Former MP believes cover-up over child abuse in UK

Sunday 06 July 2014 22.08
Norman Tebbit believes people felt it was more important to protect the system rather than report abuse
Norman Tebbit believes people felt it was more important to protect the system rather than report abuse

A former British MP has said he believes there "may well" have been a political cover-up over child abuse in the UK in the 1980s.

Norman Tebbit, who served in a series of ministerial posts under Margaret Thatcher, said the instinct of people at the time was to protect "the system" and not to delve too deeply into uncomfortable allegations.

His comment came as Britain’s Home Office announced a fresh review into what happened to a file alleging paedophile activity at Westminster which was handed to the then home secretary Leon  Brittan by the Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens.

Mr Tebbit said: "At that time I think most people would have thought that the establishment, the system, was to be protected and if a few things had gone wrong here and there that it was more important to protect the system than to delve too far into it.

"That view, I think, was wrong then and it is spectacularly shown to be wrong because the abuses have grown."

Asked if he thought there had been a "big political cover-up" at the time, he said: "I think there may well have been. But it was almost unconscious. It was the thing that people did at that time."

Labour MP Margaret Hodge, who chairs the Public Accounts Committee, said there had been a "veil of secrecy" over the establishment for far too long.

She said: "Thank God it is coming out into the open. I think the really interesting thing about it is there has been a veil of secrecy over the establishment for far too long.

"Now the establishment who thought they were always protected...find actually they are subject to the same rigours of the law and that's right.

"What we really need to get right as well is how children are cared for today.

"Let's learn from the historic abuse, let's actually give victims the right to have their voice on that, but let's actually also focus on the present."

Separately, Mr Brittan has been questioned by police in connection with a rape allegation, it has been reported.

He was understood to have been interviewed under caution last month after a woman claimed she was raped in London in 1967, according to the Independent on Sunday.

The Conservative peer is thought to strongly deny the allegation.

He was quoted by the newspaperS as saying: "I'm sorry, I'm not going to talk about anything like that."

His lawyers could not be reached for comment.

A Met Police spokesman said: "In late 2012, a woman alleged to the Metropolitan Police Service that she was raped by a man in 1967 at an address in London.

"The woman was over the age of 18 at the time of the incident.

"The allegation is being investigated by officers from the Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command.

"In June 2014, a man aged in his 70s was interviewed under caution by appointment at a central London location in connection with the allegation. He was not arrested.

"Inquiries continue."

Mr Brittan was elected as an MP in 1974 and went on to serve as Home Secretary in Mrs Thatcher's government.