Concerns: Labour MP Tom Watson has been investigating paedophile networks
since the Jimmy Savile controversy erupted in 2012
A Labour MP has demanded renewed and wider inquiries into the Paedophile Information Exchange amid fears that government files proving it received taxpayers’ cash have been shredded.
An ex-civil servant has previously claimed the government gave money to the PIE – which called paedophiles ‘ordinary, decent, sensible human beings’ – during the 1970s.
Home Secretary Theresa May has asked Mark Sedwill, the permanent secretary at the Home Office, to investigate after details of the claims were passed on by Labour MP Tom Watson.
Last night Mr Watson welcomed the probe but also demanded a wider-ranging police inquiry into the PIE.
He claimed Scotland Yard’s paedophile squad, which is running an investigation called Operation Fernbridge into claims that an establishment paedophile ring preyed on children in care in the 1980s, is ‘chronically under-resourced’.
But last night there were mounting fears that all government papers on its links to the PIE have been shredded.
Sources said everything that the Home Office held on PIE post-1979 appears to have been destroyed, except for the titles. It is understood that a total of 11 PIE files dating from 1979 to the mid-1980s have been identified.
The Home Office insists ‘their destruction was consistent with applicable record retention policies’.
Mr Watson said: ‘I was contacted by a former Home Office civil servant who told me that he saw a document that suggests the Paedophile Information Exchange got public money.
‘The document was recommending approval for funding during the Thatcher government. My source, who does not wish to talk to the media, said it appeared to be a re-application for funds. He could not be certain whether or not it had been funded by a Labour government but he thought this was possible.’
Mr Watson has been investigating paedophile networks since the Jimmy Savile controversy erupted in 2012 and he has worked closely with the police to pass on information from private sources. But he said officers have got their work cut out.
‘Operation Fernbridge is chronically under-resourced,’ he said. ‘They have arrested members of PIE but what they’re not doing is looking systematically at everyone who was in PIE.
‘They are pursuing specific allegations by victims but don’t have the resources to conduct a general inquiry. Given the extreme public concern about PIE, there should be a properly resourced investigation into what the PIE got up to.’
Mr Watson’s comments will be a matter of great concern for Met chief Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe and his senior commanders, who are under pressure to take allegations of historic child sex abuse more seriously in the aftermath of Savile.
It is unclear when the Home Office inquiry into PIE will be completed, or whether retired civil servants with knowledge of the issue are being interviewed. But a well-placed source said there is a growing belief that the paedophile group did indeed receive public money. The source added: ‘There is a lot of concern in the highest levels of Government about what may unravel.’
The PIE was established in 1974 to campaign for the age of consent to be lowered to four.
A year later the National Council for Civil Liberties – today known as the human rights watchdog Liberty – controversially granted official ‘affiliate’ status to the group.
One leaflet sent by the PIE to MPs claimed: ‘Paedophiles are ordinary, decent, sensible human beings, no more sexually depraved than yourself, and with a capacity for loving and helping children which is at present being repressed.’
However, within a few years the harm caused by paedophiles became public and many of PIE’s activists were jailed. It was disbanded in 1984.
Last night, Mr Watson said the Conservatives have questions to answer about alleged cover-ups of paedophilia in their ranks.
He claimed the Tories tried to suppress the case of diplomat Sir Peter Hayman, who was jailed in 1984 for posting child pornography.
Mr Watson added: ‘The shared shame of all the political parties is that they can do more – much more – to protect kids who face abuse.’