PIE controversy: Hewitt 'Backed age of consent as low as 10'

Report claims former Health Secretary's name appeared on a press release calling for reduction of age of consent and legalisation of incest

Deputy Political Editor

The former Labour Cabinet minister Patricia Hewitt allegedly backed calls for the age of consent to be reduced to as low as 10.

The allegation came after the controversy over the links between the National Council of Civil Liberties (NCCL) and the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) was reignited by a report in The Sun.

It claimed that a meeting in February 1976 of the NCCL’s executive committee, which was attended by Ms Hewitt and Jack Dromey, the shadow police minister, agreed that the council should propose lowering the minimum age for sex to 14, or 10 in certain circumstances.

It also emerged that an NCCL press release was issued a month later which called for a reduction in the age of consent and the legalisation of incest. Ms Hewitt was general secretary of the organisation from 1974 to 1983.

According to The Sun, the press release from March 1976 read: “NCCL proposes that the age of consent should be lowered to 14, with special provision for situations where the partners are close in age or where the consent of a child over ten can be proved.”

The document, which relates to an NCCL report on sexual law reformed, also says: "The report argues that the crime of incest should be abolished.

Last night Ms Hewitt did not deny the broke her silence to apologise for the NCCL’s connection to the paedophile rights group and said that, as general secretary at the time, she took responsibility for mistakes that were made.

Her comments put pressure on Harriet Harman, the deputy Labour leader, who became the NCCL legal officer in 1978. Ms Harman has expressed regrets over the ties to the “vile” PIE, but said she had nothing to apologise for.

Jack Dromey said he was a 'resolute opponent' of PIE In a statement today Mr Dromey, who is Ms Harman’s husband, said he did not support the proposal on the age of consent at the committee meeting and was a “resolute opponent" of the PIE when he became chairman a few weeks later.

He said: “I did not agree with the proposal in February 1976 to lower the age of consent.

“When elected chairman of NCCL weeks later, I made it clear that my first priority would be to take on the child sex abusers of PIE. I then defeated them by a massive majority at the annual conference in April.

“My stand was denounced in a leaflet distributed by PIE to the delegates to the conference. I closed the conference saying that we had to protect children from sexual abuse and that adults guilty of sexual abuse were the lowest of the low. I was throughout a resolute opponent of a vile organisation.”

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