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Anyone studying the case--we know it was a horrific slaughter of two soldiers--or reading the transcript of the trial and of what the appeal judge said should watch the "Rough Justice" programme as it showed that there are serious differences in interpretation of the statements, especially that made by Patrick Kane and the evidence on video. That is extremely important.
In conclusion, unlike Paratrooper Lee Clegg, whose case is being reviewed in June this year, Patrick Kane, Michael Timmons and Sean Kelly did not kill anyone. Those three men have not had a fair trial, and most definitely are not guilty of murder. As with the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six, we are again seeing a gross miscarriage of justice. I am asking the Secretary of State, through the Minister, to take whatever steps are necessary to have the three men released forthwith.
The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Sir John Wheeler): Before I respond to the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Dr. Hendron), I should like to congratulate him on his success in securing an Adjournment debate for the second time. The subject is one about which he and many other people both inside and outside the House have a deep and sincere concern.
I welcome the opportunity presented to me to explain to the House my right hon. and learned Friend's role in these cases. The House may find it helpful if, at the outset, I remind him of the Secretary of State's powers to refer a case to the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland. They are the same as those available to the Home Secretary in respect of convictions in England and Wales.
It is not for Ministers to substitute their own assessment of the evidence in any case for that of the courts. Their function, by long-established practice, is to examine whether there is some new evidence or other consideration of substance that has not previously been before the courts and that now appears to cast some doubt on the safety of the conviction. This is the criterion: whether it appears to cast doubt. It is not for Ministers to reach a concluded view on whether a conviction is safe.
I remind the House that, on 30 March 1990, Kane, Timmons and Kelly were convicted of murder, grievous bodily harm and false imprisonment. On 5 July 1991, the Court of Appeal of Northern Ireland upheld their convictions and sentences.
The Secretary of State and I have received many representations regarding the cases of the three men. The representations have in the main, but not exclusively, sought to dispute the deductions made by
Column 879the courts based on the evidence that they accepted. When representations have sought to challenge the evidence itself, they have tended to concentrate on the identification of the defendants from the considerable video and film footage that is available. In the case of every representation, the Secretary of State had to satisfy himself as to whether the points argued had or had not already been before the courts.
In addressing the question of identification evidence, the Court of Appeal said:
"In seeking to identify any of the appellants on the films, we reminded ourselves, being all too familiar with the frailties of identification, of the need for caution before reaching any firm conclusion".
The court went on to state, in respect of Patrick Kane:
"Repeated running of the films, concentrated observation of them and comparison with the general appearance of Kane in the park satisfies us that the man seen inside the park dressed in the combination of colours of green anorak, dark trousers and white shoes was undoubtedly Kane."
In respect of Kelly, the court said:
"We looked at the film very many times. We had it played and replayed over at normal and slow speeds. We were satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Kelly was indeed the figure inside the Park that the prosecution pointed to."
I have also noted the widespread expression of unease concerning the application of the law on common purpose to these cases. I am sure that the House will expect me to comment on that aspect. The principle of common purpose is not new, and its use is not confined to Northern Ireland or, indeed, to the United Kingdom. Mr. Justice--now Lord Justice--Carswell's written trial judgment provides a detailed account of the law pertaining to common purpose and his application of that law to the defendants; I therefore do not propose to rehearse all the arguments now.
I consider it important, however, for the House to hear Lord Lane's comments, expressed as recently as 1989, which the trial judge quoted in his judgment. Lord Lane said:
"A must be proved to have intended to kill or do serious harm at the time he killed. B may not be present at the killing; he may be a distance away, for example, waiting in the getaway car; he may not know that A has killed; he may have hoped (and probably did) that A would not kill or do serious injury. If, however, as part of their joint plan it was understood between them expressly or tacitly that if necessary one of them would kill or do serious harm as part of their common enterprise, then B is guilty of murder".
In applying the law on common purpose, the court did not contend that Kane, Timmons or Kelly attended the funeral that day with murder in mind. However, the court did consider them to have joined in and given support to a joint enterprise, a foreseeable consequence of which was the eventual murder of the soldiers. It was that finding of fact that was upheld by the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal's comments are also pertinent in relation to the principle of common purpose. It said:
"These contentions by the prosecution as to the legal basis for murder by the appellants as secondary parties were accepted by the defence as correct both before the trial judge and this Court."
