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Birmingham Pub Bombings

Volume 174: debated on Thursday 14 June 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects to have the results of the Devon and Cornwall police investigations into aspects of the Birmingham pub bombings case.

It is not possible at this stage to say when the Devon and Cornwall constabulary will be able to report on the results of its inquiries. I am sure that the whole House would want the inquiries to be as thorough as possible.

I am grateful to the Home Secretary for his reply, but, with the best will in the world, many of us are worried that we shall never see the report. The best that the right hon. and learned Gentleman can do, on the basis of a report that we shall not see, is to refer the case back to the Court of Appeal, whose record in this case we know: it dismissed serious new evidence when the case was last referred to it.

In contrast, we have the inquiry into the Maguire case, which appears to be collapsing in front of our eyes. Do not we need a full open inquiry in public into the case of the Birmingham Six, so that all the evidence can be properly reviewed?

The hon. Lady will know that I am always prepared to consider any new material that is offered to me which may relate to the safety of a conviction. That is why, when representations were made to me, I thought it right to put certain matters to the chief constable of the West Midlands, who in turn thought it right to call for the assistance of the Devon and Cornwall police. I do not think that the hon. Lady can say that I have been lax in any way in ensuring that there have been proper inquiries into these matters.

With regard to the Birmingham case, does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that most Conservative Members—and, I suspect, a number of Opposition Members—are heartily fed up with unsubstantiated claims of innocence and guilt? Does he further agree that if certain Opposition Members, notably the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin), have evidence about those who carried out the Birmingham bombings, they should make that evidence known to the appropriate authorities?

My hon. Friend will recognise that it is up to all of us to exercise responsibility in those matters. I have said what my responsibilities are and I believe that I am carrying them out.

On a matter which I know the Home Secretary accepts is related both to the initial question and to his answer, will he tell us, in the light of this morning's statement by the Director of Public Prosecutions to the May committee that he regards the convictions of the Maguires unsafe, what steps he now proposes to take on that and related matters?

I should tell the House that this morning counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions told the May inquiry that, in his view, the convictions of the Maguires and the others convicted of possessing explosives are unsafe and unsatisfactory. In view of that, I should say straight away that I do not believe that the convictions can be allowed to stand. The correct course will probably be for me to refer the case to the Court of Appeal, but I do not think that it is right to do that until all the submissions on that issue have been presented to the inquiry and Sir John May has had an opportunity to respond to them. Once I have referred the case to the Court of Appeal it will become sub judice and it would then be very difficult for the May inquiry to go into those matters any further.