I am grateful for the chance to bring to the attention of the House the awful tragedy of the death of my constituent, Paul Kenney, in Portugal, and I am happy to have the opportunity to do so in a much fuller way than would normally have been the case.
I pay tribute to my hon. Friends the Members for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer), and for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), not merely because they have provided me with extra time, which was not precisely the purpose of their enterprise, but especially for having, in true parliamentary style, shown the Government that this place is not merely for Government action. It is also for the Opposition and Back Benchers, and I am pleased to have an opportunity to put this matter before the House; through the House, to the nation; and, through the nation, to the Portuguese authorities and to their ambassador, who have behaved in a way that I did not believe possible for a civilised nation that belongs to our so-called European Union.
First, I shall outline the facts. Paul Kenney, aged 23, was found on a beach in Portimao, in Portugal, on 17 July this year. His neck was broken and his skull was smashed in. His family did not discover that he had died until four weeks later, despite many visits to the police and to hospital. They still do not know whether he was alive when he was taken to hospital, nor the cause of death, and they have been unable to get adequate information from the Portuguese authorities.
As a result of all that and my bleak failure to extract information from the Portuguese, the family have decided that there is only one way that they might ever find out what happend to their son—through parliamentary action. They wish to emphasise that they hope that, by taking such action, they will spare other parents and families from the tragedy that they have suffered and are suffering.
Members of the Kenney family were not in Portugal on holiday but as a result of another disaster—they could not get jobs in this country. Mr. and Mrs. Kenney went to Portugal from my Leicester constituency because they could not get jobs and had no prospect of getting jobs, so they bought a bar in Portimao. But, because of lack of business, Paul and Mr. Kenney came back. The father worked in a hosiery factory in Leicester and, although Paul Kenney was a qualified electrician, he could not find work in Leicester and did odd jobs back in Portimao.
So the Kenneys were not just passing by. They were not itinerants nor in Portugal for a brief holiday. They have a base in Portugal and a home in Portimao. The home had a telephone number and there were numbers on the body of the deceased when he went into hospital, a fact that becomes highly relevant.
I have a copy of Mrs. Kenney's statement, and the Portuguese ambassador has had the gall impliedly to criticise her for not providing a statement and to ask whether she will now make one. She has given statements; she has had not been visited by the police to ask whether she will help; and she has no kindness, sympathy, co-operation or help from a Government who are meant to be civilised and part of our decent world.
Mrs. Kenney tells me:
I last saw my son Paul Kenney at 9.15 pm on Friday 16 July 1993 before he went to Praia da Rocha for the evening.
She said that it was not unusual for her not to see Paul for a little while but that she became worried when a friend phoned six days later to say that he had not turned up to help him as promised with a job on his swimming pool. She said:
After two days of looking for Paul, I went to the Portimao hospital on 23 July 1993 with a Portuguese friend, taking Paul's passport, to inquire whether anyone had been admitted"—
anyone of his description—
suffering memory loss, or unconscious or dead. The receptionist checked the computer and also checked a list of names which went back to 16 July 1993, but there was no record of any such admittance. All the time my son was lying next door in the morgue.
On the same evening of 23 July, Mrs. Kenney and her husband went to report their son as missing to the special police. They gave them a description of Paul's tattoo and a recent photograph and passport. They went back to the police on 24 and 25 July, and they were told that there was no news, that it was not known where their son was, that he had never been heard of, that he was not in that hospital and that there was no record of him.
On Friday 13 August 1993, four weeks after the boy died, the police rang and said that the parents should go to the hospital in Portimao, the same hospital where they had been told that neither Paul, nor anyone of that description, had been admitted. It was at that hospital that they later found their son in the morgue. He had been there, they were told, for four weeks, so he must have been there on 23 July.
Paul's father told me that, when he and his wife went to the hospital, they were told that their son had drowned. When they saw him in the morgue, he was fully dressed. The hospital said that it had no identification for him and yet Paul's dry wallet—it was not wet—was lying beside him, and it contained plenty of identification.
At the time, the police told the parents that they thought that Paul had drowned. The mother said that she had not believed that, as Paul would not have gone swimming fully clothed at that time of night. They went back to the hospital the following day for Paul's belongings. Hospital staff said that there were no clothes or other belongings, and that Paul had come to the hospital with only his shorts on. The staff said that it was possible that Paul had been swimming and had drowned, and that they had none of his clothes. They said that they had in their possession a doctor's report saying that he had fallen and broken his neck and skull. Yet the hospital had told his parents that Paul had drowned.