Column 880The court also stated:
"It was not contended during the hearing of these appeals that the trial judge had misdirected himself as to the law, or misapplied it. The contentions were directed in each case against the Judge's findings of fact and the inferences he drew from them."
In the case of Kane, various representations have pointed to his illiteracy, aural impediment and intellectual limitations, and drawn attention to the fact that an "appropriate adult"--the hon. Gentleman's term--was not provided before and during his questioning by the police. All those aspects have been considered most carefully.
Patrick Kane was arrested in December 1988 under the powers derived from the ordinary criminal law, not emergency legislation. The provisions of the non-statutory "Guide to the Emergency Powers" which relate to the appointment of an "appropriate adult" were not therefore applicable. Similar "appropriate adult" provisions have subsequently been introduced for non-scheduled cases in code "C" of the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989, but they did not come into operation until 1 January 1990.
Patrick Kane's counsel at trial and on appeal argued that his statements should be treated as inadmissible. The Court of Appeal noted:
"Before the trial judge, his counsel submitted that no weight should be given to his oral statements or the written statement because he was illiterate, of low intellectual ability and had a significant hearing loss. Before this Court his counsel, Miss McDermott QC, went further. She submitted that the trial judge should have ruled all these statements inadmissible on those grounds." The court concluded:
"This Court sees no reason why the judge should have held his statements either inadmissible or of no weight or lesser weight than they commanded on their face. The allegation of a hearing loss could not have been a relevant factor in the nature of the challenge made. It is clear from the transcript that the case he was making at trial implied that he had heard all the suggestions made to him by the police. Otherwise he could not have agreed with them through fear. Nor do we consider that the other grounds put forward are of any avail. He was at the time of his arrest a man of 31 years. Although he could not read or barely write, he was able to write his signature and the words `No complaints'. But much more so, any detailed reading of the transcript of his evidence, particularly the searching cross -examination by Mr. Foote, shows that he had a ready capacity at all times to understand the purport of the questions put and at times to anticipate and evade what might have been incriminating." It is clear that the question of Kane's intellectual abilities was very fully argued by his counsel and duly considered by the court. Those aspects therefore do not constitute new material on the basis of which my right hon. and learned Friend could properly ask the Court of Appeal to reconsider his case.
We have also been aware of suggestions of judicial inconsistency between this case and others. It must, however, be borne in mind that judges are duty bound to assess each case on its own
circumstances--even when several cases arise from a common incident--and weigh the evidence separately: both the persuasiveness of the prosecution case and the credibility of the accused's defence. The fact that different outcomes may be pointed to does not of itself mean that a particular conviction is unsafe or a sentence wrong.
Column 881As I said, the Secretary of State has given the utmost thought to all the representations received before today, and has concluded that in respect of all three men the criterion for a referral to the Court of Appeal of Northern Ireland has not been fulfilled.
At this point it may be timely to remind right hon. and hon. Members that the Criminal Appeal Bill was approved without a Division on Second Reading in the House on 6 March. A number of hon. Members welcomed its extension to Northern Ireland. The Secretary of State's decision to seek to have the Bill extended to Northern Ireland followed a wide-ranging
Column 882consultation process. The new independent body will investigate miscarriages of justice and when necessary refer them to the Court of Appeal for review.
I have listened with great interest to the hon. Gentleman's speech today. I wish to assure him and the House that the Secretary of State's mind remains open and that he is willing to consider most carefully any further material put to him, pending the establishment of the new Criminal Cases Review Commission.
It being half past Two o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, pursuant to Order [19 December].
Mr. Charles Hendry (High Peak): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I do not know whether you have noticed the remarkable similarity between Questions 1, 5 and 11 on today's Order Paper, and I was wondering whether by chance they might be related. During Environment questions, we might understandably turn our minds to the planting of trees and flowers, but is it not going a bit far when the only planting is that of Opposition questions? I wonder whether, during your busy day, you might have the opportunity to see how three complicated but identically worded questions came to be tabled.
Ms Ann Coffey (Stockport): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Today the Audit Commission published a report stating that one in three consultants with large private practices had missed 10 per cent. of their operating sessions and that was an underestimate. Health questions were yesterday. It is most convenient that the report has come out the day after Health questions. That happens again and again, and I wonder whether I could seek your help to ensure that these reports come out on the day when they are most useful to hon. Members in challenging the responses of Ministers to Health questions.
