Harriet Harman expresses 'regret' over links to paedophile campaign group

The Labour deputy leader said the National Council for Civil Liberties' decision to grant 'affiliate' status to paedophile lobbyists was 'immaterial' to her work

Harriet Harman has expressed “regret” that a civil rights organisation she used to work for had links with a prominent pro-paedophile campaign group in the 1970s.

The Labour deputy leader has vigorously defended her actions as the legal officer of the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL), which granted “affiliate” status to the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) in 1975, before Ms Harman had joined.

Ms Harman has accused the Daily Mail of running a “politically-motivated smear campaign” after it ran a series of stories, which called for Ms Harman, her MP husband Jack Dromey and former Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt to explain their connections to the PIE while holding key roles in the NCCL.

Breaking her silence on Monday, Ms Harman told BBC Two’s Newsnight programme that she stood by her actions "all the way through" her time at the NCCL when PIE was "challenged" and "pushed aside".

She repeatedly sidestepped questions over whether it had been a mistake to allow PIE to be affiliated to the NCCL, saying that anybody could join "simply by paying a fee".

In a fresh statement on Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Ms Harman said: "She regrets the existence of PIE and she regrets their involvement with NCCL before she joined, although it was immaterial to her work.

"She stands by the statement from yesterday and she is certainly not going to apologise to the Daily Mail."

In her Newsnight interview, Ms Harman repeatedly declined to accept that it had been a mistake for any link to have been allowed between the NCCL and PIE.

"On the basis that it has created, somehow, a sense that NCCL's work was therefore tainted by them, yes, obviously that is a very unfortunate inference to happen," she said.

"It is not the case that my work when I was at NCCL was influenced by PIE, was apologising for paedophilia, or colluding with paedophilia - that is an unfair inference and it's a smear."

Asked why she would not say it had been wrong, she told the programme: "Because they were challenged and they were pushed aside from their views having any influence on NCCL."

The senior Labour politician said the Daily Mail was “aggressively trying to completely reshape the facts of a situation 30 years ago".

"It is ironic that they are accusing me of supporting indecency in relation to children when they themselves are not above producing photographs of very young girls, titivating photographs, in bikinis,” she said.

"I stand by what I was doing at NCCL and I stand by what I have done all the way through."

She added: "I think if there is anybody who has over the years supported indecency it is much more the Daily Mail than it is me and that's the frank truth of it."

The newspaper has accused Ms Harman and Mr Dromey of issuing statements "full of pedantry and obfuscation", which failed to answer central allegations and denied others it had not made.

"For 10 weeks now the Mail has repeatedly asked three leading Labour figures to answer questions about the involvement of the NCCL, a body in which they played leading roles, with a vile paedophile group whose actions are currently being investigated by the police," a spokesman said in a statement issued before Tuesday's expression of "regret".

"More pertinently they have failed to utter a word of contrition or sorrow about the NCCL's closeness to the notorious Paedophile Information Exchange, an organisation that validated the activities of a monster like Jimmy Savile. Nor do they utter a word of apology to the victims of PIE."

Patricia Hewett has yet to comment on the story.

Additional reporting by Press Association

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory