Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman expresses 'regret' over links to paedophile lobby – but STILL won't apologise
By Michael Seamar, Guy Adams & Martin Robinson
25 February 2014
Harriet Harman belatedly expressed ‘regret' yesterday that a vile paedophile group was allowed to forge links with the National Council for Civil Liberties.
But she still refused to apologise over the NCCL's extraordinary relationship with the notorious Paedophile Information Exchange.
Labour's deputy leader has repeatedly resisted calls to comment on the Mail's revelations that she, her MP husband Jack Dromey and former Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt held key roles in the pressure group that granted ‘affiliate' status to PIE, a group of predatory paedophiles who openly campaigned to legalise child sex.
No apology: Harriet Harman expressed 'regret' in TV interviews yesterday that the Paedophile Information Exchange was allowed to forge links with the National Council for Civil Liberties, where she had a key role
Scandal: After six days of questions over her links to a paedophile group, Labour's Harriet Harman has finally expressed regret but not a full apology
On Monday evening, Miss Harman dismissed the revelations as a ‘politically-motivated smear campaign'. But hours after a disastrous BBC Newsnight appearance she abruptly changed tack.
Faced with questions over why she found it so difficult in the interview to condemn the link with PIE – who wanted the age of consent to be four – Miss Harman issued a statement yesterday through her spokesman, who said: ‘She regrets the existence of PIE and she regrets their involvement with NCCL before she joined, although it was immaterial to her work.'
In another TV interview yesterday, Miss Harman insisted: ‘I'm not going to apologise because I've got nothing to apologise for. I very much regret that this vile organisation, PIE, ever existed and that it ever had anything to do with NCCL, but it did not affect my work at NCCL.
‘They had been pushed to the margins before I actually went to NCCL and to allege that I was involved in collusion with paedophilia or apologising for paedophilia is quite wrong and is a smear.'
Pressed on whether it was a terrible misjudgment to work for NCCL when PIE was affiliated, she said: ‘It was regrettable that they [PIE] even existed. It was regrettable that they had anything to do with NCCL ever.'
Silence: Until now Miss Harman has said only that the Mail's story is 'untrue and ridiculous' but refused to answer any questions,
as did her husband Jack Dromey (pictured) and Labour colleague Patricia Hewitt
But despite her claims that PIE had been effectively banished by the time she became NCCL legal officer in 1978, a book published that year makes the link clear.
The NCCL Guide To Your Rights was co-edited by Miss Hewitt, and Jack Dromey was an acknowledged contributor. After a chapter titled ‘Sex', covering laws on rape, incest and ‘age restrictions' for men and women, PIE is listed as one of 18 organisations which ‘may be helpful' to readers.
Its name and address is printed in full and listed alongside groups such as the Family Planning Association and Rape Crisis Centre.
Former health secretary Patricia Hewitt was general secretary of the NCCL from 1974-83
Miss Harman's statement on Monday claimed any group could be an affiliate of the NCCL simply by paying a fee, but its constitution from April 1982 states they had to be ‘approved by the Committee'.
The NCCL's power to terminate the membership of affiliated groups, if deemed ‘not conducive to the best interests of the Council', was laid out in the organisation's rules – and yet PIE was not expelled.
Her lack of a full apology came despite the fact that Shami Chakrabarti, current director of Liberty, has previously issued an apology for the links with PIE. Liberty's formal name still remains the National Council for Civil Liberties.
In a statement Miss Harman said the Daily Mail had 'accused me of being an apologist for child sex abuse, of supporting a vile paedophile organisation, of having a relaxed attitude to paedophilia and of watering down child pornography laws.
‘These are horrific allegations and I strongly deny all of them.'
Despite her partial climbdown her spokesman added: 'She stands by the statement from [Monday] and she is certainly not going to apologise to the Daily Mail.'
The Mail discovered that during the 1970s and 80s, the NCCL described PIE – granted formal ‘affiliate' status from 1975 to the mid-Eighties – in glowing terms as ‘a campaigning/counselling group for adults attracted to children'.
The NCCL – now the respected Liberty – filed a submission to Parliament claiming that ‘childhood sexual experiences, willingly engaged in, with an adult, result in no identifiable damage'.
