A report into what happened to missing Home Office files dealing with an alleged VIP paedophile ring in the 1980s has been dismissed as a waste of time.
Even Home Secretary Theresa May, who ordered the inquiry, said she still could not say categorically there had been no cover-up operation by former members of her department.
In his long-awaited report NSPCC chief Peter Wanless said that Home Office record-keeping was so shambolic it was “impossible” to discover what happened to the files.
These included a dossier by MP Geoffrey Dickens setting out allegations of a paedophile ring linked to politicians and Buckingham Palace.
Mr Wanless said: “It is very difficult to prove anything definitive based on an imperfectly-operated paper records system at 30 years remove.
“It is, therefore, not possible to say whether files were ever removed or destroyed to cover up or hide allegations of organised or systematic child abuse.”
Campaigners and victims’ groups said the report was “meaningless”.
Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk, said: “Theresa May has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address child abuse failings of the past. But so far all we have seen are whitewash reports.”
Peter Garsden, of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers, added: “It seems Wanless was set up to fail. Survivors will see this as a complete waste of time.”
Hauled before the Commons, Mrs May admitted: “I cannot stand here and say that during the 1980s, the Home Office was not involved in a cover-up. There may have been a cover-up.
“That is why we have set up the inquiry into child abuse. We are determined to get to the truth.”
Mrs May told MPs she would be asking Mr Wanless to look further at how the police and prosecutors handled the allegations passed to them by the Home Office at the time.
She said: “I’m determined that appalling cases of child abuse should be exposed so perpetrators face justice and the vulnerable are protected.”
David Cameron was ridiculed after he tried to claim the Wanless report showed nothing had been deliberately buried. He said: “There will be lessons to be learned, but I think it is important that it says there was not a cover-up.”
When Mr Wanless was asked if he thought Mr Cameron had actually read the report, he said: “I don’t think he has.”
By Jack Blanchard