The most senior civil servant in the Home Office is to give evidence to MPs after the department admitted more than 100 official files relating to allegations of historical child abuse by politicians have been lost or destroyed. Permanent secretary Mark Sedwill said the documents – which related to a 20-year period between 1979 and 1999 – were “presumed destroyed, missing or not found”. Home Affairs Select Committee chair Keith Vaz revealed on Sky News he has asked Mr Sedwill to appear before the committee on Tuesday to answer questions. These files are in addition to a dossier alleging historical child abuse involving powerful and famous figures at Westminster in the 1980s that is also missing. Mr Sedwill has said he will appoint a senior legal figure to assess the Home Office’s handling of the dossier. Home Secretary Theresa May will also give an update on the situation on Monday, Downing Street confirmed. Prime Minister David Cameron has called for Mr Sedwill to establish what happened to the file which was handed to the then home secretary, Leon (now Lord) Brittan, by Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens in 1983.
Lord Brittan admitted he received the dossier and passed it on to officials, but no action was ever taken. Mr Sedwill revealed in a letter to the Home Affairs committee that while the original review had identified 527 potentially relevant files which had been retained, there were a further 114 files which could not be located. He said that the investigation had not found a single dossier from Mr Dickens, but several sets of correspondence over a number of years to a number of home secretaries containing claims of sexual offences. However he said that the review had found no record of specific allegations by Mr Dickens of child sex abuse by senior figures. Mr Cameron has faced criticism for an “inadequate” investigation into what happened to the dossier. Labour MP Tom Watson has launched a petition calling on the PM to “make amends for historic failures” and establish a national inquiry.
But Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said it was “too soon” for such a move, which could delay the Home Office probe. “It may well be then that the answer is to have a much broader inquiry but I think it’s too soon to come to that conclusion now,” he told Sky’s Murnaghan programme. Speaking to the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg did not rule out a wider inquiry, but stressed the ongoing police investigations would have to take precedence. Former Conservative Cabinet minister Lord Tebbit has told the BBC he believes there could have been a cover-up of the allegations. Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has also written to Theresa May, claiming not enough is being done over “recent serious issues raised over child abuse”. The Metropolitan Police said in a statement: “We are currently assessing information and conducting a number of investigations under Operation Fairbank. “Any material submitted to us, historic or current, is reviewed to establish if it is relevant to these.” Calls for more to be done about allegations of child sex abuse by politicians have increased since the death of Liberal Democrat MP Cyril Smith, who was subsequently said to have been a paedophile.