HC Deb 03 July 1986 vol 100 cc1154-6
4. Mr. Meadowcroft

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if there has been any change in the terms of reference of the Stalker inquiry following the appointment of Mr. Sampson.

Mr. Tom King

The terms of reference of the inquiry are a matter for the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. I understand, however, that there has been no change following the appointment of Mr. Sampson.

Mr. Meadowcroft

The Secretary of State will be aware of the exceptionally high regard in which Mr. Colin Sampson is held in West Yorkshire and that no involvement of his could ever be regarded as malign. Can the Secretary of State tell the House what the thinking was behind appointing Mr. Sampson to carry out both inquiries simultaneously? Is it possible to hold up the continuation of the Stalker inquiry pending the resolution of the inquiry into Mr. Stalker's involvement in Manchester? Is it possible that Mr. Stalker could be put back on to the inquiry in Northern Ireland once the question of the disciplinary action in Manchester is resolved?

Mr. King

I note the hon. Gentleman's tribute to Mr. Sampson. I think the House is aware that the decision to appoint Mr. Sampson was taken by the Chief Constable of the RUC, but only after consultation with Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary and the Attorney-General. Part of the answer may lie in the further question that the hon. Gentleman asked, which is that he was advocating delay. My concern is that the matter should be pursued as vigorously as possible, the facts established, and if charges are to be brought, they should be brought at the earliest possible date.

The innuendo and rumour about matters that happened in 1982—four years ago — are undoubtedly doing great damage to a force—to which I paid tribute earlier—of outstandingly brave men who seek to uphold law and order in the Province. Many Nationalists have recognised the brave way in which, in recent months and years, RUC officers have sought impartially to uphold law and order. I am anxious to see the inquiry pursued at the earliest possible date. Although it is not a matter for me—it is a matter for the Chief Constable—I am anxious to see no delay.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

Does my right hon. Friend agree that we should be making inquiries to ascertain whether anybody in the Province was in any way responsible for the lodging of complaints against Mr. Stalker? If my right hon. Friend agrees that inquiries should be made, what steps is he taking to ascertain the facts?

Mr. King

I have no evidence to suggest that that is the case. The inquiry conducted by Mr. Stalker relating to the RUC is a matter not for me, but for the Chief Constable, as is Mr. Sampson's appointment. As I said in reply to the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Meadowcroft), the matter will be pursued diligently and vigorously.

Any evidence regarding the appointment and any other matters that may be investigated would, presumably, come to light in the further inquiry that is being conducted at the request of the Police Authority.

Mr. Mallon

As inquests into the deaths of six people in Northern Ireland in 1982 have not been held, four years after their deaths, does the Secretary of State accept that the appointment of Mr. Sampson to continue the Stalker inquiry in Northern Ireland, and to inquire into the Stalker affair in Britain, must inevitably cause further delay? Will the Secretary of State accede to the request by the Greater Manchester police authority to meet it so he can hear the authority express its views and disquiet about these delays?

Mr. King

The House may be aware that Mr. Stalker was not acting alone. He had a team working with him. The whole team has remained in place and is now reporting to Mr. Sampson. The matter is being carried forward by the same investigating team, without delay. As I said to the hon. Member for Leeds, West it is unsatisfactory to suggest that the inquiry should be delayed. I believe that it is necessary for the matter to be carried through as promptly as possible.

Mr. Franks

Does my right hon. Friend accept that it is just not possible to isolate the Stalker inquiry in Northern Ireland from the current inquiry into Mr. Stalker himself, and that the current inquiry inevitably inhibits comment on the Stalker inquiry and what is supposed to be contained in the interim report? Does my right hon. Friend have any indication from the West Yorkshire police of how long its inquiries into Mr. Stalker will continue? Does he share with me, and I am sure all hon. Members, the desire that the inquiry into Mr. Stalker should be concluded before the House begins the summer recess?

Mr. King

I cannot comment on the interim report that Mr. Stalker submitted to the Chief Constable and which is now in the hands of the Director of Public Prosecutions of Northern Ireland with a view to considering whether charges should be brought. As my hon. Friend knows, the matters affecting Mr. Stalker in respect of the Manchester situation are not matters for me.

Mr. Archer

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that I have written to him asking a number of questions about this subject which are being widely canvassed? I appreciate that he has not yet had time to reply. However, has the right hon. Gentleman not agreed that there has been widespread and damaging speculation? If no answers are given to those questions, are not people hound to guess at the answers? In particular, why was it announced that Mr. Stalker had been removed from the RUC inquiry, before the complaints against him had been investigated, and presumably irrespective of the outcome?

I wish to repeat a question that has already been put to the right hon. Gentleman today: was not the appointment of Mr. Sampson, both to inquire into the conduct of Mr. Stalker and to complete the RUC inquiry bound to delay one or the other?

Mr. King

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has returned to the interesting point put by the hon. Member for Leeds, West, who suggested that the Stalker inquiry should be suspended while investigations were carried out. It is important that the matter is pursued, for reasons which the House understands. Everyone has paid tribute to the independence and quality of Mr. Sampson. I think that the House can be confident that he will seek to pursue the matter in a vigorous and effective manner.

The House may know that Mr. Sampson had a full meeting yesterday with the Chief Constable of the RUC, at which I understand satisfactory progress was made, ensuring continuing co-operation in the inquiry. I hope that I have made my position clear. I feel that it is sensible to proceed. However, the matter was decided by the Chief Constable in consultation with the Chief Inspector of Constabulary and the Attorney-General.

On the question about the decision that Mr. Stalker should not continue with the inquiry, I understand that the Chief Constable was advised that as Mr. Stalker had been invited to take leave, he was therefore no longer available for the inquiry at that time.

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