HC Deb 23 October 1975 vol 898 cc713-7
Sir B. Rhys Williams (by Private Notice)

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement concerning the bomb explosion in Kensington this morning.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Roy Jenkins)

Shortly before 9 a.m. this morning, a bomb placed under a car belonging to and parked outside the house of the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) exploded. It killed a neighbour, Professor G. Hamilton Fairley, who was walking past the car at the time. A young woman was taken to hospital suffering from shock. No warning was given. Police inquiries are, of course, under way.

I am sure that the House will wish to join with me in expressing our sympathy to the family of Professor Hamilton Fairley and to all those who were close to the incident, including, of course, the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone. The current series of incidents which started while the House was in recess shows again the importance of continued vigilance by all members of the public. The police and the emergency services have behaved with great courage and efficiency in meeting the responsibilities placed upon them. But the task is not one for them alone. It demands the wholehearted co-operation of each of us to combat and certainly not to be intimidated by the viciousness of terrorism.

Sir B. Rhys Williams

May I join in the right hon. Gentleman's expressions of condolence to the family of Professor Hamilton Fairley and all who suffered in this outrage? Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm that this was not, by the signs, merely a blind act of terrorism but a deliberate attempt on the life of a right hon. Member?

Mr. Jenkins

It would be rash to confirm or deny that statement at the present time. Clearly we are all aware and take note of the fact that this was close to our affairs in this House because of where it occurred. I do not think it would be wise to say more.

Mr. Hugh Fraser


Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Fraser

May I thank the House and also thank the right hon. Gentleman for what he has said? I think we can all agree that every politician in this House, of whatever party, is at risk and that all parties are determined to extirpate terrorism, whatever its causes. Might I add a special tribute to my neighbour, Professor Hamilton Fairley, who probably did more than any other man for cancer research in this country? It might be borne in mind by the public that this innocent victim was a distinguished man who had contributed more to the saving of human life than perhaps anyone in this House or in the whole medical profession.

Mr. Jenkins

I am sure the whole House will echo the moving tribute that the right hon. Member has paid to Professor Hamilton Fairley, who was a chance victim of this attack. The right hon. Gentleman's political and physical courage commands the admiration of us all.

Mr. Strauss

Has my right hon. Friend seen the story on the front page of today's Daily Express alleging that the Government have issued orders to the police through the Attorney-General and Director of Public Prosecutions that there are to be no more conspiracy trials? The story goes on to say that this is frustrating the police in arresting and charging those whom they believe to be responsible for bomb outrages. Will my right hon. Friend comment on this grave allegation?

Mr. Jenkins

The story on the front page of today's Daily Express is inaccurate in fact, wholly misleading and, I fear, mischievous in inference. No pressure of any kind was brought by the Prime Minister, myself, any other Minister, the Attorney-General or the Director of Public Prosecutions in relation to any of the matters referred to in the article. Distinguished counsel appearing for the prosecution was consulted by the Director of Public Prosecutions at a very early stage, and throughout the preparation of the case the Director's department fully concurred with and followed the advice which counsel gave.

There is indeed a most glaring contradiction on the front page. The article says in column 2 that there were to be no conspiracy charges and then in column 5 reports convictions on charges of conspiracy to murder.

In view of the grave allegations of political interference with the conduct of the prosecution, my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General intends to make a full and detailed statement on the matter early next week. I would merely add at the moment that the article appears to me to be one of the most false, irresponsible and malevolent Press reports I have ever seen.

Sir M. Havers

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I was the counsel charged with responsibility for the prosecution of those arrested for these offences? It was my decision and mine alone, without any pressure being applied from any quarter whatever or any consultation with the Attorney-General, who had appointed me to do this task, that led me to the decision, in consultation with my juniors and the Director of Public Prosecutions, that no charges other than those dealt with yesterday or pending should be brought. There was no influence of any kind on me, my team or the Director of Public Prosecutions. The article is totally false and irresponsible.

Mr. Jenkins

I note with respect the statement which the hon. and learned Gentleman has thought it right to make to the House. I hope that, in view of that statement, the Daily Express will think it right to publish a complete withdrawal immediately, at the first available opportunity, and will give it equal prominence to that which it gave the story this morning.

Mr. Thorpe

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we would like to be associated with the expressions of sympathy to the family of Professor Hamilton Fairley and that we are relieved that, perhaps purely by chance, the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) was spared? Does the Home Secretary agree that the convictions at the Old Bailey yesterday indicate that the police will spare no effort to track down and bring to justice those who commit terrorism? Would he also agree that, although we do not know what organisation was responsible, the police will depend on every piece of information from the public being transmitted to them urgently if we are to have the chance of bringing to justice those responsible?

Mr. Jenkins

I agree with the earlier part of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks. On the latter part, the police, as the House will recognise, in relation to this and other acts of terrorism, devote every possible effort to their task of tracking down the perpetrators. They have met with a substantial degree of success, and that, I believe, will continue to be the case. It would be useful to them to receive all relevant information about this latest outrage.