January 22, 2015 / 3:06 PM / 3 years ago

Former British minister and EU commissioner Leon Brittan dies

LONDON (Reuters) - Leon Brittan, a former senior minister in the government of Margaret Thatcher as well as vice president of the European commissioner, has died, his family said on Thursday.

Brittan, 75, was home secretary (interior minister) between 1983 and 1985 and was recently in the headlines over his handling then of a child abuse dossier said to implicate public figures.

He was responsible for competition policy and trade during the 1990s at the European Commission in Brussels.

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

Brittan was one of a band of bright young men hand-picked for quick promotion by Thatcher after her landslide re-election in 1983. At 43 he became the youngest home secretary in 70 years.

He later became trade secretary but his government career crashed in January 1986 when he was forced to resign amid intense public and political pressure after he became embroiled in the Westland helicopter affair that rocked the Conservative government.

But he hit the front pages once more last year. In July, lawmaker Simon Danczuk queried what Brittan had done with a dossier implicating public figures in child abuse that had been given to him in the early 1980s.

The following day, Brittan issued a statement saying he had dealt with them correctly by passing them on to police and officials for examination.

However the current top civil servant at the home office has revealed that 114 files handed to officials had gone missing, fuelling allegations of a high-level cover-up.

A subsequent review concluded last November that there was nothing to substantiate these claims although the missing dossier could not been found.

The current home secretary, Theresa May, has ordered a wide-ranging inquiry into child abuse, but it has been dogged by problems, with two chairmen being forced to resign before it has even got under way, her second choice quitting because of her links to Brittan.

Reporting by Stephen Addison and Michael Holden; editing by Kate Holton/Jeremy Gaunt

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