The political establishment spent decades “turning a blind eye” to allegations of child sex abuse to protect senior politicians, according to a scathing new report.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) found that those working in political institutions had “significantly failed in their responses to allegations” against MPs, peers and civil servants in Westminster.
The long-awaited investigation said that whips had sought to avoid “gossip and scandal” that could have damaged their parties.
One example it used was that of former Liberal party leader Lord David Steel, who last year told the IICSA how he failed to pass on accusations against prominent colleague Sir Cyril Smith.
He said even though he believed the claims to be true, he did not disclose because it was “past history” – he later recommended Smith for a knighthood.
Professor Alexis Jay, who chaired the inquiry, said: “It is clear to see that Westminster institutions have repeatedly failed to deal with allegations of child sexual abuse, from turning a blind eye to actively shielding abusers.
“A consistent pattern emerged of failures to put the welfare of children above political status.”
The report identified how former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and ex-Conservative party chairman Norman (now Lord) Tebbit were aware of rumours about MP Peter Morrison having “a penchant for small boys” but did nothing about it.
The report said the allegations “should have rung alarm bells in government” but were instead, it said, were “deliberately overlooked”.
However, the review found no evidence of a Westminster “paedophile ring” following allegations by fantasist Carl Beech.
It also said there was no proof such a network was covered up by security services or police.
The “malicious and devious” 51-year-old was last year jailed for 18 years for perverting the course of justice and fraud after falsely claiming to have been abused in the 1970s and 1980s.
talkRADIO: Listen live