HC Deb 18 February 1988 vol 127 cc1138-9
7. Mr. Hood

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will name the scientists sacked or compulsorily retired from the Home Office laboratory in Chorley since 1979, giving the dates in each case.

Mr. John Patten

No scientific staff at the Home Office forensic science laboratory at Chorley have been dismissed or compulsorily retired since 1979.

Mr. Hood

Will the Minister investigate the allegations made in the House this week during an Adjournment debate that Dr. Skuse and Mr. Reade, two of the principal witnesses in the Birmingham pub bombing appeal, conspired together during that appeal and even met in Mr. Reade's house?

Mr. Patten

Some extraordinary and bizarre allegations were made during that Adjournment debate earlier this week. The hon. Gentleman has referred to some of them. There were also attacks on individual named members of the judiciary, and even a most extraordinary suggestion that somehow I have been involved in covering up for the police and the judiciary for many years.

Mr. Lawrence

Is it not a disgraceful abuse of parliamentary privilege for Opposition Members to accuse forensic scientists and those who serve the state of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, when such accusations have no justification whatsoever?

Mr. Patten

Those who come to the Chamber and make unfounded allegations should follow the sensible old rule of coughing up or shutting up. I entirely agree with my hon. and learned Friend.

Mr. McCartney

Dr. Skuse is one of my constituents, and a near neighbour of mine. I am also concerned about the allegations in relation to the evidence at the trial and the subsequent allegations made by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin), who is an honourable man who has taken a great deal of care to investigate the allegations

Whatever the Minister says, Dr. Skuse was dismissed from his employment. Is it not in the best interests of Dr. Skuse and those who have been convicted on his evidence as a principal witness at a number of trials, for that evidence to be investigated to clarify the position for Dr. Skuse and for those who were charged and may have been wrongly found guilty? It is only fair, given the nature of the Birmingham trial and other significant trials—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is asking questions, but he is taking a rather long time.

Mr. Patten

Briefly in reply, I set out the circumstances surrounding Dr. Skuse's early retirement on the grounds of limited efficiency in my response to the Adjournment debate on Tuesday. Otherwise, I think that the extraordinary tissue of allegations and suggestions put forward by the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) should not be considered worthy of the attention of the House.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

Does my hon. Friend agree that although any hon. Member rightly should pursue issues in the House, using character assassination to pursue an issue is immoral, improper and unjust? Dr. Skuse, like anyone else, deserves justice. Just because some people rightly have been convicted after a 28-day appeal, for any hon. Member to try to use Dr. Skuse to get the case reopened is absolutely improper and dishonourable.

Mr. Patten

My hon. Friend is entirely right. The Court of Appeal had before it all the evidence. Indeed, Dr. Skuse was a witness before it and gave evidence for some three and a half days. I believe that some Opposition Members should be extremely cautious before they make totally unfounded allegations.

Mr. Mullin

Is the Minister aware that on 29 November, while the appeal was being heard, Doctor Skuse was to be found at the home of another principal crown witness, Superintendent George Reade at Rugeley, Staffordshire? Dr. Skuse was 80 miles away from his home in Wigan. What does the Minister think that they were discussing if it was not the trial? Was it a football match or the weather?

Mr. Patten

The hon. Gentleman is becoming more and more bizarre. He made those allegations in his speech during the Adjournment debate on Tuesday night. It has been a consistent theme of the hon. Gentleman to make allegations without evidence and without foundation.

Back to