Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, may face a grilling by the parliamentary home affairs select committee over his pursuit of an accusation of rape against the Conservative peer Leon Brittan after the police decided not to continue with the investigation.
Keith Vaz, the chair of the committee, said it was not normal to call MPs to give evidence, so this would have to be discussed at the next meeting on Tuesday.
The Tory MP Sir Nicholas Soames called on Watson to make a Commons statement. He tweeted that it would be “disgraceful were Tom Watson not to make personal statement to the House to apologise for the dreadful false accusations he made”.
Lord Brittan died in January this year without he or his family knowing that he had been cleared of suspicion. Watson wrote to the director of public prosecutions about the case when he learned that the police inquiry was being dropped.
In a piece for the Huffington Post on Friday, Watson said he believed Brittan would have been interviewed by the police even without his intervention.
He repeated that he was sorry for the distress caused to Brittan’s family. “But I wanted the claims made against him properly investigated. I think most people would assume that when an individual is facing multiple allegations of sexual crimes from people who are independent of each other, the police would want to interview them.
“As it happens, I think that Leon Brittan would have been interviewed even if I hadn’t intervened because the DPP made it clear in her reply to my letter that the police investigation into him was ongoing.”
Watson said he should not have repeated the “emotive phrase” that Brittan was close to evil.
“When the death of Leon Brittan was announced, I worried that the justice system would no longer take its course and that the allegations would never be thoroughly investigated. As the tributes flowed in from his lifelong friends I felt for those people who claimed he abused them. I repeated a line used by one of the alleged survivors, who said: ‘He is as close to evil as any human being could get’. I shouldn’t have repeated such an emotive phrase.”
Watson faced a barrage of hostile media stories over the weekend. The Telegraph claimed that a senior detective, Ch Insp Paul Settle, former head of the Metropolitan police paedophile unit, stepped down from the VIP child sex abuse inquiry following repeated pressure from Watson.
The Daily Mail reported that Watson’s step-uncle Peter Halliwell, a former scoutmaster, was jailed last year for historic indecent assault of a nine-year-old cub scout between 1965 and 1967. Watson told the paper: “I barely know Peter Halliwell. His victim deserved justice and I’m glad he got it.”
This article was written by Maev Kennedy, for theguardian.com on Sunday 11th October 2015 17.35 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010