The parents were asked to leave and they refused. Another woman came with a bit of paper and took them to another building, to which they had been once and been told that none of Paul's possessions were contained there. Eventually, Paul's parents were given their son's wallet. It contained a small amount of money, his keys and seven local telephone numbers, and his bank number. The parents asked why, if the officials had the numbers, they had not phoned the home or the bank. They asked why hospital staff had not checked and whether they did not care. They asked why the staff had not made any attempt to find out who the boy was and why they did not give the information to the police. They asked why the police did not question the hospital and when the police found Paul in the morgue.
An autopsy had been performed on Paul on 10 August; on 13 August, the officials saw fit to tell the bereaved parents that their son was lying dead in the morgue. Eventually we extracted a copy of the death certificate, of which I have a translation. It does not take the matter forward much. It gives his name and details, such as the fact that he was an electrician. It states:
After the statutory period".
The parents told me that they would have wished to bring the body to Britain for another autopsy and to be buried here, but they could not afford it, so he was cremated and his ashes returned. They gave me the name of the so-called doctor. The document states that Paul was treated in a hospital establishment. The parents wanted to know whether he was treated, whether he was alive when he got to the hospital and, if he was alive, what treatment he was given. The officials said that Paul could not have been swimming because he was in his shorts, but he was not in his shorts.
In another life, I used to present cases against people for such criminal negligence. I have found no word in the English language to describe my contempt for those people, who showed, and still show, a total lack of decency and care, and who have failed to investigate this awful tragedy. Lo and behold, on the same report it says that there was cranial and brain stem injury due to an accidental fall. There then follows a question mark. In other words, it may or may not have happened that way. The father said he went to where the incident occurred and said that there was a cliff, but who knows whether or why his son was on a cliff and fell?
As the tale unfolds and the way in which people have prevaricated becomes apparent, one can understand why the family and I believe that there is far more to the story than meets the eye and why the entire disgraceful episode stinks of a cover-up.
The Kenneys did their best to find out what had happened to their son. I wish to pay tribute to the way in which our consuls all over the world help British citizens who are in trouble. I pay tribute to the diplomatic staff. I have seen them at work and they have helped my constituents over and over again for almost a quarter of a century.
I wish that I could pay similar tribute to the consul in this case—an isolated incident. The parents said that when they visited the consul concerned he told them to get a lawyer. That was not too helpful as they had already done so. The Minister will need to do some research on why that happened. If the consul had done his job properly, I do not believe that this problem would have arisen. The top job of a consul is not to help British people who have lost their passport or who have run out of money or who are in prison, although they are important tasks. The top job of a consul is to deal with a death and to help relatives to trace the person concerned. I hope that the Minister will take action and possibly appoint a new honorary consul in that town.
On 20 August, a month after the incident occurred, His Excellency Dr. Jose Manuel T. G. Pearce de Azevedo, the British consul, received the following letter regarding the subject from the harbour captain in Portimao:
Regarding the subject raised in your memorandum… I am informing that as a matter of fact it was reported to this Office that an accident had taken place in Praia da Rocha on the 17th July … around 0045 hours, from which resulted the death of the person involved in the same.
It was not possible, at the time, to establish the identity of the person,
I am not allowed to say that a Member of the House is lying, but I hope that I can say it is a blatant, appalling and disgraceful lie to say that they did not know who he was when his wallet was on the body. I am shocked that anyone in any position of authority in a country that is alleged to be civilised could behave in such a way. The letter continues by saying that identification is still not possible. Yet, by 20 August, Mr. Kenney had been identified, the police had told his parents and they had been to the hospital. For the consul to say that the body could not be identified is not inefficiency, but gross criminal negligence of the most disgusting kind.
The letter also says:
… Report of the incident was sent to the State Attorney in the Judicial Court of Portimao, who took over the proceedings, and to whom your Excellency should address all enquiries regarding the subject.
Order. I hesitate to intervene, but it may be convenient to remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that it is not in order to criticise someone from a friendly country except on a substantive motion. I think that he will understand that.
