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Brittan file action 'appropriate'

Leon Brittan was Home Secretary in Mrs Thatcher's 1983 government
Leon Brittan was Home Secretary in Mrs Thatcher's 1983 government

Former home secretary Lord Brittan has defended his handling of a 1980s dossier alleging paedophile activity in Westminster - after the Government admitted it appeared to have been destroyed.

The Tory peer issued a statement today after being challenged to "share what he knows" about a file prepared by MP Geoffrey Dickens.

But he caused confusion by initially claiming he passed it on to officials in November 1983 and heard nothing more, before admitting he had misremembered and in fact the material was assessed by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and handed to police.

The clarification came after an independent review commissioned by the Home Office last year came to light.

It revealed that the files presented by Mr Dickens had "not been retained" by the department - but concluded that all information received between 1979 and 1999 had been handled correctly.

An extract from a letter included in the report showed Lord Brittan wrote to Mr Dickens in March 1984 saying: "You drew my attention to a number of allegations concerning paedophilia when you called here on November 23 and in subsequent letters.

"I am now able to tell you that, in general terms, the view of the Director of Public Prosecutions is that two of the letters you forwarded could form the basis for inquiries by the police and they are now being passed to the appropriate authorities.

"In other cases there either seems to be inadequate evidence to pursue prosecution, for example the lady who wrote about PIE1 advertising but did not secure any example of the material complained of, or they have already been dealt with in some way by the courts or the police."

The review concluded: "The letter confirms that the information was considered at the time and that any matters requiring investigation were referred to the police."

Lord Brittan initially stated today that he had asked officials to look into the issue, and did not "recall being contacted further about these matters by Home Office officials or by Mr Dickens or by anyone else".

But he said later: "The Home Office independent review is entirely consistent with the action I set out in my earlier statement. Whilst I could not recall what further action was taken 30 years ago, the information contained in this report shows that appropriate action and follow-up happened."

Lord Brittan's intervention came after Labour MP Simon Danczuk urged him to spell out what he knew about the Dickens dossier - believed to have contained information about the Paedophile Information Exchange (Pie) and abuse networks operating around Westminster.

Mr Danczuk, who has investigated claims of abuse by ex-MP Cyril Smith, is calling for a "Hillsborough-style" inquiry to prevent allegations involving politicians being "swept under the carpet".

He insisted there was "no reason" why the dossier should have been destroyed by the Home Office.

"The public will be very concerned that the dossier appears to have been destroyed, and will quite rightly ask questions about why it was destroyed," Mr Danczuk said.

"This was the 1980s, not the 1880s. There would be no reason for destroying a document that made allegations of serious criminality.

"Many people will think it has been destroyed to protect the people whose names were in it."

Mr Danczuk said the Home Office needed to clarify what action was taken by police and other authorities based on the DPP's assessment.

He also urged the department to publish the independent review in full, rather than just the executive summaries.

A Home Office spokesman said the Dickens file had not been retained "in line with departmental policy" on record keeping, but could not give further details.

"In response to concerns raised in Parliament and the media relating to the handling by the Department of historical allegations of abuse, the Permanent Secretary commissioned an independent review of all relevant papers received by the Department between 1979 to 1999 to identify any information received and the outcome," the spokesman added.

"The review concluded the Home Office acted appropriately, referring information received during this period to the relevant authorities."

Former director of public prosecutions Lord Macdonald told BBC Radio 4's PM programme: "It sounds to me as though there needs to be further investigation into this. Some of the detail is more than troubling. It's always alarming when material goes missing.

"This may just be the passage of time, it may not be anything sinister, but I don't think people are going to be satisfied for this to be left as it is.

"I think there's going to have to be an investigation into this dossier and what may have happened to it, and indeed what the police did when they received it."

But Lord Macdonald cautioned against an all-embracing inquiry into the issue, warning that it "may not come to any particularly illuminating conclusions but may simply delay proper forensic criminal investigations".

Labour MP John Mann told PM an over-arching inquiry was "essential".

The Bassetlaw MP said: "There's more and more of this coming up. It goes to the heart of the establishment, and the key institutions of the country have been involved in doing nothing about it. That's why there needs to be a full public inquiry."

Alison Millar, head of the abuse team at legal firm Leigh Day which represents a number of alleged victims of assaults at a London guest house during the period, said it was "inconceivable" the dossier had gone missing and joined calls for an inquiry.

Mr Danczuk told MPs yesterday that he had spoken to a individual who claims to have been abused by Smith at the Elm Guest House, which he said was allegedly also attended by " other high profile figures".

Ms Millar said: "My clients are incredulous at how this dossier can have simply disappeared. It seems inconceivable that a document of such importance can have simply disappeared.

"I would strongly support the calls for a widespread inquiry into historic sexual abuse so that my clients could have their many questions answered about who knew what and that a very troubling veil is lifted from the corridors of power."


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