Sex abuse allegations: Tom Watson refuses to apologise for Leon Brittan comments

Deputy Labour leader said the 'belittled and ridiculed' survivors of sexual abuse were the 'real scandal' and said all MPs needed to 'examine our consciences' on the matter of historical sex abuse

Tom Watson repeated a comment from an alleged sex abuse survivor that the late peer was 'close to evil'
Tom Watson repeated a comment from an alleged sex abuse survivor that the late peer was 'close to evil'

Tom Watson has refused to apologise for comments he made about sex abuse allegations against Lord Brittan, the former Conservative Home Secretary.

The deputy Labour leader has come under increasing pressure since Scotland Yard wrote to Lord Brittan's widow last week apologising for failing to tell the family before his death in January that he had been cleared of allegations that he raped a 19-year-old woman in 1967.

Last week Mr Watson accepted he should not have repeated a comment from an alleged sex abuse survivor that the late peer was "close to evil" but on Monday David Cameron said he must go further and "examine his conscience about whether he's said enough so far" and said he had "a lot of questions to answer".

But in the House of Commons today a defiant Mr Watson said the "belittled and ridiculed" survivors of sexual abuse were the "real scandal" and said all MPs needed to "examine our consciences" on the matter of historical sex abuse.

Responding to a Point of Order from Tory grandee Sir Nicholas Soames, who demanded an apology in the House of Commons, Mr Watson told MPs: "I understand MPs feel aggrieved Leon Brittan was interviewed by the police and they are angry with my use of language but I am sure they would also agree that when someone is accused of multiple sexual crimes by numerous completely unrelated sources the police have a duty to investigate, no matter who it is."

He added: “I think we all need to examine our consciences in this House. We have presided over a state of affairs where children have been abused and then ignored, dismissed and then disdained.

"If anyone deserves an apology, it’s them.” His statement was met with cries of "shame" from Conservative MPs.

Asked earlier whether Mr Watson should apologise, the Prime Minister said: "It's clear I think that he's got a lot of questions to answer and the House of Commons Select Committees are quite rightly going to ask him some questions so I'm sure he should answer those questions and examine his conscience about whether he's said enough so far."

In a blog post for the Huffington Post on Friday Mr Watson came close to apologising, saying he was sorry for the "distress Leon Brittan's family experienced as they grieved for him" as a result of the claims.

He wrote: "As the tributes flowed in from his lifelong friends I felt for those people who claimed he abused them.

“When the death of Leon Brittan was announced, I worried that the justice system would no longer take its course and that the allegations would never be thoroughly investigated.

"As the tributes flowed in from his lifelong friends I felt for those people who claimed he abused them. I repeated a line used by one of the alleged survivors, who said: ‘He is as close to evil as any human being could get’. I shouldn’t have repeated such an emotive phrase.”

Mr Watson could face a grilling by the Home Affairs Committee over his efforts to re-examine unproven claims that the Conservative peer Leon Brittan raped a woman.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in