague, who was Secretary of State for Wales from 1995 to 1997, and who set up the North Wales Child Abuse inquiry, would have seen the files on Morrison, but sources close to Hague denied that he had seen any such material. A former resident of the Bryn Estyn care home testified to Channel 4 News, testified to seeing Morrison arrive there on five occasions, and may have driven off with a boy in his car (‘Exclusive: Eyewitness ‘saw Thatcher aide take boys to abuse”, Channel 4 News, November 6th, 2012; see also Reid, ‘Did Maggie know her closest aide was preying on under-age boys?’).
The owner of Bryn Alyn and other homes, John Allen, was sentenced to life in December 2014 for sexual abuse of 18 boys and one girl there (‘Children’s home boss John Allen jailed for life for campaign of sex abuse’, Daily Telegraph, December 1st, 2014), and was revealed to be a friend of Michael John Carroll, who was abusing children in homes in the London borough of Lambeth (Tom Pettifor and Elwyn Roberts, ‘Two notorious paedophiles at centre of nationwide network of abusers including Tory and Labour politicians, Daily Mirror, December 1st, 2014). The implications – that Morrison was connected not just to abuse in North Wales but also to a wider ring of abusers – are almost too horrifying to contemplate, but must be considered (see also my collection of reports on abuse in Lambeth, which I will update soon).
More stories and allegations have emerged about a Wrexham paedophile ring operative in the 1970s and 1980s, and trials are ongoing, so I will just link to a few articles about these (James Tozer, ‘Police probe into historic paedophile ring reveals 140 victims allege abuse by 84 people at 18 care homes across North Wales’, Daily Mail, April 29th, 2013; David Holmes, ‘Chester man alleges his child abuse claims were ignored for more than a decade’, The Chester Chronicle, December 3rd, 2014; Steven Morris, ‘Wrexham paedophile ring preyed on boys in north Wales, court told’, The Guardian, April 21st, 2015; ”Predatory’ paedophiles abused boys in Wrexham in the 1980s’, BBC News, April 21st, 2015; ‘Historic Predatory Paedophile Ring In Wrexham Convicted’, Wrexham.com, July 2nd, 2015; Steven Morris, ‘Five men found guilty of being members of ‘predatory paedophile ring”, The Guardian, July 3rd, 2015). As far as those who have been convicted is concerned, it is a matter of paramount importance to establish whether Morrison was acquainted with any of them. The 2000 Waterhouse Inquiry Report concluded that there was a paedophile ring operative in Chester and Wrexham (‘Waterhouse Inquiry: recommendations and conclusions’, The Telegraph, November 6th, 2012), thus linking North Wales abuse to Morrison’s own constituency.
Morrison’s successor as MP for Chester, Gyles Brandreth, told the press that he and his wife Michelle had been told on the doorstep repeatedly and emphatically that the MP was ‘a disgusting pervert’ (David Holmes, ‘Former Chester MP Peter Morrison implicated in child abuse inquiry’, Chester Chronicle, November 8th, 2012). This appeared in Brandreth’s book, Breaking the Code: Westminster Diaries (London : Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1999), p. 54, in the entry for September 12th, 1991 (taken from the entry ‘Brandreth on the child abuser Peter Morrison MP’, cathyfox blog, July 26th, 2015):
In a build-up to the launch of a new edition of Brandreth’s book (London: Biteback Publishing, 2014), which suggested major new revelations but delivered little, Brandreth merely added that when canvassing in 1991 ‘we were told that Morrison was a monster who interfered with children’, and added:
At the time, I don’t think I believed it. People do say terrible things without justification. Beyond the fact that his drinking made Morrison appear unprepossessing — central casting’s idea of what a toff paedophile might look like — no one was offering anything to substantiate their slurs.
At the time, I never heard anything untoward about Morrison from the police or from the local journalists — and I gossiped a good deal with them. Four years after stepping down, Peter Morrison was dead of a heart attack.
What did Mrs Thatcher know of his alleged dark side? When I talked to her about him, I felt she had the measure of the man. She knew he was homosexual, and she knew he was a drinker. She was fond of him, clearly, but told me that he had ruined himself through ‘self-indulgence’ — much as Reginald Maudling had done a generation earlier. (Brandreth, ”I was abused by my choir master’)
Brandreth did however crucially mention that William Hague had told him in 1996 that Morrison’s name might feature in connection with the inquiry into child abuse in North Wales, specifically in connection to Bryn Estyn, thus corroborating Rod Richard’s account, though Brandreth also pointed out that the Waterhouse report made no mention of Morrison (Brandreth, ”I was abused by my choir master’).
At present, William Hague (who retired from the Cabinet and Parliament quite suddenly, stepping down at the 2015 election, in circumstances which have never been fully explained) is expected to be heavily criticised in a forthcoming report on the North Wales abuse scandal, from the Macur inquiry, to which Rod Richards gave evidence (Glen Owen and Brendan Carlin, ‘Hague faces cover-up row over Thatcher ally’s link to care home abuse scandal: Former foreign secretary said to have been made aware of Sir Peter Morrison’s connections while working as Welsh secretary, Mail on Sunday, May 31st, 2015).
On top of all of this, Morrison’s name has surfaced in connection with another murder inquiry (as well as that of Vishal Mehortra), of Martin Allen, who disappeared on Bonfire Night 1979, and has never been found. Morrison was amongst those (together with Peter Hayman and Leon Brittan) who visited the cottage in Kensington of Allen’s father, who was chief chauffeur at the Australian High Commission (Don Hale, ‘Witness comes forward in Martin Allen case linked to Westminster paedophile ring’, Daily Star, April 12th, 2015).
The journalist Simon Heffer has also said that rumours about Morrison were circulating in Tory top ranks as early as 1988, whilst Tebbit has admitted hearing rumours ‘through unusual channels’, then confronting Morrison about them, which he denied (Reid, ‘Did Maggie know her closest aide was preying on under-age boys?’); Tebbit, who has suggested that a cover-up of high-level abuse by politicians is likely, now concedes that he had been ‘naive’ in believing Morrison, and rejected Currie’s account of Morrison having admitted his offences to him (James Lyons, ‘Norman Tebbit admits he heard rumours top Tory was paedophile a decade before truth revealed’, Daily Mirror, July 8th, 2014). In a recent interview, Tebbit has given a slightly different rendition of things, claiming that he had ‘heard stories that Peter had an unhealthy interest in young men but not that it was with underage children. I confronted him about this, he denied it flat’ (Marie Woolf, ‘Tebbit quizzed MP on sex claims’, The Sunday Times, July 26th, 2015). He also refused to say who had told him about Morrison, saying somewhat cryptically:
There was no official contact. I choose my words carefully. I will just say that I was made aware. I was not sent a file.
Furthermore, Tebbit claimed he had had ‘no reason to believe Downing Street was aware of the allegation’, and had not contacted Thatcher about it, nor pursued the matter with the police, as he assumed they had no evidence and would not press charges (which raises the question of whether it was the police who told him).
Other Tory politicians recall John Wakeham, Chief Whip from June 1983 to January 1987 (see Wakeham’s profile at parliament.uk) telling them, after coming to him with reports of Morrison’s cottaging skirmishes, ‘If someone brings me some evidence I can do something about it, if required’. Another Tory said ‘It never got out, but people said ‘they’ll never be able to do that for Peter again’ (Michael White, ‘Politicians regret complacency over alleged establishment child abuse’, The Guardian, March 17th, 2015).
The novelist Frederick Forsyth, on the other hand, described Morrison as someone ‘who should have been exposed many years ago’, as well as being a politically incompetent alcoholic; however, as far as his sexual offences were concerned, Forsyth claimed Thatcher ‘suspected nothing’ (Frederick Forsyth, ‘Debauched and dissolute fool’, The Express, July 18th, 2014). Later he called Morrison an ‘awful slut’ who was ‘now exposed at last as a ruthless boy-molester’ (Frederic Forsyth, ‘Mrs Thatcher should have chosen better’, Sunday Express, January 9th, 2015).
Recently, Thatcher’s bodyguard Barry Strevens has come forward to claim that he told Thatcher directly about allegations of Morrison holding sex parties at his house with underage boys (one aged 15), when told about this by a senior Cheshire Police Officer. (see Lynn Davidson, ‘Exclusive: Thatcher’s Bodyguard on Abuse Claims’, The Sun on Sunday, July 27th, 2014 (article reproduced in comments below); and Matt Chorley, ‘Barry Strevens says he told Iron Lady about rumours about Peter Morrison’, Mail on Sunday, July 27th, 2014; see also Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith, ‘Thatcher ‘was warned of Tory child sex party claims’’, The Independent, July 27th, 2014). Strevens claimed to have had a meeting with the PM and her PPS Archie Hamilton (now Baron Hamilton of Epsom), which he had requested immediately. Strevens had claimed this was right after the Jeffrey Archer scandal; Archer resigned in October 1986, whilst Hamilton was Thatcher’s PPS from 1987 to 1988. Strevens recalls Thatcher simply thanking him and that was the last he heard of it. He said:
I wouldn’t say she (Lady Thatcher) was naive but I would say she would not have thought people around her would be like that.
I am sure he would have given her assurances about the rumours as otherwise she wouldn’t have given him the job.
Strevens spoke again to the press in May 2015, to clarify further his account given in July 2014: he said that he had been told by a senior officer in Chester of rumours of under-aged boys attending sex parties at a home owned by Morrison. According to Strevens, Archie Hamilton ‘took notes and they thanked me’ (Hamilton recalls the officer being at Downing Street, but no mention of under-age boys), listened to him, and left it at that. Four years later, Thatcher recommended Morrison for a knighthood, which he received (Jonathan Corke, ‘Margaret Thatcher knew paedophile Tory’s sick secret but STILL secured him a knighthood; The former PM also recommended alleged abuser Leon Brittan and is claimed to have been aware of allegations about fellow knights Jimmy Savile and Cyril Smith’, Sunday People, May 9th, 2015)
Strevens with Thatcher
Danczuk, who says that he met someone who alleges that Morrison raped him, made clear that in his view ‘There is little doubt in my mind that Margaret Thatcher turned a blind eye to known paedophiles from Peter Morrison to Cyril Smith and the rest.’ (James Lyons and James Gillespie, ‘Thatcher ignored Smith Abuse’, The Sunday Times, March 8th, 2015).
The accounts by Nicholls and Strevens make clear that the allegations – concerning in one case a 15-year old boy – are more serious than said in a later rendition by Currie, which said merely that Morrison ‘had sex with 16-year-old boys when the age of consent was 21’ (cited in Andrew Sparrow, ‘Politics Live’, The Guardian, October 24th, 2012). A further allegation was made by Peter McKelvie, who led the investigation in 1992 into Peter Righton in an open letter to Peter Mandelson. A British Aerospace Trade Union Convenor had said one member had alleged that Morrison raped him, and he took this to the union’s National HQ, who put it to the Labour front bench. A Labour minister reported back to say that the Tory Front Bench had been approached. This was confirmed, according to McKelvie, by second and third sources, and also alleged that the conversations first took place at a 1993-94 Xmas Party hosted by the Welsh Parliamentary Labour Party. Mandelson has not yet replied.