I understand it, but I shall seek the best way to get round it as I do not regard a friendly nation as one that says that it cannot identify a body when identity has already been established in the morgue, and when it does not inform the parents of the death. In deference to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall read out the correspondence and the early-day motion. I hope that that will be appropriate.
I thank the hon. Gentleman, it does speak for itself. If the authorities are not ashamed of themselves, they should be.
After the Kenney family had failed to get any information about the death of their son—about how and why it had happened—they came to me. I am so pleased that they did. My job is to look after people like them and at least I could share their frustration. I immediately telephoned the ambassador who was, allegedly, away. The embassy promised that the ambassador would contact me; of course he did not. I contacted the ambassador on 20 September, on 22 October, on 9 November, on 22 November and on 29 November, and I have got nowhere at all.
A fax was sent to the ambassador in which my very able assistant Jessica Bawden wrote:
As discussed in Mr. Janner's telephone conversation this morning, please would you ask the Ambassador to look at this urgent case on his return and could you also call to confirm receipt of the fax.
The reply, I am afraid, got us absolutely nowhere. It was not from the ambassador, but from a junior official.
The first thing I got out of the ambassador was on 26 October when I had written to complain. The first reply was from the first secretary. The ambassador himself did not even bother to answer. The first secretary wrote:
His Excellency the Ambassador"—
whom I am not allowed to criticise because he is the ambassador of a friendly nation—
has asked me to acknowledge your letter of the 7th October concerning Mr. Paul Kenney's death in Portugal last July, and to let you know that your letters have already been conveyed to the appropriate Portuguese authorities.
I can assure you that there is no reluctance whatsoever from my authorities to help Mr. Kenney's parents finding out the circumstances that took place regarding this very sad event".
That is how Mr. Kenney's death was described; the letter was in English and was not a translation. The letter continued:
once all the necessary procedures to establish the facts are completed, my authorities will notify us of their findings and conclusions.
I will not fail to contact you as soon as a reply is received." That was written on 15 October.
Unfortunately, we got nowhere. On 22 October, I wrote the following letter to the ambassador personally:
I have now been serving my constituents for 23 years and I have never been treated by any Ambassador with such discourtesy as you have seen fit to accord to me in connection with the case of the Kenney family. When I first raised this tragic and urgent matter with your Embassy, you were away and I was assured that you would contact me personally on your return. You did not. I was then promised that the matter would be dealt with in your country as a matter of urgency. It was not. And now I have received a letter from your First Secretary, again delaying.
There is a normal courtesy in this country that when a Member of Parliament writes to a Minister or to an Ambassador, he or she receives at least a personal reply. You have not even had the decency to do that, in a case involving the death of a constituent in your country.
I now propose to see my constituents next week and, if they agree, to start an open parliamentary campaign. I was under the impression that—normal kindnesses and courtesies apart—you would want to avoid the inevitable, massive and adverse publicity that your country will receive—from all sections of the Press —about this terrible tragedy.
As I have always had good relations with your predecessors"—
That is not quite accurate. There was an occasion when there were leaks from gas heaters in the Algarve, as some hon. Members may remember. One of my constituents was killed and the Portuguese were not very helpful then. However, I was trying to be as friendly as my good nature would permit, which is not very friendly. My letter continued by saying that I had
a warm regard for Portugal—I thought I would write you this strictly personal letter, in a final attempt to evoke a response from you and action from your authorities.
The reply from the ambassador was as follows:
I very much regret the impression you got about the way Mr. Kenney's case is being handled by this Embassy.
After your first contact with the Chargéd'Affaires, the matter was urgently referred to our authorities and the First Secretary's letter only confirmed that a subsequent request of information was made to our Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
As you will know these matters tend to take some time to be fully investigated".
That letter was written on 26 October, yet we still do not know how this young man died.
The reply continued:
We quite understand the distress of Mr. Kenney's family".
The Portuguese authorities "quite understand" it? They do not apologise and they do not say that they are sorry for the way in which they handled the matter. They do not even offer a word of sympathy. They say:
We quite understand the distress Mr. Kenney's family and your concern with this problem, but I can assure you that all efforts are being made by this Embassy to speed up the matter".
