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House of Commons

Thursday 12 July 1990

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker-- in the Chair ]


Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill

(By Order) Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question proposed [25 June],

That this House doth agree with the Lords in their Amendment to Clause 3, page 3, line 10, to leave out 85' and insert 85E', instead thereof :

Debate further adjourned till Wednesday 18 July at Seven o'clock.

Redbridge London Borough Council Bill

(By Order) Order for consideration of Lords amendment read.

To be considered on Thursday 19 July.

Medway Tunnel Bill

[Lords] (By Order)

Order for Third Reading read.

To be read the Third time on Thursday 19 July.

British Railways (No. 2) Bill

(By Order)

Order for consideration, as amended, read.

To be considered on Thursday 19 July.

Birmingham City Council

(No. 2) Bill-- (By Order) Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question proposed [26 February],

That the Bill be now considered.

Debate further adjourned till Thursday 19 July.

Great Yarmouth Port Authority Bill

[Lords] (By Order)

Port of Tyne Bill

[Lords] (By Order)

Read a Second time, and committed.

Mr. Speaker : As the remaining seven private Bills set down for Second Reading have blocking motions, with the leave of the House I shall put them as a single group.

Heathrow Express Railway Bill

[Lords] (By Order)

Cattewater Reclamation Bill

(By Order)

Vale of Glamorgan (Barry Harbour) Bill

[Lords] (By Order) Orders for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time on Thursday 19 July.

London Regional Transport (Penalty Fares) Bill

(By Order) Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question proposed [10 May],

That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Debate further adjourned till Thursday 19 July.

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Southampton Rapid Transit Bill

[Lords] (By Order) Order for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time on Thursday 19 July.

Exmouth Docks Bill

(By Order)

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question proposed [29 March],

That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Debate further adjourned till Thursday 19 July.

Killingholme Generating Stations (Ancillary Powers) Bill

[Lords] (By Order)

Order for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time on Thursday 19 July.



That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, That she will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House a Return of the Interim Report on the Maguire Case : The Inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the convictions arising out of the bomb attacks in Guildford and Woolwich in 1974, by the Right honourable Sir John May.-- [Mr. Waddington.]

Mr. Speaker : Before I call on the Home Secretary to answer Question 1, I wish to make a brief statement. During the exchanges in the House yesterday, reference was made to the possibility of the Maguire case being raised at Home Office questions today. I am informed that at 11 o'clock this morning the case was formally referred to the Court of Appeal. It is therefore now sub judice, and in accordance with the resolution of the House relating to sub judice matters I must ask hon. Members not to refer to it during questions today.

Mr. Hattersley : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I first make it clear that the Opposition accept, without qualification, the principle that the House must neither influence the courts on individual decisions nor appear to be attempting to do so? That being said, we are presented this afternoon with a real denial of hon. Members' rights. At 2.30 pm today the Home Secretary published the interim report from Sir John May. Everybody in the world is entitled to comment on it except the British House of Commons. That is intolerable, particularly as yesterday you, Mr. Speaker, told hon. Members, in perfectly good faith, that an opportunity for raising these matters might arise today. Will you confirm that the reason why your proper prohibition applies concerns not the way in which the May report was published but the simple fact that the Home Secretary chose to refer the Maguire case to the Court of Appeal this morning? Will you further confirm that had he chosen to refer it this afternoon, the House would not have been denied its proper rights? As the Home Secretary has behaved in that way, both sides of the House would welcome your guidance on what can be done to preserve our proper rights.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Waddington) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I hope that the House is aware that I answered a question yesterday saying that I was going to refer the matter to the Court of Appeal. In those circumstances, it is somewhat difficult to see how I could fail to do that which I said I would do. I know that you, Mr. Speaker.

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have some latitude in these matters, and if you would allow me some latitude I shall do my best to answer questions on the point. Several Hon. Members rose --

Mr. Speaker : Order. The matter is clearly sub judice, and it is an important constitutional principle that Members of the Legislature should not pronounce on the guilt or innocence of individuals facing criminal charges during the course of their trial or appeal.

Mr. Waddington : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Of course I would not challenge that proposition for one moment, but I am wondering whether it would be possible for me, in answer to questions, to give the grounds on which Sir John May decided that it would be right to ask me to refer the case.

Mr. Speaker : I am not certain that that would be in order under our sub judice rules. It would be an evaluation of the matters before the Appeal Court.

