To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action he has taken in the light of recent representations submitted to him about the safety of the convictions of the Birmingham Six.
[pursuant to his reply, 21 March 1990, c. 633]: I have always made it clear that I will consider very carefully any evidence which might cast doubt on the safety of the convictions. I have seen the television programme "Who Bombed Birmingham?" and have received from Granada Television a copy of documents in its possession, one of which concerns the Birmingham public house bombings in 1974.The programme did not put forward new evidence. The allegations about the ill-treatment of the convicted men while in police custody and about the forensic science evidence were fully considered by the Court of Appeal in 1987.The document which was referred to in the television programme and a copy of which has now been sent to me
is a police report about terrorist activities in the west midlands which was written in 1975. I understand from the Chief Constable of the West Midlands police that the people named in the programme were included in the police investigations into the Birmingham public house bombings and other terrorist activities at the time. One person, Michael Murray, stood trial with the Birmingham Six, and was convicted of conspiracy to cause explosions and causing an explosion, and sentenced to 12 years and 10 years' imprisonment respectively, to run concurrently. However, no sufficient evidence was found to justify prosecuting the people named in the report for the public house bombings. It was not the prosecution case that the Birmingham Six were the only people involved in the bombings, and the report does not contain information which might cast doubt on the safety of their convictions.
In 1986 the Home Office asked the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin), who was not then a Member of this House, to discuss with the West Midlands police the information that he claimed to have at the time of the publication of his book, "Error of Judgement". At an interview with the assistant chief constable he refused to identify the people he claimed had been responsible. The police examined his book and tested the allegations made on the basis of the limited information that he provided. The police reported their conclusions to the Home Office in October 1986. Their report satisfied the then Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Hurd), that the claims which had been made had been fully considered but did not constitute new evidence. He did, of course, refer the case to the Court of Appeal in 1987 on the basis of new evidence relating to the scientific evidence and alleging police ill-treatment. It would have been open to the appellants to raise in court the allegations made by the hon. Member for Sunderland, South. They chose not to do so and he did not give evidence to the court.
Further representations were made to me in December last year by the solicitor representing the Birmingham Six. On 23 January 1990 the West Midlands police provided me with a copy of the report which it is now clear is the same as the one which had come into the hands of Granada Television. (The people mentioned in this report were the subject of the report to the then Home Secretary in 1986). The information that it contained was carefully examined and I concluded that it did not constitute new evidence which might cast doubt on the safety of the convictions of the Birmingham Six. I have, however, passed to the chief constable of the West Midlands police a copy of the solicitor's representations. The Devon and Cornwall police will inquire into the existence of any relevant information as part of the investigation they have been asked to undertake by the chief constable of the West Midlands police.