Madam Speaker: Perhaps I should inform the hon. Lady and the House that I have no authority whatsoever over the publication of reports. I can understand the frustrations of the hon. Lady and the House on these matters. All I can advise her to do is pursue the matter through Ministers and the Order Paper, as I am sure she will.
Mr. Raymond S. Robertson (Aberdeen, South): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You may have seen the report in The Scotsman that the electoral registration officer in Tayside has ordered an urgent inquiry into the possible misuse and misrepresentation of postal and proxy votes in Dundee, in particular the case of a 91-year-old woman who has had her postal vote changed to a proxy vote in the name of a Labour activist to whom she gave no authorisation, and whom she did not know.
Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Cromarty and Skye): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Have you received any questions from the Government for a Transport Minister or a Scottish Office Minister to make a statement today about the lunchtime announcement by the British Railways Board of the cancellation with effect from May of the sleeper on the Motorail services to Scotland?
Column 904You will recall that, the week before last, at Question Time, the Prime Minister gave myself and the House a categorical assurance that meetings would be available to an all-party delegation to see the Secretary of State for Transport and the Prime Minister about these matters. That pledge has now been made a mockery by that grotesque breach of faith. What are Ministers going to do about it? Have they approached you to explain themselves?
Madam Speaker: I have had no indication from a Minister that they are seeking to make a statement on that matter today. I can only advise the hon. Gentleman to use the Order Paper, and to table questions to Ministers who have some responsibility in these matters, as I am sure he will do.
Mr. Mike O'Brien (Warwickshire, North): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Can you assist me by telling me how I can clarify a confusion that seems to have arisen over a statement by the Director General of Ofgas, Miss Clare Spottiswoode, who told a seminar yesterday that utility regulation is flawed--too dependent on the individuals responsible for it-- and that the system is weakened by the regulator's lack of accountability. Is it possible for a Minister to clarify the difficulty that has now arisen?
Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I recognise that you cannot call a Minister into the Chamber to make a statement, but under a well-known system, Ministers can come here to be held accountable to the House for their decisions or actions. What steps can be taken by hon. Members when someone who holds a senior position in the House, as Chairman of the Select Committee on Employment, is accused of abusing his position? Is it possible for him to come to the House, make a statement and be questioned on it, or can he remain silent on an issue involving his responsibility for issuing share options--very generously, moreover?
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Animal Health Act 1981 to provide that European Community law shall not interfere with the validity or legal effectiveness under the laws of the United Kingdom of any prohibitions or restrictions on the export of animals which the designated Ministers shall certify to be justified. I am pleased to say that my Bill has cross-party support. It has Euro-sceptic support, Euro-enthusiast support, vegetarian support, meat-eating support and even meat exporting support.
Until recently, the small town of Brightlingsea was a little-known, peaceful corner of my constituency on the Essex coast. There is only one road into the town--three miles of twisting lane across a beautiful Essex valley. Brightlingsea is a close-knit community of small streets, friendly shops, good schools and a delicate economy, dependent as much on a fragile network of small indigenous employers as on employment in nearby Colchester and elsewhere on the Tendring peninsula.
The words "Brightlingsea port" give entirely the wrong impression. This is no Shoreham or Dover; Brightlingsea creek is a natural haven for small boats, dinghies and yachts. Only one small vessel can berth at the whnarf, which itself looks large and out of place. It can be reached only by driving through the heart of the town. The wharf did little trade until the export of live animals began in January this year.
I beg the House to understand the depth and strength of the reaction that the trade through Brightlingsea has provoked. Just as the convoys of 40- tonne trucks thundering down the crowded main street have shattered the peace of the town, so the issue of live exports has roused many ordinary people to anger, outrage and despair. There are some in the town who do not support the protesters, and also a large number who are sympathetic to their aims but increasingly resent the disruption and expense of the protests. I would, however, fail in my duty as a Member of Parliament if I did not impress on the House the huge public feeling on the issue that exists in Brightlingsea. My right hon. and hon. Friends will know that, in fact, public concern extends far more widely than the places that are involved directly in the trade. All those concerned demand action from their representatives in Parliament.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister hit exactly the right note when he met a group of Brightlingsea protesters on a recent visit to East Anglia. He said that he would "much prefer" to see animals transported in carcase form, and during Question Time on 10 January he expressed a preference for export on the hook rather than on the hoof. I agree.
