Ex-senior judge Butler-Sloss to head child sex abuse inquiry
Mark Sedwill, the Home Office's top civil servant, answering MPs' questions about historical child abuse allegations, said he was determined "to put this right".
"As a citizen, as a parent, I shudder when I think about this," he said.
Mr Sedwill was asked by the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee how his department lost or destroyed 114 files that could have shed light on alleged abuse.
The files were discovered to be missing following a review Mr Sedwill commissioned last year into the Home Office's handling of child abuse allegations between 1979 and 1999. He said the review had found no evidence that they had been removed or destroyed "inappropriately".
Mr Sedwill said the files had been identified as missing after a database of 750,000 files were trawled by an investigator using search terms including "child abuse", "paedophilia" and "PIE", as the Paedophile Information Exchange was known.
Mr Sedwill said he did not know the names of the missing files or how large they were and said he had not looked at the list of missing files. He also said that it would not have been "proper" for the Home Secretary to read the report into how her department had handled the 1980s claims.
Committee chairman Keith Vaz said he would like to have a copy of the list of missing files by Friday.
Baroness Butler-Sloss's broader, independent inquiry, will look at how seriously public bodies and other important institutions have taken their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse.
The probe aims to address public concern over failings exposed by recent child sex abuse cases involving celebrities such as Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris.
Mr Sedwill said Lady Butler-Sloss's inquiry would not be pursing individual cases, although she would want to hear cases of that type.
She was determined to "leave no stone unturned", he said, adding that he was sure her report would "be thorough and complete".
Announcing the peer's appointment, Home Secretary Theresa May said: "In recent years we have seen appalling cases of organised and persistent child sex abuse that have exposed serious failings by public bodies and important institutions.
"That is why the government has established an independent panel of experts to consider whether these organisations have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse."
Lady Butler-Sloss was coroner for the inquests into the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Al Fayed until she stepped down in 2007.
Her report on child sex abuse in Cleveland during the 1980s - which had led to more than 100 children being removed from their families - resulted in the Children's Act 1989.
As part of a two-pronged attack on child abuse, Home Secretary Theresa May announced on Monday a separate review, headed by the NSPCC's Peter Wanless, which would focus on concerns the Home Office failed to act on allegations of child sex abuse contained in a dossier handed over in the 1980s by former Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens.
Mr Sedwill told MPs that the Wanless review would be given independent legal advice from Richard Whittam, QC, First Senior Treasury Counsel at the Central Criminal Court.
NWN: Well this should be a great comfort to Lord Janner and Lord Brittan ! Talk about keeping it in the family. A 'whitewash' is on the cards here.