In recent days I have been the subject of a politically-motivated smear campaign by the Daily Mail.
They have 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 them all of them.
This is not the first time the Daily Mail has made this horrible and untrue allegation. And, this is not the first time the Daily Mail has attacked me. The editor and proprietor of the Daily Mail are entitled to their political views and they are of course entitled to oppose what I stand for but they are not entitled to use their newspaper to smear me with innuendo because they disagree with me politically and hate my values.
I sincerely hope people won't believe these smears - I suspect even the Daily Mail doesn't believe them to be true. But given the seriousness and the aggression with which the Daily Mail are pursuing me, I feel that I need to put the facts in the public domain.
1. Allegation that I supported the lowering of the age of consent to 10
This is not true. I supported the equalisation of the age of consent (as set out in NCCL document “priorities and strategy for the executive committee June 1981") by making the age of consent the same for homosexual as well as for heterosexual sex.
2. Allegation that I opposed the law on incest
This is not true. The document they refer to was written by NCCL in 1976 before I started to work there.
3. Allegation that I was seeking to water down a proposed ban on child pornography.
This is not true. I supported the Protection of Children Bill 1978. At the start of the document it makes clear that “The NCCL deplores the exploitation of children whether in the form of use in commercial pornography or as victims of sexual assaults"
The submission argued for some amendments to guard against unintended consequences including:
- Parents being criminalised for taking pictures of their children on the beach or in the bath
- The use of pictures in sex education being criminalised
- We also proposed that the definition of indecent was too wide and instead proposed "obscene" as indecent was very broadly defined and could include Page 3 of the Sun.
The Mail have tried to make me guilty by way guilt by association.
NCCL was an organisation which anyone could apply to join and indeed any organisation could apply to be "an affiliate" on payment of a fee. When I was at NCCL there were around 6,000 members and nearly 1,000 affiliated organisations of which PIE was one.
Members and affiliates decided the organisation's policy at the AGM from year to year.
I was aware that because NCCL opposed censorship and supported gay rights, paedophiles had sought to exploit that and use NCCL as a vehicle to make their arguments. But by the time I came to work for NCCL this vile organisation had already been vigorously challenged within the organisation. Jack Dromey was instrumental in that challenge when he took over the chair of NCCL in 1976
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.
Since being elected to the House of Commons in 1982 and during my times in Ministerial Office I have always championed the rights of those subjected to sexual abuse - especially women and children.
I hope The Daily Mail will stop this campaign of smear and innuendo against me. I have done nothing wrong and am guilty of none of their grotesque allegations.