The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Theresa May):
On 7 July I announced to the House that Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam QC would be conducting a Review of two Independent Reviews that were commissioned by the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office in relation to child abuse. The full report by Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam QC will be placed in the House Library today and will also be available on gov.uk.
In response to public concern, Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam QC were asked to lead this work to address the allegation that, in the 1980s, the Home Office failed to act on information received in respect of child sexual abuse.
They have concluded that, in respect of the first Review commissioned by the Permanent Secretary, “the conclusions were reasonably available to the Reviewer on the information then available” and that they “agree with recommendations made”. In respect of the second Review commissioned by the Permanent Secretary, Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam QC make clear that they “have seen no evidence to suggest PIE was ever funded by the Home Office because of sympathy for its aims”. Their Review makes three recommendations for the Department, all of which have been accepted.
These were that:
- they endorse the recommendations made in the first Review
- where an allegation of child abuse is made it must be recorded and the file marked as significant. That significance should then inform the Department as to how to handle that file, its retention and the need to record when [if at all] it is destroyed. This approach is relevant, not only to the Home Office, but could usefully be adopted across government as well
- there should be a system within the Home Office of recording what information is sent to the police and then a formal procedure of confirming what the result of that reference is.
My officials have already implemented the recommendations from the first Review commissioned by the Permanent Secretary, which have now been endorsed by Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam QC. They will work to implement recommendations two and three of Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam QC’s Review as soon as possible.
I have also written to Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam QC today on two particular aspects on which I am seeking further reassurance, firstly their consideration of how the police and prosecution authorities handled any material that was handed to them at the time. The Home Office will publish their response to this question, to ensure full transparency on this point.
Secondly, I have asked them for similar assurance in relation to the full unredacted final reports of the first investigation, and the list of the 114 files considered in their Review, to establish whether any of the material mentioned in these was ever passed to the Security Service and, if so, what action the Security Service took in respect of this material.
Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam QC’s full report, which is being placed in the House Library today, contains a number of Annexes. These Annexes include copies of the full reports from the first Review that the Permanent Secretary commissioned. Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam have made only the redactions that they judge are necessary to ensure publication does not jeopardise any future criminal investigations or trials.
Publication of this review today is an important step in ensuring institutions take seriously their duty to protect children from abuse and to learn lessons from any failures.