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Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North) : As the hon. Gentleman has spoken of my constituency as a place of peace and tranquillity, which it is, will he give the House the figures of arrests in the town for the previous year and the figures for the year before the membership scheme was introduced?
Mr. Wareing : I will not be dragged along that road, Mr. Speaker. If we are serious about safety in our football grounds, the Committee will have to consider the provision of more football grounds. When cup semi- finals and other large matches are being played, it should be possible for the Football Association and the Football League to use stadiums such as Wembley. We need four or five more such stadiums, but that requires public finance. It cannot be done by private finance. Football grounds in West Germany and Holland are provided by municipalities.
The Secretary of State should think about getting the people who know to advise him and about setting up an advisory body upon which football organisations, football supporters and the police will be represented. There should be an attempt to examine the structure of existing football grounds.
If identity cards are to be shown at every match in the country--each year, hundreds of matches are played at the 92 Football League grounds, at Wembley and at other stadiums--it will be necessary to examine turnstiles and access to grounds. Many football stands are built on main roads. For example, the Kop end of Liverpool football ground abuts the main road. Liverpool football club has solved most of the problem by ensuring that only season ticket holders and people with special discretionary match-day tickets go through the turnstiles. If identity cards are introduced, there will have to be structural
Column 939changes at Liverpool football ground to accommodate people going through the turnstiles. The Government must be able to give financial assistance to football clubs.
We must also consider Tottenham Hotspur football club. A high street is adjacent to that ground. There must be major structural changes to ensure safety in that ground, and even to deal with the problem of showing identity cards.
The Committee will examine not only overall safety, the problems that we have had in the past and the problem at Hillsborough and other grounds, but the increased danger as a result of large crowds, very often on Wednesday or Tuesday nights, queueing in our main streets to get into football grounds. Safety will be imperilled by the Bill, and that is yet another reason it should be the priority in Committee.
Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley) : One thing that unites hon. Members is that none of us wishes to see a repeat of the Hillsborough, Bradford or Heysel tragedies. We should do everything possible to secure safety in our football grounds. Whatever our views may have been in the previous debate, we all welcome the safety instruction that was given to the Committee.
Having due regard to the Secretary of State's record in ensuring that certain matters are fulfilled, I hope that he will assure hon. Members that we are to have a proper opportunity to discuss important safety aspects when the proposals come forward. I hope that he will assure us that there will be full consultation with football clubs, spectators, local authorities and the police who have to implement the proposals. The Government have set themselves a tight timetable. If they want to deal properly with the problem, it is important that they do not push legislation through hastily. Legislation in haste can be bad legislation. The Government should ensure that they get things right.
To some extent, the Taylor inquiry was predetermined because it had to issue an interim report. Many people are afraid that inquiries have to rush their investigations to meet the Government's requirement that they publish an interim report. As was said in the previous debate, the Popplewell final report differed considerably from the interim report.
All of us--Government, Opposition, police, local authorities, football club management and spectators--have a responsibility to ensure that our football grounds are safe. I hope that the Secretary of State will give an assurance that he will take account of the fears of many people that a membership scheme will cause safety problems at gates--but we cannot go into that debate now.
I hope that the Secretary of State will not push us towards having all- seating stadiums. We should not necessarily accept that that is the only way to solve the problem. I do not accept that standing stadiums cannot be made safe. As my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) said on a similar point, there are often safety problems outside the grounds--at Underground stations and on the roads. I hope that the Secretary of State will make a commitment to provide from public funds the resources necessary to ensure that spectators outside grounds are safe, just as we are trying to ensure that spectators inside grounds are safe.
Column 94010.42 pm
Mr. Alan Meale (Mansfield) : A number of aspects of the motion worry me greatly. It is outrageous that the Secretary of State has moved such a motion at this time. We have just spent hours talking about the fact that we will have two more opportunities to debate the safety issue. Why, therefore, is the right hon. Gentleman trying to impose this on the Committee? Even on the Government's tight time scale, it will take until 1991, or thereabouts, before the requirements are made law.
