HC Deb 27 November 1975 vol 901 cc1029-31
11. Mr. Skinner

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has yet replied to the letter from Amnesty International regarding Des Warren, the imprisoned Shrewsbury trade unionist

Mr. Roy Jenkins

Yes, Sir. I have acknowledged to Amnesty International that its decision was not to adopt Mr. Warren as a prisoner of conscience. It has made no formal judgment on the question whether or not he is a political prisoner. There is, of course, no provision in English law for a prisoner to be treated as a political prisoner.

Mr. Skinner

Is it not a fact, however, that Amnesty International was more than a little upset about the fact that the Home Secretary had given the impression to the outside world that it had refused to adopt Des Warren as a political prisoner when, in fact, things were somewhat different? Will my right hon. Friend be prepared to have another look at this case and set up an inquiry based on some new photographic evidence that shows quite conclusively that the man who was supposed to have been seriously injured, a man by the name of Grocott, was present at meetings, in perfectly good health, long after he was supposed to have been injured as a result of what, as he said, the pickets had done during the course of the strike concerned? Does not my right hon. Friend agree that if there is new evidence of this kind a full-scale inquiry should take place to establish the facts, based on these new photographs?

Mr. Jenkins

My hon. Friend has asked a large number of questions. In so far as there was any question of misunderstanding with Amnesty International, it arose directly out of the question which he put to me previously which was based on a direct misunderstanding on his part.

Mr. Skinner


Mr. Jenkins

Perhaps my hon. Friend will listen for a moment. What he said was: Is it not about time that the Home Secretary recognised that Des Warren is a political prisoner, nothing more and nothing less…. That is why Amnesty International has taken up Des Warren's case."—[Official Report, 16th October 1975; Vol. 0897, c. 1575.] What Amnesty International said was that it had decided not to adopt him as a prisoner of conscience but had made no decision one way or the other about his being a political prisoner. As will be clear from what I have read to the House, my hon. Friend's question on the previous occasion was based on an entirely false premise, and in so far as misunderstanding arose, I refuted the false conclusion that my hon. Friend drew from the false premise. I have made the position clear to Amnesty International, and there is no further difficulty about this matter.

As regards the further points raised by my hon. Friend, in any case, matters of new evidence which has not been before the courts will always be considered in order to show whether they are something which would justify a reference, but these must be matters of new evidence and not matters of opinion on old facts.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman has just said about new evidence. However, will he confirm that this conviction followed the normal and objective processes of our criminal trial system, which processes would not be available in every other country where they might be wanted but could not be secured by a person charged with this sort of offence?

Mr. Jenkins

I have made so many statements on various aspects of this case which make it clear that I believe that this is a case where the rule of law and the courts should be upheld that I cannot believe that any further statement of mine would add to the case in any way.

Mr. Faulds

Considering the hundreds of thousands of genuine political prisoners throughout the world, would it not be heartening if some of our colleagues could lift their eyes occasionally from such parochial, petty and piddling horizons?