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IICSA published its final Report in October 2022. This website was last updated in January 2023.

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Allegations of child sexual abuse linked to Westminster Investigation Report


F.3: The keeping of notes and ‘dirt books’

12. That personal information passed through the whips’ offices is evident from the Conservative Party whips’ notes which we received in evidence. The keeping of whips’ notes or ‘dirt books’ by the whips is another part of the mystery surrounding the whips’ offices. It is clear on the evidence before us that whips’ notes were kept by the Conservative Party, often in carbon-copy books where the top page would be detached and read nightly by the chief whip. The notes or books could be consulted by other whips, but were regarded as the personal property of the chief whip,[1] as demonstrated by Lord Jopling still retaining notes from his time as chief whip from 1979 to 1983. Lord Jopling explained to us that “they were my property. They were notes written by the Whips to me”.[2] It appears that in or around 1996 the Conservative Party’s practice of retaining notes in carbon-copy form ceased,[3] although notes continued to be made. Lord Arbuthnot told us that during his time as Opposition chief whip from 1997 to 2001, notes were kept for two weeks only. We also heard evidence that the practice had ceased long before this in the Labour Party (in around 1964,[4] although Nick Brown MP felt he had to reiterate this on becoming chief whip in 1997[5]). Lord Beith provided a witness statement to the Inquiry in which he said that confidential information was not usually kept in written form in the Liberal Party whips’ office and that no “black book” was kept during his time.[6]

13. Kenneth Clarke MP explained to us that, as a whip, in the “dirt book” or “black book” “you reported things which you thought might have been of interest to the Chief Whip in particular and your colleagues”.[7] Lord Jopling said that he gave his whips “a free rein to put in the book whatever they thought was relevant”.[8] We were told that the bulk of whips’ notes concerned matters of Parliamentary business, legislation and policy.[9] Notes were sometimes shared with the Private Secretary to the government chief whip.[10]

14. We examined a number of whips’ notes retained by Lord Jopling from the period 1979 to 1983, when he was government chief whip. These examples showed not only that the whips recorded information about MPs’ personal lives, but also information about members of other political parties[11] and about candidates who were not yet MPs.[12] The notes also mentioned scandals likely to break in the news[13] or in Private Eye.[14] In respect of one note about details of an affair involving a Scottish Conservative MP,[15] Lord Jopling explained:

The purpose of this note was so that the Chief Whip was aware of situations, private situations, with regard to the members.[16]

15. Among others, we saw notes about the state of an MP’s marriage,[17] a forthcoming Private Eye issue containing “a little snippet in it, suggesting that there is a ‘Sex Scandal in a Sauna Bath’, which involves a Cabinet Minister”,[18] a Conservative MP being seen “in the lower office with his secretary and two others. All rather pretty young men[19] and the Monday Club[20] (the Monday Club was a group of MPs on the right wing of the Conservative Party[21]).

16. The most significant example, for our purposes, was the following whip’s note:

“March 23rd

Telephone call from Michael Havers to tell Chief Whip that it would be likely to break within 48 hours that [WM-F23] present woman a Call Girl also a letter of homosexual nature in existence from [WM-F23] to a boy.”[22]

17. Lord Jopling told us:

I think that is the most serious note which I received from the Whips during my period as Chief Whip. I think I put in my original submission to the inquiry that it is the only event I can recall during my period which alleged there might be a case of child abuse.[23]

Lord Jopling was asked if he could remember now receiving the note. He told us:

I remember at the time very much. And I can remember that there was – shock and horror went through the entire office at that time, having read that.[24]

Asked why there was shock and horror, he said “Well, because we were into the business of paedophilia”.[25]

18. Lord Jopling said that at the time he spoke to Sir Michael Havers, the Attorney General, and that, given the Attorney General was aware, Lord Jopling understood that the matter was being properly handled by the investigating authorities.[26] This was the only occasion which Lord Jopling could remember when information came into the whips’ office about sexual abuse or possible sexual abuse of children.[27]

19. This note demonstrates that if those in authority were aware of allegations of child sexual abuse, it is possible that this information would have found its way to the whips’ offices and into the whips’ notes, as it did on this occasion. We heard evidence that numerous whips’ notes would have been produced on a daily basis, and that most whips’ notes were about policy matters and legislation. Due to the passage of time and patchy retention of notes, few were available for examination by this Inquiry. In the circumstances, it is not possible for us to conclude one way or the other whether allegations of child sexual abuse or exploitation featured in other whips’ notes. We can say that it was the clear evidence of Lord Jopling that this was the only instance of this nature during his period as chief whip, and that we did not receive evidence from other whips of other notes recording any such allegations.

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