The Canary Attempts Inept Edward Heath “Paedophile Information Exchange” Smear

From a certain Tom Coburg, at the left-wing website The Canary:

What is not generally known is that the government possessed a file on Heath’s interest in PIE [the Paedophile Informantion Exchange]. The file forms part of the notorious 114 ‘missing’ files on child sex abuse. That list can now be seen in full and provides an insight into the range of alleged child sex abuse cases the authorities were aware of.

Heath’s entry on the list is number 77. The metadata (heading) for the file shows his interest in PIE and that the file is “presumed destroyed”:

…Heath reportedly attended several PIE meetings at Westminster, though the precise nature of his interest in that organisation is unknown.

Is Coburg a complete idiot, or does he just think his readers are? This is all so stupid that’s tempting to dismiss it as unworthy of attention (much like this comparable item from a far-left source), but given the Canary‘s prominence as an alleged source of information (apparently it’s a “top-100 UK news website”) there ought to be some corrective.

The list is an annex to the 2014 Wanless-Whittam review, which was tasked with reviewing how the Home Office had handled allegations of child sex abuse during the 1970s to 1990s, and which published its findings in 2014. On the 114 “missing” files, the review found (square brackets in original):

Based on titles alone, 18 are files started specifically in relation to an individual Parliamentary Question [2 year retention], and 67 are files about a specific piece of correspondence, almost always written by an MP on behalf of a constituent [2 year retention]… But destruction after 2 years for all such files was the practice so, in that sense, they are not missing.

These files are marked “PQ/MC” in the list, meaning “Parliamentary Question” or “Minister’s Case”. Others are categorised in terms such as “Policy” or “Research”. The Heath item is a Minister’s Case file, and it is “presumed destroyed” because that would have been in line with retention practices.

There is absolutely no reason to suppose that the document would have exposed Heath as being involved with or showing sympathy for PIE, much less that it was destroyed to prevent this becoming known. Instead, the item would have been a piece of routine correspondence relating to Heath’s duties as a Member of Parliament, apparently in 1985. The date is significant: PIE was abolished in that year, following some high-profile trials of members for sex offences, and so the subject would have been current.

Several other MPs (and the Archbishop of York) are also listed as having written something about PIE, and numerous MPs as having authored documents that relate to child sex abuse more generally. It is beyond witless to interpret this as demonstrative of “the range of alleged child sex abuse cases the authorities were aware of”, and implicitly as a suspect list.

But what of the claim that Heath “reportedly attended several PIE meetings at Westminster”? There is just one third-hand source for this: a journalist named Don Hale, who says that a dossier on VIP child sex abuse was given to him by the Labour MP Barbara Castle in the 1980s, but that it was seized by police before he could make use of it. Hale first recalled its existence in July 2014, when he said that it named the late politicians Keith Joseph and Rhodes Boyson. He added Leon Brittan’s name shortly after Brittan’s death in January 2015, and then Heath in August 2015, just after the police probe into Heath was announced.

This is the most tenuous hearsay: someone supposedly provided Castle with “minutes” of the meetings, but these are not now available for verification. Moreover, she does not appear to have mentioned her supposed “dossier” anywhere and there is nothing in her archive or in records held by her former special adviser Jack Straw (who says he has no recollection of her mentioning it to him, contrary to a claim made by Hale). We only have Hale’s word that it ever existed, and his manner of disclosure has been opportunistic. Hale’s stories appeared during a climate in which any unsubstantiated claim about “VIP abuse” would generate headlines in tabloids and broadsheets. Further, PIE activists are still living, and they would have no reason to deny Heath’s involvement – yet Tom O’Carroll mocked the claim on his blog.

And when exactly were there “PIE meetings at Westminster”? Surely, with all the negative coverage of PIE in the 1980s, such meetings would have received some attention, even without the attendance of a former Prime Minister? This claim has perhaps grown from a boast by a former chairman of PIE who worked as an electrical contractor inside the Home Office – he was apparently given an office but very few duties, and as such was able to devote most of his working day, and the office resources at his disposal, to discreetly running the group. Another source for the rumour may have been PIE’s notorious affiliation with the National Council for Civil Liberties in the 1970s, given that NCCL leaders later became Labour Party MPs.

Wiltshire Police has just spent £1.5 million trawling for allegations against Heath, and the Summary Closure Report into its “Operation Conifer” (discussed here) includes the intrusive detail that “two witnesses, who have not disclosed abuse, provided evidence that he was sexually active with consenting adults during parts of his life.” Had there been any association with PIE, we can be very sure that Chief Constable Mike Veale would have made it central to his justification for the investigation. Yet PIE is not mentioned anywhere.