If that is how they make "all efforts", I wonder what happens when they do not. Matters would not get very far. My reply on 9 November, after waiting a while, said:
Thank you for your letter of the 26th October. Please would you inform your authorities that, in my view and in that of the family, there is no excuse whatever for the massive delay in
responding to this tragic complaint. In view of your letter, I shall withhold parliamentary action until the start of the next session. If precise results are not available by the 16th November, then it would be wrong for me to resist any further my constituents' massive anger at the way they have been treated and I shall raise the matter in Parliament without further delay.
We go nowhere.
On 22 November, I wrote another letter:
Not having had even the courtesy of a reply to my letter to you, I am now raising this disgraceful matter in Parliament and with the Foreign Secretary. I am shocked that your country would see fit to behave in the way that it has done—and, if I may respectfully say so, I have never known an Embassy to treat a Member of Parliament in a matter involving a death of this sort with such total lack of concern.
The only documentation that has now been received is from your Ministry of Marine—and I enclose copies for your information— just in case you are interested.
He was not.
On 29 November, I wrote another letter to the alleged ambassador:
I have failed to get results by any other means and I now enclose the Early Day Motion which I shall table in the House this week. I am so sorry that you have seen fit to handle this tragedy in such an unworthy fashion. I have always had deep respect for your great country and I am shocked that you and your authorities would see fit to behave in this way.
I am sending copies of the Early Day Motion and of this correspondence to the Foreign Secretary".
I also informed him that I would seek a debate, which happily today I have secured.
Early-day motion 155 reads:
"That this House condemns the Portuguese Government and authorities for its failure to investigate the tragic death of Paul Kenney, whilst on holiday in Portugal in July; is outraged that the Portuguese authorities failed to take any steps to trace Paul's family, who were in Portugal at the time and were only informed of his death after his parents traced him to a local hospital, where the body had lain for four weeks after being found on a beach in Portimao, although on several visits to the hospital his parents were told that no person of his description had been admitted; expresses its dismay that even though Paul had telphone numbers on his person that would have helped identify him, neither the police nor the hospital made any effort to trace his next of kin; condemns the extraordinary discourtesy of the Portuguese Ambassador and his staff towards the honourable Member for Leicester, West, when he sought to progress this matter on behalf of his constituents".
That is what matters. It is not what they do to Members of Parliament. We are servants of our constituents. It does not matter on which side of the House we sit, we are put in this place to look after our constituents. When we get in touch with an ambassador for a constituent whose son has died, it is not our amour propre; it is our attempt to get results for our constituents.
The motion continues.
"and demands that the Portuguese Government now take immediate action to investigate Paul Kenney's death, to inform the bereaved family of its causes and circumstances, and to apologise for the disgraceful way in which it has treated them and their awful tragedy."
I am very much obliged to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for the help that it has provided. I have had letters from the Minister of State and from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, who is being good enough to reply to the debate. I know, because of the letters—I shall not read them out—and my conversations with the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen that they care about this matter and that they will do their best to help us. I know that they are as shocked as I am at the way in which this awful tragedy has been treated. I look forward to hearing from the Minister in due course what steps they will take to try to give the parents at least the knowledge of what happened to their son.
The suggestion that this matter is sub judice, which has been alleged in a letter to me and the Minister, is absolute rubbish. There is no reason whatever why the Portuguese authorities should not tell us what happened. I have here an unidentified document, which comes from Portugal, and
After consulting the Hospital registry on the arrival of the deceased persons and their property, it was verified that on 17/7/93 a corpse, of the male sex, with no identification",—
had been brought in to the Emergencies' Department by the Voluntary Fire Brigade of Portimao.
That was not true either. I shall come to that in a moment.
A wallet containing several papers and money in the amount of 8 thousand escudos was found with the deceased.
How can they say that he was not indentifiable when his wallet was there?
These were all registered in the Hospital's property registry book and later on collected by a person of English nationality who identified herself as the mother"—
as if there were some doubt about it; it is a disgusting document—
In accordance with the information provided by the staff involved in this case—registration and delivery of the property—the various papers found in the wallet had nothing on them to allow identification of the body.
If that is not a patent, blatant, lie, I do not know what is. After all, the same document refers to a wallet containing his identification.
On 19/7/93, the Hospital conveyed the situation to the Deputy State Attorney of the Judiciary Court of Portimao as is common practice in similar situations—arrival of corpses.