NCCL lawyers also acted for PIE members who were questioned by police over their disgusting behaviour.
Miss Hewitt was general secretary of the NCCL from 1974-83. Miss Harman was a newly qualified solicitor when she became its legal officer in 1978 until 1982, when she entered Parliament. Mr Dromey sat on the NCCL executive committee from 1970 to 1979.
Police are investigating PIE as part of Operation Fernbridge, launched after the Jimmy Savile affair, with one source saying there is evidence that PIE members were abusing children ‘on an industrial scale'.
The Home Office is also carrying out a ‘thorough, independent investigation' into shocking claims that the Labour government of the 1970s may have helped finance the notorious group.
Ever since December, when The Mail first investigated the NCCL's links to the paedophile lobby, we have been sending detailed questions to Miss Harman, Miss Hewitt and Mr Dromey about their links to PIE and whether they now regret supporting such a group.
Miss Harman denied allegations that she supported lowering the age of consent to ten or opposed the law on incest – despite the Mail investigation never having made such a claim. Instead this newspaper stated that the NCCL, which she joined in 1978, had controversially lobbied on these issues two years earlier.
1978 briefing: The NCCL legal officer Harriet Harman wrote this briefing paper on the Protection of Children Bill,
which sought to ban child pornography. She argued that it would lead to an 'increase in censorship'
Argument: The second page contains a paragraph saying that a picture should not be considered indecent if the model was not harmed
Recommendations: Miss Harman's briefing went on that the NCCL would argue that the Bill to protect children should be amended
Signed: The Labour Deputy Leader's name is carried at the bottom of a briefing that argued that
a pornographic picture of a naked child should not be considered indecent unless it could be proven that the subject had suffered
Miss Harman also denied having opposed the law on incest – again, an allegation the Mail did not make. This was, nevertheless, the NCCL's position when she became its legal officer.
Miss Harman also said that an allegation that she sought in 1978 to water down a proposed ban on child pornography was untrue – although her name is on the NCCL's four-page submission to MPs urging that ‘images of naked children should only be considered pornographic if it could be proven that the subject had suffered'.
She added previously: ‘The reason I decided to go to work for NCCL was because I actively supported the work they had done and in particular the work of their women's rights committee on the Equal Pay Act, on the introduction of the Sex Discrimination Act and for greater protection of victims of domestic violence and against race discrimination.'
In her interview with the BBC's Newsnight on Monday Miss Harman refused several times to accept that the connection with PIE was a mistake.
Mr Dromey said: ‘During my time on the NCCL executive, I was at the forefront of repeated public condemnations of PIE and their despicable views.
‘The accusations of the Daily Mail are untrue and beneath contempt.'
Labour leader Ed Miliband defended his deputy, saying: ‘Harriet Harman is somebody of huge decency and integrity. I know she has a long and proud record of being on the right side of all of these issues.'
Annual report for 1975: Patricia Hewitt published this document in April 1976,
which included a 'gay rights' section on page ten defending the Paedophile Information Exchange and its members
Defence: Ms Hewitt had described the Paedophile Action for Liberation group, which changed its name to PIE that year,
as 'a campaigning/counselling group for adults sexually attracted to children'
In a leader column on Monday night, the Mail said: ‘For ten weeks now the Mail has repeatedly asked three leading Labour figures to answer questions about the involvement of the NCCL, a body in which they played leading roles, with a vile paedophile group whose actions are currently being investigated by the police.
‘The belated statements today of Miss Harman and her husband – full of pedantry and obfuscation – fail to answer the Mail's central points and deny allegations the Mail has not made.
‘More pertinently they have failed to utter a word of contrition or sorrow about the NCCL's closeness to the notorious Paedophile Information Exchange, an organisation that validated the activities of a monster like Jimmy Savile. Nor do they utter a word of apology to the victims of PIE.
‘In stark contrast, Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, which took over the NCCL's mantle, has condemned the historic links with PIE as a “source of continuing disgust and horror”. As for smears, it is a newspaper's job to ask awkward and controversial questions – questions that in this instance are still awaiting a satisfactory answer.'
AGM minutes: This page reveals how the PIE was represented at an NCCL AGM at the University of Lancaster.