Who will pay for the extra safety requirements that will be imposed? We have heard that computerisation of membership details will cost individual clubs £50,000-plus. The Minister outlined ways in which some of that money could be raised, but what happens if it is not raised? Imposition of £50,000 in the first year on a club such as Mansfield, which I represent, would have disastrous effects. It cannot afford to lose that amount. As it is, it is struggling to get by week by week through the season.
Will the Government give a commitment to put extra resources into the clubs? I hope that the Secretary of State will comment on that matter. In fact, there will be greater financial imposition on the clubs on top of that £50,000. In my area a local newspaper and British Coal have sponsored our local club, Mansfield Town. They, with the help of the Football Ground Improvements Trust, have enabled us to open one side of the ground. That has made the ground safe, and will encourage families to attend and greater support for the club. Such clubs cannot afford to spend more money.
I do not know how far the Secretary of State will take note, but I want to mention to him the police charges for extra security, which must go with safety at football grounds. Already many third and fourth division clubs have faced severe problems because of the extra police charges imposed in recent years.
We want some answers before the motion is approved. It is no good the House willy-nilly approving such a clause, sending it to Committee, the Committee endorsing it, and it then becoming part of the Bill without a proper debate. We need to be told that more money will be guaranteed for the clubs in the lower divisions to ensure that they can comply with the security and safety requirements that will be imposed by this measure.
Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East) : Now we have passed the Second Reading of the Football Spectators Bill, we are in something of a mess, and we should not be tacking on to the end of it considerations about safety. The Bill itself has strong safety implications. We are also awaiting the report of the Taylor inquiry. The Committee, therefore, will be placed in an awkward position when it considers the Bill. We will be facing great difficulties unless the Bill is considered at great length in Committee, so that the Taylor report can be taken into account and its recommendations used to shape the amendments, which could provide for identification cards in special areas or membership schemes in connection with safety provisions.
We have put the cart before the horse with a vengeance. It is horrific that safety matters should be considered as a secondary item and that in some way they must find their way into the identity card proposals that we have just been discussing. It is too big an issue to be dealt with as an
Column 941afterthought. What may be needed in Committee is a fundamental rethink, to which the Taylor report would be relevant. It would help to put some shape into the Bill. Perhaps, as was said on Second Reading, part II will emerge as the part of the Bill that controls the entire operation of the provisions for football clubs. 10.48 pm
Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninghame, North) : I want to make one substantive point relating to safety. The bottom line of the legislation is what happens on a wet Wednesday night in the middle of December outside a football ground, when 50,000 people are trying to gain entry, perhaps in the space of little more than one hour. If the Government cannot answer that question, they should abandon the legislation. I believe that such legislation can be put forward only by people who are profoundly ignorant of the real circumstances outside football grounds in such conditions.
Just before Christmas I met a woman at a lunch, who was the No. 10 representative of the working party which came up with these proposals. She had never been to a football match in her life and was proud to admit it. That is the basis of knowledge represented in the entire measure.
I see the same mentality, from largely the same Conservative Members, as that which rammed the poll tax through Parliament. They knew very little of what they were doing, but they were prepared to nod through legislation on the basis of an ideological obsession. The same mentality has been displayed tonight.
In all earnestness, the Secretary of State is playing with human life tonight. If 50,000 people are trying to get into a football ground in the conditions that I have described and the apparatus breaks down, there will be major problems. We have been told that, in such circumstances, the gates would probably be opened. That might suffice, although the example of Hillsborough is not encouraging. What is even more dangerous than such a breakdown is the rumour that that apparatus has broken down. Imagine that tens of thousands of people are trying to get into the ground and are pressing forward to do so when the word goes round, as rumours always spreads in crowds, that the apparatus has broken down. The ensuing pressures could create mayhem at the football ground. The Secretary of State is taking the responsibility for such action by pushing through this nonsense tonight.
