A review into allegations of historic child abuse at Westminster in the 1980s finds no evidence of organised attempts by the Home Office to conceal the claims.
The report by Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, and barrister Richard Whittam QC found nothing to support claims that paedophile rights group the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) was funded the Home Office.
Mr Wanless was brought in to investigate in July after an internal review found the department had “lost or destroyed” 114 files between 1979 and 1999. They included a dossier presented by former Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens to then-home secretary Lord Brittan in 1983.
However, the report concluded: “It is very difficult to prove anything definitive based on imperfectly operated paper records system at 30 years remove.”
“Filing conventions and record-keeping methods used during the period place significant limitations on our ability to re-establish a perfect record of what was known to the Home Office at the time.”
We found nothing to support a concern that files had been deliberately or systematically removed or destroyed. Wanless report
It added: “All that said, based on registered papers we have seen, and our wider inquiries, we found nothing to support a concern that files had been deliberately or systematically removed or destroyed to cover up organised child abuse.
“We found nothing specific to support a concern that the Home Office had failed in any organised or deliberate way to identify and refer individual allegations of child abuse to the police.”
Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper called for an urgent question over the matter, asking Home Secretary Theresa May to clarify who would investigate claims made by journalists such as Don Hale about child abuse.
Ms Cooper said: “There are still so many unanswered questions and [Theresa May] is right that the whole house will unite in its determination in action to get to the truth.
“Survivors of abuse and all of us need to know that we can hav the most effective possible system in place to pursue truth and justice, and protect our children for the future”.
Ms May said that the allegations made by Mr Hale were now being looked at by the Metropolitan police. She urged people who had information but who were worried about the official secrets act to come forward.
Nobody with any information about child abuse should be ignored. Theresa May, home secretary
“I want to be absolutely clear nobody with any information about child abuse should be ignored, nobody should be written off or dismissed, and nobody should be left to themselves.
“If we want to get to the bottom of what has been going on in our country for too long, we need to come together, work together, and listen to what survivors have to say.”
Simon Danczuk, who exposed former Liberal Democrat MP Cyril Smith as a paedophile, said the Wanless review had neglected to use high-tech digital techniques which may have helped locate missing files.
In an interview with the Telegraph, the Labour MP for Rochdale said: “I put Peter Wanless in touch with a leading company which specialises in tracing this kind of material but the timescale for his review did not allow the use of such techniques.
“That raises serious questions about the scope of the investigations and, frankly, leaves a question mark over any of its findings.”
Ms May said she has asked Mr Wanless and Mr Whittam to examine what was done with any material that was passed on to the security service, MI5, as well as to take a further look at the role of the police and prosecutors.
The Home Secretary said: “I am determined that appalling cases of child abuse should be exposed so that perpetrators face justice and the vulnerable are protected.”
But the hunt is still on for a chairman for that inquiry after Fiona Woolf became the second candidate to step aside from the job. It emerged she lives a few doors away from Lord and Lady Brittan and has dined with them on several occasions.
Ms May has apologised to victims for the delay in finding someone to head the probe.