I am grateful to the Home Secretary for his answer. I very much hope that he will consider the matter with an open mind, in order to secure justice. These six men were convicted on the basis of two pieces of evidence, the—first, forensic and the second, confessions. By the time that the case returned to the Court of Appeal last time, it was clear that the forensic evidence was rubbish and did not stand, so we are left with only the confessions. The court said that to believe that the men were innocent, it would have to believe—[Interruption.] Mr. Speaker, do you think that you could secure order?
I am completely in order, Mr. Speaker. I hope that you will reconsider what I have said. It is a serious matter and Conservative Members should consider it seriously.
The second piece of evidence was based on confessions. The Court of Appeal said that to believe that the men were innocent, it would have to believe that a large number of policemen colluded and fabricated—
I am asking a question, Mr. Speaker.
Will the Home Secretary assure the House that he is interested in securing justice for the six men, and in vindicating our system of justice, as its reputation is being eroded in Britain and internationally by the effects of the case?
Like my predecessor, I shall always be prepared to consider whether any new evidence or consideration of substance may cast doubt on the safety of a conviction. In that light, I am looking at the material furnished by the defendants' solicitor. However, it is an important principle that questions of guilt and innocence are decided by the courts, free of political interference. It is also important to bear in mind that the matter has already been considered at great length by the Court of Appeal, which examined the circumstances in which the alleged confessions were made and the forensic evidence to which the hon. Lady referred.
Will my right hon. and learned Friend bear it in mind that many people in Birmingham still regard that crime, which killed and injured so many people, with utter horror? There have already been two inquiries and two appeals. One inquiry looked into the matter with great care. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it is outrageous that persons such as the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin), who claim to have more evidence, have repeatedly refused to make that evidence available to the police or to the relevant authorities?
My hon. Friend will not be surprised—and the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) is present to hear it—that I find it quite extraordinary that anyone who criticises the convictions should be unwilling to co-operate with the police and to furnish the police with the evidence that he says casts doubt on the convictions. I hope that even at this late stage the hon. Member for Sunderland, South will realise how thoroughly irresponsible is the attitude that he has adopted.
The Home Secretary is obviously unaware that at the request of his predecessor I was interviewed for four hours by two senior civil servants at the Home Office and by an assistant chief constable of the West Midlands, who told me that he was dragged here by the scruff of the neck by the Home Office. May I put it to the Home Secretary that the fact that the men were convicted partly on the basis of confessions obtained while they were in the custody of the West Midlands serious crime squad and that officers of the West Midlands serious crime squad, including a number of those involved in the original investigation, have since been caught red-handed forging confessions, without any other evidence, is sufficient reason to refer the case back to the Court of Appeal?
The first part of the hon. Gentleman's question was mere flannel, because he failed to address himself to the point that I was making. He says that he knows who committed those diabolical offences, yet when asked to disclose their names, he flatly refuses to do so. He knows perfectly well that an inquiry is being carried out in the west midlands by West Yorkshire police, who are considering what has occurred since 1986, which gave rise to the complaints leading to the inquiry. I have made it plain on many occasions that if the Yorkshire police find any evidence or matters that lead them to believe that they should consider earlier matters, they are perfectly at liberty to do so.
If the West Yorkshire police, who are inquiring into the conduct of the West Midlands crime squad since 1986, discover that since the offences have been committed by officers who were previously involved in the investigation of the Birmingham pub bombings, will that, in the Home Secretary's view, justify a new inquiry, because it certainly will in our view?
Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that the people of Birmingham have put up with the arguments for and against in this case for 15 years, but the issue still will not be decided until all the evidence is available from all the sources, and is not withheld, and a decision is made on whether the case against the Birmingham Six is to be upheld?
The case against the Birmingham Six was upheld; a jury of the land found against them. I remind my hon. Friend that as a result of an inquiry carried out by Devon and Cornwall police, the case was passed to the Court of Appeal, which carried out a most protracted inquiry. Literally days were spent considering the strength of the forensic evidence, and further days were spent considering whether the confessions could be relied on. Therefore, the House should bear those matters in mind before leaping to conclusions. I have said—and I say again—that I know my duty. If new matters and considerations are put before me that might cast doubt on the convictions, I shall take the appropriate action.