FORMER home secretary Lord Brittan has defended his handling of a 1980s dossier alleging the existence a Westminster paedophile ring - after the Government admitted it appeared to have been destroyed.

The Tory peer issued a statement today (July 2) after being challenged to "share what he knows" about the file containing claims of politicians' involvement in organised child sex abuse.

Last year the former MP for Cleveland and Whitby and later Richmond, North Yorkshire, said he could not "recollect" the 50 page dossier compiled by former Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens.

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However, Lord Brittan issued an initial statement today (July 2) confirming that he had met Mr Dickens and a "substantial bundle of papers" were passed to officials to investigate.

He added that he was unable to "recall being contacted further about these matters by Home Office officials or by Mr Dickens or by anyone else".

Baron Brittan of Spennithorne, near Richmond, then issued a second statement admitting he had misremembered events and the material was assessed by the Director of Public Prosecutions and handed to police.

His clarification came after the emergence of an independent Home Office review conducted last year.

It revealed the files presented by Mr Dickens had "not been retained" by the department - but concluded all information received between 1979 and 1999 was handled correctly.

An extract from a letter included in the report showed Lord Brittan wrote to Mr Dickens in March 1984 saying: "You drew my attention to a number of allegations concerning paedophilia when you called here on November 23 and in subsequent letters.

"I am now able to tell you that, in general terms, the view of the Director of Public Prosecutions is that two of the letters you forwarded could form the basis for inquiries by the police and they are now being passed to the appropriate authorities."

The review concluded: "The letter confirms that the information was considered at the time and that any matters requiring investigation were referred to the police."

Lord Brittan said later: "The Home Office independent review is entirely consistent with the action I set out in my earlier statement. Whilst I could not recall what further action was taken 30 years ago, the information contained in this report shows that appropriate action and follow-up happened."

His intervention came after Labour MP Simon Danczuk urged him to spell out what he knew about the Dickens dossier - believed to have contained information about the Paedophile Information Exchange (Pie) and abuse networks operating around Westminster.

Mr Danczuk, who has investigated claims of abuse by ex-Rochdale MP Cyril Smith, is calling for a "Hillsborough-style" inquiry to prevent allegations involving politicians being "swept under the carpet".

He insisted there was "no reason" why the dossier should have been destroyed by the Home Office.

"This was the 1980s, not the 1880s. There would be no reason for destroying a document that made allegations of serious criminality," he said.

"Many people will think it has been destroyed to protect the people whose names were in it."

Mr Danczuk said the Home Office needed to clarify what action was taken by police and other authorities based on the DPP's assessment.

A Home Office spokesman said the Dickens file was not retained "in line with departmental policy" on record keeping.

Former director of public prosecutions Lord Macdonald told BBC Radio 4's PM programme: "It sounds to me as though there needs to be further investigation into this. Some of the detail is more than troubling. It's always alarming when material goes missing."