I shall come to that in a moment, because I do not believe that British people should go on holiday to Portugal if they treat people in this way.
Regarding this matter, and at our request, we were later informed by this Court that the proceedings were under investigation, at the stage of inquiry and therefore, sub judice. We would like to point out that the transfer of the corpse to the Hospital, whose death occurred outside the Hospital, was due to the fact that the existing morgue, at our premises, is jointly used by the forensic and pathology services and by the District Hospital of Portimao, in accordance with an agreement with the Ministry of Justice"—
as if any one cares. I should not have thought that the fact that organisations shared a morgue prevented them from identifying the bodies in it.
At last I received a letter from the ambassador. It is a page and a half long and helps us not at all. I shall read it, because it speaks for itself. As the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens) was good enough to point out, it is important that we should allow these people to speak for themselves—degrading for them as it must be. The letter reads as follows:
Dear Mr. Janner,
Thank you for your letter of 9th November regarding the death of Mr. Paul Kenney. Following your previous letter, dated 22nd October, I have conveyed to my authorities that it would be very helpful to have some kind of preliminary or even incomplete information on the enquiry on Mr. Kenney if it would not be possible to have, in the short term, a complete report addressing in full Mrs. Carla Kenney's concerns on the very unfortunate events related with her son's death.
Although I would rather prefer to give you a comprehensive report, I am afraid that, pending the conclusion of the enquiry
conducted by the State Attorney in the Judicial Court of Portimão I will have no more than incomplete answers to Mr. Paul Kenney's family.
Besides the Court, this case is dealt with by other departments of the Portuguese Administration, mainly the Ministries of Health and Home Affairs.
The conclusions of the enquiry carried out by the Ministry for Home Affairs are not yet available.
I remind the House that the letter is dated 3 December and that the accident—if it was an accident—and the death occurred on 17 July, some six months before.
I can inform you I have just received a report from the Health Minister's office concerning the events … I am sending herewith a tentative translation"—
whatever that may mean—
of the above-mentioned report and a copy of the annexed, untranslated, document sent by the Health Ministry.
I have not read the untranslated document. My Spanish is excellent but my Portuguese, I am pleased to say, does not exist. The document that I read to the House is clearly that document.
The ambassador then refers to the seven questions originally asked by Mrs. Kenney about how the death happened, of which I now remind the House:
Why was there no record of Paul ever entering the hospital? Was he alive at any time in the hospital? Why did the hospital not inform the police that they had Paul's body with his wallet containing seven Portimao phone numbers? As the police arrived on the beach after the ambulance 115 had taken Paul to the hospital, why did they not follow it? Why do the hospital insist Paul had no clothes on when he entered the hospital, when the witness found him on the beach fully clothed on 17 July 1993? Why did four weeks elapse without the hospital, the Special Police or the Maritime Police contracting me about my son's death? Why did the police interview the witness one week after finding Paul on the beach.
Those are the mother's perfectly reasonable questions. Here is the ambassador's answer:
I think you will agree; that some of them
have already been answered, namely by the report from the Hospital.
I do not agree, none of them had been answered.
There was no record of Mr. Paul Kenney ever entering the hospital because the corpse afterwards identified by Mrs. Kenney was registered as 'unidentified'".
She had asked the staff whether they had had anyone in of that description. Paul had the tattoo on his arm; he had the wallet with him; he had his identification on him.
The answer continues:
the fact was forwarded to the local services of the State Attorney, as demanded by the practice in similar circumstances. The registry staff did not find elements which allowed identification of the body.
This man has not bothered to read the correspondence. He does not know anything. He has not taken the care and trouble to look.
The unidentified person arrived at the hospital already dead".
Did he? Who said so? One of the reports that I have just read to the House said that he was treated at the hospital. That answers another of Mrs. Carla Kenney's concerns.
As to the questions involving the members of Police forces, I am afraid the respective answers will not be obtained before the completion of the inquiry by the State Attorney.
Will we be alive to see that, Mr. Deputy Speaker? I hope SO.
As I have had the occasion to tell you before, I am well aware of the distress caused to Mrs. Carla Kenney, and I sincerely hope that her concerns will be fully answered.
Once again there is no word of kindness, sympathy or understanding.
Your letter dated 29th November was received during the typing of the translation of the report … I deeply regret the impression you have about the way the Portuguese authorities are handling this case.
