Hot chair: Alexis Jay overseeing inquiry into child sexual abuse

03.03.19
By Mark Watts

MI5 will be ordered at the inquiry into child sexual abuse this month to reveal what it knew about top Tory MP Sir Peter Morrison.

The CSA inquiry, chaired by Alexis Jay, has obtained evidence that the Security Service, better known as MI5, received information from a Conservative party agent for Westminster that Morrison had “a penchant for small boys”. Morrison, who died in 1995, became parliamentary private secretary (PPS) to Lady Thatcher when she was prime minister.

The disclosure comes from correspondence between Lord Armstrong, then cabinet secretary, and the director general of MI5 at the time, the late Sir Antony Duff.

The documents also refer to an MI5 officer who was a friend, “perhaps a close friend”, of Morrison. This officer’s identity is unknown.

The MP “said privately” that he hoped to sue to “nail” the stories, according to the documents, and that Thatcher and Norman Tebbit, former Conservative chairman, were aware of the matter.

Duff and Armstrong agreed: “There is little point in carrying the matter further.”

The inquiry has summoned Armstrong to give evidence during the hearings for the inquiry’s Westminster investigation, which begin tomorrow with opening submissions from counsel to the inquiry and representatives of core participants.

It also plans to call the former director general of MI5, Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller, to ask what she knew about Morrison.

Counsel to the inquiry wants to ask her about her own relationship with Morrison. It is thought that the spymaster had a professional relationship with the MP.

MI5 has disclosed to the inquiry memos about Morrison that Manningham-Buller, before she became its head, wrote to the director general of the time.

Lord Tebbit has sent a statement to the inquiry, but is not due to testify. He has said that he had heard “rumours” about Morrison before he became Thatcher’s PPS in 1990, and that he challenged the MP, who flatly denied it.

An anonymous witness from MI5 is also due to give evidence, by video-link, about Morrison.

This witness and Armstrong are to be pressed over why neither MI5 nor anyone else called in the police.

The inquiry is to ask the MI5 witness about intelligence received in 1984 that another late Conservative MP, Charles Irving, rented a hotel room “to take boys”.

In addition, it is expected to question the witness about MI5 documents that relate to Sir Peter Hayman, the late diplomat and long-time officer of the Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6, and about other papers on the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), which lobbied to legalise sex with children.

The inquiry plans to call several members of the Labour party to ask about claims by Grahame Nicholls, who ran Chester Trades Council when Morrison was the local MP, that police and political parties covered up his child sexual abuse.

According to a letter written by Nicholls: “I attended a meeting of Chester Labour party where we were informed by the agent, Christine Russell, that Peter Morrison would not be standing in 1992.

“He had been caught in the toilets at Crewe station with a 15-year-old boy. A deal was struck between Labour, the local Tories, the local Press and the police that if he stood down at the next election the matter would go no further.

“Chester finished up with Gyles Brandreth, and Morrison walked away scot-free.”

Brandreth, who succeeded Morrison as MP for Chester, is due to testify at the hearings.

Another former Conservative MP, Edwina Currie, has supplied a statement to the inquiry, but is not to testify. She has said that Morrison was a “noted pederast” with a “liking for young boys”.

The inquiry also intends to call Frances Mowatt, who was Morrison’s election agent, and Susan Hogg, his diary secretary, to ask what they knew, and when they knew it.

Hogg will also be asked about Morrison’s links with Manningham-Buller and to tell what she overheard in telephone conversations between them.

The ‘Morrison’ witnesses are due to appear during the second week of the Westminster hearings.

As I also reveal today, the inquiry will also grill former Liberal leader Lord Steel over his derision of claims of child sexual abuse by Sir Cyril Smith MP as “tittle tattle”.

Mark Watts (@MarkWatts_1) is the co-ordinator of the FOIA Centre.

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Lord Steel faces questions at CSA inquiry over deriding claims against Cyril Smith MP

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CSA inquiry to MI5: tell us what you knew of paedophile claims against Peter Morrison MP

Pic: CSA inquiry