In the 1997 election, Christine Russell herself displaced Brandreth and she served as Labour MP until 2010, when she was unseated by Conservative MP Stephen Mosely (see entry for ‘Christine Russell’ at politics.co.uk).
In 2013, following the publication of Hoggart’s article citing Nicholls, an online petition was put together calling for an inquiry, and submittted to then Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State Christopher Grayling. Russell denounced the ‘shoddy journalism’ of the Guardian piece, recalled rumours of Morrison’s preferences, but said there was no hint of illegal acts; she did not however rule out an agreement that Morrison should stand down (‘Campaigners ask for inquiry over ex-Chester MP’, Chester Chronicle, January 3rd, 2013).
Morrison is now widely believed to have been a central character in a network of high-level VIP abusers (see Keir Mudie, ‘VIP paedophile files: The sick web of high-powered and well-connected child abusers’, Sunday People, March 21st, 2015).
Further questions now need to be asked of Lord Tebbit, Teresa Gorman, Edwina Currie, William Hague and other senior Tories, and crucially of Frances Mowatt, not to mention Christine Russell and others in Chester Labour Party, of what was known and apparently covered-up about Morrison. Frances Maude (now Baron Maude of Horsham), the Minister of State for Trade and Investment, was PPS to Morrison from 1984-85 (see Maude’s biography at politics.co.uk), a crucial period, and also needs to be questioned on what he knew about his former boss’s activities. In March of this year, Maude, then Cabinet Minister, refused to make details of newly-found files public (Tom Parmenter, ‘Family Demands Names Of New Child Abuse Files’, Sky News, March 7th, 2015); it appears now that one of these files referred to his old boss Morrison. If money was involved in at least offers to Mowatt, as Currie alleges was told to her by Gorman, then the seriousness of the allegations is grave. In October 2014, Currie arrogantly and haughtily declared on Twitter:
@MaraudingWinger @DrTeckKhong @MailOnline I’ve been nicer than many deserve! But I take the consequences, & I do not hide behind anonymity.
@jackaranian @Sunnyclaribel @woodmouse1 I heard only tiny bits of gossip. The guy is dead, go pursue living perps. You’ll do more good
@woodmouse1 @jackaranian @Sunnyclaribel The present has its own demands. We learn from the past, we don’t get obsessive about it. Get real.
@ian_pace @woodmouse1 @jackaranian @Sunnyclaribel And there are abusers in action right now, while you chase famous dead men.
@ian_pace @woodmouse1 @jackaranian @Sunnyclaribel I’d rather police time be spent now on today’s criminals – detect, stop and jail them
@jackaranian @Sunnyclaribel @woodmouse1 Flattered that you think I know so much. Sorry but that’s not so. If you do, go to police
@ian_pace @woodmouse1 @jackaranian @Sunnyclaribel They want current crimes to be dealt with by police, too. And they may need other help.
@ian_pace @woodmouse1 @jackaranian @Sunnyclaribel Of course. But right now, youngsters are being hurt and abused. That matters.
Considering Currie also rubber-stamped the appointment of Jimmy Savile at Broadmoor (Rowena Mason, ‘Edwina Currie voices regrets over Jimmy Savile after inquiry criticism’, The Guardian, Thursday June 26th, 2014) and clearly knew information about Morrison, including claims of bribery of a political agent, known to at least one other MP (Gorman) as well as herself, it should not be surprising that she would want claims of abuse involving dead figures to be sidelined.
This story relates to political corruption at the highest level, with a senior politician near the top of his party involved in the abuse of children, and clear evidence that various others knew about this, but did nothing, and strong suggestions that politicians and police officers conspired to keep this covered up, even using hush money, in such a way which ensured that Morrison was free to keep abusing others until his death. This story must not be allowed to die this time round. The actions of Duff and Armstrong (and Thatcher) may have sealed the fate of further boys who Morrison went onto abuse. That is the highest dereliction of duty imaginable.
The Times, July 24th, 2015
Sean O’Neill and Gabriella Swerling, ‘Child abuse suspect was Thatcher aide’
A Whitehall investigation was carried out in the mid-1980s after two sources approached senior officials with reports that Morrison had “a penchant for small boys”.
MI5 officers questioned Morrison, the MP for Chester and deputy chairman of the party, and accepted his denials. It is understood that the allegations were not reported to police. Four years later, in July 1990, he was appointed Thatcher’s parliamentary private secretary (PPS).
Files recently uncovered at the Cabinet Office revealed a note about the incident sent in November 1986 by Sir Antony Duff, head of the Security Service, to Sir Robert Armstrong, the cabinet secretary. It said there was no threat to national security but the claims did carry “the risk of political embarrassment to the government”.
Sir Robert, 88 – now Lord Armstrong of Ilminster – said last night: “My official business was the protection of national security. I have to stress that there was nothing like evidence in this case. There was just a shadow of a rumour. It’s impossible to take investigative action on shadows of rumours.”
He added: “If there is some reason to think a crime has been committed, then people like the cabinet secretary are not to start poking their noses into it. It’s for the police to do that.”
Morrison, who died in 1995, had been a whip and a junior minister before he was made Thatcher’s PPS. His Times obituary said that he “had clearly reached his ministerial ceiling [in 1990] and it was an act of kindness on the prime minister’s part to appoint him as her new PPS”.
He held the job for four months until November 1990, when he mismanaged the party leadership contest that led to Thatcher’s resignation.
The documents referring to Morrison are in four miscellaneous files discovered by a Cabinet Office team this year.
Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, who led a review into lost Whitehall documents on abuse scandals, said that the Duff memo revealed that “child safety came a poor second to preserving reputations of individuals or government departments”.
Writing in The Times today, he says: “It is plainly obvious . . . those at the highest level who once strode the corridors of power were putting their fear of political embarrassment above the risks to children.”
The documents have been sent to the Goddard inquiry into child sexual abuse which formally opened this month.
A few good politicians – Becky Milligan at the office of Simon Danczuk, with Matt Baker, and the personal impact of abuse campaigningPosted: July 18, 2014
The link above details a visit made by BBC Radio 4 reporter Becky Milligan to the office of Labour MP Simon Danczuk, together with his parliamentary aide Matt Baker. Here she encounters much correspondence concerning allegations of abuse by politicians, several about that at Elm Guest House. A solicitor got in touch, to mention a visit in the early 1980s to Barnes Police Station, representing a young boy who had been at EGH; had been interviewed, police got aggressive and pushy, she stepped in to say this was unpleasant for her client. The police took the solicitor to one side and showed her a statement from another boy, saying he had been raped at the house by politicians and judges, which left the solicitor utterly shocked. Danczuk and Baker are hoping to encourage the solicitor to go to the police about this now. Baker is sure there are police officers themselves in possession of dynamite information on this (one reason why an amnesty is needed to ensure they can come forward with details). If true, the alleged activities at Elm Guest House, and the cover-up entailed, beggar belief – I would recommend those not yet aware of this to read this account by an alleged survivor of the house, this terrible article from the Daily Star in 1982 alleging that ten-year old boys were made to act as sex slaves for 13 hours per day for adult men and women, and this series of articles reproduced on the Spotlight blog.
Baker speaks of an occasion recounted by a former police officer, in which a floor of a hotel was raided where a range of paedophiles were found, all with boys in their beds. Amongst those pulled in by the police was a very prominent individual; the officers were told not to say anything about this – if they did they would lose their pension and would never be promoted. Baker said that this former police officer was cynical about possibility of an amnesty, saying no Home Secretary would allow that. It is incumbent upon Theresa May to make provisions for this as soon as possible, and for Yvette Cooper, shadow Home Secretary, to make a pledge to make such an arrangement if Labour are returned to power next year.
Clearly since Danczuk’s Select Com appearance, his office has been inundated by phone calls with terrible stories of abuse, many involving very prominent figures. Milligan sits in on an interview with a former pupil of Knowl View Residential School, subject of a major investigation into sustained abuse and its cover-up. Upsetting interview in which the man intimates how he is seen as someone no-one wants to go near, because he was abused. And conveys the terror of the place, and how every detail stays with him on a daily basis, saying that ‘Knowl View School will stick in my mind like it’s happening now in this room’.
Danczuk and Baker talk about how personally upsetting all of this is, and their coping strategies. Whilst nothing like on the scale of that they have known, I have some experience of how this feels, from a time at the beginning of 2013 when in the space of a couple of weeks I received hundreds of e-mails, phone calls and messages on social media from survivors of widespread abuse in music schools and conservatoires, often with horrific detail, combined with information about callous or malicious cover-up and bullying on the part of others in a position to do something about it, but not prepared to do so, preferring to protect the reputation of their places. The effect of all of this is depressing and disspiriting beyond belief. It can fill you with a mixture of feelings of hopelessness, paranoia, massive anger, and a sense that most else in the world seems pretty trivial in comparison – also it can be very hard for your partner if they see you so preoccupied by all of this. Naturally I can only speak with any certainty about my own experience, though communicating with others has suggested this is far from atypical. Happily I see an excellent therapist on a weekly basis, who has helped a lot with dealing with everything that this involvement brings. Doing so has changed my life and I am quite sure it has changed that of Danczuk and Baker – and those other politicians and campaigners who are exposed to this sort of material on a daily basis.
Some of the blasé members of the Labour Party have been very aloof and stand-offish towards Danczuk (and Tom Watson, and I would guess others who have been very active campaigners such as John Mann), not least because he serialised his book on Cyril Smith in the Daily Mail (the North London Labourite paper of choice, The Guardian, probably wouldn’t have touched it, and has a somewhat murky history of its own in terms of giving a platform to paedophile Tom O’Carroll, and also presenting lesbian child abuse in a positive light, in an article I will post after this), and his investigations might implicate some senior Labour politicians as well. This is unfortunately a typical attitude of those who would put the reputations of their parties (or leading figures in their parties) before the interests of children, and exactly how cover-ups work. Danczuk and Watson and Mann (and equally Tories such as Zac Goldsmith and Tim Loughton, Liberal Democrats John Hemming and Tessa Munt, who has bravely spoken out about her own experiences of sexual abuse, Green politician Caroline Lucas, and various others, not least the over 140 MPs who signed the call for a full national inquiry well before the Home Secretary agreed to one) have on the contrary worked relentlessly on bringing these issues to public attention, for sure at no small personal cost to themselves, and my admiration for them could not be greater. All of them are a model for politicians of the future, in order to restore some confidence in the possibility of meaningful political action at Westminster.
