HC Deb 02 July 1953 vol 517 cc578-82
34. Mr. S. Silverman

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will order a public inquiry into the case of Timothy John Evans, executed on a charge of having murdered his infant daughter, to see whether any miscarriage of justice occurred.

35. Mr. G. H. R. Rogers

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what additional charges were made against Timothy John Evans, who was executed after having been convicted of the murder of his child; and, in view of the fact that recent events have given grounds for the belief that a miscarriage of justice has occurred, if he will order an inquiry.

37. Dr. King

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will order an inquiry into the events for which Timothy John Evans was found guilty of murder.

38. Mr. Anthony Greenwood

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in view of the widespread public anxiety about the conviction and execution of Timothy John Evans, he will arrange for the circumstances of that case to be reviewed.

41. Mr. S. O. Davies

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, having regard to the revelations made in a recent trial, he will cause an inquiry to be made into all the circumstances leading to the death sentence on Timothy John Evans.

42. Mr. Paton

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware of the public disquiet at the possibility of a miscarriage of justice in the conviction and execution for murder of Timothy John Evans in 1950; and if he will set up an authoritative commission to hold a public inquiry into the circumstances of this case.

46. Mr. Willey

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in view of the additional information which is now available and which was not available at the trial, he will order an immediate inquiry about the conviction and execution of Timothy John Evans.

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

My right hon. and learned Friend is, of course, giving urgent consideration to this matter, but he is not in a position at present to make any statement. In any event, he would not think it right to make any statement or to comment on the issues involved while it is still open to the prisoner Christie to appeal.

Mr. Silverman

Would the hon. Gentleman convey to his right hon. and learned Friend that nobody expects him to make any statement or any comment upon any issue raised in any of these cases? All that the Question asks is whether he will order a public inquiry. Will he bear in mind that public confidence in the administration of justice has been gravely shaken—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It has—that it is most important that it should be restored, and that it can only be restored by the fullest possible open inquiry into all the matters involved?

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

It cannot be known on what grounds an appeal by Christie would be based, if it were made, and a decision either way might appear to prejudge some issue raised by an appeal. I can assure the House that as soon as possible after the time in which it is open to Christie to appeal has expired, or, if he should appeal, after such an appeal has been determined, my right hon. and learned Friend will make a statement.

Mr. Rogers

May I ask the Under-Secretary two questions? First, as the time for an appeal expires on Sunday, is it possible that we might have a statement from the hon. Gentleman or his right hon. and learned Friend on Monday? Secondly, would he inform his right hon. and learned Friend that a great many people who are interested in this matter believe that it is desirable that the inquiry, if held, should not be in camera but should be an open inquiry, with the parties interested properly represented and available for cross-examination?

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

I note what the hon. Member says, and I will see that my right hon. and learned Friend is advised of it.

Mr. Rogers

May I have an answer to the first part of my supplementary, if the hon. Gentleman knows it? Are we likely to have a statement on Monday, which is the day after the expiry of the time for an appeal?

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

I cannot give an answer now, but my right hon. and learned Friend will certainly make a statement as soon as he possibly can.

Dr. King

Would the Minister not agree that while it is dangerous to prejudge the implications of what has happened since the trial, there is grave anxiety in every corner of the land about those implications, and can he not help justice itself by speeding the inquiry and seeing that it is held at the earliest possible moment?

Mr. Greenwood

May we deduce from the hon. Gentleman's answer that if any such inquiry is held it will be held before still another mouth is closed by the imposition of this barbarous punishment? As the hon. Gentleman bases his reply upon the fate of Christie, may I ask whether he is aware that yesterday the psychiatrist who appeared on Christie's behalf at the trial was refused permission to visit him in Pentonville Gaol? Will the hon. Gentleman look into the matter?

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

I do not think that the last part of the question arises. If there should be an inquiry, and it should be considered desirable for Christie to appear before it, all necessary steps will be taken to secure that he is available for that purpose. If necessary, the date of execution can be postponed.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. As we are to have a statement shortly on this subject I think it would be better to defer further discussion.

Mr. Paton

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not the usual practice that those who put Questions down are allowed to ask a supplementary?

Mr. Speaker

That is the practice when the answer has been given, but the answer in this case is to the effect that a further answer is to be made. I shall remember those hon. Members who have put down these Questions when the further statement is issued.

Mr. Paton

Further to that, Mr. Speaker. I appear to be the only Member—perhaps there is one other—excluded from asking supplementaries. Surely that is a little unfair?

Mr. Willey

As the Member to whom my hon. Friend has just referred, may I put it to you, Sir, that this is a matter about which there is a great deal of public concern? May I put this point to the Under-Secretary, that in view of the public interest in this matter and the necessity for Members to be correctly informed about it, would it be possible for the transcript of the evidence in this case to be put in the Library?

Mr. Speaker

I think that when we get the answer of the Home Secretary which we are promised as soon as possible, these questions will be relevant. As the Under-Secretary has indicated that the Home Secretary fears that further discussion of this matter might possibly prejudice an appeal, I think that the less we say about it now the better. I hope that the House will agree with me in that view.