Mr. Maclennan : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The difficulty that the House is in this afternoon stems from the fact that the Secretary of State, in making his answer yesterday, did not at the same time publish the interim report and make a statement. That would have enabled the House to ask him questions about it at that time before the matter of sub judice arose. This situation is entirely due to the Home Secretary.

Sir John Wheeler : Further to that point or order, Mr. Speaker. As you know, I am the constituency Member of Parliament representing the Maguire family, so I am especially familiar with the circumstances of the case. The Maguire family are modest people who seek only that this issue is proceeded with in the proper judicial way. I have no cause to raise any point on the Floor of the House this afternoon.

Mr. Speaker : I have made-- [Interruption.] Order. I have made my ruling on this matter. It is important that we uphold the major and important constitutional principles regarding matters which are sub judice. We should proceed with Question Time.

Mr. Hattersley : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not want to pursue the matter further-- [Hon. Members :-- "Oh."] No. I hope that my hon. Friends will take the same course so that we can pursue questions. I rise only to clarify the request made to you, Mr. Speaker, by the Home Secretary. As I understand it, the Home Secretary, in a mood of apparent reasonableness, asked whether the rule could in some way be eroded. My understanding is that the Home Secretary was, like me, told before he came to the House that no erosion was possible. Posing in that way does him no credit.

Mr. Stanbrook : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is not it correct that the Home Secretary has expressed the position correctly on this matter because the essence of the sub judice rule is to prevent juries from being affected in their consideration by external comment? It does not apply in respect of the same matters to a court of learned judges who are well enabled professionally to discard such matters and to disregard public comment.

Mr. Speaker : I assure the House--and I share the concern expressed on the matter--that I have looked most

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carefully at this issue. I am satisfied that the sub judice rule does apply to this matter. We must uphold the sub judice rules of the House.

Mr. Waddington : I think that I might be able to help the House because I am anxious, first, to do what is correct and, secondly, to follow the precedents set by my predecessors. My right hon. Friend the present Foreign Secretary made a statement in the case of the Guildford Four after the decision had been made by the Court of Appeal. I am perfectly prepared to say here and now that I shall be more than willing to make a statement at that juncture.

Mr. Flannery : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker : Is this on a different matter?

Mr. Flannery : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday, the right hon. and learned Gentleman said precisely the opposite to what he has just said. He said that, as Home Office questions were today, hon. Members would be able to ask all the questions. Yesterday, there was a written question No. 220. The question and the answer came from the Home Secretary, yet now we are forestalled by the Home Secretary in a squalid and crude manoeuvre.

Mr. Speaker : We should get on with Question Time now.

Oral Answers to Questions


Pub Bombings

1. Mrs. Mahon : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if the nine Surrey police officers who were in Birmingham at the time of the pub bombings have been indentified.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. John Patten) : As my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State said in reply to the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) on 30 October 1989, it is not known whether any Surrey officers were in Birmingham at the time of the pub bombings, although I understand that a team of nine Surrey officers was in the west midlands area at the time. That is among the matters relating to the case of the Birmingham pub bombings which are currently under investigation by the Devon and Cornwall police on behalf of the chief constable of the West Midlands police and we await their report.

Mrs. Mahon : Will the Minister make the names of those policemen available to the solicitors acting for the people convicted of the Guildford pub bombings and to the solicitors acting for the Birmingham Six? Will he try to find out exactly what they were doing in the area at that time?

Mr. Patten : Making known the names of the police officers could do two things : first, I am advised that it could hinder the police in the conduct of their examination, which I am sure no hon. Member would want ; secondly, it could lead to the integrity and probity of a number of individual police officers being questioned

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unfairly. I entirely agree with the hon. Lady that it is right to try to put right any injustices if they have occurred. However, in seeking to do that, one should not inadvertently thereby cause other potential injustices to occur, although I know that that is not the hon. Lady's intention.

Dame Jill Knight : Can my right hon. Friend suggest why Opposition Members constantly seek to denigrate the police while frequently failing to acknowledge that the Birmingham bombing crime, which killed many people and injured far more, was a dastardly crime? Opposition Members claim to know who committed that crime, but shield them and fail to provide evidence such as the fact that one of the bombers had in his possession a receipt for six cheap alarm clocks to make the bombs.