At the time of writing this (evening on Monday June 30th, 2014), it is the day before an important event in the House of Commons. Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk, co-author (with Matt Baker) of Smile for the Camera: The Double Life of Cyril Smith (London: Biteback, 2014), is due (at 4:15 pm on Tuesday July 1st) to give evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee. Whilst the ostensible subject of this meeting is to do specifically with historical child abuse in Rochdale (Cyril Smith’s old constituency, now Danczuk’s), Danczuk has also written of how Smith was connected to the sinister figure of Peter Righton and a wider paedophile ring including prominent politicians (see this article by Watson in praise of Danczuk). In particular, this ring is thought to have frequented the notorious Elm Guest House in Barnes, South-West London, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and one name in particular of a very senior former cabinet minister from the Thatcher era (a name which I do not intend to share here) has been widely circulated around social media and the internet. This ex-minister has also been linked to a separate story concerning the rape of a woman known just as ‘Jane’ in 1967, but the police apparently have dropped any plans to prosecute (or even arrest or interview) the minister.
Back in April, Danczuk indicated to the Daily Mail that he might use Parliamentary Privilege to name the MP in question; in an interview given to The Independent a little over a week ago, he affirmed his intention to do so if asked, and may also name a further Labour politician involved in a separate abuse scandal (this is likely to be the former Blair-era cabinet minister alleged to have abused boys in a children’s home in Lambeth, run by paedophile Michael John Carroll, in which case experienced detective Clive Driscoll was taken off the case as he allegedly came to investigate the minister.
The Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) has eleven members; five Conservatives (Nicola Blackwood, James Clappison, Michael Ellis, Lorraine Fullbrook and Mark Reckless), one Liberal Democrat (Julian Huppert) and five Labour (Chair Keith Vaz, Ian Austin, Paul Flynn, Yasmin Qureshi and David Winnick). Vaz has a particular connection as he was Solicitor for Richmond Council, and a parliamentary candidate for Richmond & Barnes around the time when the alleged events at Elm Guest House occurred (see the account of his career with primary sources, ‘Keith Vaz and the Mystery of Barnes Common’ at Spotlight). Three members of the HASC – Huppert, Flynn and Qureshi – have declared their support for a national inquiry into organised abuse; one member of the HASC has confirmed that Danczuk will be asked about visitors to Elm Guest House (Leftly, ‘MP will name politician ‘involved in child abuse”). This will be an important occasion at the HASC which may change the whole climate of opinion concerning abuse and the urgent need for an inquiry.
Yet at the eleventh hour, the Exaro news website, who have attempted to claim control and credit for all matters relating to the call for an inquiry (with the help of a few people never described more specifically than ‘Exaro’s twitter followers’), are calling upon Danczuk not to name the minister(s) in question, as well as claiming on Twitter that they have now got some special information which changes things (which of course they are not prepared to share). I will return to this in a moment.
First I want to respond to a blog post by Eric Joyce, MP for Falkirk . In response to a lobbying campaign of MPs to support a national inquiry into organised abuse, started by seven MPs (Conservative Zac Goldsmith and Tim Loughton, Liberal Democrat John Hemming and Tessa Munt, Labour Tom Watson and Danczuk, and Green Caroline Lucas), which was indeed reported by David Hencke for Exaro (David Hencke, MPs call on Teresa May to set up inquiry into child sex abuse’), a relatively organic campaign was started around the same time (beginning with a draft letter from earlier by another campaigner on another forum) which came to be initially about encouraging all those who agree to write to their own MPs and ask them to join the original seven. Some took the decision instead to send Tweets to all MPs on Twitter, which has certainly led to positive responses from some. In most cases, it is likely that a combination of the reminders on Twitter, together with letters sent to all MPs from Tim Loughton, information about the campaign e-mailed by various of us to MPs requesting it, and private discussions between MPs (not least between Tory MPs and Loughton, and Labour MPs and Watson) has led many to support the campaign, which some have announced on Twitter; at the time of writing the number stands at 123, though there has been only minimal coverage in the mainstream media, even in the wake of the latest Savile reports (such as this article by Robert Mendick and Eileen Fairweather in the Telegraph). Mark Watts, Editor-in-Chief at Exaro, who tweets as @exaronews as well as under his personal handle, has certainly been urging people to simply keep asking MPs Yes or No. Sometimes the Twitter campaign has got rather hysterical, with tweets which appear to scream at both politicians and journalists, sometimes accusing them of being supporters of child rape if they don’t reply, or don’t support this precise campaign. This mode of argument allows for no discussion, no reasonable and intelligent debate about the exact nature, remit and purpose of an inquiry, nothing more than screaming emotional blackmail, and serves no good purpose other than to try and bully politicians into agreeing. It is certainly not something with which I want to be associated, and shows Twitter at its worst. But this is what appears to have provoked Eric Joyce’s blog post.
Joyce’s primary objections to the demands of the original seven campaigners can be summarised as follows:
(a) they would undermine the Crown Prosecution Service’s consideration of an important police report presently before it (he does not make clear exactly which report this refers to).
(b) the campaign does not mention Savile of the issues implied by this case, and would thus miss these.
(c) it is focused entirely on historical rumours about ‘senior politicians’.
(d) it would exclude adult victims of Savile.
Then he also lays out wider objections to the actions of other campaigners (i.e. beyond the original seven MPs):
(i) they routinely use abusive bullying tactics, which are hardly persuasive.
(ii) it all has a ‘really sickening “get the pedos/cops/politicians” feel about it’ and ‘looks like a campaign designed to catch public attention for its own sake rather than a genuine effort to get at important truths’.
(iii) names of politicians have routinely been published online, which could wreck the lives of innocent people and destroy the case put by the police to the CPS.
(iv) the whole campaign is really a self-aggrandising exercise by Exaro, who have recently found that they cannot pay their one way, and have become a ‘schlock merchant’ who only really have one story, cynically waiting until the names of alleged ‘politician paedophiles’ were all over the internet before asking campaigners not to post or tweet them.
(v) there is some confusion between calls for other types of wide inquiry and this specific one, differences between which are papered over by Exaro.
I cannot deny that (i) is true of some campaigners, though this is definitely not a style I want anything to do with – nor with campaigners associated with the BNP, those who are homophobes, man-haters, paranoid conspiracy theorists, unconcerned about the difference between truth and fiction, and so on. One reason for becoming involved in abuse campaigning (over and above knowing a good deal of survivors sometimes very close to me, and becoming convinced that this was an issue bigger than simply individual perpetrators, in classical music and elsewhere), was the hope that it might be possible to avoid and go beyond tabloid-style hysteria over this inevitably highly emotive subject. As far as I am concerned, though, those who support vigilante action, capital punishment or other forms of cruel and unusual punishment, are no better than abusers themselves. However, the medium of Twitter, allowing only for 140 characters per tweet, can hardly do justice to this nuanced and complex subject, nor do I imagine (whatever some might think) that many MPs’ minds were changed purely by receiving a tweet from someone using a pseudonym; rather used this prompt to announce something they had already decided. I disdain (ii) for the same reasons, but realise that only by identifying prominent names is it likely that the whole campaign will gain wider attention with a public otherwise seeing celebrity names such as Jimmy Savile, Rolf Harris, Max Clifford and others. As things stand the campaign can resemble a cult, with various people frequenting small sub-sections of social media and Exaro, but unfortunately sometimes not realising how invisible this is to much of the wider public. Social media are certainly not the place to name names (coming to (iii)), but in light of the fact of many claims of failure of police to interview prominent figures, intelligence services sitting in on interviews, witnesses being threatened, important evidence going missing (including dossiers going to the Home Office), I do believe some more decisive action is needed now (more to follow on this in a moment).
I will come back to (iv) but will address (a)-(d) first. Objection (a) is unclearly specified and so cannot be responded to properly. There is no reason why the inquiry could not also look at Savile, certainly (there is plenty of reason to think there may be connections between his activities and those in other abuse scandals, not least his connections to senior politicians). And just because of the areas specified as requested to be included in the original letter from the seven MPs to Teresa May (which I have also posted below Joyce’s blog), such an inquiry could certainly be extended further. Re (c), The demands go well beyond historical cases involving politicians, dealing with a range of children’s homes, businessmen trafficking between countries, churches, public schools, and much more, so this criticism is wholly unfounded. The issue of adult victims is a serious one (also a big issue in the classical music world, abuse of all types in which is a particular area on which I have campaigned extensively), but I cannot believe an inquiry could not be adapted around this as well. I doubt many supporters have an absolutely clear idea of exactly the form the inquiry would take; rather it is the principle that this type of inquiry should happen which is being supported.
Returning to (iv); I do not really want to write too much about Exaro, as I certainly think some of their journalists – most notably David Hencke – do excellent work (see also Hencke’s blog), and do not share anything like as negative a view as does Joyce. I do have problems with the way in which Mark Watts, however, has attempted in a territorial fashion to claim complete control of the campaign as purely an Exaro initiative sustained through ‘Exaro’s twitter followers’, showing zero interest in a wider campaign involving e-mailing and constituents contacting their MPs (less ‘rapid-fire’ than anonymous tweets), whilst jealously guarding information for himself and trying to shore up a fledgling organisation, and tweeting with a rather boorish swagger which has unfortunate associations. Most posts or tweets by Watts try to steer the serious issues of organised abuse and urgent need for investigation into being self-promotion for Exaro, in a territorial manner which has perhaps dissuaded other media from taking an interest (most other journalists and broadcasters I have contacted have felt the story is not yet big enough to cover). When I first started being involved in abuse campaigning last year I was warned (not least by some senior journalists who I consulted) about two things in particular: (a) how some journalists will try and get you to do their work for them for free; and (b) how many people greatly exaggerate the importance of social media. Of both of these I am definitely convinced, but have known excellent journalists (including Hencke) with whom to work on stories and share information under fair conditions of confidence.
Sadly, with these lessons in mind, I do have reason for scepticism about Exaro on several fronts, which I would not bring up were it not for their eleventh-hour intervention. The Twitter campaign seems a typical example of their getting others to do their work for them (posing as campaigners rather than journalists) for free. Through the course of the last 18 months Exaro have promised major new developments, arrests, and built up to each new report in an extremely dramatic way. There have certainly been some important reports, for sure, not least those on ‘Jane’ (though this story does have its doubters) and also Mark Conrad’s earlier reports on links between Operations Fairbank and Fernbridge and the killings of Sydney Cooke, though much less coverage (or links to coverage by others) of issues involving Peter Righton and numerous networks involved in children’s homes, not to mention churches, schools and elsewhere, stories which are generally less spectacular. The sort of investigative journalism which grapples with the complexities of these other fields is done more successfully by a variety of other journalists at The Times (Andrew Norfolk’s work on Caldicott, Colet Court, St Paul’s and many other public schools, and Sean O’Neill on Robert Waddington and Manchester Cathedral), The Independent (Paul Gallagher on abuse in music schools and colleges), The Guardian (Helen Pidd’s important set of articles on Chetham’s and the RNCM), and sometimes at the Mail (Martin Beckford on PIE and their Labour links, and many earlier articles published here and in the Standard and Telegraph by Eileen Fairweather), Express (the latest work by Tim Tate and Ted Jeory on PIE and the Home Office), Mirror (Tom Pettifor on abuse in Lambeth and the Labour connection) and People (Keir Mudie and Nick Dorman on Operation Fernbridge and associated investigations, sometimes working together with Exaro). Exaro have certainly provided an important service, as one of various news organisations.
