Former Home Secretary Leon Brittan may have taken the secrets of a VIP paedophile dossier to his grave, it was feared last night.
The Tory peer, whose death from cancer aged 75 was announced yesterday, passed away before he could be questioned about a ‘bombshell’ missing document at a public inquiry into Establishment child sex abuse.
Campaigning MP Simon Danczuk said: ‘Lord Brittan’s death will make it that much harder for the truth to come out about the missing “Dickens dossier” and the alleged cover-up of a Westminster paedophile ring in the 1980s.’
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Leon Brittan’s death will make it much harder for the truth to come out about the missing ‘Dickens Dossier’, MP Simon Danczuk has warned
Child abuse victim Phil Frampton added: ‘In many ways we feel cheated. Survivors feel angry and fear the truth may never come out.’
But Tory grandees joined current Cabinet Ministers last night in paying tribute to the man who rose from humble beginnings to become the youngest Home Secretary since Winston Churchill.
Cambridge contemporaries Kenneth Clarke and Norman Lamont described Lord Brittan as one of the cleverest politicians of his generation, as well as being a warm, witty and reliable friend.
Former Tory leaders Michael Howard and William Hague – who succeeded him as MP for Richmond, Yorks – also praised his personal and political qualities.
The former Home Secretary (pictured left in 2014 and right in 1979) was accused of failing to investigate claims of paedophilia after allegedly being handed a dossier containing names of suspected child abusers
Lord Brittan – pictured as British Trade and Industry Secretary – with Margaret Thatcher in 1986
But Lord Brittan’s last months were clouded in controversy after it emerged last July that a dossier handed to him as Home Secretary in 1984 by Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens, which named suspected celebrity child abusers, had mysteriously disappeared.
Mr Danczuk (above), the Labour MP who exposed paedophile MP Cyril Smith, said Lord Brittan’s ‘untimely death’ was a ‘loss to the inquiry’
Lord Brittan insisted that he had passed the dossier on to the appropriate authorities, but no further action was taken.
Victims of child abuse believe Lord Brittan had further questions to answer but his ill health and the Government’s inability to find a suitable inquiry chairman had delayed the start of evidence gathering.
Mr Danczuk, the Labour MP who exposed paedophile MP Cyril Smith, said Lord Brittan’s ‘untimely death’ was a ‘loss to the inquiry’. He added: ‘Only this morning we were debating the lack of progress in the inquiry. It’s fair to say that a cloud has hung over [Lord Brittan] for a long time.
‘If we’re going to get to the truth of what happened then Theresa May needs to start making progress. A lot of the people who need to give evidence are in advanced years and we’re running out of time.’
Mr Frampton, the organiser of a meeting at the Commons last week for 300 victims and campaigners, said: ‘The Home Office must act quickly so that any documentation that is left behind is presented to this inquiry. We will do everything in our power to get to the truth. The truth will never die, it just becomes harder to find.’
David Cameron said Lord Brittan was a ‘dedicated and fiercely intelligent public servant’, while former chancellor Lord Lamont, a friend for more than 50 years, said: ‘He was a man of great brilliance who would have risen to the top of whatever profession he had chosen.
‘He was a very, very clever man. He was a very kind man with a great sense of humour which didn’t always show itself in public.’ And he dismissed allegations that Lord Brittan had been involved with paedophilia or any sort of cover-up.
Devoted: Diana Brittan, whom Leon married aged 41. His family announced his death yesterday
Celebration: (From left to right) John Selwyn Gummer, Ken Clarke and Leon Brittan at Clarke’s wedding
‘It’s completely not the man I know; I don’t believe a word of it,’ he said. ‘And when it comes to the dossier, I believe he handled that with great integrity; I’m absolutely confident that he did.’
Former Cabinet minister Ken Clarke described his friend as ‘the outstanding man of our generation’.
The missing dossier was not the only controversy to engulf Lord Brittan in his final months. He was also quizzed under caution by police over hotly contested allegations he raped a 19-year-old student in 1967. Scotland Yard said last night the case ‘remains ongoing’.
Theresa May (pictured yesterday in the Commons) launched an inquiry into the alleged Establishment cover-up, but Lord Brittan’s ill-health and the resignation of two inquiry chairs have delayed evidence giving
Then, just three months ago, Labour MP Jim Hood used parliamentary privilege to air claims that Lord Brittan himself had been linked to child abuse.
Last night there was mounting anger that despite being desperately ill with cancer in recent years, Lord Brittan was pursued over cover-up and sex allegations.
Lord Howard said it was a ‘tragedy’ that his final days had been overshadowed by the controversy. He added: ‘As far as I know, he behaved perfectly properly.’