The Embassy will continue to pursue its utmost efforts to help your constituent and yourself in this unfortunate matter.
If those are its utmost efforts, what are the rest like? I have never before seen a letter like that.
I have prepared a batch of further questions, which I will place before the House. I invite the Government to ask the Portuguese ambassador and Portuguese Government to inquire into the issues raised by my questions, as I will.
There is no mention of the previous correspondence with me or the questions that I asked. I asked a great series—a fax in late September and letters on the 22 September, 29 November and 22 November. The ambassador asked for a complete report from Mrs. Carla Kenney for the first time. Why did he not ask for it before if they needed it? Why does he not ask Mrs. Kenney herself? She has been living in Portimao since Paul's death. She has only come to this country today to listen to the debate about her son. The police have never visited Mrs. Kenney to ask for a report.
The ambassador says that he sends a "tentative" translation. What is that? Mr. and Mrs. Kenney question much of what is contained in the translated hospital report. Why has it taken almost five months to get a report from the hospital? The excuse for there being no record of a body was that the corpse was unidentified. That is obviously unacceptable. Do hospitals in Portugal not keep records of unidentified bodies that arrive at the hospitals? Mrs. Kenney specifically asked whether any bodies had been brought in and was told that none had been. Why were the police not informed that there was an unidentified corpse at the hospital? Why is a police investigation being carried out now, five months later?
Why would the typing of the translations prevent the ambassador from writing to me for a week? Why did he not use the telephone? The ambassador calls this an unfortunate matter. That is the understatement of the century. As for the hospital report that he saw fit to send, the body was not brought to the hospital by a voluntary fire brigade vehicle; witnesses saw it being taken from the beach by a 115 Portuguese ambulance.
As for the allegation that there was no identification on the body, Portuguese bank numbers and local telephone numbers cannot amount to no identification. Why were the personal belongings kept separate from the body? Why did officials not connect the unidentified personal belongings with the unidentified body? Is it not true that the papers on the body would have enabled identification? Why did the police not go down the road to the bank and check the bank numbers or telephone the Portimao numbers?
If the situation was conveyed to the judiciary court of Portimao on 19 July, why did the police not investigate? Why do we have no result? Why do the parents still not know how their son died? The ambassador blames the confusion on the fact that the morgue is used jointly by the forensic and pathology departments. Why should that be a problem?
I have handled many difficult cases for my constituents in my time, but this is certainly the worst. It could be pure, blatant negligence on the part of the authorities in Portimao, in which case I would have expected the ambassador to have said, "I have gone into this. I am terribly sorry, there has been a mistake." That is what decent people would do. They certainly would not try to justify the treatment that my constituents have been given.
I wish to pay tribute to the courage of the Kenney family. I saw Mr. Kenney before we went public, and I asked him again, "Are you sure that you want to raise this matter in the House of Commons and publicly? It opens up wounds and keeps them open. Would you not prefer—as many of my constituents do when hit by tragedy—to say that you have done your best, to close it and to try to live with the memory of your son without knowing what happened to him?" He said no for two reasons. First, he said that the family had to know what had happened to their lad. Secondly, they did not want the same thing to happen to anyone else's family or anyone else's son. I am proud to be of service to them. I think that they are great people and I wish that the circumstances were not such a tragedy.
I would not go to Portugal until this matter is cleared up. If that is the way the Portuguese treat people, the further we keep away from them the better. I would advise the Portuguese authorities not to spend millions of pounds on advertising their holidays, but to spend just a little time trying to clear up the tragedy that has struck a British citizen. Instead of sending anodyne letters—I do not know to whom they thought they were sending them if they thought that I would sit back and just take them—they should investigate properly. I suggest that British people should express their disgust at this awful treatment.
Although the case involves one person and one family, it has a symbolism about it. It is right that we should have the opportunity, as Back Benchers, to raise matters concerning even one citizen and one family, and I am so grateful for that opportunity.
I hope that the Minister will be kind enough to say what the Government of this country will do to try to get put right what the Government of an allegedly friendly country have deliberately, I think, failed to do. I hope that the Government will try to clear up some of the mystery, which makes the family believe that their son did not die a natural death.
I wonder whether I may make a brief contribution. May I say, as a Conservative politician to a Labour politician, that today is the first time in my 15 years in the House that I have heard a constituency case put so well. The House can tell that I feel emotional having heard all the details.
