Skip to main content

Shrewsbury Pickets

Volume 885: debated on Thursday 6 February 1975

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has received a petition from the solicitors acting on behalf of the Shrewsbury pickets on certain legal matters; and if he will make a statement as to the action he proposes to take.

I have considered with care petitions on behalf of both prisoners submitted by their solicitors, but I cannot find that there are any new considerations such as would justify my recommending interference with the decisions of the courts.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the widespread conviction that this trial was politically motivated, as borne out by the savage brutality of the sentencing? Will he say, now that he has looked at petitions, that he has also looked at the notes that have passed between previous Attorney-Generals, Home Secretaries and Directors of Public Prosecutions following the 1972 Conservative conference? Will he also say whether, to his knowledge, parts of those notes have been deliberately destroyed to get rid of the concept that this was a politically motivated trial?

I have no knowledge at all of that matter. I have not looked, or sought to look, at the working papers of the previous administration, which would in no way be in accord with our constitutional practice.

What I have to consider is that a court reached a decision on this matter and that that decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal as recently as three months ago. It is not a question of my delivering a judgment—in either my personal or my ministerial capacity—as to what I think about the sentences or, for that matter, the verdict. Were I to do that I can assure my hon. Friend and the House that I could unearth hundreds, perhaps thousands, of cases on which I could take a view—as could every hon. Member—different from that which particular courts may have taken. I do not believe that it is the duty of anyone holding my office to try to do that. Were I to start on that slope I would find it a very slippery one indeed.

Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear that there is not a shred of evidence to show that this prosecution was politically motivated in its conception, or was conducted in a political way as it went on? Will the Home Secretary accept the congratulations of the House for standing up to a vigorous campaign which was politically motivated and which is thoroughly to be deplored?

I have nothing to add to what I have already said relating to the first point of the hon. Member's supplementary question. As to congratulations, I seek no congratulations from any part of the House in the discharge of what is always a difficult duty. Nor do I make any objection to people taking political points. Any campaign is politically motivated. It is my duty to reach a decision independent of campaigns.

Whether or not the prosecution was motivated by political reasons, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he has had any evidence presented to him, from whatever source, to the effect that the judicial process itself was suspect?