Mr. Patten : My hon. Friend represents a west midlands constituency and I entirely agree with her that the West Midlands police and all serving police officers throughout the United Kingdom deserve the support of all hon. Members in the House. In response to the second part of my hon. Friend's question, I believe that it is important that all hon. Members should make available to the investigating authorities information that they say is available to them. The hon. Member for Sunderland, South has pursued a number of cases with great interest. During an Adjournment debate on 14 June he said that he had the names of people who could assist the police with their inquiries. To the best of my knowledge, he has not yet made those names available.

Ms. Short : Does the Minister know why his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame J. Knight) seeks to suggest that anyone who seeks justice and to ensure that anybody who is wrongly convicted should be properly freed is somehow guilty of maligning the police? Does not he think that that shows that the hon. Lady has little confidence in British justice and is willing to see innocent people wrongly held in prison?

Mr. Patten : My hon. Friend the Member for Edgbaston (Dame J. Knight) and I and all hon. Members should have the maximum confidence in British justice and in the British police. During our search for evidence of miscarriages, no matter how passionately we feel, we should make it clear that we support the basic fundamental right and duty of British justice and of the British police to do what they can to ensure that we live in a stable society. I sometimes feel that occasionally hon. Members forget to say what they should in terms of supporting the police.

Sir John Wheeler : I am sure that my right hon. Friend will agree that this issue requires the greatest care and scrutiny in the course of the inquiry. Does he further agree that associated with the inquiry is the role of the forensic science service? He will recall the recent Home Affairs Select Committee report on that subject. Will he confirm that some of the issues attached to the inquiry relate to many years ago and that today's service is different and has yet to be improved still further?

Mr. Patten : I am grateful to my hon. Friend. We are well aware of his Select Committee's recommendations. As he said, the offences were committed a very long time ago. Since then, the forensic science service has been investigated in a report by Sir Ronald Mason, a fellow of

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the Royal Society. That report was published in 1985. Enormous strides forward have been made in both the administration and the scientific procedures of the forensic science service. As it proceeds towards its possible new status as an executive agency, questions of whether it should automatically be made available to help the defence as well as the prosecution must be considered.

Mr. Mullin : Will the Minister confirm--I do not think that the gap between us is as great as he sometimes makes out--that, if one is interested in catching terrorists, it cannot be in anybody's interests to put away the wrong people? Will he confirm further that those who have pursued the Guildford, Woolwich, Maguire and Birmingham cases remorselessly over a long period of years are motivated solely by the belief that the wrong people have been convicted, and that we have been proved right so far in two out of three cases, despite a great deal of abuse heaped upon our heads by some of the Minister's hon. Friends, although not all of them? Will he confirm that there is absolutely no point in keeping innocent people in gaol? They are not hostages to be held there simply because the police are incapable of catching the correct people.

Mr. Patten : I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Sunderland, South--there is nothing between us at all in wishing to see alleged miscarriages of justice put right ; of course, there is not. However, I thought that the hon. Gentleman was going to tell the House that which he told the House during an Adjournment debate on 14 June, only about a month ago--that he had material evidence in the shape of two more names. It is recorded in Hansard that he would make those names available. I plead with him now, in the interests of putting right the injustices that he alleges occurred, only to give those names immediately to the prosecuting authorities. I cannot understand why he does not.

Mr. Kilfedder : Is not it nauseating in the extreme that the IRA, which could provide the names and conclusive evidence of the guilt of terrorists responsible for an atrocity, fails to do so and allows people to linger in gaol, yet those IRA people use such cases to denigrate the United Kingdom, the police force and our legal system, which is the finest in the world? Should not we bear it in mind that the IRA gives no right of appeal to the people whom it murders? That is something which people will not forgive.

Mr. Patten : My hon. Friend is quite right. Hon. Members should listen to the moderate but passionate way in which he has put his case, speaking on behalf of the people in Northern Ireland who have suffered so terribly over the years. All hon. Members, whatever their political affiliations, owe it as a duty to the House and to the people, if they have information that can help the police in the pursuit of alleged miscarriages of justice, to tell the prosecuting authorities as soon as possible.

Mr. Mullin : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Minister has now three times accused me of not providing information--

Mr. Speaker : Order. That is not a point of order ; it is a matter of argument.

Mr. Mullin : It is a point of order.

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Mr. Speaker : What is the point of order for me that I can deal with?

