Lord Watson of Wyre Forest apologised for his role in promoting the sex abuse fantasies of the convicted paedophile Carl Beech
The former Labour deputy leader Tom Watson has used his maiden speech in the Lords to formally apologise for highlighting allegations of historical abuse levelled by Carl Beech, who was later revealed to be a serial fantasist.
Lord Watson, who was also a minister during 18 years as an MP, left parliament before the 2019 election and had been expected to join the upper house swiftly.
However, his peerage was initially turned down by the commission that vets new members of the Lords, seemingly because of his role in seeking action over the claims by Beech of a supposed murderous VIP paedophile ring in Westminster.
Police had raided the homes of the late Conservative minister Leon Brittan, the late military chief Lord Bramall, as well as the former Tory MP Harvey Proctor based on the allegations.
Beech was later jailed for 18 years after a court found he had fabricated the allegations. Brittan died in 2015, before he was publicly exonerated.
Speaking in the Lords for the first time on Wednesday after being confirmed as a peer, Watson apologised to Brittan’s widow, saying: “The first area where I think consensus is always better than disagreement is police reform.
“I apologise unreservedly to Lady Brittan for the role that I played in the investigation of historic child sexual abuse. Her experiences led to several recommendations about how the police conduct themselves. I’m sorry and I owe it to her to work to achieve those aims in this House in the months and years ahead.”
Lucy Neville-Rolfe, a Cabinet Office minister, responded by praising Watson’s speech “and for the apology he rightly made to Lady Brittan”.
Watson is now chair of the industry group UK Music and an adviser on problem gambling to the betting firm Flutter Entertainment.
In his speech to the Lords, he noted the difference between his experiences there and in the Commons. “From the day of introduction, I was made to feel very welcome,” he said. “The doorkeepers, Garter and his team, Black Rod and her team, our clerks, the catering staff and our IT people – they all displayed kindness and professionalism and it is deeply appreciated.”
While several peers welcomed Watson, some Tory contemporaries of Brittan are likely to be less warm. When Watson’s peerage was announced in October, the Tory former chancellor and now peer Norman Lamont called it “an absolute disgrace” and a “stain” on the Lords.