I pay tribute to our Ministers who are dealing with the issue. Both my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and his doughty Parliamentary Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mrs. Browning)--whose presence I am pleased to note--have made progress in the European Council. But even if agreement is reached, and over-long journeys and veal crates are banned under EC law, it is unlikely that implementation by other states will meet the high animal welfare standards that we expect in the United Kingdom.
Column 906It is at this point that most people feel that the United Kingdom should at least be able to implement selective bans on live exports. The anger and frustration of Brightlingsea people are, however, turned to fury when Ministers explain their powerlessness under European Community law.
My legal advice is the same as that of Ministers: we cannot apply article 36 of the treaty on European union unilaterally. Subsequent EC directives have brought it into the occupied field of EC legal competence; but this issue has, perhaps as much as any other, brought home to the British public the huge extent of the powers that Governments have signed away in Europe. They rightly feel that the argument about live exports from the United Kingdom should be settled by the United Kingdom Parliament, not left hostage to the vested interests of foreign Governments.
This Bill does not directly ban live exports--I can reassure the Minister on that point. It restores the powers of Ministers under the Animal Health Act 1981--powers that most people believe that Ministers should never have given away. I must tell the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew) that, even if his Protection of Calves (Export) Bill became an Act of Parliament, its failure to tackle the issue of European law would leave United Kingdom Ministers powerless to implement it. But I am grateful for the fact that he is sponsoring this Bill.
The Bill has two main elements. Clause 1 first makes it clear that the Animal Health Act 1981 may be used to impose a general export ban, and that it is not restricted merely to regulating the means and mode of export. The power to impose a ban may be exercised on the grounds of cruelty to the animals in the country of destination, not just on the grounds of suffering during the journey.
Most people would agree that this is the sort of sanction that Ministers require, to demonstrate that they are serious about ensuring that EC animal welfare legislation is properly enforced. Ministers may certify that any such export ban
"is in their opinion justified for the protection of health and life of humans, animals or plants, notwithstanding that it may prohibit or restrict the exportation of animals to other member states and that such prohibition or restriction does not constitute a means of arbitrary discrimination or disguised restriction on trade between member states".
This follows the wording of article 36 of the treaty on European union. So the Bill would simply allow Ministers to exercise powers that they thought were protected by article 36 when they signed the Single European Act in the first place.
The second main element of the Bill is designed to protect Ministers' actions from possible prosecution under Community law. Section 2(1) of the European Communities Act 1972 provides that Community law shall be
"recognised and available in law"
in the United Kingdom. Section 2(4) of the Act provides that any future Act
"shall be construed and have effect subject to"
section 2(1). My Bill denies legal force under the law of the United Kingdom to any rule of Community law that would interfere with the export ban, so it becomes Parliament's express wish, if necessary, to override this part of the 1972 Act.
Column 907What is the effect of the Bill? If Ministers chose to apply an export ban on grounds of cruelty to animals in the country of destination, Parliament would have made it clear that the UK courts would be obliged to uphold UK law in the matter, against EC law if necessary. This would probably put the United Kingdom in breach of EC law. At a meeting with the Minister, her officials told me that this Act "would not work", implying that our courts would override the express wish of Parliament to exclude EC law.
If the courts fail Parliament in this regard, it will have been proved beyond dispute that parliamentary sovereignty is incompatible with continued membership of the European Community on the current basis. That in turn flies in the face of all the assurances given by Ministers about parliamentary sovereignty on the Floor of the House.
Although Parliament instructed our courts to enforce EC law in the 1972 Act, no Parliament can bind its successor. As a sovereign Parliament, we should never allow people to claim that we are powerless to enact and to enforce legislation just because it is contrary to European Union law. I doubt that any hon. Member would be happy to see Parliament being lectured by Ministry of Agriculture officials about that on which it can or cannot legislate. The Bill restores the UK's choice to decide the live exports issue--a choice that most British people believe that this country should have. It would add authority to Government actions, because Ministers would be pursuing a policy that they could claim as their own, instead of one
Column 908forced on them. Nothing could be more corrosive to the idea of democratic accountability than to find ourselves saying that we have given away the power to decide matters for ourselves without consent or explanation, and without realising that we were doing that at the time.
