Patricia Hewitt's statement on Paedophile Information Exchange in full

Harriet Harman and Patricia Hewitt Harriet Harman and Patricia Hewitt both worked for the National Council for Civil Liberties during the 1970s

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Here is the full text of the response by former Labour Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt to reports regarding the links between the Paedophile Information Exchange and the National Council for Civil Liberties, which she ran during the 1970s:

I have been away for the last 12 days and have only now been able to study the allegations made by the Daily Mail and others.

Any suggestion that I supported or condoned the vile crimes of child abusers is completely untrue. When Jack Dromey, as NCCL (National Council for Civil Liberties) chairman in 1976, vigorously opposed PIE (Paedophile Information Exchange) at the NCCL AGM, he did so with the full support of the executive committee and myself as general secretary.

As the NCCL archives demonstrate, I consistently distinguished between consenting relationships between homosexual men, on the one hand, and the abuse of children on the other.

NCCL in the 1970s, along with many others, was naive and wrong to accept PIE's claim to be a "campaigning and counselling organisation" that "does not promote unlawful acts".

Protection

As general secretary then, I take responsibility for the mistakes we made. I got it wrong on PIE and I apologise for having done so. I should have urged the executive committee to take stronger measures to protect NCCL's integrity from the activities of PIE members and sympathisers and I deeply regret not having done so. In particular, (PIE founder) Tom O'Carroll should never have been allowed to join the gay rights sub-committee.

The proposal to reduce the age of consent was not mine - it was the policy of the organisation and its executive committee at that time. I do not support reducing the age of consent or legalising incest.

I note some of the comments about Harriet Harman and her role. Harriet did not join the NCCL staff until 1978. She was one of two legal officers, neither of whom was a member of the executive committee.

NCCL in the 1970s played a leading role in anti-discrimination and equality campaigns. We helped to secure the Sex Discrimination Act, anonymity for rape victims and an end to discriminatory immigration rules against British women with a foreign husband.

We also built support for equalising the age of consent for homosexual men - a change eventually made in 1998. I am proud of the contribution NCCL made to these and other important reforms during my time as general secretary.

Many people's lives have been destroyed by sexual abuse in their childhood. Although the evil of child sexual abuse is now properly recognised, as a society we still have a long way to go in protecting children, tackling the sexualisation of girls and supporting the survivors of sexual abuse.

I hope the lessons that are being learnt from the mistakes of the 1970s will contribute to those goals.

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