To put this instruction before the House at this stage adds insult to injury to Lord Justice Taylor and his investigation. By pushing it through the House, the Secretary of State recognises that safety considerations must be taken into account. If that is so, safety considerations should be incorporated in legislation, but what possible sense or consistency is there in pressing ahead with that legislation while Lord Justice Taylor is still taking evidence? It would be better to wait until he has taken evidence and reported before introducing legislation that reflects his recommendations and takes into account ground safety. Such legislation would be based on public need and good rather than on the ridiculous obsession with an ID card scheme. That scheme will not solve any of
Column 942the problems, but it will add to the problems experienced in the cities outside the football grounds as well as, arguably, those inside them.
The instruction adds insult to injury and it cures nothing. The Bill is a disaster and the human life put at risk by its implications will be the personal responsibility of the Secretary of State. 10.51 pm
Mr. Ridley : The hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) was discussing the contents of the Bill, but I must confine myself to the instruction to the Committee. However, he made one relevant point. We are expressly moving this instruction to the Committee so that any recommendations that Lord Justice Taylor may eventually make can be taken on board and implemented quickly as a result of the Bill. That is the main point of asking the Committee to consider safety.
Under the Safety of Sports Ground Act 1975, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has the power to make directives that apply to local authorities, as the licensing authorities for football grounds, concerning changes that might have to be made because of new safety requirements, possibly to do with turnstiles, perimeter fences or, certainly, all-seater stadiums. I was glad to hear what the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) had to say about such stadiums and we hope to make some progress on that subject. That could be the subject of a directive.
All those powers are already in place under statute and all that we seek to do is to move an amendment in Committee that will give us the power to ensure that we can monitor the performance of local authorities in insisting on common standards in all football grounds. At the same time it will ensure that my right hon. Friend has the power, although I am sure that it will not be necessary, to enforce any decision that he makes about something that is currently absent. Mr. Meale rose--
Apart from the existing powers, all that we seek to do is to ensure that these powers are sufficient to enforce anything that Lord Justice Taylor may require through the present system. There is nothing draconian about them.
The hon. Members for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing), for Burnley (Mr. Pike), for Mansfield (Mr. Meale) and for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) seemed to believe that we were talking about the money resolution and were concerned that this resolution made it possible to pay money towards improvements on grounds for safety reasons. We are debating not the money resolution, but the instruction. Neither the money resolution nor the Bill contains powers for the Government to make any financial provision towards the cost of improvements to safety on grounds. This debate cannot cover the points which they made.
Question put and agreed to.
That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Football Spectators Bill [ Lords ] that it have power to make provision in the Bill relating to any aspect of the safety of spectators at designated football matches.
That this House agrees with the Report [20th June] of the Liaison Committee-- [Mr. Garel-Jones.]
Column 945Colin Wallace (Manslaughter Conviction)
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. Garel-Jones.]
Mr. Ken Livingstone (Brent, East) : I rise to raise an issue which has been the subject of a recent book by the journalist Paul Foot : the framing for murder of Colin Wallace, a former employee in the security services of Northern Ireland. In his book, Paul Foot decisively proves that Wallace was framed for a crime which he did not commit in order to ensure that there was no exposure of Wallace's knowledge of the seditious activities of members of the security services.
I am not alone in believing this explanation. Wallace's case has gathered support across the political spectrum, within the media, and from past and serving members of the security services.
The story begins in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s when a separate information unit within the Army information service was set up. Wallace, a central figure in this unit, was required to engage in secret black propaganda disinformation activities. This was a co-ordinated operation to discredit and smear elected politicians using psychological warfare, forgeries, hoax bombings, and the buggery of young boys in the Kincora boys' home for blackmail purposes. Details of these activities were published in "The Pencourt File" and later Peter Wright's "Spycatcher" and David Leigh's "The Wilson Plot".
Wallace's knowledge was political dynamite, and when he began to question these activities, those in power clearly felt that he had to be gagged. He knew too much and had to be discredited. Conviction for murder would clearly achieve that purpose.