Mr. Mullin : The Minister three times accused me of not providing information that I undertook to provide. In fact, the Devon and Cornwall police inquiry has been in touch with me, and I am in the process of providing it with just that information.

European Council of Ministers

2. Mr. Andrew Welsh : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the last three meetings he attended of the Council of Ministers ; what subjects were discussed ; and which Ministers were in attendance.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Peter Lloyd) : My right hon. and learned Friend has not attendeany meetings of the Council of Ministers.

Mr. Welsh : Does the Minister accept that my concern about the Scottish Office not being represented at European Council of Ministers meetings extends to the Home Department and its failure to attend? Is the Minister really saying that there are no important issues that should have been discussed with European colleagues during the past months and years? Does that confirm Britain's role as a part-time, semi-detached member of the European Community and extend to the Home Department the isolationist and anti-European ideas of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry?

Mr. Lloyd : The simple reason is that Council of Ministers meetings are attended by Ministers who have responsibility for the issues to be discussed there. Home affairs do not come under the treaty of Rome. Therefore, my right hon. and learned Friend attends the Trevi meetings, in which Ministers with responsibility for home affairs and immigration discuss the issues that are important to them. My right hon. and learned Friend attends all those meetings, as did his predecessor.

Electronic Surveillance Devices

3. Mr. Cran : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make it his policy to introduce regulations restricting the supply and sale of electronic surveillance listening devices.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Waddington) : No, Sir, for the reasons given in response to the debate on electronic surveillance devices initiated by my hon. Friend on 13 March 1989.

Mr. Cran : Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it is outrageous that anyone, especially criminals, can buy such pieces of equipment, which can be used to snoop into other people's affairs, at a number of retail outlets in Oxford street and in high streets around the country? Does he further agree that that could constitute an invasion of privacy? Although it is not well known outside the House, companies around the country are increasingly aware of that problem because they have to buy countersurveillance equipment to deal with it. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that that is outrageous and will he do something about it?

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Mr. Waddington : My hon. Friend has raised an important question, which has been looked into and explored in the House on several occasions. It would be difficult to define those devices to be made illegal without the definition being overtaken by technological advance. It is highly unlikely that there is any device that could not be represented by somebody as having some legitimate use. Therefore, it is probably very much better to go down the path recommended by Mr. Calcutt's report and to identify where a serious mischief is done by the placing of a surveillance device on private property to obtain, in the case recommended by Calcutt, personal information for publication.

Mr. Maclennan : Is the Home Secretary aware that there is a wider problem? Many instruments are being used for the furtherance of crime and the Home Office must do more to stop the sale of such things by direct mail. I refer, for example, to the direct mailing of skeleton keys to members of the public, which can easily be used for opening car doors. That is an obnoxious and dangerous activity, which should be brought under review of the Home Secretary-- [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker : Order.

Mr. Waddington : Clearly, the main question has nothing whatever to do with the sale of keys ; has a lot to do with the sale of surveillance devices. The hon. Gentleman has not addressed his mind or his question to the two difficulties that I identified in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley (Mr. Cran)-- [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker : Order. I ask hon. Members to listen to Home Office questions.

Hon. Members : Hear, hear.

Mr. Colvin : Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that during the passage of my Computer Misuse Bill, which is now, happily, enacted, the House seriously considered the possibility of making electronic eavesdropping a criminal offence, but rightly concluded that it was almost impossible to do so? On the basis that prevention is better than cure, will my right hon. and learned Friend reconsider the suggestions made by my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley (Mr. Cran) because this is a growing problem, which the Government must address?

Mr. Waddington : Obviously, in deference to my hon. Friend, I shall reconsider that matter. However, I cannot do more than repeat the difficulties that I identified when replying to the original question tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) on all his work to get his private Member's Bill on the statute book.

Mr. Darling : The Home Secretary has accepted that it will be possible to legislate to control the use of listening devices by the press. Surely, therefore, it is also possible to address the problems, which are now becoming quite common, of the sale and supply of those electronic surveillance devices and their uses? If the Home Secretary wanted to do something about that problem, surely all the resources that are available to him tend to suggest that

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something could be done about it, not only in the simple case of the invasion of privacy by certain members of the press.

