Lord Brittan confirms police questioning over ‘serious allegation’
After reports that woman accused him of raping her in 1967, former home secretary says claim is ‘wholly without foundation’.
Lord Brittan, the former home secretary, has confirmed he was questioned by police last month over a “serious allegation”, after reports that a woman accused him of raping her in 1967.
The Conservative peer said the allegation was “wholly without foundation” after the Metropolitan police said a man in his 70s was interviewed under caution but was not arrested.
Brittan is at the centre of a furore about the way the Home Office handled a dossier containing allegations of child sexual abuse by senior politicians in the 1980s, when he was in charge of the department. The then home secretary received the files in 1983 from the late Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens and wrote him a letter saying it had been passed to the relevant authorities. The dossier was subsequently lost by the Home Office.
Theresa May, the home secretary, is poised to launch a QC-led review to find out what has happened to the missing files, and a second, wider review into possible institutional failings. The first inquiry will examine whether a previous review of the evidence last summer – which resulted in information being passed to the police – was sufficiently thorough.
On Monday, Brittan said he welcomed the fact that there was to be an independent review to look at the missing files belonging to the Home Office and rejected the suggestion he did not do enough to follow up the claims at the time.
“It has been alleged that when I was home secretary I failed to deal adequately with the bundle of papers containing allegations of serious sexual impropriety that I received from the late Geoff Dickens MP,” he said. “This too is completely without foundation – as evidence from the Home Office’s own report supports. As I made clear in the statement that I issued on 2 July, I passed this bundle of papers to the relevant Home Office officials for examination, as was the normal and correct practice. I wrote to Mr Dickens on 20 March 1984 informing him of the conclusions of the director of public prosecutions about these matters (as set out in the interim report of the independent review set up by the Home Office).
“In this same report, Mr Dickens thanked the Home Office for the way in which the information he provided was handled and said in a speech to the House of Commons on 31 March 1987: ‘I should like to place on record my thanks to the Home Office and the departments within the Home Office for following up the cases that I keep sending to it. I should also like to thank the attorney general. They have been very helpful and a strength to me in my campaigns.'”
On Sunday it emerged that the dossier containing the allegations was one of more than 100 potentially relevant Home Office files that were destroyed, lost or missing.
The government is under pressure to carry out an overarching inquiry into historical cases of child sexual abuse, after scandals involving the late entertainer Jimmy Savile and the late MP Cyril Smith, as well as persistent claims about paedophile politicians.
Simon Danczuk, the MP for Rochdale who wrote a book about Smith and is calling for an national inquiry into historical child abuse, told the Observer: “I had absolutely no idea that these other files were also missing. The public view will be that there is something fishy going on. The public will understandably think that these documents have gone missing because it helps to protect the names of those identified in them. That is the conclusion that many will come to, and who could blame them?”
Tom Watson, the Labour MP who was central to the uncovering of the phone-hacking scandal, said it was increasingly clear than only a Hillsborough-style inquiry would reassure the public. “Only an overarching inquiry will get to the facts, everything else the government says or does on this is a diversion.”