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Cabinet minister Michael Gove has claimed the Government and police are being denied basic information about vulnerable children, while paedophile gangs are fully informed.
Mr Gove said he faced a "wall of silence" when he tried to find out details about those in care homes, with his department unaware of locations and who was responsible for the children.
He said data protection rules and "other bewildering regulations" barred regulator Ofsted from giving information relating to children to the police. In contrast, Mr Gove said:
Michael Gove has said "absurd" secrecy rules in care homes helps "gangs intent on exploiting these vulnerable children".
The Education Secretary's comments came as an in-depth report into England's children homes revealed councils spent an average of £4,000 a week to place a child in accommodation.
Many children were sent far away from their local area, which Mr Gove described as "indefensible".
The report, which is due to be published in full today, was written in the wake of the Rochdale grooming scandal and found that 30% of homes fell below the basic standard set by the Government.
Secrecy rules that apply to children in care homes may make them more vulnerable to abuse and less protected by local authorities, Education Secretary Michael Gove said.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he describes his experience of being confronted with a stream of "absurd" secrecy rules and a "wall of silence" as he attempted to get information on how children's care homes operate, following the Rochdale cases of sexual exploitation.
"I was met with a wall of silence. The only responsible body with the information we needed was Ofsted, [...] yet Ofsted was prevented by 'data protection' rules, 'child protection' concerns and other bewildering regulations from sharing that data with us, or even with the police.
"In the name of 'protecting children' by officially 'protecting' their information, we had ended up helping the very people we were supposed to be protecting them from."