The thing that struck me most was the lack of compassion, tenderness, understanding in any of the communiqués to the Kenney family. That is an absolute disgrace and I hope that somehow the Foreign Office can get to the bottom of it on behalf of the constituent of the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner). I give the hon. and learned Gentleman full marks, because I do not not think that a constituency case could have been presented better.
I think that we were all impressed by the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) and the way in which he represented his constituents, Mr. and Mrs. Kenney, and brought this important case to the attention of the House. I should like to outline the action taken by the British Government on behalf of the family since Paul Kenney's death. I will outline separately the action taken by the honorary consul in Portimao, in whose consular district the death occurred and the consul in Lisbon, who later became involved when matters were taken to a higher level.
Before I do that, I would, of course, like to express my sincere condolences to the Kenney family during what must still be a distressing and deeply traumatic time. Before I come to the history of events, I should add that I shall write to the Portuguese ambassador on Monday, as soon as Hansard is available, to give him a copy of the debate at the earliest possible opportunity.
On 16 August 1993, Mrs. Carla Kenney, the co-owner with her husband, Mr. John Raymond Kenney, of a bar in Portimao, contacted the British consulate in Portimao for the first time about her son's death. The honorary consul asked her to come into the consulate to speak to him about it immediately. She told him that her son's body had been in the hospital mortuary in Portimao for one month without anyone informing her.
Mrs. Kenney told the honorary consul in Portimao that her son had left home on 16 July to go to a local bar. When he did not return she made inquiries. She reported his disappearance to the local authorities on 23 And 26 July and again on 5 August. She gave a full description of her son and identifying marks. It was not until 13 August that she was telephoned by the local police and asked to go to the hospital in Portimao to identify her son's body, at the mortuary, which she did. Mrs. Kenney did not contact the consulate during this time.
From her inquiries, Mrs. Kenney found out that Paul Kenney left the bar at about 11.30 pm on 16 July. A local Portuguese lady told her that she had found the body on the beach at Praia da Rocha, called the maritime police from a local restaurant and that the body was taken to the mortuary.
At a meeting on 16 August, the honorary consul in Portimao advised the family to appoint a lawyer immediately to look into the matter. He gave Mr. and Mrs. Kenney a list of lawyers. Mrs. Kenney knew one of them and our honorary consul telephoned his office. In the lawyer's absence, he left a message, asking him to contact Mr. and Mrs. Kenney as soon as possible.
Mr. and Mrs. Kenney visited the consulate again on 20 August. They said that they had established that Portimao hospital had had their son's documents all along, but had not informed the police. His wallet had apparently contained a bank statement and other documents which could have helped to identify him.
As soon as our honorary consul in Portimao heard from Mrs. Kenney what had happened, he spoke to the port captain in Portimao on 20 August. He followed up that conversation with an official written request to the naval authorities and the local court, asking for a report of events. The port captain replied formally on 25 August, saying that he had been informed of the accident on 17 July, but, as his authorities had been unable to identify the body, they had passed the matter to the local court to deal with. The court was in recess at the time so the consul wrote again to them, asking for a report. At the request of the consul in Lisbon, the honorary consul wrote formally to the court on 16 September to request the reports.
The honorary consul in Portimao also contacted the local public prosecutor informally to try to find out what had happened. The public prosecutor said that he had received an official request for information from the Ministry of Justice acting on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The case was sub judice and he could not release the reports. The deputy public prosecutor confirmed that in a letter on 29 September. He was told that the Ministry of Health had also requested a report from the local hospital.
Our honorary consul in Portimao wrote to the court again on 4 October and was told on 8 October that the matter was still sub judice. Our consulate in Lisbon was similary told that, for the same reason, it could not have copies of the reports. The honorary consul called the deputy public prosecutor again on 3 December and was told the same thing. The consul was told that the local police were due to give the public prosecutor's office a report on the inquest soon. The report would also indicate a response from the local health authorities.
I am satisfied that the honorary consul in Portimao did everything that could reasonably be expected of him as soon as Mrs. Kenney alerted him to the problem. He was in touch throughout with Her Majesty's consul in Lisbon, to whom he is answerable. Our consulate in Lisbon in turn informed and consulted the consular department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The action taken by the consul in Lisbon was also appropriate and timely; that is, he reinforced the advice that the family consult a lawyer and, now being aware of the problem of delay in notification, took that up with the Portuguese authorities.
