The former Conservative cabinet minister Lord Tebbit has said he believes there “may well” have been a political cover-up over child abuse in the 1980s.
Lord 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 the 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 (now Lord) Brittan by the Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens.
The previous review concluded that all the relevant information in the file had been passed to the police and the remaining material had been destroyed in line with the policies of the time.
The Home Office has also disclosed that 100 official files relating to historic abuse allegations have gone missing.
Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP for Rochdale at the forefront of the campaign to investigate the alleged paedophile ring in Westminster told Channel 4 News there was an attempt to lean on him by a Conservative MP not to name any names just before giving evidence to the Home Affairs committee last week.
He said: “He stopped me outside the chamber and had a word in my ear in terms of what I would and wouldn’t say at the select committee.
“I was quite riled by his approach, I said I’d listen to what he’d say, i’d consider what he’d said and leave it at that.”
Mark Sedwill, permanent secretary to the Home Office, said the files relating to a 20-year period between 1979 and 1999 were “presumed destroyed, missing or not found”.
Appearing on BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show, Lord 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.
Appearing on the Sky News Murnaghan programme, she added: “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.”