Missing paedophile dossier: MPs expected to call Brittan to explain
Outrage at file’s disappearance: it would have ‘rocked the Commons’ if action had been taken, says the Mail
The Home Affairs Select Committee is "very likely" to take more evidence over the disclosure that a dossier concerning an alleged paedophile ring operating "in and around Westminster" in the 1980s has gone missing.
Lord [Leon] Brittan, the former Tory Home Secretary, who, as The Mole reported yesterday, remembers handing the dossier to his officials in 1983, but has been vague about what if anything happened next, could be called to explain his role in the affair.
This follows the disclosure that there is no record of any subsequent criminal inquiry - while the Home Office admitted yesterday that the dossier, handed to Brittan by the late Geoffrey Dickens, a Tory backbencher, was not retained by justice officials and is either lost or destroyed. This has caused outrage overnight.
The Daily Mail claims the dossier apparently named names and offered evidence. “To those who claim to have some knowledge of the contents, it presented a timebomb under the political Establishment,” the paper reports. “Once action was taken, the Commons would have been rocked to its foundations.”
The paper quotes a senior Home Office source as saying: “The only thing police can be sure about is that it has disappeared. Whether it was weeded out routinely, or destroyed for more sinister reasons, is also unclear.”
The Mail concludes its report by asking: “Has the timebomb that never exploded started ticking again?
According to Dickens’s son, Barry, a duplicate dossier held by the Dickens family was destroyed by the MP’s late widow because she thought it “toxic”.
A lawyer representing alleged victims of abuse at the Elm guesthouse in southwest London, an establishment reportedly named in the dossier, said they were "incredulous" at the loss of the document. Alison Millar, head of the abuse team at Leigh Day, said: “It seems inconceivable that a document of such importance can have simply disappeared.”
There is now intense pressure on the Home Affairs Select Committee, chaired by Labour MP Keith Vaz, to delve deeper into what happened to the Dickens dossier as part of its wider inquiry into child sex abuse. A senior committee source told The Mole today it was "very likely" that the committee would take more evidence into the missing dossier and claims of a cover-up about a VIP paedophile ring.
It was Vaz’s committee that took evidence from Simon Danczuk, Labour MP for Rochdale, who has been campaigning against an alleged cover-up over child abuse involving the former Liberal MP for his seat, Cyril Smith.
On Tuesday, Danczuk told MPs on the committee: “People like Leon Brittan need to share their knowledge and understanding of what was going on at that time. The inquiry has to get to the bottom of this.”
Brittan issued a statement through his lawyers yesterday in which he confirmed handing the Dickens dossier to officials in 1983 but said he did not recollect hearing any more about it.
He was forced to correct that after the Home Office confirmed it had carried out a trawl of its documents last year and uncovered a subsequent letter from Brittan to Dickens in 1984 saying two letters in the file had been assessed by the Director of Public Prosecutions as worth pursuing. These had been "passed to the appropriate authorities".
Brittan released a second statement saying he had only just been made aware of last summer's review, which proved that appropriate action had been taken. He said the report was "entirely consistent" with the action he set out in his first statement.
Last year Brittan told The Independent in an email: “I have no recollection of these matters. Sorry!” Many now believe his two statements yesterday raise more questions than they answer.