Referring to the high-level meetings which took place in the Ministry of Defence, Clive Ponting said in The Sunday Times, 17 May :
"By 1983 the case(s) of Wallace (and Holroyd) had been a long-running internal problem and a great effort had gone into contingency action if and when Holroyd got the story into the Press. The task was to try to ensure (their) stories were contained." On 25 June 1987, on Channel 4 News, Ponting was quoted as follows :
"There was never any suspicion that Wallace was making these stories up or that it was totally unfounded and very easy to rubbish. It was very much a matter that, OK the story was being contained at the moment because he was in jail, but that in a few years' time he would be back out again and could be expected to start making the allegations again and then that would be a serious problem." That is the background to Wallace's conviction. He did not kill Mr. Jonathan Lewis and an honest investigation would have discovered this. It would have proved beyond doubt that members of the security services compromised senior politicians and perverted our judicial system.
From 1983 to 1987 Wallace was in correspondence with the Home Office and his local Member of Parliament, the hon. Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall). On three occasions, Wallace petitioned the Home Office over the inadequate Sussex police force investigation and the disturbing conduct of the police during his trial.
When Wallace appealed to the Court of Appeal, one of the three judges that rejected his appeal was Mr. Justice Stocker, who had worked with Wallace on the Widgery inquiry into bloody Sunday. Wallace knew that the
Column 946Secretary of State could intervene only if there was new evidence which had not already been aired. Therefore, on 21 August 1983, his petition detailed : the failure to interview and take further statements from key witnesses with new information ; new evidence questioning the time of death ; new evidence concerning the use of a car important to the case and irregular police conduct in communicating with jurors.
Wallace listed 30 features of the forensic, medical and other evidence that conflicted with the prosecution case. In his petition of 15 March 1983, he submitted conclusive forensic information challenging crucial evidence on blood groupings, alcohol content, the time of death and the injuries inflicted on Lewis. He demonstrated that the police had omitted important information from the statements by the deceased's wife, Mrs. Jane Lewis, and had concealed details that were important to the defence, and suggested other factors that explained the death of Jonathan Lewis. In addition, he asked why police officers had told potential witnesses that he had kidnapped a child when they knew that that was completely untrue.
After Wallace had waited for over a year for a reply to his petitions, on 17 August 1984 the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State wrote to Lord Avebury stating that there were no grounds for action to be taken on the conviction. Responding to that, Wallace petitioned the Home Secretary again on 27 August 1984, demolishing point by point the reply to the Under- Secretary. In a letter to the hon. Member for Arundel on 1 September 1984, Wallace claimed : "the numerous independent people who have examined all the papers relating to my case appear to agree that the evidence presented just does not fit the Prosecution's case and that there are glaring inconsistencies in many parts. It is, therefore, a little odd that the Home Office should show such apparent indifference to the matter--unless there are political reasons for doing so."
Wallace also requested that the Secretary of State arrange a separate investigation of the links between the case and the investigation into the Kincora boys' home. The Minister replied that the Sussex police had found no links between the two ; yet no police officer or other official had contacted him or his solicitor to discover what information should have been investigated.
Following the naming of Wallace in the House as a key witness in the Kincora affair, the then chief constable of the Sussex police, Sir George Terry, was appointed with general oversight of the RUC investigation into Kincora. The Sussex officer in charge of the Wallace murder inquiry, Detective Superintendent Harrison, was then appointed to head the new Sussex police team. Harrison was later promoted.
On 18 October 1988 and 16 January this year I wrote to the current chief constable of Sussex, Mr. Birch, about discrepancies and irregularities in the Wallace investigation. They involved press conferences given by police officers during the trial concerning Wallace's activities in Ireland ; interviews between journalists and jurors during the trial ; statements written by two Sussex officers which contained identical sections ; and the failure to follow up important new evidence capable of proving Wallace's innocence.
Column 947questions, my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) said in a supplementary on my main question : "Only the conclusions of the Terry report were published--not the evidence. When will the public be allowed to judge whether the conclusions follow from the evidence?"
The Minister of State replied to that very civil question with a non sequitur :
"I regard that a serious slur on Sir George Terry."--[ Official Report, 22 June 1989 ; Vol. 155, c. 482.]
