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:
There was one group of people, however, who did seem to possess all the information: the gangs intent on exploiting these vulnerable children.
They knew where the homes were; they knew how to contact the children: at the fish and chip shop, the amusement arcade, in the local park, or just by hanging around outside the houses.
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.
We shielded the children from the authorities who needed to be looking out for them.
More top news
A Liberal Democrat election candidate has been suspended by the party over allegations that he falsified his council nomination papers.
A Conservative local election candidate who said she could never support Ed Miliband "the Jew" has been suspended by the party.
Becoming prime minster may be Ed Miliband's principal ambition now, but he has revealed he previously coveted the role of bus conductor.