Conservatives have rejected suggestions that the law needs to be strengthened to protect police whistleblowers who fear they will be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act for exposing a coverup of a paedophile ring in the 1970s.
Damian Green, the former Home Office minister, said he believed the home secretary, Theresa May, had already given former police officers sufficient comfort by promising in the House of Commons they would not be prosecuted for revealing a coverup.
He said May had made clear that clear the Official Secrets Act did not apply if serious criminality was being revealed.
“I would hope that would give them the confidence to come forward to the relevant inquiries and actually let us all know what the truth was about what happened back in the 70s and 80s.”
“It’s not clear to me that you need a change in the law because in the end a police officer’s job is to investigate criminality and then pass evidence on to prosecuting authorities.”
But the Labour MPs John Mann, Tom Watson and Simon Danczuck said they had spoken to officers who had expressed fears of a coverup and wanted further legal reassurance before going public.
Mann had tabled an amendment to give police whistleblowers protection but the move was rejected by the Commons.
Danczuck said he had spoken to Metropolitan police officers in the past 24 hours and they had spoken of standup rows and swearing in the office about bring stopped from investigating paedophiles.
The undercover police operation into the Liberal MP Cyril Smith and a member of the intelligence services was scrapped shortly after detectives moved to make arrests after securing evidence of abuse, a police source told BBC’s Newsnightprogramme.
Police officers questioned Smith during the inquiry in the early 1980s, which investigated properties in south London where it was suspected sex parties were held involving teenage boys, but he was released within hours of being taken to a police station, it said. Smith and others were caught abusing children, but officers were ordered to hand over all their evidence – including notebooks and video footage – and warned to keep quiet about the investigation or face prosecution under the Official Secrets Act.
The officers were also told that if they kept quiet they could expect promotion, Newsnight said. They were assured that those who had been caught “would not be playing a role in public life any more”. Smith continued as an MP until 1992.
The Labour MPs urged David Cameron to guarantee that officers who give evidence over the alleged paedophile ring in Westminster will not be prosecuted.