Birmingham Pub Bombings

Oral Answers to Questions — Attorney-General – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th January 1991.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South 12:00 am, 14th January 1991

To ask the Attorney-General when he expects a date to be set for the appeal of the appeal of the six men convicted of the Birmingham pub bombings; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

To ask the Attorney-General when he expects a date to be set for the appeal of the six men convicted of the Birmingham pub bombings; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

The Court of Appeal has fixed 25 February 1991 for the commencement of the substantive hearing. It also proposes to hold a further preliminary hearing in early February. I will not make a statement; the case is sub judice.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South

Who authorised the suppression of documents relating to forensic tests carried out on passengers on a ferry between Liverpool and Belfast on 21 November?

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. The whole House has heard what the Attorney-General said about the matter. The case has been set down for trial, and it is sub judice.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South

And why were those documents not available at the original trial, or at the appeal—

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. The whole House knows the rules that apply to such matters.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South

It is not sub judice. It is a matter of record.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

Is the Attorney-General aware of newspaper reports to the effect that the Director of Public Prosecutions said at his new year party that the forensic evidence was to be dropped? Is that so? And if it is so, why have defence counsel not been told about it?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

I am not aware of any of the matters to which the hon. Gentleman refers. As for the stance that the Director of Public Prosecutions takes on the hearing of the substantive appeal, that must rest with the Director—who, as the hon. Gentleman knows, is the holder of an independent statutory office. I can add nothing more to that.

Photo of Mr Anthony Beaumont-Dark Mr Anthony Beaumont-Dark , Birmingham, Selly Oak

Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that this whole unhappy affair, which stretches back some years and in which so many innocent people were killed, should be settled once and for all? Her Majesty's Government have served the sense of justice well —there have been two trials already. When the appeal comes up, however, can we settle the whole matter once and for all? The Birmingham people do not seek vengeance; they seek justice. Someone, somewhere was guilty—and the least guilty people are not just those in prison but the many who suffered and died on that dreadful night.

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

I very much agree with my hon. Friend about the desirability of the matter's being settled, as he puts it, once and for all. Perhaps the House will permit me to cite what was said by Lord Justice Lloyd at the preliminary hearing on 17 December: We have to balance the imperative need for expedition in this appeal which we wholeheartedly accept with the equally imperative need that on this occasion the decision of the court should be taken on the basis not only of the material now available but also on such further material as will become available when the inquiry of the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary has been completed.

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Shadow Attorney General

Like the whole House, I wish to avoid any infringement of the sub judice rule. Therefore, I couch my question in this form: once the appeal is heard, will the Attorney-General lay before the House a full statement, in the form of a paper, on the general implementation of the Attorney-General's guidelines on the disclosure of unused material in prosecutions, the extent to which they have not been implemented in prosecutions in recent years, and whether any requests for the full disclosure of documents have been turned down when inquiries have been made by other police forces?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

I shall, of course, consider the right hon. and learned Gentleman's request, but I do not give any commitment.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Dickens Mr Geoffrey Dickens , Littleborough and Saddleworth

Has my right hon. and learned Friend noticed that six of the 10 questions to him on the Order Paper today are about the Birmingham Six and that they are identical?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Dickens Mr Geoffrey Dickens , Littleborough and Saddleworth

The hon. Gentleman says that I do not care, but am I being mischievous in suggesting that this has more to do with the large Irish vote in those Members' constituencies and less to do with the sincerity of their case?

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

The hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens) questions the sincerity of hon. Members. Normally, that is unacceptable. I would certainly suggest—

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. I do not think that the integrity of hon. Members is in question.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Such comments do not help us, but I do not think that that particular question was out of order.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I happen to be one of those hon. Members who tabled a question. I tabled it because of my considerable concern about a miscarriage of justice. It has nothing to do with my own constituents or their backgrounds. It seems to me, therefore, that you should require the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth to withdraw what he said.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

I have heard many rougher things said in the House.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Dickens Mr Geoffrey Dickens , Littleborough and Saddleworth

I was going to withdraw what I said, Mr. Speaker.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

The hon. Gentleman had better get up and do it, then.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Dickens Mr Geoffrey Dickens , Littleborough and Saddleworth

In order to assist the Chair and any hon. Members whom I might have offended, I withdraw my remark about their sincerity.