Mr. Waddington : The hon. Gentleman has not addressed his mind to the very real difficulties that I identify. It would be easy to define devices that would attract the sanctions of the criminal law, but I find it difficult to believe that within a few months other mischevious devices that would not be covered by the prohibition would not be on the market. New devices are developed as a result of technological advance. In any event, I repeat what I said earlier : it is unlikely that we could point to any single device for which somebody could not allege a perfectly legitimate use. The most obvious example is that any hearing device can be dressed up as some form of hearing aid. One could produce a whole list, including surveillance devices in shops that are there to identify shoplifters. Time and again, such devices would attract the criminal law because of the wide definition.

Juvenile Crime

4. Mrs. Maureen Hicks : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what has been the trend in the level of juvenile crime in the first quarter of this year.

Mr. John Patten : The number of known juvenile offenders has been falling since 1985. Last year there were under 100,000, compared with 176,000 in 1985. We do not yet have figures for the first quarter of this year.

Mrs. Hicks : May I draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to the unfortunate rise in juvenile crime in my area in the first quarter of this year? The rise in joy-riding among those under 17 who have never passed a driving test is particularly worrying. Does my right hon. Friend agree that a significant factor contributing to juvenile crime is the lack of discipline and parental responsibility in the home? Does he agree that the sooner that we legislate to make parents more accountable for the actions of their children by making them appear in court with their children and pay the price of their deeds, the better it will be for all our constituents who have to bear the consequences of that lack of responsibility?

Mr. Patten : My hon. Friend is entirely right. The plans that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary published in his White Paper to find new ways of making parents more responsible for preventing their children from offending--an idea which would have been unfashionable 10 years ago--have been widely welcomed in the country. I hope that we can proceed to legislate as soon as possible.

Mr. Sheerman : Why does the Minister continue to shuffle responsibility for the enormous increase in the crimes committed in Britain on to parents or anyone else, but refuse to admit that it is the fault of the values that his party has represented during the past 10 years? His party has introduced a rottweiler society rather than a just society. When will the Minister announce plans for crime prevention policies that provide creative outlets for our young people?

Mr. Patten : The hon. Gentleman is rather excitable this afternoon. The Labour Front-Bench approach to why crime rises and falls is extraordinarily naive. Sometimes

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the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) say that crime rises because of poverty, but on other occasions they say that it rises because of affluence. The Guardian was entirely right two weeks ago when it criticised the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook, who is laughing there on the Front Bench, for his knee-jerk reaction to the recently published crime figures. If anything demonstrates to the House that the Labour party does not understand that we are all responsible for helping to prevent crime, it is the hon. Gentleman's question.

Ealing Police Consultative Committee

5. Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on funding of the Ealing borough police consultative committee ; and what changes there have been in its membership.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : Funding for the Ealing community and police consultative group is provided from the Metropolitan police fund, as is the case with all 41 police-community consultative groups which operate in the Metropolitan police district. The cost of running the Ealing group in 1989- 90 was £33,000.

I understand that Ealing borough council has recently appointed representatives to the Ealing group. I welcome that move, and urge the three London borough councils--Brent, Hackney and Lambeth--which have yet to take up their places on their local groups, to do so.

Mr. Greenway : Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Ealing borough police consultative committee has done an excellent job for several years? Will he also confirm that Labour councillors refused to attend a single meeting when Labour was in control of Ealing borough council and that the same councillors spent millions of pounds of ratepayers' money and employed 10 staff to abuse the police and make their work difficult? They were led by a Labour councillor who was the deputy leader of another borough. Does not that give the lie to Labour Front-Bench spokesmen who pretend to support the police? They do not.

Mr. Lloyd : My hon. Friend is right. The Ealing consultative group has been doing extremely good work without Ealing borough council representation, but it will now be able to do better work because it has that support. It is extremely interesting that of the five councils that did not send representatives to their consultative group, the residents who felt disadvantaged by that turned two of those councils out--quite right too. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker : Order. Home Office Questions are extremely important. They are about good order in the country. I hope that we can treat them with equal good order in the Chamber.

Missing Persons Register

6. Mr. Robert Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has any plans to establish a national computerised missing persons register ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : We intend to introduce such a register. We have been examining two possible options as

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to how this might be done and are currently seeking the views of the Association of Chief Police Officers before reaching a conclusion.

Mr. Hughes : Last year, some 98,000 young persons were reported missing. The Home Office has conducted a feasibility study on a register and, while I welcome the intention to create one, is not it about time that it was produced? Will the Minister confirm that he has already had the views of the chief police officers? Why is he delaying? Why will not he say that the register will be established and fully funded?

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