Additional reporting: Rebecca Camber
Tory giant dogged by lurid rumours: For years, Leon Brittan was haunted by wild allegations – but were they just unfounded smears by his enemies?
Brittan was never charged with any criminal offence, let alone convicted
On the news of Lord Brittan’s death, his one-time Cabinet colleague Lord Debden (formerly John Gummer) said he felt ‘very sad’.
‘A good and honourable servant of his country. A decent and lasting friend. He will be sorely missed. RIP,’ he said.
It did not take long, though, for a very different reaction to emerge.
First, the Labour MP Tom Watson replied to Lord Debden’s tweet with a single word: ‘Hmmm.’ Then another Twitter user publicly added a message declaring Brittan ‘a nasty little pederast’.
Over the next few hours, a torrent of vile abuse was directed, via Twitter, at Lord Brittan. Hundreds of messages, often from people who ‘follow’ Mr Watson on Twitter and at times so obscene as to be unprintable, were sent, accusing the former Tory Home Secretary of having committed a catalogue of appalling sex crimes.
Many expressed glee at his death and hoped that he ‘rots in hell’.
The vehemence of such remarks, often made anonymously, was entirely at odds with the fact that Brittan was never charged with any criminal offence, let alone convicted.
Yet we are living in the internet age, where mob mentality rules, and there is scant regard for traditions of politeness, let alone the old-fashioned notion that a man should be considered innocent until proven guilty.
So it was that Brittan was forced to live out his final years under a black cloud, the subject of seemingly never-ending rumours about his alleged involvement in a paedophile ring, which operated at the heart of the British establishment.
Recent months had, among other things, seen him investigated for supposedly ‘burying’ a dossier detailing VIP child abusers, questioned by police over an alleged rape and accused in Parliament of ‘improper conduct with children’.
Increasingly frail, having spent time in hospital over Christmas 2013, when he was treated for heart trouble and cancer, the old man retreated behind the net curtains of his five-storey home in London’s Pimlico, attended by his loyal wife, Diana, step-daughters Katherine and Victoria, and his 81-year-old brother, Samuel.
His final public statement was, perhaps fittingly, made via Mishcon de Reya, the former lawyers of Diana, Princess of Wales.
The Tory peer leaving his Pimlico home in London on the day he was accused of failing to deal properly with allegations of child abuse at Westminster
Issued last July after a woman claimed he’d raped her during a blind date in 1967, it read: ‘It is true that I have been questioned by the police about a serious allegation made against me. This allegation is wholly without foundation.’
The woman, a Labour Party member, was a 19-year-old student at the time she claims she was assaulted almost 50 years ago.
We can reveal that she first went to the police in late 2012. But after a lengthy investigation, detectives decided there was insufficient evidence even to question Brittan.
They were forced to reverse that decision last June, however, after Labour’s Tom Watson, who was in contact with the woman, complained about it in a letter to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Brittan was interviewed under caution, but not arrested. Details of the case were made public only after they were leaked to the Left-wing Independent on Sunday newspaper.
A file was subsequently passed to the Crown Prosecution Service. But there was insufficient evidence for any hope of securing a conviction and no charges were filed.
Nonetheless, the rumour mill —mostly, it seems, politically motivated — continued to churn.
Watson was often at its centre, as the man originally responsible for kick-starting the wider scandal in which Brittan became embroiled.
It had begun in October 2012, when the campaigning Labour MP made an extraordinary speech in the Commons asking David Cameron about claims of a ‘powerful paedophile network linked to Parliament and No 10’.
Three months later, Scotland Yard launched Operation Fernbridge, an investigation into a VIP paedophile ring said to have included a number of prominent figures, which had operated at the Elm Guest House, a gay brothel in Barnes, South-West London, in the Eighties.
As part of the inquiry, detectives raided a property in central London and took away a number of documents that purported to name a string of prominent visitors to the address, including two pop stars, a royal servant, an MI5 officer, Soviet traitor Anthony Blunt and Liberal MP Cyril Smith (posthumously exposed as a child abuser).
Only days before his promotion to the Cabinet in 1981 Lord Brittan married divorcee Diana Peterson, who had two daughters
Baron Brittan of Spennithorne, pictured with his wife Diana at their London home, died last night aged 75 after a long battle with cancer
But is it really credible that a senior minister, with 24-hour Special Branch protection, could slip his security cordon and carry out child sex abuse?
Yet, in cyberspace, dozens of websites sprang up alleging that Brittan was guilty of a string of sex crimes over several years.
