The Education Secretary has insisted that there should not be a public inquiry into a possible cover-up of paedophile politicians in Westminster, after it emerged that more than 100 Home Office files related to historic allegations of child abuse have gone “missing”.
Lord Tebbit, who served in the Cabinet under Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, said today that there “may well have been” a political cover-up in order to “protect the establishment” of the time.
The files, which related to a 20-year period between 1979 and 1999, were flagged up as part of an internal Home Office review into a dossier, prepared by Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens, alleging paedophile activity at Westminster in the 10980s.
Mark Sedwill, the permanent secretary at the Home Office, revealed the documents were “presumed destroyed, missing or not found”, as he said that a fresh internal review under a “senior legal figure outside the Home Office” would be launched.
But when asked if the “toxic idea that politicians have been hiding this for a long time” meant a public inquiry was needed, Michael Gove told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that he disagreed.
He said that specific concerns should be brought to the police, and that “the due process of law” must be allowed to pursue those who “may or may not be guilty of crimes”.
Mr Gove said: “I think it is important both that we analyse what has happened in the past when a different culture prevailed, but also it is really important that we ensure that those who are keeping children safe now - teachers and social workers - are supported.”
Speaking on the same programme, Lord Tebbit said that there was a view at the time, since “spectacularly shown to be wrong”, that “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 them”.
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.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that he did not rule out a wider inquiry but he made clear that the ongoing police investigations would have to take precedence.
“I assume any additional inquiries wouldn't be able to second guess or even look into the matters which the police are looking into already,” he told the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme.
Alison Millar from law firm Leigh Day which representing some of the victims of alleged child abuse, said it was now “an absolute necessity” that there was an independent inquiry into alleged abuse within Westminster.
She said: “This cannot be another internal review held by those who may well be at fault, it will only fuel a growing suspicion amongst the electorate that there is a conspiracy over the abuse of children by those with great power.”
“To be relevant, and effective, any independent inquiry needs to create a safe environment for survivors of abuse to come forward so their voices can be heard. At the moment the allegations are so serious. and go so far up in the Government, to make many survivors fear for their safety.”