Tory MP warned of powerful paedophile ring 30 years ago

New evidence supports claim former backbencher’s life was threatened

A burly veteran of scores of amateur boxing bouts, the Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens was best known during his bustling 16-year career in Parliament as a pugnacious right-winger who supplied “hang ‘em and flog ‘em” quotes to the tabloids.

Eighteen years after his death, however, the backbencher’s reputation as a political lightweight is being revised in the wake of a Scotland Yard investigation which is exhuming a scandal long buried in the Westminster of Margaret Thatcher’s premiership.

New evidence suggests that Dickens stumbled upon an Establishment paedophile ring in the early 1980s – and that his efforts to expose a cover-up left him in fear of his life. Dickens told fellow MPs that after warning of the existence of the network, he had received threatening phone calls and been burgled twice. He also claimed he had been placed on a “hit-list”, he told the House of Commons in a little-noticed speech.

For four years between 1981 and 1985, Dickens railed in Parliament against a paedophile ring which he claimed was connected to a trade in child pornography, then controlled by gangsters.

In 1981 Dickens had used Parliamentary privilege to name a diplomat and MI6 operative, Sir Peter Hayman as a pederast and demanded the Attorney General explain why he had escaped prosecution over the discovery of violent pornography on a London bus two years previously.

Two years later, in 1983, he warned a paedophile network involved “big, big names – people in positions of power, influence and responsibility” and threatened to expose them in Parliament.

In 1984, he campaigned for the outlawing of Sir Peter’s Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) organisation. He also handed a dossier containing allegations of abuse of children in local authority care to the then Home Secretary, Leon Brittan.

After a 30-minute meeting with Sir Leon, Dickens said he had been “encouraged” but later expressed concern that the Cabinet Minister had not banned the PIE.

Last month Metropolitan Police began Operation Fernbridge into allegations that residents of a childrens home in Richmond, west London, were taken to the nearby Elm Guest House in Barnes, where they were abused.  Pornography involving adults having sex with children was allegedly shot at the property and then circulated commercially.

Sir Peter was among the visitors to the property. Others, according to a list seized by Scotland Yard last month, were the late Liberal MP Cyril Smith, the former Russian spy Sir Anthony Blunt, a Sinn Fein politician, a Labour MP, and several Conservative politicians.

After neighbours complained about the arrival of children, the police raided the guesthouse in 1982 but the operation was mysteriously cut short. A 2003 investigation also failed.

During a debate on child abuse in the House of Commons on 29 November 1985, Dickens warned that paedophiles were “evil and dangerous,” adding child pornography generated “vast sums.”

He went on: “The noose around my neck grew tighter after I named a former high-flying British diplomat on the Floor of the House.

“Honourable Members will understand that where big money is involved and as important names came into my possession so the threats began.

“First, I received threatening telephone calls followed by two burglaries at my London home. Then, more seriously, my name appeared on a multi-killer’s hit list.”

The Independent can find no corroboration for Dickens’ comments.

However twenty-eight years after he made them, Scotland Yard officers kept their new investigation secret for weeks, fearful that it would be closed down like earlier inquiries.

In a blog on his website, the Labour MP Tom Watson – whose claims of  a powerful paedophile network prompted the new inquiry – said that he had been advised by childcare  experts who have tried to expose the scandal to be careful about his personal security. He has asked the Home Office for the dossier presented by Dickens to Sir Leon, but it has not yet been found.

Dickens does not appear to have raised the issue in the Commons again prior to his death in 1995. He told friends he was surprised he had never been made a minister.

The MP: a man of verve

Geoffrey Dickens was one of the most colourful characters in the Commons during the 1980s and 1990s. Born in London in 1931, he was raised in foster care until he was eight.

He suffered polio at the age of 13 but recovered to become a heavyweight boxer. Mr Dickens was elected MP for Huddersfield West in 1979 and for Littleborough and Saddleworth in 1983, which he represented until his death in 1995.

His obituary in The Independent concluded that whatever might be said of him, Dickens was “a man of colour, verve and dedication who stood out – often for the wrong reasons – among the dull Parliamentarians of our time.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back