Invariably, such claims were (and remain) unsupported by fact. The websites cannot, for example, find victims prepared to testify on the record or produce documentary evidence that has anything approaching a reliable provenance.
Occasionally, lurid reports have spilled over into the mainstream Press. In late 2013, for example, the Sunday Mirror claimed that an unnamed ‘former Tory Cabinet minister’ had been photographed and filmed at a ‘depraved orgy organised by a paedophile’.
The police had copies of the pictures and video, the article suggested, and would shortly be questioning the former minister.
Yet no such interview is believed to have taken place. No arrests were made, and no charges filed — which, on the face of it, would seem unlikely if such damning pictures exist.
Another wild allegation circulating online — and reported by the Daily Telegraph — is that while serving as a Cabinet minister, a Tory was once arrested by Customs officials for smuggling child pornography in his luggage.
You can look in vain for evidence to support this outlandish charge.
One thing we know for sure, meanwhile, is that in 1984 Brittan was, as Home Secretary, handed a ‘dossier’ alleging the existence of a paedophile ring at Westminster by the late Tory MP, Geoffrey Dickens.
The Tory MP poses by his desk before taking up his post as European Commissioner for Competition in 1989
The dossier later disappeared, prompting endless rumours that Brittan presided over its cover-up.
Though he initially denied ever having seen the documents, last year he made a formal statement to the effect that he had passed Dickens’s dossier to officials.
‘I do not recall being contacted further about these matters by Home Office officials, by Mr Dickens or by anyone else,’ he said.
The fate of that dossier is one of many issues due to be investigated by the Government’s inquiry into historic sex abuse, if it ever gets off the ground. Indeed, its existence led to the resignation in October of inquiry chair Fiona Woolf, after it emerged that she had a personal friendship with Brittan’s wife.
Lord Brittan after being made a peer in 2000
Largely lost in that controversy, however, was a pertinent fact: if Brittan had been part of the Westminster paedophile ring laid bare by the ‘dossier’, why would Dickens hand that dossier to him?
Dark rumours about Brittan were, it must be noted, circulating around Westminster from the earliest days of his career.
A single man when he entered Parliament in 1974, he had no known girlfriends before marrying aged 41.
In 1984, Brittan was at the centre of another poisonous rumour during which several newspapers reported that an unnamed frontbencher was a predatory paedophile.
The so-called ‘Cabinet Minister Scandal’ died down when the investigative journalist Paul Foot published an article in Private Eye that named Brittan and said untrue rumours had been circulating ‘around in Fleet Street’ about him for some time.
After lengthy investigations, several newspapers, including the News of the World, had concluded there was nothing in them.
Private Eye said the rumours were a smear circulated by MI5 officers who had targeted Brittan because they were upset by reports claiming he was planning a ‘big shake-up’ of their operations following the fatal shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan Embassy.
There was also prejudice against Brittan because of his Jewish faith. Private Eye concluded: ‘The MI5 spooks and loonies who object to having a Jewish Home Secretary . . . [have] retaliated by resurrecting the Brittan smear and spreading it around the Street of Shame.’
Thirty years on, such smears refuse to go away — and have been lent oxygen by the internet.
To add to Brittan’s pain in his final months, Labour MP Jim Hood used Commons privilege (which protects MPs from libel) last October to accuse him of ‘improper conduct with children’ during the miners’ strike. Mr Hood cited no evidence in support of such claims.
Throughout this barrage of allegations, one may wonder: why haven’t all the victims come forward to testify to Brittan’s guilt? The fact is they have largely been conspicuous by their absence.
Leon Brittan paid price for loyalty to Maggie, writes SIMON HEFFER
Despite the unsavoury snobbery that still existed when he rose to become a Tory minister in 1979, Leon Brittan, whose parents were Lithuanian Jews, exemplified the meritocratic nature of Thatcherism.
Brittan’s father had arrived in this country in 1927 without much money, to work as a doctor in North London. Leon won a scholarship to Haberdashers’ Aske’s School (his brother Sir Samuel, a distinguished economics commentator, attended Kilburn Grammar), and went on to the richest and grandest of all the Cambridge colleges, Trinity, to read law, before securing a postgraduate fellowship at Yale.
He immersed himself in politics, becoming president of the Cambridge Union and chairman of the University Conservative Association.
Then Trade and Industry Secretary, Lord Brittan arrives at Kings Cross Station following his resignation from the government due to the Westland Affair. 25th January 1986
Lord Brittan – then Home Secretary – pictured at the Conservative Party Conference in Brighton October 1984
His was a gilded generation of student politicians such as Norman Fowler, Ken Clarke, Michael Howard, John Gummer and Norman Lamont, who went on to be part of the government together. But as one of them put it to me, they all regarded Brittan as ‘very exceptionally able’.