But now I fear that territorial attitudes could play a part in sabotaging an important opportunity. Watts has published a piece today aimed at dissuading Danczuk from naming, in which in a rather grandiose fashion he reports how ‘We have strongly advised him against naming the ex-minister tomorrow, and we are grateful that he has listened to us closely and is considering our points carefully’ and the same time as (almost comically) disparaging ‘Journalists on national newspapers, desperate for a splash story’, who allegedly have been arguing otherwise. Watts argues that ‘David Cameron is under intense pressure to agree to an overarching inquiry into child sex abuse in the UK’ which he doesn’t want. How big this pressure is is debatable; Cameron could brush off a question from Duncan Hames at Prime Minister’s Questions quite easily (see the bottom of here for the exchange), and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt did not seem particularly flustered at the debate in the Commons last week. The majority of MPs supporting an inquiry have been Labour – 73 at the current count, compared to 23 Conservatives. Many Conservatives have been copying and pasting stock replies which say nothing. Furthermore, most of the Labour MPs have been backbenchers without so many high profile figures; despite the support of Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham (who did not necessarily commit his party to support in the Commons, though, as I argued last week – this is a response to point (v) which I identify in Joyce’s blog), there has been only occasional support from other front bench figures. A proper inquiry would need to look at such matters as abuse which went on at children’s homes controlled by Islington Council when senior Labour figure Margaret Hodge was leader, of the role of the Paedophile Information Exchange, about whom I have written amply elsewhere, which embroils current Deputy Leader Harriet Harman and frontbench spokesman Jack Dromey; as argued earlier, Ed Miliband needs to take a lead on this, but it should not be so surprising that he has not yet done so. There are rumblings about Labour figures also visiting Elm Guest House, and of course the deeply serious issue of a senior Labour figure as a suspect for abuse in Lambeth, not to mention continuing investigations into Lord Janner, whose office at the House of Lords was raided earlier this year. Certainly any such inquiry would not be likely to be easy for Labour, nor for the Liberal Democrats, with the debacle of Cyril Smith still haunting them, and further rumbling about some other senior figures.
But at present mainstream media attention is very sporadic, and certainly in my experience (amongst generally educated people well-informed on news) very little of this has yet registered with a wider public. Cameron has in the last week had to deal with the conviction (and possible further retrial) of his former press secretary Andy Coulson, the charging of his former advisor on online pornography Patrick Rock for manufacturing images of child abuse, and now his failure to avoid Jean-Claude Juncker from being voted to be the next EU Commissioner. It is hard to see how a demand primarily from a group of Labour backbenchers would be obsessing him at such a time (though the campaign should definitely continue and hopefully grow). Watts claims that Danczuk’s naming of the ex-minister (he doesn’t mention the Labour minister) would serve as a ‘diversion from the inquiry call’, as front pages would be dominated by the ex-minister’s name. I think this is nonsense; such dissemination of the allegation that an extremely senior minister could themselves have been part of a ring-fenced VIP ring would cause outrage and anger, and the pressure for a proper inquiry would be irresistible. This very evening, Watts has also been tweeting that some new information has come to light which changes everything, but characteristically they will not even hint at what this is. Major developments have been promised before by the organisation, but these have rarely materialised. It is now looking more like a petty playground fight over who has the biggest amount of secret information.
Ultimately, as mentioned before, simple lists of MPs’ names are not that newsworthy, as various major journalists have had to point out to me. Only a major catalyst such as the revelation of a major name would be likely to get more attention. What this would also change is that the story would be taken up by all the major media, to such an extent that Exaro’s contributions would cease to be so central; I do wonder if this is what Watts is trying so hard to avoid. In the end, though, wider exposure for the many stories of abuse (which would follow upon the outrage caused by revelations that this extends to the very highest levels, and other figures were protected for this reason) is more important than the prestige of one website.
If Danczuk is certain that the ex-minister (and the ex Labour minister) are guilty, and the only reasons why they have not been brought to justice is through cover-ups, destruction of evidence, intimidation of witnesses, or simply stalling for convenience’s sake, then I hope very much he will name names tomorrow. If there is doubt about this, then it would only be wise not to do so – using Parliamentary Privilege in a way which would smear an innocent person would be reprehensible. I have faith in Danczuk to do the right thing, and hope the momentum which has been achieved will not be sacrificed for the short-term interests of any media organisation. If all of this is being covered in details in newspapers and on broadcast news programmes being read/watched by many of the country’s population (in some cases with stories written for these papers by Hencke, Conrad and others), it would be all for the better, even if many of the earlier campaigners (including myself) are quickly forgotten.
Today twenty-eight reports were released following NHS and Department of Health investigations into the activities of Jimmy Savile at a range of hospitals and other institutions. These make for grim reading, detailing victims of both sexes aged from 5 to 75, abuse reported but with no action taken, encounters taking place in a whole host of locations on and off premises, and even an unhealthy interest in the mortuary of Leeds General Infirmary by Savile, where he is claimed by some witnesses to have made rings out of glass eyes taken from bodies (see Caroline Davies, ‘Jimmy Savile’s victims were aged five to 75 at Leeds hospital, inquiry finds’, The Guardian, June 26th, 2014, for a summary, also ‘Jimmy Savile hospital reports: At a glance’, BBC News UK, June 26th, 2014).
In the House of Commons today, the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP gave a long statement in response to the publication of the reports, followed by a short series of parliamentary questions; the full text, taken from Hansard, is given below. Hunt summarised the findings and apologised on behalf of the government and NHS, whilst arguing that today’s safeguarding processes make it harder for such a thing to happen again. Otherwise, he simply mentioned that the Department of Education is overseeing investigations of Savile’s activity in care settings, that there are other investigations into child sexual abuse, and that the Department will work with the NSPCC and NAPAC to ensure information is passed on.
One might recall, however, that in 2011 the very same Jeremy Hunt, then Culture Secretary, had the following to say upon the news of the death of Savile:
“Sir Jimmy Savile was one of broadcasting’s most unique and colourful characters,” said Mr Hunt.
“From Top of the Pops to making children’s dreams come true on Jim’ll Fix It, a generation of people will remember his catchphrases and sense of fun.
“But his lasting legacy will be the millions he raised for charity, tirelessly giving up his time and energy to help those causes he was passionate about.”
Some knowledge or at least strong rumours of Savile’s activities have been well-known for a long time; was Hunt really never aware of any of them in 2011?
There are lots of important points raised in this debate; here I will concentrate on those relating to wider issues to do with widespread abuse and the need for an inquiry. Five of the original seven MPs to write to the Home Secretary calling for a national inquiry into organised abuse – Conservative Tim Loughton, Liberal Democrats John Hemming and Tessa Munt, and Labour Simon Danczuk and Tom Watson – all made statements calling for an inquiry
The Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, who made clear yesterday in a letter to Tim Loughton his willingness to be added to the list of MPs supporting a national inquiry into organised abuse, stopped short of advocating this in his own statement on behalf of the Labour Party as a whole, saying instead:
That paints a picture of chaos in the Department and a complete absence of due process for a serious appointment of this kind. This is an extraordinary revelation. While there is no suggestion that any Minister knew of any sexual misconduct, it does point to the need for a further process of independent inquiry so that we all, as Ministers and former Ministers, can learn the lessons of what happened, but also so that we can draw together the threads of the multiple inquiries that are ongoing. It simply cannot be left for Savile’s victims to try to pull together the details of these investigations.
As the shadow Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), has said, there is now a clear case for a proper, overarching, independent review led by child protection experts into why there was such large-scale institutional failure to stop these abhorrent crimes. I would be grateful if the Secretary of State gave this proposal careful consideration.
It is not clear (perhaps intentionally) whether this refers just to all cases involving Savile or the much wider issues of all types of organised child abuse – certainly this falls short of the call in the original letter from seven MPs.
Furthermore, Hunt said the following key passage:
On the specific point about the behaviour of one Minister and what it suggested about the motivation for Savile’s approval for his job at Broadmoor, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), who was Secretary of State at the time, has said that that behaviour would be indefensible now and that it would have been indefensible at the time. I agree with him. Everyone must be held accountable for the actions they took.
The minister in question was Edwina Currie, who was Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health from September 1986 to December 1988 (when she was forced to resign over an ill-judged statement about salmonella in eggs). Currie appointed Savile to run a taskforce in charge of Broadmoor Hospital, which included temporary powers to oversee the running of the hospital after a series of industrial disputes, despite a lack of any professional qualifications (a classic piece of union-busting), and then a friend of Savile’s was given the most senior job at Broadmoor (see Robert Mendick and Laura Donnelly,’Jimmy Savile: Questions for Edwina Currie and the BBC’, Daily Telegraph , October 20th, 2012) (see also Stephen Cook, ‘Savile’s travails’, The Guardian, November 1st, 1989). The Health Secretary under which Currie worked was then Kenneth Clark. The new report details ten cases of sexual assault directly related to Broadmoor, and one allegation of indecent exposure to a minor, also of Savile being able to watch female patients stripping completely (see Bill Kirkup and Paul Marshall, ‘Jimmy Savile Investigation: Broadmoor Hospital’, Department of Health, June 2nd, 2014). It also says:
Savile met Mrs Currie, at his request, when she visited another hospital. He reported having discovered widespread false overtime claims, occupation of staff residences by people not entitled to them, and financial irregularities concerning the capital building project. He said he intended to use his knowledge of these to control the POA’s activities by threatening to expose them to the press if the union would not cooperate with him. Mrs Currie did not discourage him in this, although it would have meant tolerating alleged fraud in return for union co-operation. (p. 5)
Gisela Stuart asked if Kenneth Clarke would apologise for his stewardship of the department then and also whether Hunt would look into the behaviour of Currie, but Hunt did not give any clear assent to either thing, on the grounds that the reports say that there was no evidence that Ministers or others were aware of sexual abuse. As I have blogged about elsewhere, Edwina Currie also recounted in her Diaries knowledge that former Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party and PPS to Margaret Thatcher Peter Morrison was a ‘noted pederast’ with a liking for young boys, that this was known by other senior figures in the party, and even that a constituency agent was offered money to keep quiet about it. A statement on this and on Savile is now needed urgently from Currie.
Furthermore, John Hemming referred to the case of Leah McGrath Goodman, an American journalist who was investigating abuse at Haut de la Garenne, Jersey (see the range of articles at Spotlight and in particular Josh Halliday, Katharine Viner and Lisa O’Carroll, ‘Jimmy Savile linked with Haut de la Garenne children’s home scandal’, The Guardian, October 9th, 2012), who was banned from entering the UK, and arrested back on June 5th when coming to give evidence to an inquiry. Hunt simply said that he was unaware of this and would look into it. More on McGrath Goodman’s work can be read on her website, in particular her story commissioned by The Guardian after being banned from entry. See also Hemmings’ Early Day Motion (EDM) from September 11th, 2012 objecting to the banning of McGrath Goodman and a further EDM from July 2nd, 2013, after McGrath Goodman was re-allowed entry.
