A senior whip in the government of the former Tory Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath boasted that he helped Westminster politicians at the time avoid being exposed for “scandals involving small boys”.
Tim Fortescue, a whip under Heath between 1970 and 1973, spoke to the BBC for a documentary entitled “Westminster’s Secret Service”, in which he said the Prime Minister’s Chief Whip kept a little black “dirt book” of MPs’ secrets to maintain political control.
Heath has this week been named as the subject of claims of child sex abuse, made in the 1990s, and the independent police watchdog has launched a probe in to Wiltshire Police’s handling of the accusations.
Fortescue, who died in 2008 aged 92, was a Tory MP for eight years until 1974. The footage of him speaking to the BBC in 1995 emerged last year as the Westminster child abuse scandal came to light.
Then, Fortescue said problems involving members “might be debt, or it might be a scandal involving small boys”.
“They would come and ask if we could help,” Fortescue said. “And if we could we did, and we would do everything we could, because we could store up brownie points.
“That’s one of the reasons we would get a chap out of trouble – because he’d then be ours forever-more.”
Heath, who died 10 years ago, has been accused of raping a 12-year-old boy in his Mayfair flat in 1961. In an interview with The Mirror, the alleged victim, now in his 60s, claimed he was picked up while hitchhiking.
Wiltshire Police has appealed for potential victims of Sir Edward to come forward, after launching an inquiry on the back of allegations made by a retired senior officer.
Labour MP Tom Watson, who used parliamentary privilege to raise claims of a paedophile ring linked to Downing Street, told The Independent: "I received information in 2012 concerning allegations of child abuse carried out by Edward Heath and a separate claim concerning Heath was made to me subsequently.
"I passed them both to the police, who have confirmed to me that at least one of those allegations is being investigated and taken seriously.
"I continue to call for a central police investigation unit for the country . Maybe this investigation would have moved faster had there been one."
An IPCC spokesman has said it will investigate allegations concerning the force's handling of an "alleged claim of child sexual abuse made in the 1990s".
He added: "It is alleged that a criminal prosecution was not pursued when a person threatened to expose that Sir Edward Heath may have been involved in offences concerning children.
In a statement, the Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation has said: "We welcome the investigation by Wiltshire Police, which we wholeheartedly believe will clear Sir Edward's name and we will co-operate fully with the police in their inquiries."
From the archives
Independent News Service
Enoch Powell - the former South Down MP and late Conservative anti-immigrant firebrand who died in 1998 - is being investigated as a member of an alleged Westminster paedophile network after his name was supplied to police by a senior Anglican bishop.