Below the list of organisations present is Jack Dromey's name, after he was re-elected to the executive committee of the NCCL in 1977
How she was skewered in TV grilling
Harriet Harman was repeatedly asked by Newsnight presenter Laura Kuenssberg whether it was a mistake to allow the Paedophile Information Exchange to ‘affiliate' with the NCCL. Seven times she side-stepped the question. This is an edited transcript of the interview:
KUENSSBERG: You were the legal officer for several years at the National Council for Civil Liberties which was affiliated to the Paedophile Information Exchange. Were you aware of the affiliation?
HARMAN : Basically NCCL was an organisation which had something like 6,000 members and 1,000 affiliates and anybody could join the NCCL simply by paying a fee. When I was there as NCCL legal officer there was nothing that...far from it ... that I put forward that supported sexual abuse of children.
LK: But why was it acceptable even to have an affiliation? They didn't try to hide what they were. The title of the group was the Paedophile Information Exchange. Why was it even OK with them to have any link with the group you worked for?
HH : Well NCCL was an organisation where any organisation could pay their affiliation and join it, and that's the way it was.
LK: An affiliation is an official link, and when you were the legal officer did you do anything to suggest that link should be broken? Did you do anything to try to push them away from your organisation?
HH : They'd already been pushed away.
Tough questions: Laura Kuenssberg of the BBC's Newsnight repeatedly pushed Miss Harman on the claims
LK: Well they were still members of it until 1983. When you were legal officer, you wrote in a briefing paper to MPs that ‘prosecutions in relation to child protection and photography should only proceed if you can prove that children were actually harmed'. Can you see why people might raise an eyebrow?
HH : But basically if you look at that briefing paper it actually welcomes the Protection of Children bill which for the first time was going to introduce criminal law which said photography of children which was going to be used for pornography, which was sexually abusive of children, was for the first time going to be a criminal offence.
LK: Was the affiliation between the two groups a mistake?
HH : There wasn't an affiliation between the two groups. You're making it sound as if there was somehow a mutuality, there wasn't.
LK: [They] were part of the wider group. Was that a mistake?
'It is not the case that my work when I was at NCCL was influenced by PIE, was apologising for paedophilia or colluding for paedophilia. That is an unfair inference and it is a smear'
- Harriet Harman
HH : They paid their money to NCCL and at the time ...well NCCL takes money from any organisation which was a lawful organisation and any individual.
LK: But was it a mistake to have that affiliation?
HH : Well I think what was right was to actually, um, dispel them from the conference and make sure that their views were never taken forward by NCCL.
LK: It's a very simple question. Yes or no was it a mistake to allow an overt group who were publicly campaigning for paedophiles to be affiliated, which is the term they used to the National Council for Civil Liberties when you were the legal officer?
HH : Well I think on the basis that it has created somehow a sense that NCCL's work was therefore tainted by them, yes obviously that is a very, er, unfortunate inference to happen but it is not the case that my work when I was at NCCL was influenced by PIE, was apologising for paedophilia or colluding for paedophilia. That is an unfair inference and it is a smear.
LK: Why won't you just say whether or not clearly it was a mistake for there to be any affiliation? That you could have sent back their membership fees. You could have thrown them out.
HH : Well, you know, it was just ... not the sort of organisation which actually people applied to and were then vetted ...You know, ‘are you able to give your donation?'
LK: Why won't you [with] the benefit of decades of hindsight just say ‘yes it was a mistake for there to be any connection at all'.
HH : Because they were challenged and they were pushed aside from their views having any influence on NCCL.
Counter-attack: How Harriet Harman has sought to point the finger of blame at this website
LK: So it's OK for them to carry on ...
HH : No. Your implication is that somehow by giving them money NCCL was influenced, it wasn't. You know, I don't even know how much they gave, possibly even £10 a year.
LK: You were happy that your employer took membership money from a group that was overtly campaigning for the rights of paedophiles. That wasn't a mistake, that's what you're saying?
HH : Well I was content with the fact that, in the knowledge that nothing that I did supported paedophilia in any way shape or form.
LK: But you're happy for the National Council of Civil Liberties to have taken money from a paedophile group.
HH : I wasn't even happy that the group existed, they shouldn't have existed. They were obviously a front for very bad people who I think many of them were then prosecuted.
Source : ‘Daily Mail'