– An inquiry discovered up to 650 children in 40 homes were sexually, physically and emotionally in the 1970s and ’80s
– Rod Richards, a former Tory MP, said he had seen evidence linking the former aide to Baroness Thatcher to the scandal
A former Tory Minister last night made incendiary claims that one of Margaret Thatcher’s closest aides was implicated in one of the most harrowing child abuse scandals of recent times.
Rod Richards, a former Conservative MP and ex-leader of the Welsh Tories, made the shocking allegation that he had seen evidence linking Sir Peter Morrison to the North Wales children’s homes case, in which up to 650 children in 40 homes were sexually, physically and emotionally abused over 20 years.
Mr Richards also linked a second leading Tory grandee – now dead – to the scandals at homes including Bryn Estyn and Bryn Alyn Hall, both near Wrexham.
He said official documents had identified the pair as frequent, unexplained visitors to the care homes.
Mr Richards – who helped establish the inquiry that unearthed the scale of the abuse – said bluntly: ‘What I do know is that Morrison was a paedophile. And the reason I know that is because of the North Wales child abuse scandal.’
He added that William Hague, who was Welsh Secretary at the time of the inquiry, ‘should have seen the evidence about Morrison’.
Morrison was Lady Thatcher’s parliamentary private secretary and deputy chairman of the Conservative Party.
The claims prompted Labour MPs to call for the files to be reopened to ensure that there had not been an ‘establishment cover-up’.
Mr Hague called the inquiry into the scandal in 1996 after care homes boss John Allen was convicted of child abuse. It concluded that a paedophile ring around Cheshire and Wrexham had caused ‘appalling suffering’ to children in care in the Seventies and Eighties.
Mr Richards said he received detailed briefings about the case while junior Welsh Office Minister for health and social services.
He said: ‘It fell to me to decide initially whether to hold a public inquiry. So I saw all the documentation and the files. Morrison was linked. His name stood out on the notes to me because he had been an MP. He and [the other man] were named as visitors to the homes.’
Mr Richards could not offer anything to substantiate his claims against Morrison, who died in 1995 at the age of 51. But he said that as the MP for Chester, he would have no obvious reason to visit care homes in other MPs’ constituencies.
The claims have emerged amid growing public revulsion over the institutional failures revealed by the Jimmy Savile scandal. Savile was a regular guest of Lady Thatcher’s at Chequers.
Mr Richards added that he was frustrated that the £13 million, three-year inquiry headed by Sir Ronald Waterhouse QC had not uncovered any evidence to link Morrison to the abuse. He said: ‘It would seem that there are some parallels with Savile in that Morrison got in under the radar, and his activities did not appear in the final report’.
However, he said that as Welsh Secretary, Mr Hague ‘should have seen the evidence about Morrison’ in the preliminary files.
Scandal: Abuse was uncovered at the Bryn Estyn home, near Wrexham, North Wales.
Last night, sources close to Mr Hague said that he had never come across any information implicating Morrison. His spokesman said: ‘Mr Hague established the North Wales Child Abuse Inquiry precisely because of the serious and widespread reports of abuse. It was set up to be as thorough as possible and its terms of reference were widely supported in Parliament.’
Tory peer John Cope – a Tory contemporary of Morrison’s in the Commons – told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Without hard evidence I cannot find these allegations credible.’
Mr Richard’s intervention follows claims last week by former Tory Minister Edwina Currie that Morrison had sex with 16-year-old boys when the age of consent was 21 and that he had been protected by a ‘culture of sniggering’. In her diaries, she called him ‘a noted pederast’, with a liking for young boys.
Last week, Labour MP Tom Watson stunned the Commons when he asked David Cameron to examine historic allegations about a high-level paedophile ring linked to a former Downing Street aide – who he later clarified was not Morrison.
Last night Labour MP Khalid Mahmood said of the allegations about Morrison: ‘These are extremely serious claims. The evidence files should be reopened to ensure that there has not been an establishment cover-up at the heart of Westminster’.
North Wales police did not respond to calls for comment.
Network: Further abuse was uncovered in Bryn Alyn Hall, which was also run by John Allen.