It was not a slur on Sir George Terry ; it was a perfectly civil and proper inquiry.
Mr. Livingstone : The problem with so much of the case, as it has developed, has been our inability to get a straight answer out of Government representatives or from the members of the security forces who have been involved in the investigations. We are constantly told that the matter has been investigated in the past, but no one has ever produced any details of those investigations.
Chief Constable Birch claimed that the issues had been raised through a variety of legal and political channels but that no information had come to light in respect of any of the matters raised, and refused to assist me further. In a reply on 24 February this year, I stated that I was unable to find any record of their being raised before. I then asked 10 specific questions about the case. After I had waited for more than three months, the assistant chief constable replied on 9 June :
"the circumstances surrounding Mr. Wallace's conviction had been exhaustively examined on a number of occasions, and I do not propose to carry out any further enquiries into the matter."
Chief Constable Birch's office has refused to answer my questions, because if it does it will be further incriminated in the cover-up. Unusually, the Sussex police consulted the Director of Public Prosecutions before replying to my letter.
The role of the Sussex police can only be described as disgraceful. The evidence suggests collusion between the security services implicated in the Kincora affair and the Sussex police. Responding to a letter written on 22 January 1988 by the Under-Secretary, Wallace claimed that it was full of inaccuracies and misunderstandings, and suggested that the Under-Secretary had not read the relevant correspondence, nor carried out inquiries as he had claimed. In reply to a specific forensic point about the diatoms in Mr. Lewis's body, which challenged police evidence over the location of the death, the Minister said that Mr. Wallace's solicitors would have to prove this. But how? The Metropolitan police forensic laboratory continually refused to make the material available to Wallace's solicitors. In addition, Wallace asked why photographs of him in an SAS uniform and posing beside captured weapons were made available at the trial. Was it to create the impression that he had connections with paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland?
It was also incorrect for the Under-Secretary of State to claim that any irregularities in the conduct of police officers had already been considered by the courts. I challenge the Minister to say tonight when these matters were considered by any court. They had been raised in petitions to the Home Secretary as far back as 1983 by Wallace, but not one of those concerns has been dealt with. It was because the Home Office failed to investigate these issues that Wallace wrote to the Police Complaints Authority and the Sussex chief constable. The Sussex
Column 948police refused to accept the complaints or to enter into any correspondence with him, and the Police Complaints Authority said that it could not deal with the issues because it had arisen before the authority came into being. Wallace was led a merry dance between one official body and another, constantly being fobbed off as he attempted to pursue the case.
More recently, the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office assured the House, when challenged on the content of the Foot book, that all the allegations concerning the conduct of persons had been "fully investigated" over a long period. What investigation? Who was involved? Who was interviewed? When did it begin and end? These are the same questions I have put to the Prime Minister and other Government Ministers. In reply, the House is constantly assured that all evidence concerning the allegations have been fully investigated and that there is not a shred of evidence to support them. The Prime Minister, in a letter on 23 June 1988, stated that Mr. Wallace had failed to take the opportunity to contribute to these investigations. How can this be equated with the fact that Wallace sent a detailed dossier to the Prime Minister in November 1984, although not a single person approached him about the contents? On 10 August 1988 I asked the Prime Minister the precise nature of these "careful investigations". Once again I got no reply.
Named individuals have gone on record in the Foot book supporting Wallace's allegations. The book names Mike Taylor, who accompanied Wallace in placing hoax bombs, also Chris Whitehead and Wendy Austin, who substantiate these allegations. Those are three named individuals. Will they now be interviewed? Why have they never been interviewed before?
The Government's determination not to answer these questions proves that there was never any determined effort to establish the truth. Had the Sussex police properly and thoroughly investigated the death of Mr. Lewis they would have established that Wallace had nothing whatever to do with his death.