Tessa Munt drew most direct attention to the call for an inquiry (mentioning the 104 further MPs who had joined the original 7 – now 105 thanks to the addition of Chi Onwurah, who also mentioned the need for an inquiry and has since indicated her willingness to be added to the list), and in particular loss of vital evidence, and cases being stalled or abandoned. Hunt’s response just referred to a Home Office committee chaired by Norman Baker (who lent just 10 minutes of his time to seasoned abuse researchers and campaigners Peter McKelvie and Liz Davies recently). Other supporters of an inquiry who spoke in the debate included Conservative Bob Blackman, Labour’s Diana Johnson, Barbara Keeley and Grahame Morris and Democratic Unionist Ian Paisley Jr.
Simon Danczuk first raised the question of Savile’s wider political connections, not least with Cyril Smith, and pointed out that Savile appeared in a Liberal Party Political Broadcast. Smith himself, in his autobiography, refers to meeting Savile at a medieval banquet at Worsley, Lancashire, after which he was invited by Savile to sing ‘She’s a Lassie from Lancashire’ on his programme Clunk-Click, and also a comedy routine with Les Dawson; Smith admired the model of Savile as a ‘personality’, but wrote that Savile ‘admits openly that his work as a disc jockey is a joke, but his record of public service and charity must be unequalled’ (Big Cyril: The Autobiography of Cyril Smith (London: W.H. Allen, 1977), pp. 225-226; see also Danczuk and Matthew Baker, Smile for the Camera: The Double Life of Cyril Smith (London: Biteback Publishing, 2014), pp. 100-104, on Smith’s cultivation of Savile and other comedians and TV personalities). Danczuk said that an ‘overarching inquiry’ would enable one to ‘understand the political networks to which Savile belonged’. Hunt’s answer essentially side-steps this question.
Tom Watson followed up on this issue asking if Hunt had any suspicion that ‘victims of Savile were frightened to come forward because he enjoyed powerful political protection?’ Hunt side-stepped this again, saying there was no evidence of that in the reports, and suggesting that victims of Savile were simply afraid to come forward because of his ‘celebrity status’ and consequent ‘connections in high place’ (not quite the same thing as Danczuk or Watson are asking).
In an interview from last weekend, Danczuk made clear that when he appears before the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) on Tuesday July 1st, he will if asked be prepared to use Parliamentary Privilege to name a further living parliamentarian who visited Elm Guest House at Barnes, where boys are claimed to have been abused by a paedophile ring (Mark Leftly, ‘MP will name politician ‘involved in child abuse”, The Independent, June 22nd, 2014), and may also name a further politician involved in a separate abuse scandal (this is likely to be the former Blair-era cabinet minister alleged to have abused boys in a children’s home in Lambeth, run by paedophile Michael John Carroll, in which case experienced detective Clive Driscoll was taken off the case as he allegedly came to investigate the minister, as investigated in Tom Pettifor, ‘Pressure mounts on Tony Blair to answer questions over minister child sex abuse cover-up claims’, Daily Mirror, April 29th, 2014). Three members of the HASC – Liberal Democrat Julian Huppert, and Labour MPs Paul Flynn and Yasmin Qureshi – are supporters of a national inquiry; one member of the HASC has confirmed that Danczuk will be asked about visitors to Elm Guest House (Leftly, ‘MP will name politician ‘involved in child abuse”). This will be an important occasion at the HASC which may change the whole climate of opinion concerning abuse and the urgent need for an inquiry.
NHS Investigations (Jimmy Savile)
The Secretary of State for Health (Mr Jeremy Hunt):
With your permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the Jimmy Savile investigations.
This morning, 28 investigations into Savile were published, including two larger reports on Leeds infirmary and Broadmoor hospital and 26 smaller reports on other institutions. I know that this House and, indeed, the whole country will share a deep sense of revulsion at what they reveal: a litany of disturbing accounts of rape and sexual abuse committed by Savile on vulnerable children and adults over a period of decades.
At the time, the victims who spoke up were not believed, and it is important today that we all publicly recognise the truth of what they have said, but it is a profoundly uncomfortable truth. As a nation at that time, we held Savile in our affection as a somewhat eccentric national treasure with a strong commitment to charitable causes. Today’s reports show that, in reality, he was a sickening and prolific sexual abuser who repeatedly exploited the trust of a nation for his own vile purposes.
The report published by Leeds infirmary today reveals that Savile was a predatory porter who abused and raped patients without scruple. Sixty people reported abuse to the investigation. One of his teenage victims believed that she was pregnant as a result of his abuse. Two witnesses told the investigation Savile claimed to have had jewellery made from glass eyes taken from bodies in the mortuary. Other reported behaviour is too horrific to recount in detail to this House, but is set out in full in the reports published today.
Savile was also an opportunistic sexual predator at Broadmoor. The investigation concludes that at least five individuals, and possibly more, were sexually abused by Savile. Inexplicably, Savile was allowed to watch female patients as they stripped naked for bathing.
There were fewer incidents reported in the other 26 investigations, but there are strong indications that they were consistent with a wider pattern of offending. I have placed the reports of all the investigations in the House of Commons Library. Five investigations are ongoing and will report later this year.
Today’s reports will shake this House and our country to the core. Savile was a callous, opportunistic, wicked predator who abused and raped individuals, many of them patients and young people, who expected and had a right to expect to be safe. His actions span five decades, from the 1960s to 2010. The family favourite loved by millions courted popularity and used it to perpetrate and cover up his own evil acts.
I and, I am sure, the whole House will want to pay tribute to all the victims who came forward to talk about their experiences. It took great courage for them to relive their often extremely distressing and disturbing experiences.
The reports paint a terrible picture, as time and again victims were ignored or, if they were not, little or no action was taken. The systems in place to protect people were either too weak or were ignored. People and institutions turned a blind eye.
Today, I want to apologise on behalf of the Government and the NHS to all the victims who were abused by Savile in NHS-run institutions. We let them down badly and however long ago it may have been, many of them are still reliving the pain they went through. If we cannot undo the past, I hope that honesty and transparency about what happened can at least alleviate some of the suffering. It is the least we owe them.
Today, changes to the way that we guard against abuse would make it much harder for someone such as Savile to perpetrate these crimes for so long. The safeguarding system, as the Leeds report makes clear, has been much improved over the past 30 years. The landmark Children Act 1989 enshrined a child’s right to protection from abuse. The first child sex offenders register was established in 1997, and 1999 saw legislation to prevent sex offenders from working with children. Criminal Records Bureau checks and the Disclosure and Barring Service have provided further protection. The Children Act 2004 requires NHS bodies to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, and to sit on the local safeguarding children board. NHS England published its safeguarding framework in 2013.
Savile was, however, never convicted of any offence, so this safeguarding system depends on much better awareness by professionals and the public and a much heightened vigilance against such abuse than there was in the past. Although that is reassuring to an extent, we cannot be complacent. Today, I am writing to all the system leaders in the NHS—NHS England, the NHS Trust Development Authority, Monitor and the Care Quality Commission—to ask them to ensure that they and all trusts review safeguarding arrangements in the light of the reports, and to ensure that they are confident about patient safety. For its part, the Department of Health has accepted all the specific recommendations assigned to it in the Broadmoor report.
There are some painfully obvious lessons for the system as a whole. First, we must never give people the kind of access that Savile enjoyed to wards and patients without proper checks, whoever that person may be. Secondly, if people are abusive, staff should feel supported to challenge them, whoever that person may be, and take swift action. Thirdly, where patients report abuse, they need to be listened to, whatever their age, whatever their condition, and there needs to be proper investigation of what they report. It is deeply shocking that so few people felt that they could speak up and even more shocking that no one listened to those who did speak up. That is now changing in the NHS, but we have a long way to go.
In ensuring appropriate measures, we must not hinder the extraordinary contribution of thousands of volunteers and fundraisers working in the NHS every day. They are the opposite of Savile and we need to ensure that their remarkable contribution is sustained.
In parallel with this NHS work, the Department for Education is overseeing investigations into Savile’s activity in care settings, based on the same tranche of information that led to the smaller NHS investigations. There are other ongoing investigations by the police into allegations of historic child sexual exploitation. I hope this reassures the House of the seriousness of this issue and our response to it. The Department will also work with the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the National Association for People Abused in Childhood to ensure that information is swiftly passed on.
I conclude by paying tribute to Kate Lampard and her team. When patient safety is the issue, speed is vital. These investigations have swiftly and effectively brought to light vital issues that must be addressed. She will be publishing her conclusions and recommendations on this scandal later this year, as will the national group on sexual violence against children and vulnerable people. This report will bring together the Government’s wider work to eradicate violence against children and vulnerable people.
But today, above all, we should remember the victims of Savile. They were brave. They have been vindicated. He was a coward. He has been disgraced. The system failed to prevent him from abusing. It failed to act when people spoke up. We must not allow history to repeat itself. I commend this statement to the House.
Andy Burnham (Leigh) (Lab):
I thank the Secretary of State for notice and sight of his statement. I commend him for the way he introduced it to the House and welcome everything he said. The reports published today are truly disturbing, and as sickening as any ever presented to the House. How a celebrity DJ and predatory sex offender came to have unfettered access to vulnerable patients across the NHS, and gold-plated keys to its highest security hospital, surely ranks as one of the worst failures of patient and public protection our country has ever seen. It raises questions of the most profound kind about how victims of abuse are treated, how systems for protecting vulnerable children and adults work and the nature of celebrity and society’s relationship with it.
The Secretary of State was right to begin with an apology—I support him in making it—to the hundreds of people who were appallingly failed and whose lives have been haunted ever since. Our first thought must be with them today. They had a right to look to the NHS as a place of safety and sanctuary, but they were cruelly let down by the very institutions that were meant to offer protection. As one of Savile’s victims put it:
“It was like another insult. I’m in a top security hospital and someone has got to me again. When does it stop?”
Today’s statement will have evoked memories of the most painful kind for them, so will the Secretary of State ensure that all Savile’s victims have full and direct access to all the counselling and other support they will need?
One of the main purposes of this process of inquiry should have been to give all the victims the opportunity to be heard, but the Secretary of State might know that there are reports today in the Yorkshire Post that one person who tried to come forward was at first ignored in October 2012. Will he assure us that all reasonable steps have been taken by those preparing these reports to help victims come forward and tell their story, including those who might have been ignored when they first tried?
Many of Savile’s victims have suffered severe financial loss as a result of the challenges they have faced. I understand that claims for compensation will in the first instance draw on Jimmy Savile’s estate. Has there been an assessment of whether the estate’s funds will be sufficient to meet all claims? Given what has been revealed today and the abject failures of public bodies, should not the Government now consider allocating public funds to ensure that all the people damaged by Savile are properly compensated and supported?
