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Child abuse files 'can't be found'

A review into how the Home Office handled historic child sex abuse allegations at Westminster in the 1980s has been unable to uncover crucial missing files, it is reported.

BBC Newsnight cites sources claiming that the so-called Dickens dossier, papers said to detail allegations of child sex abuse handed to the Home Office by former Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens, had not been located.

The Home Office has refused to comment, reiterating that the report of the review, led by the NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless, is to be published next week.

A source told Newsnight: "They have looked inside and behind every single cupboard in the department, and they have been round them twice, and they have not been able to find any of them."

Former home secretary Lord Brittan has flatly denied failing to deal with a dossier provided by Mr Dickens in 1983 properly, while a review carried out by a HMRC official last year found no evidence that relevant material was not passed to other authorities.

But it also disclosed that the Dickens file appeared to have been destroyed - and the permanent secretary at the Home Office, Mark Sedwill, has since revealed that 114 files deemed potentially relevant are missing.

MP Simon Danczuk, told the BBC: "I am worried Peter Wanless has been set up to fail in many respects.

"I don't think he was given enough time to carry out this investigation. I don't think he was provided with enough support within the Home Office and I am worried he didn't get the technological support."

It comes after current Home Secretary Theresa May apologised in the Commons in the wake of the resignation of the second chairwoman appointed to lead a wider inquiry into historic child sex abuse.

Fiona Woolf, the Lord Mayor of London, resigned last Friday following disclosures about her links to Lord Brittan, prompting Mrs May to announce the inquiry would have to begin without a chairman next Wednesday.

Labour MP John Mann said he was concerned that civil servants who dealt with the dossier at the time had not come forward to give evidence to Mr Wanless because they are forbidden to reveal information about it by the Official Secrets Act.

Mr Mann told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I've spoken to a civil servant who saw the file at the time, back in the '80s, and had to sign the Official Secrets Act. Many more did as well, not just in the Home Office.

"While I understand the file is really a list of names and not much more than that, I've also spoken to a journalist who's still alive today - Don Hale - who was given a list of names, but more importantly a whole series of Home Office minutes of meetings looking into this issue, by the late Barbara Castle.

"All those files very quickly - a couple of days after he was given them by Barbara Castle - were seized by the security services and Special Branch.

"This information came to light to me after Wanless had finished his work."

Asked if he was impressed by Mr Wanless's investigation, Mr Mann said: " It doesn't seem to me it's getting anywhere near asking the questions. If one civil servant saw the file, and says many others did as well, and doesn't want to speak out because of the restrictions of the Official Secrets Act, then that's what Wanless needed to be asking questions about."

He added: "I'm aware of some of the names. They are not all household names. The well-known ones, it's inconceivable that there wouldn't be interest from the intelligence services, because they could be blackmailed. It would be improper for the Home Office not to pass that on at the time.

"There are ongoing police investigations into some of these people. I'm aware of at least seven prominent people where there are ongoing live police investigations, and there are other names given where there's not in my view sufficient evidence in themselves to launch anything other than asking around.

"With a number of them, victims have come forward and they are very prominent people. So the issue is not going to go away.

"There are civil servants, maybe retired now, who do know a lot and they have not come forward to Wanless, and that's a problem."

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