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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Allegations of child sexual abuse linked to Westminster Investigation Report

Contents

F.4: Allegations of child sexual abuse

20. Witnesses denied hearing allegations of MPs committing child sexual abuse through the whips’ offices and denied that there was any cover-up by the whips of criminal offences. There was no recognition of the approach described by Tim Fortescue or of the “cover-up” described by Lord Tebbit.

21. Kenneth Clarke MP said that during his time in the whips’ office he “can’t remember any gossip or anything about, as it happens, small boys”.[1] Lord Jopling said that he had “no recollection from the period of the Pym Whips’ Office of any sort of scandal suggestion with regard to the abuse of children” (Francis Pym MP was government chief whip from 1970 to 1973) or in his own.[2] He also had no knowledge of Lord Tebbit’s suggestion of a big political cover-up.[3] We note in passing that both Kenneth Clarke MP and Lord Jopling served in the whips’ office at the same time as Tim Fortescue, whose comments about whips helping MPs regarding “a scandal involving small boys” triggered much of the concern about the whips at Westminster. Gyles Brandreth never heard any allegations concerning child sexual abuse relating to any MP of any party serving in the 1992 to 1997 Parliament.[4] Lord Arbuthnot acknowledged that there may have been a degree of deference in the whips’ office, but not to criminal behaviour of a serious nature,[5] and he could not remember any criminal allegations that were made when he was chief whip or junior whip.[6] Sir Murdo Maclean, Private Secretary to the government chief whip from 1978 to 2000, never heard of any suggestion or saw evidence of child sexual abuse by MPs[7] and did not recognise the description by Tim Fortescue.[8] In written witness statements, Lord Ryder,[9] Baroness Taylor,[10] Lord Wakeham,[11] Lord Beith,[12] Lord Foster,[13] Lord Young[14] and Lord Goodlad[15] similarly denied knowledge of allegations of child sexual abuse and denied recognition of what Tim Fortescue and Lord Tebbit had described.

22. Based on the evidence we have seen, we cannot conclude that the whips and whips’ offices concealed or suppressed allegations of child sexual abuse by persons of public prominence, or used it as a form of leverage. There were certain features of the whips’ offices which may have assisted with an attempt to cover up such allegations, for example the collation of any and all possibly relevant information about parliamentarians, which was then shared within party bounds but otherwise kept confidential. Beyond that, we do not have evidence that allegations of child sexual abuse were either known about or concealed by the whips’ offices.

23. The whips’ offices remain a key part of the Westminster system and a repository of information about parliamentarians. As a result, people may report allegations of child sexual abuse and other criminal conduct to them, as they may do to other MPs. It is crucial that party whips understand the appropriate safeguarding and child protection procedures so that any information which comes to their attention in the future can be dealt with appropriately and not kept within party walls or used simply to ‘head off’ trouble.[16] We heard evidence from Nick Brown MP, chief whip of the Labour Party, about how he would approach allegations of child sexual abuse. We deal with this and the issue of safeguarding by political parties in Part J.

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