Reading the report, it is not at all clear to me that a proper process has yet been put in place to hold people who failed in their public duties to account. If evidence is revealed in any of these reports that shows that any person still working in the NHS or the Department of Health knowingly facilitated these crimes, will the Secretary of State assure us that they will now face the full weight of the law and that those who were negligent in respect of their public duties will also be held fully to account?
It is incomprehensible how this could have been allowed to happen over 55 years. Although it relates to a different era, there are serious lessons that we can learn, given that abuse continues in our health and care system today. Let me turn to those. The first area of concern relates to how victims of abuse are treated, particularly young people or people in the mental health care system. Sadly, there are still far too many instances of abuse in our care system and in mental health settings, and the real figure is likely to be higher because of under-reporting. Will the Secretary of State consider what more needs to be done to give people the confidence to come forward and the reassurance that they will be listened to? Is there a case for more training for staff in dealing with allegations of abuse?
The second area of concern relates to how public bodies carry out vetting and barring arrangements, make public appointments and manage their relationship with celebrity. Hospitals across the country have increasingly sophisticated fundraising operations and links with celebrity endorsers. Will the Secretary of State accept the Broadmoor report’s recommendation that no celebrity should be appointed to an executive position or given privileged access to a hospital or its patients and that they should be fully vetted if appointed to a non-executive position? More broadly, is there now a case for a code of conduct setting out the appropriate relationship that the NHS should have with celebrity or business backers?
On vetting and barring, figures obtained by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) show that the number of people barred from working with children as a result of committing a sexual offence against a child has dropped by 10,000, or 75%, in the past three years. These extremely worrying figures have come about as a result of changes to the vetting and barring arrangements. This raises the concern that there are people working in our health and care system now who may pose a risk to children. Will the Secretary of State look again at this issue, consult the Home Secretary, and urgently report back to the House on why these figures have dropped by so much in such a short space of time, and on whether they believe that the current child protection regime is strong enough?
The question arises of whether this process of inquiry is a sufficient response to the scale of these atrocious crimes. It is hard to draw a clear picture and consistent recommendations from 28 separate reports and all the other inquiries that are still ongoing in schools, care homes, the BBC and the police. I, too, pay tribute to the work of Kate Lampard in assuring the quality of the reports published today, and we wait for her second phase of work, but questions remain about their independence given that each hospital has, in effect, investigated itself. There is also a question of whether this needs to be more independent of Government.
The Broadmoor report raises serious questions about the conduct of civil servants and Ministers in the Department of Health in how Savile came to be appointed to the Broadmoor taskforce. In evidence to the inquiry, the then Minister describes the main objective of Savile’s appointment as follows:
“The principal question was can Government break this hold that the Prison Officers Association has on the hospital.”
She went on to say:
“This task force was dreamed up and seemed like a very good idea and step forward Jimmy Savile who knew the place backwards and was more than happy to volunteer his time to do this. And we were happy to do it.”
That paints a picture of chaos in the Department and a complete absence of due process for a serious appointment of this kind. This is an extraordinary revelation. While there is no suggestion that any Minister knew of any sexual misconduct, it does point to the need for a further process of independent inquiry so that we all, as Ministers and former Ministers, can learn the lessons of what happened, but also so that we can draw together the threads of the multiple inquiries that are ongoing. It simply cannot be left for Savile’s victims to try to pull together the details of these investigations.
As the shadow Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), has said, there is now a clear case for a proper, overarching, independent review led by child protection experts into why there was such large-scale institutional failure to stop these abhorrent crimes. I would be grateful if the Secretary of State gave this proposal careful consideration. I finish by assuring him of our full support in helping him to establish the full truth of why abuse on this scale was allowed to happen for so long.
I thank the shadow Health Secretary for the constructive tone of his comments. Many of the suggestions he has made are very sensible. We will take them away and look at them, but I will go through a number of them now. First, we will indeed make sure that all Savile’s victims get the counselling they need. I think that it has been made available to them, but it is absolutely right to double-check that they are getting every bit of help they need and that we are taking all reasonable steps.
I hope that what has happened today will be, in its own way, another landmark for all victims of sexual abuse in giving them the confidence that we are changing, not just as an NHS but as a society, into being much better at listening when people come forward with these very serious allegations. It hits you time and again when you read these reports how many people did not speak up at the time because they thought that no one would believe them. We are not going to change that culture overnight, but we have to be a society that listens to the small person—the person who might get forgotten and does not feel they are important in the system.
On the claims for compensation, the right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that the first draw for those claims will come from the Savile estate. I hope I can reassure him, however, that, as we have said, the Government will underwrite this so that if there are any claims that are not able to be met by the estate we finance them from the public purse. We think it is important that we should do that, although his estate is the first place to start, for obvious reasons.
The right hon. Gentleman is right to say that if there is evidence that people have criminally neglected claims that were made at the time or behaved inappropriately—even if it is not a matter for the law and they behaved in a way that could make them subject to disciplinary procedures in NHS organisations—that should be addressed. We will urge all NHS organisations to look carefully at anyone who is mentioned in the reports. Of course, the police will, naturally, look at the evidence against any individuals, who of course have the right to due process, which everyone in the House would accept.
On the specific point about the behaviour of one Minister and what it suggested about the motivation for Savile’s approval for his job at Broadmoor, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), who was Secretary of State at the time, has said that that behaviour would be indefensible now and that it would have been indefensible at the time. I agree with him. Everyone must be held accountable for the actions they took.
We are doing a great deal to make sure that all NHS staff are trained to feel more confident about speaking out. The Mid Staffs whistleblower Helene Donnelly is now working with Health Education England to see what needs to change in the training of NHS staff in order to change that culture.
On the new disclosure and barring scheme, we are already doing work to examine the reason for the drop in the number of people who are being barred from working with children. The Minister of State, Department of Health, my hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) is looking into that. I have given this a lot of thought and it is important to say that in the current environment, were we to have another Savile, it is likely that the disclosure and barring scheme would bar him from working with children and in trusts, but that is not certain because he was never convicted of a crime. The Criminal Records Bureau checks would not have stopped that, but it is possible for the disclosure and barring scheme to prevent people from working with children and vulnerable adults even if they have not committed a crime. For example, their employment track record may show that they were dismissed for doing things that raised suspicions. It is also important to make the point—I think everyone in the House will understand this—that it is not possible to legislate to stop all criminal vile activity. What we depend on for the disclosure and barring scheme to work is a culture in which the public and patients feel able to speak out and staff listen when they do so, in order that these things surface much more quickly.
Finally, the question of whether any further inquiries are necessary will, of course, be considered. The first step is to let Kate Lampard do her full report. At this stage, she has not drawn together all the different inquiries and tried to draw lessons from the system as a whole. I asked her to do two things. The first was to verify independently that the reports of NHS organisations were of the necessary quality, and I think she has done that superbly. The second stage of her work is to see what lessons can be drawn from the system as a whole. We need to hear what she has to say about that and, indeed, what the Department for Education and the BBC learn from their reports, and then we will come to a conclusion about whether any further investigations are needed.
Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) (Con):
May I join the Secretary of State in paying tribute to the victims? They were not silent. What today’s reports show is that very many people witnessed—even directly condoned—some deeply inappropriate behaviour. How could it ever be acceptable for a celebrity to be able to watch female patients showering? Will the Secretary of State join me in sending a message to NHS staff that they should always raise concerns if they witness such behaviour and that they will be protected if they do so?
I am absolutely happy to do that. I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend’s comments. The NHS needs to move to a system where it is the norm rather than the exception to report, and where NHS staff feel comfortable that reporting any concerns is an absolutely normal part of their job. She is right to say that one of the most disturbing things in the reports is the clear evidence that some people helped Savile in what he did—for example, that people were escorted to his private room in Broadmoor—which is very shocking. That is why it is very important that everyone is vigilant. I totally agree with what she said.
Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab):
The only people who emerge with any credit are the victims, and we need to support them. However, I was slightly stung by the Secretary of State’s comment about the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke). If the right hon. and learned Gentleman thought that the actions of the Minister—it was Edwina Currie, if I remember rightly—were inappropriate then, as they would be now, will he apologise for his stewardship of the Department at the time, or will the Secretary of State look at the Minister’s conduct and come back to the House to explain how it was possible?
I hope that I have gone some way to meet the hon. Lady’s concerns because, on behalf of the Government and the NHS, I have offered a full apology to all the victims for what happened, and I have accepted that there were failures at many levels. It is very important to say that the reports show that there was no evidence that Ministers or officials were aware of any sexual abuse by Savile. I pointed to the comments by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe because I wanted to make it clear that this Government are not defending actions which, as he has said, were indefensible then and would be indefensible now.
Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con):
I commend my right hon. Friend for his measured statement. Indeed, I welcome the shadow Secretary of State’s comments about joining our call for an overarching inquiry, because this is the tip of the iceberg. There are still ongoing inquiries to do with Savile in the NHS, 11 local authorities, care homes and others.
Specifically on the subject of victims, there is something that the Secretary of State can do to help immediately. So many victims have very bravely come forward after suffering trauma over many decades and many are still calling the ChildLine and NAPAC—the National Association for People Abused in Childhood—helplines. However, for too many, the therapeutic support that they need to help them through such a particularly difficult time is absolutely not there. Police and health professionals have come to me to say that they know such people, but cannot do anything for them. With the resources in the NHS, the Secretary of State can help now.
I commend my hon. Friend for his campaigning for vulnerable children over many years. The letter I sent to NHS England this morning asks it to make sure that all the lessons are learned from the reports, and it includes the very clear suggestion—I want the NHS to interpret my letter in this way—that it should ensure that it commissions the support needed for children in these circumstances so that they get the very support that is necessary. This is not just about encouraging people to speak out; it is about making sure that when they do, they feel listened to and supported.
Grahame M. Morris (Easington) (Lab):
I thank the Secretary of State for his statement and my right hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State for his considered response. In relation to the scale of the abuse—with ages ranging from five to 75, and involving 28 hospitals—lessons need to be learned about the systematic failure not just within the NHS, but within other institutions. Will the Health Secretary have discussions with the Cabinet Office and others to make sure that appropriate lessons are learned?
Absolutely. I want to reassure the hon. Gentleman that we are taking a cross-Government approach—across a range of Departments, but particularly the Department for Education and the Home Office—and that the Government as a whole will draw the lessons from this whole horrific series of episodes to make sure that we have a joined-up approach.
John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD):
I agree with the Secretary of State that our first thought has to be for the victims, and that in future we must listen to the powerless and not block inquiries. If we go back to 2011—before Savile died—an American journalist, Leah McGrath Goodman, was banned from coming to the UK to investigate child abuse, including by Jimmy Savile. Even more recently, she was arrested at the airport on 5 June, while coming to an inquiry. Will the Secretary of State speak to his colleague the Minister for Security and Immigration to ask why somebody in the UK Border Agency seems to be aiming to inhibit one of the inquiries?