The Home Office has recently stated that it is in the process of seeing whether Paul Foot's book contains any evidence that might call into question the safety of the conviction of Colin Wallace. From experience, I have no confidence in their ability to do this. What is the motive for such a cover-up? The answer can only be to protect the reputation of Airey Neave. For four years he was the shadow Cabinet spokesperson on Ireland, adviser to the then Leader of the Opposition on the intelligence services and head of her private office--the filter between her and the rest of the world. In reality he was the second most important person in the Tory party during that period of the Prime Minister's leadership of the Opposition. There was another side to Airey Neave that neither the public nor even most of his parliamentary colleagues knew about. He kept in close touch with the MI5 dissidents who were involved in treasonable activities. After Colin Wallace left his job in Army headquarters in Northern Ireland, he was approached by Neave. Although he had never met Neave before, Neave obviously knew that Wallace had been an agent of MI5 and that he had been involved in the disinformation and propaganda campaigns against both the IRA and the Labour Government.
Mr. Livingstone : Neave's proposal to Wallace was simple : continue the same work but do it directly for Neave. Wallace agreed and over the following months prepared background papers and speeches for Airey Neave which dealt with the growing strength of the British Left and its alleged links with the IRA and the Soviet Union. Those were taken up in a series of speeches which were widely reported. Proof of Neave's involvement with Wallace lies in the fact that Wallace has retained the correspondence in Airey Neave's handwriting and that is in our possession to produce-- [Interruption.]
Mr. Dalyell : The Minister has said that I should stop my hon. Friend. On the contrary, I have seen the letters. I knew the late Airey Neave very well and these questions must be answered. Part of the trouble is that Ministers have never faced up to the fact that these questions must be answered.
Mr. Livingstone : When questioned about this on the Floor of the House, the Leader of the House was unable to explain how Airey Neave would have known that Wallace was working for MI5 or how he had been so well informed about the nature of Wallace's work. The Prime Minister simply refuses to answer those questions.
When all the evidence and witnesses are assembled, the full-scale conspiracy aimed at the heart of our democracy is truly shocking. Taken together, they prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that during the 1970s a substantial and powerful minority of the British establishment was involved in activities which in any other country would be called treason. Airey Neave knew of the treason : how much he knew is a secret that he took to the grave. From his contacts with Peter Wright and Colin Wallace, we can presume that he was most probably quite well aware of what was happening. Neave alone was in a position to change the course of events, and Peter Wright was not. Neave was in a position to choose, promote and organise the election of the present Prime Minister as leader of the Tory party. Is that the reason why the Prime Minister blocks every attempt to inquire into the Wallace frame-up and the dirty war? Is that why such a vast effort was expended to try to prevent the publication of "Spycatcher"? Is that why all the questions in Parliament are met with evasive and stonewalling answers? There is no reason why the Government should try to cover up scandals that took place during the time of a Labour Government unless it is to protect the reputation of old and faithful supporters.
A full independent inquiry into the Wallace frame-up would inevitably lead to the question of how much did Airey Neave know and what was his role in those events. Once that question is asked, it inevitably leads to another. As I have said, Airey Neave was the Prime Minister's closest friend and adviser. As head of her private office, he decided who saw her, and as her unofficial security adviser he personally introduced her to the world of MI5 and MI6. Are we to believe that in all that time he never once indicated to her, even in the barest or most general outline, the treason in which he was involved? If the answer to that question is no, then did she not once ever suspect that the
Column 950man who ran her private office and stood like a praetorian guard at her door was involved in some very unparliamentary activities? 11.12 pm
The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. John Patten) : I have the honour to represent the constituency of Oxford, West and Abingdon. Abingdon was the constituency represented by the late Airey Neave whose memory and whose record as an hon. Member of this House we have just heard subjected to the vilest attack imaginable. I have never in the decade during which I have been a Member of this place heard such a monstrous attack, and on a man who died within the precincts of the Palace of Westminster. The hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), without any evidence at all, accused the late Airey Neave of involvement in treason.
Mr. Dalyell rose--
Mr. Livingstone rose--
Mr. Patten : Under no circumstances will I give way. I thought that the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) had some grip on reality. I thought that he would have tried to intervene to persuade his hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East to cease his vile attacks on an honourable man who was murdered by IRA terrorists--IRA terrorists whom the hon. Member for Brent, East never condemns and whose activities I suppose he supports. Those are the activities of the hon. Member for Brent, East.
