A powerful paedophile network may have operated in Britain protected by its connections to Parliament and Downing St, a senior Labour politician suggested yesterday.
Speaking from the back benches of the House of Commons, Tom Watson, the deputy chairman of the Labour Party, called on the Metropolitan Police to reopen a closed criminal inquiry into paedophilia.
Indicating his anxiety that there had been an establishment cover-up, Watson referred to the case of Peter Righton, who was convicted in 1992 of importing and possessing illegal homosexual pornographic material.
Righton, a former consultant to the National Children's Bureau and lecturer at the National Institute for Social Work in London, admitted two illegal importation charges and one charge of possessing obscene material. He was fined £900.
At Prime Minister's Questions, Watson said the evidence file used to convict Righton "if it still exists, contains clear intelligence of a widespread paedophile ring".
He told a hushed Commons: "One of its members boasts of a link to a senior aide of a former Prime Minister, who says he could smuggle indecent images of children from abroad.
"The leads were not followed up, but if the files still exist, I want to ensure that the Metropolitan Police secure the evidence, re-examine it, and investigate clear intelligence suggesting a powerful paedophile network linked to Parliament and No 10."
In the aftermath of Watson's remarks, media outlets speculated that he was referring to the late former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath - who was the subject of unsubstantiated rumours about sex with under-age boys - or to Sir Peter Morrison, a former Downing St aide who died in 1995.
However, the Independent understands that Watson's comments were aimed at a living person associated with Margaret Thatcher's Administration.