British political heavyweight Brittan dead at 75

22nd January 2015, Comments 0 comments

British politician Leon Brittan, a trusted minister under Margaret Thatcher and a former European commissioner who was recently accused of covering up a report into high-level child abuse, has died aged 75, his family said Thursday.

"Leon passed away last night at his home in London after a long battle with cancer," the family said in a statement.

"We... salute his extraordinary commitment to British public life as a member of parliament, minister, cabinet minister, European commissioner and peer."

Brittan served as an MP between 1974 and 1988 and held four different ministerial positions in Thatcher's Conservative administration, becoming, in 1983, the youngest home secretary since Winston Churchill .

He later served as vice-president of the European Commission having held three different commissioner roles.

Prime Minister David Cameron called Brittan "a dedicated and fiercely intelligent public servant" and "a central figure in Margaret Thatcher's government."

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said Brittan was an "inspiring leader" influential in shaping the European Union while former Tory party leader William Hague paid tribute to "a kind, assiduous and brilliant man".

But Brittan was recently caught up in accusations that, while interior minister, he covered up a report into an alleged paedophile ring involving MPs and prominent public figures.

Labour MP Simon Danczuk last year demanded that Brittan explain what had happened to the 40-page report produced in 1984.

The whereabouts of the document, along with another 113 Home Office files relating to child abuse allegations, are currently unknown.

A Home Office review in 2013 concluded that copies of the report had "not been retained", but that Brittan had dealt appropriately with the claims.

Brittan always denied any wrongdoing relating to the files but was last year accused of being directly involved in "improper conduct with children" in the 1980s by another Labour MP.

In June last year, he was interviewed by police over the alleged rape of a 19-year-old student in 1967, but was not arrested.

He denied the claim as without foundation.

Concerns about Brittan's friendship with retired judge Fiona Woolf led to her stepping down from her role leading a wide-ranging inquiry into institutional child abuse, set up by Prime Minister David Cameron.

It was expected that Brittan would have been called to give evidence.

His family said there will be a private funeral service.

He leaves behind wife Diana and two step-children Katharine and Victoria.

"As a family, we should like to pay tribute to him as a beloved husband to Diana and brother to Samuel, and a supportive and loving stepfather to Katharine and Victoria, and step-grandfather to their children."


© 2015 AFP

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