Leon Brittan

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Leon Brittan, PC, QC, DL (25 September 1939 – 21 January 2015) was a Jewish politician in Britain, a Conservative Member of Parliament, a barrister, as well as a UK member of the European Commission. He served several ministerial roles in Margaret Thatcher's government, including Home Secretary.

European Jewry

His parents were Jews from Lithuania who had migrated to Britain before World War II.[1]


Brittan was elected into parliament in the General Election of February 1974 for the safe Conservative Party seat of Cleveland and Whitby, in Yorkshire, and became an opposition spokesman in 1976. He was made a Queen's Counsel in 1978. Between 1979 and 1981 he was Minister of State at the Home Office, and was then promoted to become Chief Secretary to the Treasury, becoming the youngest member of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom.[2] He warned cabinet colleagues that spending on social security, health and education would have to be cut "whether they like it or not".[3]

Thatcher appears to have tired of Brittan wanting him out of the way. In her memoirs, Thatcher wrote of Brittan: "Everybody complained about his manner on television, which seemed aloof and uncomfortable."[4] Brittan was knighted in 1989.[5] He was made European Commissioner for Competition at the European Commission early in 1989, resigning as an MP to take the position. He accepted the post as European commissioner reluctantly, as it meant giving up his British parliamentary ambitions.[6] Margaret Thatcher appointed Brittan to the Commission as a replacement for Arthur Cockfield, whose pro-European enthusiasm she disapproved of; however, in doing so she had overlooked Brittan's own record as a supporter of the European Union and subsequently found his views and policies at odds with those she had expected from him.[6]

In 1995 he became European Commissioner for Trade and European Commissioner for External Affairs, also serving as a Vice-President of the European Commission. Brittan resigned with the rest of the Santer Commission in 1999 amid accusations of fraud against Jacques Santer and Édith Cresson.

Brittan was made a Life Peer by Tony Blair as Baron Brittan of Spennithorne in the county of North Yorkshire in February 2000, an insult to all true Yorkshiremen. He was vice-chairman of UBS AG Investment Bank, non-executive director of Unilever and member of the international advisory committee for the oil company Total S.A. In August 2010, Brittan was appointed as a trade adviser to the UK government. Prime Minister David Cameron said that Brittan had "unrivalled experience" for the job, which was scheduled to last for six months.[7]

Brittan's wife, Diana (née Clemetson), was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2004 Birthday Honours "for public service and charity".[8] There were no children to their marriage.

Paedophile dossier

In 1984, in his capacity as Home Secretary, Brittan was handed a 40-page dossier by Geoffrey Dickens MP which detailed alleged paedophile activity in the 1980s, including, according to Dickens, allegations concerning "people in positions of power, influence and responsibility".[9][10] The whereabouts of the dossier is currently unknown.[9] Brittan denied any knowledge of the matter in an e-mail to a Channel 4 News reporter in 2013,[11] and later replied that he had no recollection of it to a query from The Independent newspaper.[12] Brittan later declared in 2014 that Dickens had met him at the Home Office and that he had written to Dickens on 20 March 1984, explaining what had been done in relation to the files.[11]

An initial review by Home Office civil servant Mark Sedwill in 2013 found that copies of Dickens's material had "not been retained" but that Brittan had acted appropriately in dealing with the allegations. In November 2014, a review by Peter Wanless followed. Wanless said there was no evidence to suggest that files had been removed to cover up abuse.[13]

Allegations pursued by Tom Watson MP

In June 2014, Brittan was interviewed under caution by police in connection with the alleged rape of a 19-year-old student in his central London flat in 1967, before he became an MP. They had not pursued the allegation when it was first made, on the grounds of insufficient evidence. The police reopened the investigation after Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, had been lobbied by Labour MP Tom Watson to investigate further.[14] In a statement on 7 July 2014, Brittan denied the claims.[15] At the time of his death, Brittan had not been told by the police that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him for the alleged rape of the woman.[16] The deputy assistant commissioner of the Met, Steve Rodhouse, wrote a letter of apology to the solicitors of Brittan's widow.[17]

In October 2014, a Labour MP used parliamentary privilege to refer to claims that Brittan had been linked to child abuse.[18][19] After Brittan died in January 2015, Watson accused him of "multiple child rape"; he said he had spoken to two people who claimed they were abused by Brittan. [20] A journalist further alleged that Brittan had abused a pre-pubescent boy at Elm Guest House in mid-1982.[21] In March 2015, it was reported that detectives from Operation Midland, set up by the Metropolitan Police to investigate claims of child sex abuse, had visited and searched two homes in London and Yorkshire formerly owned by Brittan.[22] On 21 March 2016, the Metropolitan Police confirmed that Operation Midland had been closed without any charges being brought.[23]

On 1 September 2017 it was reported that the Metropolitan Police had paid substantial compensation to Brittan's widow for having raided the Brittans's home "after accepting that the searches had been unjustified and should never have taken place."[24]