I am afraid that I do not know the details of that particular case, but I will look into it and write to the hon. Gentleman.
Ann Coffey (Stockport) (Lab):
Is not one of the wider problems our perceptions of how a sexual predator looks and acts? When men like Savile are arrested, the usual reaction is shock that such a nice man could abuse children, but sex predators are not men in dirty raincoats; they come from all walks of life and all professions. That perception means that children are not being heard. Will the Secretary of State make preventing as well as detecting child sexual abuse a public health priority? It is only through a better informed public, more aware of how predators such as Savile behave, that we will be able to protect children from abuse.
I completely agree, and that is one of the big lessons. The shadow Home Secretary was absolutely right to say that this issue raises serious questions about the nature of celebrity in our society. One of the reasons that totally inexcusable things happened—such as being given the keys to Broadmoor—was that somehow on the basis of Savile’s image people made wrong assumptions about him. The hon. Lady is absolutely right. One of the things that will change as a result of this investigation is that people will be more willing to challenge those who previously were not challenged. But there is a long way to go.
Mr Simon Burns (Chelmsford) (Con):
I totally agree with the Secretary of State’s belief that there should be more openness, and an increased sense of need to report concerns, but is he satisfied that, particularly with regard to NHS staff who may report concerns or whistleblowers, there is enough protection within the system to encourage more people to be more open?
No, I am not. That is why earlier this week we asked Sir Robert Francis to do a follow-up review to his public inquiry to determine what else needs to be done to create a culture of openness and transparency in the NHS. We have come a very long way as a society in terms of our understanding, but there is more work to be done. It is also very important, as I said in my statement—I know everyone would agree with this—that we do not undermine the brilliant work done by volunteers in hospitals and that we do not create a kind of bureaucratic morass that makes it impossible for that really important work to be done. However, I know we can do better than we are at the moment and important lessons need to be learned.
Valerie Vaz (Walsall South) (Lab):
The Secretary of State has been very gracious in his apology given that he was not Secretary of State at the time. Might I make one further practical suggestion? Will he speak to the Prime Minister about perhaps appointing a Minister to co-ordinate all these reports across the public institutions?
I reassure the hon. Lady that that responsibility lies with the Home Secretary, and the Home Office has a cross-governmental committee that will bring together all the lessons from all the reports. My first priority is to ensure that we are doing everything we can to make NHS patients safe, but there are much broader lessons to be learned. That is being led by the Home Office.
David Morris (Morecambe and Lunesdale) (Con):
Does my right hon. Friend agree that what has happened is absolutely abhorrent and that it sends out a strong message to everyone in society that even a celebrity is not above the law of the land? May I also praise the work of Kate Lampard and her team in bringing this forward?
That is absolutely right. Celebrities have never been above the law of the land, but what is clear from the report is that even though that is the case legally, in practical terms they were above the law because they were able to get away with things for a very long time that ordinary people would not have been able to get away with. That is why this is such a big moment of reflection for us. I know that everyone in the House will want to think hard about what we need to do to change that culture.
Simon Danczuk (Rochdale) (Lab):
We know that Savile was well regarded by many politicians; by way of example, he was friends with Cyril Smith and appeared in a Liberal party political broadcast in the 1970s, and had friends in high places. Surely an overarching inquiry into child sex abuse would help us to understand the political networks to which Savile belonged.
I know that the hon. Gentleman has campaigned a lot on these issues. We have not ruled out anything, but we want first to draw together the lessons for the NHS and across Government as quickly as possible. One of the important benefits of the way in which we have proceeded so far is that, because it is an investigation and not a public inquiry, we can get to the truth relatively quickly. However, we will certainly look at the cross-governmental lessons.
Dr Phillip Lee (Bracknell) (Con):
As a former member of the medical staff at Stoke Mandeville hospital and now as the Member representing Broadmoor hospital, I have many questions, but let me concentrate on one. In appendix 2A part V, there is a letter about Broadmoor from Jimmy Savile to the Department of Health. It is headed “National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville”, and it is signed “Dr Jimmy Savile”. Indeed, the content of the letter is deeply unprofessional and remarkable, and it was copied on to a series of people, including the then Secretary of State. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that each of these individuals has been investigated in respect of their response to this correspondence, as I cannot believe that people could have received it without being deeply concerned about this vile man’s involvement in a high-security hospital?
My hon. Friend raises a very important point. We received the reports only this week, but I will certainly take this away with me and look into exactly the point he makes.
Mr Frank Field (Birkenhead) (Lab):
I thank the Secretary of State for allowing me early advance notice of the report relating to St Catherine’s hospital in Birkenhead. Much more importantly, may I associate myself with the apology that the right hon. Gentleman gave to my constituent and others. He will know that that hospital has been bulldozed and that we now have a fine community hospital. To bulldoze these practices within the NHS, will the Secretary of State consider and come back to me later on these two issues? First, it took my constituent 48 years before she was believed and 50 years before she received an apology. What steps are we going to take to ensure that justice is provided much more quickly? Secondly, Jimmy Savile was escorted around St Cath’s Birkenhead by officials, who witnessed him jumping into bed with a young patient and thought it funny. All the rules in the world provide some defence, but how do we get people to exercise judgment—whatever the rules say, whatever the circumstances and whoever does it—and say that this behaviour is not acceptable?
I would like to associate myself with the right hon. Gentleman’s comments; I share his disbelief and shock that it has taken so long. In some ways justice will never be done, because Savile died before it could be served on him, which is one of the biggest tragedies of all. I agree: there was a major lack of judgment, some of it because of the different attitudes prevailing at those times. One of the big differences today is that we make links between what is disgusting but not illegal behaviour and potential abuse in a way that did not happen in those days. I want to share with the right hon. Gentleman what most shocked me personally in the reports, and it was the way in which Savile interfered and abused people who had just come out of operations and were recovering from them. The fact that Savile was able to do that, without being supervised, is shocking and when those people spoke up about what had happened, they were not believed. That is one of so many lessons that need to be learned; I know that everyone wants to learn them.
Penny Mordaunt (Portsmouth North) (Con):
It is clear from the Portsmouth report that there were incidents with no corroborative evidence of the abuse. In one local case, the complainant was unconscious at the time of the alleged incident and learned of it from a hospital cleaner who witnessed it. Does my right hon. Friend agree that “no proof” is not the same as “it did not happen”, that his welcome words of apology should apply to all those who think they may have been abused and that we need a clear process for how such unprovable complaints can be dealt with?
Absolutely right. The case that my hon. Friend mentions was a real tragedy because that person suffered very real psychological harm in subsequent years as a result of what they were told by the cleaner. There are two points. First, we cannot necessarily corroborate, but we can see a pattern. What is impressive about these investigations is the fact that the investigators say time after time that although it is not possible to prove that these things happened, they believe that they did because the evidence was credible. On one or two occasions, they say that they are not sure, but in the vast majority of cases, they thought that the evidence was credible. Secondly, there will continue to be times when offences are alleged, but it is not possible to prove them in a court of law. The big lesson to be learnt is that that does not mean no action should be taken. We must do what it takes to protect patients.
Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP):
I appreciated the right hon. Gentleman’s statement. Does he agree that the fear of litigation by NHS practitioners appears to be one of the reasons why the system does not lend itself to the provision of a good listening ear, and, indeed, one of the reasons why a compassionate response to that listening is not always forthcoming? What practical steps can be taken to ensure that, at an early stage, practitioners actually listen to complaints?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I think that we need to change the balance in the NHS, so that the safest thing for people to do if they want to avoid litigation is to report concerns rather than sitting on them. That is an interesting lesson that has been learnt in other industries, such as the airline industry, and I hope that the follow-up review by Sir Robert Francis will help us to understand it better.
Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley) (Con):
I thank the Secretary of State for what he has said about the reports. In his statement, he referred to the importance of the changes that have come about over the past few years, both under this Government—and there are more to come—and under the last Government. Many of those changes have derived from advice given by specialist police forces or by teams within police forces.
The Association of Chief Police Officers runs courses, and collects expertise for the purpose of those courses. Its aim is to catch the individuals concerned, to help those who have been attacked by them and to monitor those individuals after they have been put on the sex offenders list. Does the Secretary of State think that it would be useful to ask ACPO whether it could provide any more advice for the Government to consider? I know that the Metropolitan police’s Jigsaw team is currently considering changes that would help it to monitor and control sex offenders once they have been detected and put on the list.
My hon. Friend has made an important point. Of course we need to co-operate very closely with the police service, and the Home Secretary is doing a huge amount of work to establish what needs to be done to increase conviction rates for sexual offences. The point for the NHS to consider, however, is that the disclosure and barring scheme will only work properly if NHS organisers comply with it—as they are obliged to do—and report incidents, because that enables other NHS organisations to find out about them. I am not satisfied that the levels of compliance are as high as they should be.
Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab):
I feel that our concern for victims must lead us to ask whether the actions of Ministers, or managers in the NHS, caused the pain that they suffered. That is one of the things that we can still do. Beyond compensation, there is accountability, and there must be accountability.
I must tell the Secretary of State that I do not think it was enough for him to say that behaviour was indefensible. Colleagues of his were Ministers at the time of that behaviour, and they must be brought to book for their actions. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham): we should focus on the fact that that appointment of a disc jockey to a hospital position was not appropriate. In some respects, that individual would have carried more credibility because of his appointment, and that is why I think that accountability is important.
I also think that, in future, children and vulnerable patients must be protected from certain people who have access to wards. It is not good enough to talk about bureaucracy. Volunteers, celebrity fundraisers and business backers must be subject to checks before being given access to hospitals and to wards, and they must expect to be subject to those checks. The present arrangements must change.
We do need more robust checks. However, I can tell the hon. Lady that I have apologised to all the victims and have said that if some of the reasons given in the reports for Jimmy Savile’s appointment to one position were as the reports claim, that was indefensible. Moreover, the Secretary of State who was in office at the time has said that it was indefensible. I think that that is accountability.
Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con):
The Secretary of State has been good enough to apologise on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government and the NHS. Given that Jimmy Savile’s celebrity status was largely due to his employment by the BBC, are we not owed a big apology by the BBC, now that the report has been published?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. Today’s report is about the NHS and that the BBC report is ongoing, as is the report being done by the Department for Education and the work being done by other Departments. We have to wait for the BBC to make its own statement on the matter, but my priority now is for NHS patients, and the reason that I wanted to go at speed on this was to make sure that any changes we need to make now, we do so.
Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab):
The Secretary of State says, quite understandably, that we cannot undo the past, but there are several people culpable in this affair who are still drawing substantial NHS pensions. Why does he not consider docking their pensions, as a consequence for their behaviour and as a clear warning to others?
I do not rule that out at all. If someone has behaved in a way that is in breach of either the law or the regulations that were in place at the hospital in which they worked, and there is a way to have legal redress such that things like pensions can be docked, I think that they should face the full consequences of that.
