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Cammell Laird

Volume 624: debated on Tuesday 25 April 2017

6. What plans the Government have to publish a response to the findings of the European Parliament's Committee on Petitions in December 2014 relating to a petition on the treatment of Cammell Laird strikers in 1984. (909799)

8. For what reasons the Government have not responded to the findings of the European Parliament's Committee on Petitions in December 2014 relating to the treatment of Cammell Laird strikers in 1984. (909801)

16. For what reasons the Government have not responded to the findings of the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions in December 2014 relating to the treatment of Cammell Laird strikers in 1984. (909809)

I believe the question refers to petition number 1961/2013 by Edward Marnell, on behalf of Cammell Laird strikers, on unjust treatment of Cammell Laird strikers. I welcome the questions and recognise the hard work and dedication of the hon. Members involved in this. Industrial relations and how they were historically dealt with are not a matter for the Ministry of Justice, and as such it would be inappropriate for me to comment. A conviction and/or sentence can be challenged by way of appeal. Once the appeal route has been exhausted it is possible to apply to the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

In 1984, workers at Cammell Laird’s shipyard took official strike action over job losses just as the Thatcher Government were trying to privatise British shipbuilders. They were dismissed, jailed in a category A prison for 30 days, and lost their redundancy and pension rights. The Minister has tried to give us a technical answer today, but will he now undertake to release all the documents relating to the decision to prosecute and to the severity of the sentence so that this clear miscarriage of justice can finally be put right?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. Of course I am sympathetic to the case and to the individuals affected by it, but as I said, the Criminal Cases Review Commission has the power to review and investigate possible miscarriages of justice in England and Wales and Northern Ireland. Where there is a real possibility that the conviction or sentence will not be upheld, the commission can refer the case to the appropriate court, which will treat the referral as a new appeal.

Ten Cammell Laird workers and one apprentice have died since those events without the answers to why the decisions were taken to imprison them and who took those decisions. Surely it is now time to listen to calls from family members and the GMB trade union to do the right thing by having a proper inquiry and publishing the information that the Government have access to. What is there to hide?

This is clearly a difficult case for the people concerned. As I said, when a conviction is subsequently quashed, compensation can be sought by an application to the miscarriages of justice applications service. I am not in a position to comment on whether a future Government should engage in an inquiry, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that I will look at this case further if I am returned to this role after the election.

This is the last time that I will speak in this House. Therefore, I was keen that it should be a really important question. This was something I championed when I was the shadow Europe Minister, and I was delighted when the European Union joined the GMB and the Cammell Laird workers in demanding the release of Government evidence and papers. This is about papers that the Government hold. I hope the Minister will respect the fact that this is my last time speaking in the House by giving me a proper answer, not the fob-off that we have had so far. Will he commit to releasing the papers that the Government hold and putting an end to one of the most shameful episodes in British industrial relations?

The hon. Lady has represented a beautiful part of the country, in which I have some family roots. I am sure that the Prime Minister, as a former candidate in that constituency, would agree with me about that. This case is clearly emotive, judging by the responses on the Opposition Benches. As I have said, I will look at the situation once again if I am returned to this position after the election. I will not make any commitments this side of an election, but I fully recognise the sensitivity of the case, its emotive nature and the individual people involved.

GMB union research points towards state interference in the Cammell Laird industrial dispute, yet the picture remains incomplete because of withheld documents, as we have heard. That era of Conservative government is becoming defined by suspicion of institutional interference and state wrongdoing. We know the names: Hillsborough, Orgreave and Cammell Laird. If that interference is extended to the prosecution of those trade unionists, do they not have the right to know?

I do not share such a jaundiced view of the Conservative Government of the 1980s. As I have said repeatedly, I will look at this case again once we are outside of purdah and once we are returned. I hope and expect a Conservative Government to be returned in a few weeks’ time, and I promise to look at this case again in detail then.

As this is the last week of questions, I am especially keen to try to get through the Order Paper. I appeal to colleagues to help each other to achieve that objective.