  1. "Man in the News; Crisis Commander". The New York Times. 23 April 1984. https://www.nytimes.com/1984/04/23/world/man-in-the-news-crisis-commander.html. Retrieved 7 November 2016. 
  2. "Brittan returns to Parliament as peer". BBC News. 31 December 1999. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/584119.stm. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  3. Parkhouse, Geoffrey (23 September 1982). "Brittan warns 'wets' of cuts". The Glasgow Herald. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2507&dat=19820923&id=W8NAAAAAIBAJ&sjid=BKYMAAAAIBAJ&pg=6889,4161276. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  4. Castle, Stephen (27 January 2015). "Leon Brittan, 75, Dies; Quit Thatcher Cabinet in Leak Case". The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/28/world/europe/leon-brittan-dies-at-75-british-official-in-leak-case.html?_r=0. Retrieved 22 August 2015. 
  5. Industry forum biography Template:Webarchive
  6. 6.0 6.1 Langdon, Julia (22 January 2015). "Lord Brittan of Spennithorne obituary". The Guardian (London). https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jan/22/lord-brittan-of-spennithorne. Retrieved 23 January 2015. 
  7. "Ex-Home Secretary Lord Brittan made trade adviser". BBC News. 19 August 2010. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11026437. 
  8. London Gazette, 12 June 2004, p.6.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Boffey, Daniel (6 July 2014). "Tebbit hints at political cover-up over child abuse in 1980s". The Guardian (London). https://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jul/06/child-abuse-coverup-1980s-lord-tebbit. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  10. "Tory MP warned of powerful paedophile ring 30 years ago". The Independent (London). 22 February 2013. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/tory-mp-warned-of-powerful-paedophile-ring-30-years-ago-8507780.html. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 O'Brien, Paraic (2 July 2014). "Leon Brittan: I was handed 'paedophile' dossier". Channel 4 News. http://www.channel4.com/news/lord-leon-brittan-home-office-paedophile-dossier. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  12. Hickman, Martin (3 March 2013). "Police failings put dozens of children at risk from notorious paedophile ring". The Independent (London). https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/police-failings-put-dozens-of-children-at-risk-from-notorious-paedophile-ring-8518522.html. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  13. "'No cover-up found' in abuse review by Peter Wanless". BBC News (Manchester). 11 November 2014. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-30002908. Retrieved 11 November 2014. 
  14. Merrill, Jamie (6 July 2014). "Exclusive: Lord Brittan questioned by police over rape allegation". The Independent on Sunday (London). https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/exclusive-lord-brittan-questioned-by-police-over-rape-allegation-9587245.html. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  15. "Brittan says historical rape claim 'wholly unfounded'". BBC News. 7 July 2014. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-28194481. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  16. Hanning, James (28 June 2015). "Lord Brittan police failed to tell dying peer he would not face prosecution despite legal advice". The Independent (London). https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/lord-brittan-police-failed-to-tell-dying-peer-he-would-not-face-prosecution-despite-legal-advice-10350596.html. Retrieved 28 June 2015. 
  17. Halliday, Josh (7 October 2015). "Scotland Yard apologises to Lord Brittan's widow over rape claim". The Guardian (London). https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/oct/07/scotland-yard-apologises-to-lord-brittans-widow-over-claim. Retrieved 8 October 2015. 
  18. Dominiczak, Peter (26 October 2014). "Labour MP is condemned for linking Leon Brittan to child abuse". The Daily Telegraph (London).
  19. Hansard (28 October 2014). House of Commons debate: ‘Coalfield Communities’, col. 255. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  20. Millmo, Cahal (25 January 2015). "Leon Brittan sex abuse allegations: Two come forward to claim they were abused by former Home Secretary". The Independent on Sunday (London). https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/leon-brittan-sex-abuse-allegations-two-come-forward-to-claim-they-were-abused-by-former-home-secretary-10001676.html. 
  21. Hanning, James (25 January 2015). "Lord Brittan: The accusations against the former Home Secretary that refused to die". The Independent on Sunday (London). https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/lord-brittan-the-accusations-against-the-former-home-secretary-that-refused-to-die-10000618.html. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  22. Barrett, David (8 March 2015). "Police search home of Lord Bramall as part of paedophile sex abuse inquiry". The Daily Telegraph (London). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/11457405/Police-search-home-of-Lord-Bramall-as-part-of-paedophile-sex-abuse-inquiry.html. 
  23. Laville, Sandra; Syal, Rajeev (21 March 2016). "Operation Midland: inquiry into alleged VIP paedophile ring collapses". The Guardian (London). https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/mar/21/last-living-suspect-harvey-proctor-vip-paedophile-ring-inquiry-will-face-no-charges. Retrieved 22 March 2016. 
  24. Martin Evans, "Met Police pays compensation to Lord Bramall and Lady Brittan over disastrous Operation Midland investigation"], Daily Telegraph, 1 September 2017, accessed 2 September 2017]