To launch an attack on Airey Neave in that way has lowered the standards of debate in this House to unparalleled depths. Over the years, the hon. Member for Brent, East will reflect, if he ever reflects on anything, on the appalling things that he has said tonight and learn to regret them.
The hon. Member of Linlithgow, whom I have held in great respect over the past 10 years, will also learn to regret joining in the attack on the memory of Airey Neave. I have to call both hon. Members honourable Gentlemen, but representing the people of Abingdon as well as Her Majesty's Government, I have to say that what has been said in the Chamber tonight will be deeply, persistently and permanently resented by those who still mourn a great patriot and a great servant of the House, whose coat of arms remains at the end of the Chamber, illuminated as a permanent memorial to a man who gave his blood so that freedom in this place could be maintained.
The hon. Member for Brent, East is an honourable Gentleman within the terms of the House. I have had to listen to what he has had to say, but in the two years that I have been in the Home Office I have been struck by the extraordinary care with which on every occasion allegations and suggestions of a miscarriage of justice are treated by officials within the Home Office. Those papers go through many hands, and the tradition of the exhaustive and exhausting examination of all allegations goes back to the days when Home Office officials had to prepare the papers that went to the Home Secretary of the day faced with the decision of whether to proceed with the capital sentence. That tradition is still there in the Home Office and the meticulous care that is given to all cases is a remarkable tribute to those who advise Home Office Ministers on such cases.
Column 951Mr. Dalyell rose --
Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East) rose --
Mr. Patten : I shall certainly not give way. The hon. Gentleman did not intervene, so he has equally associated himself with that vile attack on Airey Neave. I cannot believe what I have seen and heard tonight in the Chamber.
It is important to begin with the facts of the case. They are that, on 20 March 1981, at Lewes Crown court, Mr. Colin Wallace was convicted of manslaughter after having been indicted for murder, and was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment. He applied for leave to appeal against conviction and sentence on 12 February 1982. His application was refused by the full Court of Appeal. At the time of the offence, Mr. Wallace was employed by the Arun district council as its information and liaison officer, and his assistant was Jane Lewis, the wife of the victim, Mr. Jonathan Lewis.
The prosecution alleged that Mr. Wallace and Mrs. Lewis had been having an affair while they were working on the preparation for a BBC television programme in the series "It's a Knockout" held at Arundel in July 1980 and that Mr. Lewis had been suspicious of their association.
The prosecution stated that the two men met on 5 August. Mr. Lewis was rendered unconscious, placed in the boot of Mr. Wallace's motor car and dumped in the River Arun, where he died from drowning. In his defence, Mr. Wallace admitted that there was a meeting but maintained that the two men had parted on good terms. The case rested largely on the circumstantial evidence, although it included some scientific evidence on tests on spots and splashes of blood found in the boot of the car on that sad occasion.
Since 1983, a number of representations have been made claiming that Mr. Wallace is innocent of the offence of manslaughter. The House may find it helpful if I outline the position of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department in relation to cases such as that of Mr. Wallace. Constitutionally, the duty of administering justice in individual cases is placed on the courts. The Home Secretary has certain advisory and statutory powers to intervene in a criminal case, and from time to time he does so. He may use, for example, the powers conferred on him by section 17 of the Criminal Appeal Act 1968 to refer a case tried on indictment to the Court of Appeal. The Home Office, in the person of the Home Secretary, does that from time to time.
My right hon. Friend must take every care to ensure that he does not exercise those powers in any way that might tend to usurp the functions of the court. In practice, that means that he can consider intervening only if significant new evidence or another consideration of substance comes to light that has already been aired in the courts. That is the basic and fundamental principle. It must be new evidence or a new matter of substance that appears to cast doubt on the safety of the conviction.
Under no circumstances can my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State review the decisions of the courts on the basis of facts or arguments that they have already