UK & World News
Harman Denies Colluding With Paedophile Group
Harriet Harman has said she regretted the "existence" of a paedophile right group linked to a civil liberties group she worked for.
However, the deputy Labour leader said she had nothing to apologise for and that she neither colluded with nor supported the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE).
She continued to insist the series of stories run by the Daily Mail over the links between the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL), which Ms Harman worked for, and PIE, were a politically motivated "smear".
Ms Harman said: "I am not going to apologise because I have got nothing to apologise for.
"I very much regret that this vile organisation, PIE, ever existed and that it ever had anything to do with NCCL but it did not affect my work at NCCL.
"They had been pushed to the margins before I actually went to NCCL and to allege that I was involved in collusion with paedophilia or apologised for paedophilia is quite wrong and is a smear."
It comes after Ms Harman issued a fierce and lengthy rebuttal of claims by the Daily Mail that she was an "apologist for paedophilia".
The claims centre around Ms Harman's employment at the NCCL, the group now known as Liberty, in the late 1970s and early 1980s and the group's links with the paedophile group, which wanted to make child sex legal.
PIE, which has now been disbanded, was founded by Tom O'Carroll, who has been described as a "sexually predatory" paedophile. He was allowed to make a speech at the council's spring conference in 1977.
Ms Harman was the NCCL legal officer from 1978 to 1982, her husband, the Labour MP, Jack Dromey, was on the group's executive committee from 1970 to 1979.
The former health secretary, Patricia Hewitt, was the NCCL's general secretary from 1974 to 1983. Ms Hewitt has yet to comment on the matter.
In 1975, three years before Ms Harman joined the NCCL, it granted affiliate status to PIE.
Sky News has seen a document from 1978 in which Ms Harman signed off on recommendations the law on indecent images of children should be watered down, so that they should only be illegal if it could be proved that harm was caused.
She insists her advice, which also made it clear the NCCL deplored the exploitation of children and was concerned about the effects of censorship, was in no way influenced by PIE.
The Daily Mail has run a series of stories about the links between the groups over the last 10 weeks and has demanded the three Labour stalwarts apologise to the victims of child sex abuse.
However, in a statement issued on Monday, Ms Harman maintained that by the time she joined the group, PIE were in the process of being expelled from the NCCL.
Later on Monday, she told BBC's Newsnight: "It is ironic that they are accusing me of supporting indecency in relation to children when they themselves are not above producing photographs of very young girls, titivating photographs, in bikinis.
"I stand by what I was doing at NCCL and I stand by what I have done all the way through."
On Tuesday she tweeted a picture taken from the Daily Mail of girls in bikinis saying: "When it comes to decency and sexualisation of children, would you take lessons from the Daily Mail?"
The Daily Mail responded to Ms Harman's claims with equal robustness saying the statements from both her and her husband were "full of pedantry and obfuscation".
A statement from the paper issued on Monday night said: "They have failed to utter a word of contrition or sorrow about the NCCL's closeness to the notorious Paedophile Information Exchange, an organisation that validated the activities of a monster like Jimmy Savile. Nor do they utter a word of apology to the victims of PIE."
PIE was disbanded in 1984 after a number of its activists were jailed.
Senior Labour sources on Tuesday told Sky News the series of articles about Ms Harman, Mr Dromey and Ms Hewitt was a continuation of a "smear" campaign that began with its piece about Labour leader Ed Miliband's father Ralph in September.
The piece, titled "The man who hated Britain", gave details of a diary entry written by a 17-year-old Ralph Miliband in which he expressed frustration with the country.
The source said: "We do think there is a connection with the Ralph Miliband row. The Daily Mail is trying to have some payback. There's a pattern of behaviour here.
"They smeared by innuendo over Ralph Miliband, they are smearing by association over Harriet Harman.
"This is not the way that political debate should be conducted, that's not what the British people want to see.
"It's not a British value to conduct political debate by smear."
Mr Miliband has given Ms Harman his full backing saying: "I know she has a long and proud record of being on the right side of all of these issues."
There have also been a number of discussions around the acceptability of behaviour in the 1970s that would simply be viewed as criminal today.
Conservative MP Nadine Dorries said on Twitter on Tuesday morning: "In 70's following legalisation of homosexuality (rightly) and a decade of 'free love' organisations like PIE genuinely thought they were next."
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