Tessa Munt (Wells) (LD):
Child sexual abuse is always abhorrent. The victims are always innocent and nobody should be above the law. At the beginning of this month, six Members and I wrote to the Home Secretary—now we are supported by a further 104 MPs—requesting an investigation by an independent panel into at least eight cases of child sexual abuse going back over 30 years, where the evidence has been lost or destroyed by the police, by Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise and by other agencies, and where the cases have therefore been stalled or abandoned altogether. To date, we have had no reply, so can I ask the Secretary of State to encourage the Home Secretary and the Education Secretary, and anyone who else who might be moved to take the matter on, to do so, and accept that such an independent investigation is essential to search out the truth and to make sure that action is taken after that?
I would like to reassure the hon. Lady that we have a Home Office committee, chaired by the Home Office Minister from her own party—the Minister for Crime Prevention, the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker)—that is drawing together all the lessons from Savile across all Departments. It is then going to take that view as to what needs to happen next to prevent child sexual abuse, and I would like to reassure her that the Home Office and the Government as a whole have no higher priority than that.
Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab):
Jimmy Savile visited the Royal Victoria infirmary in Newcastle on a number of occasions—generally, it appears, around the time of the great north run. The Newcastle hospital trust’s investigation concludes that nothing untoward happened and there was constant supervision, but it refers to an NSPCC investigation that had access to other witnesses, which suggests that unsupervised access did occur. That is obviously a matter of huge concern for everyone who put their trust in the RVI, whether as a patient or as a child. Is not my right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) right? It is not up to them to try to draw what could be horrendous conclusions from these somewhat conflicting reports. Do we not need an overarching independent inquiry?
We are having an overarching independent inquiry—that is what Kate Lampard is doing—but on whether we need to have further inquiries, we need to wait until we get the response, which we are hoping for this autumn, because at the moment, we have published individual reports, but we have not drawn any wider lessons for the NHS system-wide. One of the things that I hope will be a consequence of today is that if there are any victims who were abused at the RVI, they will use today as some encouragement to come forward. I have given instructions and I am absolutely clear as Health Secretary that I want every single one of the concerns of anyone who comes forward to be investigated thoroughly—as thoroughly as all the ones that are tragically coming to light today.
Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con):
It is astonishing that this catalogue of abuse was allowed to happen and that no action was taken at the time. I commend my right hon. Friend for his statement, both for the way he has delivered it and for the content, but can he elucidate for the House what specific changes he foresees in legislation, although legislation has moved forward, and any specific changes to procedures that now need to be taken as a result of the publication today?
I hope my hon. Friend will forgive me if I do not try and predict what Kate Lampard’s recommendations are before she makes them, but I think the obvious question to ask is whether we have the procedures in place that ensure that someone like Savile would not be given the keys to an institution in the way that he was? I do not believe that would happen today. My understanding of the way that NHS organisations work is that it would be impossible for someone to be given the freedom of a trust in the way that he was at Broadmoor, but I do not want to take that as a fact. I want Kate Lampard to look at that, so that we can be absolutely sure that it would not happen. I think the other obvious area for her to consider is the functioning of the disclosure and barring scheme, and to make sure that it really is set up in a way that would make it more likely for us to catch someone like Savile. Again, I think it is likely that he would be caught by the DBS, but I would like Kate Lampard to look at that and give me her views.
Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab):
I am not sure that I share the Secretary of State’s view about Jimmy Savile being caught by the procedures now in place through the DBS, but I want to ask him this: under changes introduced by this coalition, a regular volunteer at a children’s hospital—acting, for example, as a reading volunteer on the ward—will not require a Criminal Records Bureau check, and given the harm done by the revelations about Jimmy Savile, I am sure that will cause concern to millions of parents around this country. Does the Secretary of State share that concern, especially in the light of the NSPCC’s comments this week that the pendulum has swung too far towards the abuser by the changes that his Government have introduced?
I do not agree with that. The CRB checks that were introduced by the last Labour Government were a very important step forward when they started in 2002 but what is also important, as I am sure Labour recognises, is that they have limitations, because they identify whether someone has a criminal record. Jimmy Savile was never convicted of a criminal offence, so CRB checks alone would not have stopped this abuse. That is why we need a broader system, which is what the disclosure and barring scheme is intended to be. It is deliberately set up as something that is risk-profiled, so the higher the risk, the higher the standard of investigation, but that is one of the things that Kate Lampard will look at and we need to listen to what she says when she gives us her final report.
John Glen (Salisbury) (Con):
I was grateful for the opportunity early this morning to look at the thorough report of Jimmy Savile’s visits to Odstock hospital. At Odstock, although it seemed that Mr Savile visited, the report concluded that there was no evidence of any wrongdoing. However, one recommendation was that the Department of Health issue national guidance on VIP policy and VIP visits. Can the Secretary of State confirm that he will look at that, so that all hospitals, including the successor to Odstock, Salisbury district hospital, can have a reliable policy in place?
I think that is a very sensible suggestion. I want to wait until Kate Lampard gives her final report in September, so I do not want to pre-empt what she says, but certainly, one of the blindingly obvious things that jumps out at us from these reports is that too generous treatment was given to someone on the basis of that celebrity status, and we definitely need to learn lessons. As I am sure my hon. Friend would appreciate from his own constituents’ point of view, the fact that there is no evidence of abuse sadly does not mean that there was no abuse, and that is why it is really important for us to remember that there may well be many people who are not mentioned today who have been quietly suffering for many years. I hope today will give them encouragement to come forward.
Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab):
I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of the report from Wythenshawe hospital this morning. For me, the shocking revelation that I noted was that it was an open secret among patients, as early as 1962, that this man was doing what he was doing—and I quote:
“a dirty old man up to no good”.
If there is one good thing that can come from this for the nation, it is that we implore all institutions, both governmental and in civil society, to keep their child protection, safeguarding and recruitment selection procedures up to date and under review.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right and touches on a matter that we have not touched on so far this morning. Recruitment is a very important area that we must get right in this process, and I wholeheartedly agree with what he said.
Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab):
Today will be an emotional day for victims and their families as the report is published. Will the Secretary of State tell the House how victims have been supported and informed about the publication, particularly today and in the run-up to today, and how they will be kept informed as subsequent actions are carried forward? In particular, what efforts have been made to inform and support those who are most vulnerable, such as those with learning difficulties or who are severely mentally unwell, perhaps as a result of the abuse they suffered many years ago?
The hon. Lady is right to raise that issue, and the guidance that I have issued to NHS organisations today makes it clear that I want to give maximum protection not just to the victims identified in these reports, but to people going forward. That is the least we owe them.
Mr Tom Watson (West Bromwich East) (Lab):
Has the Secretary of State received intelligence, or does he have a suspicion, that victims of Savile were frightened to come forward because he enjoyed powerful political protection?
I do not believe there is any evidence of that in the reports, but there is a lot of evidence that people felt that they would not be believed because of Savile’s celebrity status. Part of that celebrity status was his connections in high places, and that is part of the myth that we need to puncture as a result of today’s report.
Today (Thursday June 19th) the Conservative MP and former Children’s Commissioner Tim Loughton asked the Leader of the House of Commons, Andrew Lansley, about the growing movement amongst MPs calling for a national inquiry into organised child abuse. The exchange was as follows (taken from Hansard):
Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con):
The Leader of the House may be aware that together with our hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) and five other colleagues across the Chamber, I have written to the Home Secretary to ask for an independent inquiry into historic child abuse. That call has already been taken up by more than 70 hon. Members from across the House. Given that new stories emerge almost daily of grotesque abuse of children going back to the ’60s, does the Leader of the House agree that it is time that such an inquiry was held, and will he give time for a debate in the House to set the scene for it?
Mr Andrew Lansley (Leader of the House of Commons):
My hon. Friend has done important work on tackling those issues. He will be aware of the range of inquiries that have taken place, some of which, I hope, are approaching a conclusion. As the Prime Minister has said and recently reiterated to the House, we have not been persuaded of the case for an overarching inquiry; indeed, we feel that there is a significant risk that such an inquiry might impede and delay the resolution of some of the issues in the separate inquiries that are taking place. As the Prime Minister rightly said, however, he will continue actively to keep the question under review.
The following exchange also took place at the House of Commons on June 11th, 2014:
Mr Duncan Hames (Liberal Democrat, Chippenham)
Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister will have heard calls from Honourable Members on all sides of this House for an independent inquiry on the Hillsborough model into organised child sexual abuse in this country. Can he truly be satisfied that current police investigations are sufficient for the public to have confidence that we are both willing and able to get to the truth?
The Right Hon David Cameron (Prime Minister)
I think my Honourable Friend makes a very important point and I have looked at this carefully with Ministerial colleagues, because of course we have a series of inquiries taking place into what happened in various hospitals and care homes and indeed media organisations, and I think it’s very important that Government keeps a clear view about how these are being co-ordinated and how the lessons are being learned. If there is a need for any more over-arching process to be put in place, I’m very happy to look at that, but at the moment, I think led by the Home Secretary and her colleagues, we do have a proper view of what’s happening at all these organisations.
In amongst these mealy-mouthed evasive answers, I would remind people of the original letter sent to Home Secretary Teresa May by the original seven MPs (Zac Goldsmith, Loughton, John Hemming, Tessa Munt, Tom Watson, Simon Danczuk and Caroline Lucas):
Dear Home Secretary,
We are writing to ask you to set up a full, properly resourced investigation into the failure of the Police to follow the evidence in a number of historical cases of child sexual abuse.
We would ask you to set up an independent panel, similar to the Inquiry you established into the Hillsborough tragedy, with powers to demand the release of all and any material from every agency involved.
We would like such a panel to work with the many victims of child sexual abuse from local authority care, the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches and schools, including public schools, to uncover the facts in cases including the following:
a. Operation Fernbridge – Richmond: Elm Guest House and Grafton Close Children’s Home, Norbiton, Weybridge & Petersham
b. Operation Orchid – Hackney and Islington
c. The Geoffrey Dickens’ dossiers – and Monkton Street home for Mentally Handicapped Children, Lambeth
d. Sir Cyril Smith – Rochdale, including Knowl View Special School
e. HM Customs & Excise – Russell Tricker videos
f. Trafficking involving British businessmen in Amsterdam
g. Warwick Spinks – Amsterdam & Prague
h. “Jane” alleged rape by a man who went on to become a Cabinet minister
We would ask that the panel examines:
i. why detailed dossiers – such as the documents submitted to the Home Office by the late Geoffrey Dickens – have disappeared
ii. why Police surveillance videos – said to be of prominent people who have been involved in paedophile rings – have gone missing
iii. why child pornography videos seized by HM Customs & Excise have been lost or destroyed
iv. why investigations appear repeatedly to have been stalled or abandoned over the last thirty years
We look forward to an early response
Amongst the most important issues they raise is to do with the unsatisfactory nature of existing police investigations.
The Prime Minister and the Government must not, and should not be allowed to, sweep this under the carpet – there are extremely serious questions to be answered.