In July this year Mark Sedwill, permanent secretary to the Home Office gave some details about a Home Office review which took place last year.
In his letter Mr Sedwill told Mr Vaz that Mr Dickens had submitted allegations of sexual offences over a number of years to several Home Secretaries, including Lord Brittan, rather than just one single dossier.
He said the review had analysed a central database containing 746,000 files from the period 1979 to 1999 and had identified 527 potentially relevant files, from which nine items of information about alleged child abuse were reported to police.
But Mr Sedwill said the same analysis of the central database “identified 114 potentially relevant files had been presumed destroyed, missing or not found”.
And so Peter Wanless, CEO of the NSPCC was asked to examine and report.
And what has he discovered ?
Now, a source familiar with the Wanless report has told BBC 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 [the documents].”
But just because these ‘relevant missing files’ can not be found does not mean that this report might not possibly contain revealing and new information.
The questions that I would like to have answered, and these are questions that the Home Office are in a position to answer, are these;
1) What is the Home Office definition of a “relevant file” in the context of the 2013 Home Office review and Mark Sedwill’s statement ?
2) As these ‘relevant files’ were able to be identified within a central Home Office database containing 746,000 files there must logically be some descriptive information identifying them as ‘relevant’. Therefore, what information is known about the 114 missing ‘relevant files’ ? What is the exact nature of these files ?
3) Given that the 2013 Home Office review examined files from the period 1979-1999 from what period within those 20 years were each of the ‘relevant’ 114 missing files from and to supply context, what period were each of the ‘potentially relevant’ files that were found from ?
All of these questions can be answered by the Home Office even if the files themselves can not be found and given the increasing public suspicion concerning this entire issue, the Home Office would be wise to provide clarity on them.