Daniel Boffey — The Guardian July 6, 2014
Leon Brittan, the former home secretary, was questioned by police last month over a historical allegation of rape, it was claimed on Saturday night.
Detectives were said to be investigating an allegation that Brittan, who was not an MP at the time of the alleged incident, assaulted a woman at an address in London in 1967. The Metropolitan police said: “A man aged in his seventies was interviewed under caution by appointment at a central London location in connection with the allegation. He was not arrested.” The woman was over the age of 18 at the time of the alleged incident.
It is understood that Brittan strongly denied the allegation. The Independent on Sunday said he refused to comment on the claim. It quoted him saying: “I’m sorry I am not going to be able to talk about something like that.”
The allegation against Brittan is not connected to separate claims involving a dossier compiled by an MP detailing allegations of a 1980s Westminster paedophile ring that was given to Brittan when he was home secretary.
On Sunday it emerged that the dossier is one of more than 100 potentially relevant Home Office files destroyed, lost or missing.
The government is under pressure to carry out an inquiry into historical cases of paedophilia following the revelation that a total of 114 Home Office files relevant to allegations of a child abuse network have disappeared from government records.
David Cameron has already ordered the Home Office permanent secretary to look into what happened to the lost dossier which was given to Brittan, then home secretary, by the campaigning Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens in the 1980s.
The revelation that further relevant documents have disappeared will raise fresh fears of an establishment cover-up.
Simon Danczuk, the MP for Rochdale, who is calling for an overarching national inquiry into historical child abuse, said: “I had absolutely no idea that these other files were also missing. The public view will be that there is something fishy going on. The public will understandably think that these documents have gone missing because it helps to protect the names of those identified in them. That is the conclusion that many will come to, and who could blame them?”
Tom Watson, the Labour MP who was central to the uncovering of the phone-hacking scandal, said it was increasingly clear than only a Hillsborough-style inquiry would reassure the public. He said: “Only an overarching inquiry will get to the facts, everything else the government says or does on this is a diversion.”
Dickens, who died in 1995, had told his family that the information he handed to the home secretary in 1983 and 1984 would “blow the lid off” the lives of powerful and famous child abusers, including eight well-known figures.
In a letter to Dickens at the time, Brittan suggested that his information would be passed to the police, but Scotland Yard says it has no record of any investigation into the allegations.
Yesterday the Home Office made public a letter to Keith Vaz, chairman of the home affairs select committee, in which the department confirmed that correspondence from Dickens had not been retained and that it had found “no record of specific allegations by Mr Dickens of child sex abuse by prominent public figures”.
The Home Office’s permanent secretary, Mark Sedwill, admitted, however, that a further 114 documents relevant to allegations of child abuse were missing from the department’s records. That discovery was made last year by an independent review into information received about organised child sex abuse but was not published in its report.
Sedwill told Vaz that the missing documents were some of the 36,000 records which officials presumed were lost, destroyed or missing. They were not part of the 278,000 documents the Home Office destroyed as part of its “retention and destruction” policy. However, Sedwill told Vaz in a letter published yesterday that the department had found “no evidence of the inappropriate removal or destruction of material”.
He also wrote to the prime minister to tell him that he would engage a senior independent legal figure to assess whether last year’s conclusions “remain sound”.