Daniel Martin — Daily Mail Oct 28, 2014
A Labour MP has used parliamentary privilege to accuse former Home Secretary Leon Brittan of ‘improper conduct with children’.
He used a Commons debate on the 1984-85 miners’ strike to suggest that those who took part in the industrial action will not be surprised by the allegations against Lord Brittan.
The remarks from Jim Hood, who said there were ‘reports about child abuse being linked with’ the Conservative politician, were criticised as ‘disgusting’ by business minister Matthew Hancock.
Under parliamentary privilege, MPs can make contentious allegations without fear of prosecution for slander or contempt of court. But critics said Mr Hood’s comments were an abuse of this privilege.
The row comes amid calls for the head of the official inquiry into historic child sex abuse to resign over links to Lord Brittan, now 75. Fiona Woolf has admitted attending dinner parties with the politician, who was in charge of the Home Office in the 1980s.
It has been claimed that Lord Brittan was handed a file, which is now missing, in late 1983 which allegedly detailed child abuse at the highest levels of Westminster.
But he has not until now been publicly accused of having played a part in such abuse.
The controversial remarks were made during a debate in which MPs accepted a motion which said Margaret Thatcher’s government ‘misled the public’ about pit closure plans during the 1984 miners’ strike.
Mr Hood, the MP for Lanark and Hamilton East, who had been discussing violence on picket lines, said: ‘By the way, the current exposé of Sir Leon Brittan, the then home secretary, with accusations of improper conduct with children will not come as a surprise to striking miners of 1984.’
Tory MP Conor Burns raised an immediate point of order and said: ‘He has just made very profound, serious accusations against a noble Lord. Is that in order?’
Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said he had not heard the remark but replied: ‘It’s up to each member to decide what they said and they must make that decision.
Mr Hood continued: ‘The rumours that Sir Leon Brittan was involved with misconduct with children does not come as news to miners who were striking in 1984.
‘When miners were going up into the dock in magistrates’ courts we were aware and miners were declaring … the point is miners were saying in the dock in magistrates’ courts throughout the strike that they objected to instructions coming from the home secretary when there were reports about child abuse being linked with that same home secretary.’
Mr Hoyle intervened again and said: ‘I think it is up to each MP, we have to be very careful on what we said, and we must consider what we are saying and what the implications are.’
Mr Hood said: ‘I accept, obviously, what you say but I’m just repeating what I’m reading in the papers.’
Mr Hancock then intervened before the next MP spoke, saying: ‘At the end of this debate the Labour front bench should disassociate themselves from the disgusting remarks of the previous speaker.’
Speaking after the debate, Mr Burns said: ‘I was astounded that Jim Hood casually, without thought or deliberation, appeared to accuse Lord Brittan of being a paedophile in a debate about the future and the past of the mining industry in Britain.’
Last night Lord Tebbit, who was a Cabinet colleague of Lord Brittan, said: ‘I think it would be better if somebody wants to make these allegations of Lord Brittan, that they should do it outside the Chamber, where they can be tested – if necessary in a court of law.
‘Parliamentary privilege is a useful thing, but it needs to be used with care and in an open manner. If this gentleman has some evidence which causes him to believe this, why not make these comments outside?’
He added: ‘I’m not a particular friend of Leon Brittan, but this gentleman could equally well get up and accuse me of things like this – and I wouldn’t care for that. In fact I’d probably go round and smack him on the nose.’