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Government Files

Volume 592: debated on Wednesday 4 February 2015

I welcome the Home Secretary’s announcement today regarding the inquiry into child sexual abuse in England and Wales.

The Cabinet Office will support the inquiry and will work with the Home Office to ensure that Departments provide the inquiry with all relevant information.

As the House is aware, the Cabinet Office last week released to The National Archives a file containing information about a former United Kingdom High Commissioner to Canada, Sir Peter Hayman. This file is now public. This file should have been submitted to the review by Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam QC. I regret that the file was missed in error and was not submitted at the time. However, a similar set of papers was held in the Home Office and seen by Wanless and Whittam. The complete and unredacted Cabinet Office file will be made available to Wanless and Whittam if they wish to see it, and the inquiry. However Wanless has already confirmed that the file would not have changed the conclusions of his review.

As a result of the discovery of the Sir Peter Hayman file, the Cabinet Office has conducted additional searches of its extensive papers and files. Officials have identified four additional relevant files, one of which was marked for destruction pending further checks by the Cabinet Office and The National Archives. The Cabinet Office already has in place a process for reviewing its files scheduled for destruction. I am ensuring that relevant departments have a similar process in place. These files are being shared with the inquiry, the Hart inquiry, the relevant departments, and the Metropolitan Police Service. All the complete and unredacted files will be made available to Wanless and Whittam if they wish to see them.

The files were found in a separate Cabinet Office archive of sensitive, historic papers. This archive, colloquially known as the Cabinet Secretaries’ file, was closed in 2007. It is largely uncatalogued and unregistered; a programme to review it has been underway since last year but remains in progress. Officials assure me that the available titles have now been searched and more detailed searches are ongoing. My officials will work with the inquiry to ensure it has the assurance it requires that all papers held by the Cabinet Office have been fully examined and that relevant papers are correctly identified and disclosed.