HC Deb 16 July 1987 vol 119 cc1261-3
1. Mr. Mullin

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will call for a report from the chief constable of the west midlands as to why west midlands police officers have been taking statements regarding the case of the Birmingham pub bombings when this inquiry has been placed in the hands of the Devon and Cornwall police; and if he will make a statement.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Douglas Hurd)

I am assured by the chief constable of Devon and Cornwall that all inquiries and interviews carried out in the course of the investigation of the allegations by the former west midlands police officer Thomas Clarke have been conducted by officers of his force.

I understand from the Director of Public Prosecutions that officers of the West Midlands police have conducted certain inquiries on his behalf in connection with the appeal by the six men convicted of the bombings. These inquiries have no connection with those on which the chief constable of Devon and Cornwall will be reporting to me.

Mr. Mullin

Is the Home Secretary aware that there is grave disquiet about the way in which the inquiry is being conducted? I include in that the inquiry that is being conducted by the Devon and Cornwall police. Does he agree that the West Midlands police force is probably the force least qualified in the whole country to be involved in the investigations? Does he further agree that it is the job of the Court of Appeal, not the police, to determine whether witnesses are telling the truth?

Mr. Hurd

I shall not enter on that ground in a case that has been referred by me to the Court of Appeal. I have seen nothing that in any way justifies the allegations and insinuations that the hon. Gentleman has made.

Dame Jill Knight

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the convention of the House, that Members of Parliament mind their own constituency business and do not intervene in matters relating to other hon. Members' constituencies? Will he also recognise that the Birmingham pub bombings have a great deal more relevance to the west midlands than to Sunderland, South?

Mr. Hurd

That is not a matter for me. However, I must say that I have been very disturbed by press reports of what the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) is reported to have said in Dublin, where he described these people as political prisoners and cast doubts on the whole process of reference to the Court of Appeal. He misled those who were listening to him in Ireland, and brought no credit upon himself.

Mr. Alton

In retrospect, does the Home Secretary agree that if the impartiality of the case could have been safeguarded by the Police Complaints Authority there would have been greater public confidence? Does he further agree that if the Maguire and Guildford cases had been referred to the Court of Appeal the extradition agreements would now have been agreed and implemented by the Republic of Ireland?

Mr. Hurd

I cannot allow that sort of consideration to influence my decision whether to refer matters to the Court of Appeal. I decided in January to refer the Birmingham case to the Court of Appeal for reasons that I stated to the House at the time. At the same time, I explained why I had not decided to refer the Guildford, Woolwich and Maguire cases. Since then, there has been a suggestion of fresh matter in the case of the Guildford bombings. There was a television programme, and we are trying to get hold of what Mrs. Fox, who appeared on the programme, is supposed to have said. There has been some difficulty in getting hold of her statement. That has slowed things down and made it more difficult for me to consider whether there is any new matter of substance that will justify referral of the Guildford case.