I shall outline what the consul did. He wrote to Mr. and Mrs. Kenney at their address in Portugal on 31 August to explain what action the consul in Portimao had taken on their behalf. He again suggested that they take the matter up through a lawyer to try to obtain further information from the court and about gaining access to some money left in a bank by Paul Kenney. The consul also told them how they could lodge an official complaint with the Portugese Ministry of Health.
On 14 September, in the absence of any satisfactory response to the inquiries made by our consul in Portimao, the British Embassy sent an official note to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, asking why the consulate had not been informed of Paul Kenney's death in spite of Portugal's obligations under the Vienna convention on consular relations. That convention requires the host country to notify all deaths of foreigners without delay to the consul of the country concerned if the information is available to it. The embassy asked why the family had not been informed until a month after Paul's death. It asked for a report into the action taken by the Portuguese authorities after Paul Kenney's body was found.
In the absence of a reply to the embassy's note, our consul in Lisbon arranged a meeting with the acting head of consular matters in the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 5 November. She—the official—undertook to ensure that the consul was given the information we sought as soon as possible by the Portuguese Ministry of Justice and Procurator General.
On 6 December, the ambassador in Lisbon spoke in similar terms to the senior responsible official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and our consul again raised the matter with the acting head of the Foreign Ministry's consular department. Both undertook to ensure that the embassy received a reply to the note of 14 September as soon as possible. The following day, however, the Ministry called the consulate to say that it had received a letter from the Attorney-General's office saying that it could not provide the police and autopsy reports at that stage.
I have described in some detail the action taken so far by the consuls in Portimão and Lisbon to try to establish why Mr. and Mrs. Kenney were not told straight away of their son's death when means of identification were available. We in the Foreign Office also need to know why our consul was not similarly informed in accordance with the Vienna convention.
It will be clear to the House from my account and from that of the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West that no satisfactory explanation for these matters has so far been given. I fully appreciate and share the hon. and learned Gentleman's concern about the case. He has tried to obtain answers from the Portuguese authorities, but has been unable to do so.
All of us sympathise with the anger of Mr. and Mrs. Kenney. It is most distressing for the family not to know what happened. The time that it is taking to conclude the inquiry in Portugal is beyond our control. Although we cannot influence the legal process, we will press the Portuguese to reach a conclusion as soon as possible so that the family will know what happened.
However, it is extremely unsatisfactory that the Portuguese authorities have not answered the two main points that we have made about the delay in informing the next of kin for nearly a month and not telling our consul of the death of a British national. I am aware that Paul Kenney's family believes that there has been a cover up. I can well understand their concern, but I cannot express my final opinion on the conduct of the case at present. However, I can assure Paul Kenney's family that, beyond what I have said, we have been given no further information as to why it took the hospital nearly a month to contact the next of kin.
I can say two further things. First, I assure the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West—and he will take this point to his constituents—that we will continue to press for an explanation of why they were not told of their son's death. Secondly, we will give the record of this debate to the Portuguese authorities so that they will appreciate not just the anger, but the anguish of Paul Kenney's parents and the need for a swift answer after so much unreasonable delay.
I thank the Minister for what he has said and for giving way. Is it not a matter of grave concern that now that so much time has passed, no one will ever know what has happened, because the evidence will have become stale?
Will the Minister ask his two questions and also follow up the questions that I asked the ambassador and which I set out in my speech and will provide to him? In that way, we will try to obtain much more detailed replies and not the kind of response, which I expect will eventually be sent, of, "So sorry we did not let you or them know because something went wrong." If it is possible, we want to find out, even at this stage, what happened to this young man.
In the letter that I have said that I will write to the Portuguese authorities, I will draw attention to the particular questions that the hon. and learned Gentleman has raised. We shall, of course, keep the hon. and learned Gentleman and his constituents fully informed as we continue to press the Portuguese authorities for an explanation. They are fully aware of the hon. and learned Gentleman's efforts so far to bring this matter to the attention of the public. I hope that they will take note of all the publicity caused this week and acknowledge that cases like this have a negative impact on Portugal's image in the United Kingdom.