Called to the Bar, he devoted his spare time to politics, becoming chairman of the Bow Group — a nursery for ambitious ex-Oxbridge politicians — and fought the unwinnable Labour seat of North Kensington at the 1966 and 1970 elections.
In 1974, after 15 rejections elsewhere, he found a safe seat and remained an MP until 1988.
His first government job was as a Home Office minister and he then joined the Cabinet as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, responsible for implementing the severe spending cuts that marked the first term of the Thatcher government.
He won great respect for the way in which he not only mastered a very complicated brief, but for the calm way in which he implemented some intensely controversial spending restraints.
It was probably the most distinguished passage in his political career, though a decade later he would be praised for the efficiency and competence with which he completed the European Single Market.
However, he was not universally liked, his occasionally shy manner coming across as arrogance or a sense of superiority, leading fellow Tory Alan Clark to describe him as ‘oily, loathsome’ and ‘without a political principle’.
He married late — at the age of 41 — shortly after entering government — to Diana Clemetson. The couple were happy for 35 years, and Brittan became a devoted stepfather to his wife’s daughters from a previous marriage.
After the 1983 election, still aged just 43, he became the youngest Home Secretary since Winston Churchill in 1910. His ultimate responsibility for the controversial policing of the miners’ strike was a severe test of his presentational skills that he did not entirely pass.
Also, at a time of IRA outrages, he also became unpopular with the Tory Right over his ambivalence on the death penalty.
The 1983 Cabinet including former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (centre) and Lord Brittan (fourth right)
He was moved after two years to Trade and Industry — mainly because Mrs Thatcher considered him a poor communicator, but also because she was dissatisfied by the progress Brittan had made in persuading the BBC not to give the ‘oxygen of publicity’ to IRA terrorists.
Within months he was embroiled in the ferocious Cabinet debate over Westland, a British helicopter company. Brittan was admirably loyal to Mrs Thatcher, and imagined he was doing her bidding when he authorised the leaking of a letter from the Solicitor-General that criticised his Cabinet colleague Michael Heseltine, the Defence Secretary.
Heseltine was trying to put together a European consortium to buy Westland, while Mrs Thatcher backed a rescue by Sikorsky, an American firm. Furious that no one would listen to him, Heseltine resigned and stormed out of a Cabinet meeting.
It was later disclosed that Brittan had done more to destabilise the European deal than just authorise the leak. He sought to persuade two British firms in the consortium, British Aerospace and GEC, to leave and, effectively, cripple it.
Home secretary Leon Brittan when he visited St. James’s Square in London to thank the police involved in the siege of the Libyan People’s Bureau for the work they are doing there
When Mrs Thatcher was forced to admit his part in the leak, Brittan resigned, having been cut adrift by Tory MPs outraged that he had put her in such a vulnerable position — but for a typically blundering performance by Neil Kinnock, the Labour leader, she might have been forced from office. She tried to persuade Brittan not to go, but he knew he had no other support.
It was a crushing blow for an ambitious man, still only 46 and with, as he saw it, more glittering prizes ahead of him.
In due course, Mrs Thatcher offered him a consolation prize — one of Britain’s two European Commissioners’ jobs.
I had a rare insight into his thinking over the appointment — having coincidentally arranged to have lunch with him on the day in 1988 he had been told.
He confided that he had serious doubts about taking the job, believing he had a future, instead, at Westminster as a Cabinet minister.
Also — and it is strange to recall this now considering how fervent a European he subsequently became — he expressed profound Euroscepticism, saying he found the way the European Commission did business unattractive and contrary to British interests.
It wasn’t long before he ‘went native’ — one of the most fervent imaginable apologists for the European Union, and a strong advocate of closer European integration.
Serving the Commission for ten years, he was responsible for advancing the career of Nick Clegg, who, in 1994, became one of his advisers.
As his last years were clouded by sordid allegations, his loyal circle of friends — many of them from Cambridge days — regarded him with admiration and affection.
They believed the lurid claims were simply a smear, and that this elder statesman deserved better.
Whatever the truth, one thing is beyond doubt. But for one foolish misjudgment over the Westland leak, Leon Brittan’s career might have been radically different, and he would have died a far more considerable figure in our politics than he was fated to be.
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Now will we ever find truth on abuse dossier? As tributes pour in for Leon Brittan after his death at 75, a troubling question have 3711 words, post on www.dailymail.co.uk at January 22, 2015. This is cached page on Talk Vietnam. If you want remove this page, please contact us.