Anyone who has argued in favour of a ban on live exports should feel obliged to support my Bill, as it is the only effective means of enacting a ban. I am more than a little scornful of the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) for sponsoring the Protection of Calves (Export) Bill, when his reluctance to sponsor my Bill suggests that he finds the truth about the position in the EU too difficult to handle.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Bernard Jenkin, Sir Andrew Bowden, Mr. Roger Knapman, Mr. Iain Duncan Smith, Mr. Harry Greenway, Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, Mr. David Evans, Mr. Nick Harvey, Mr. Eric Martlew, Mr. Austin Mitchell, Mr. Tony Banks and Mr. Bill Olner.
Mr. Bernard Jenkin accordingly presented a Bill to amend the Animal Health Act 1981 to provide that European Community law shall not interfere with the validity or legal effectiveness under the laws of the United Kingdom of any prohibitions or restrictions on the export of animals which the designated Ministers shall certify to be justified: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 24 March, and to be printed. [Bill 81.]
[Relevant documents: Third Report from the Trade and Industry Committee of Session 1993-94, on Optical Fibre Networks (House of Commons Paper No. 285); the Department of Trade and Industry Paper on Creating the Superhighways of the Future: Developing Broadband Communications in the UK (Cm 2734); and the Department of Trade and Industry Annual Report 1995: The Government's Expenditure Plans 1995-96 to 1997-98 (Cm 2804).]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a further supplementary sum not exceeding £1,000 be granted to Her Majesty out of the Consolidated Fund to defray the charges that will come in course of payment during the year ending on 31st March 1995 for expenditure by the Department of Trade and Industry on support for business, research and development; consumer protection and the regulation of trade, energy related programmes, including research and development, and residual privatisation expenses; departmental administration, central and miscellaneous services; security of oil and gas supplies; the operational costs of departmental executive agencies and associated research laboratory privatisation expenses; the provision of land and building; loans, grants and other payments.--[ Mr. Ian Taylor. ]
Mr. Richard Caborn (Sheffield, Central): I place on record my appreciation of the excellent service given by the Clerks to all Select Committees and their back-up staff, because the amount of work they do on the many good reports presented to the House sometimes goes unnoticed.
This is probably the first time that the House has had the opportunity to debate in depth the importance of the information super-highway, and to question whether Government policy is helping or hindering the development of advanced communication networks and services. Such a debate is long overdue, because the issues are of real significance to this country's future competitiveness, and they will shape the life style and work patterns of millions of people. The information super-highway has implications for the way that the House conducts its business and hon. Members conduct their working lives. The Committee took the opportunity to undertake the first video conferencing of an official Committee of the House. I was pleased to learn that the House is planning to offer that facility, and that arrangements are under way for the House's own research network to be available on the Internet.
Our report on the super-highway was the first Select Committee report ever placed on the Internet, but not by the House authorities or the Select Committee Clerks--somebody else did us that courtesy. The House does not offer that service, but makes our report available only in hard copy form, through a limited number of outlets. The problem is that the report is expensive. I have received several inquiries from academic bodies in particular, which want such reports made more accessible
Column 910on their databases. Government Departments and agencies were recently connected to the Internet. We called for that in our report, and I welcome that development.
A number of local authorities are also on the system, as are most large companies and universities. It is perhaps time that Hansard and Select Committee reports and other parliamentary information was also made available on Internet. The cost is minuscule, and it can only help raise the standard of the House.
The United States Congress has been on Internet for several years. I can access the Congress World Wide Web information service at any time, for the price of a local telephone call. The menu covers the full text of congressional debates and reports and judgments, as well as the e-mail addresses of Congressmen. That system might be popular with hon. Members. There is even a special mail box through which people can request information or contact a particular person. If that is possible for the US Congress, why should it not be possible here? I have already raised that question with the Liaison Committee, and I hope that, if it comes before the House, it will be supported. I shall now return to the Select Committee report on optical fibre networks and the information super-highway, which was published last July.
The Government's response to our report took the form of a Command Paper, issued in November. Last month, there was a G7 summit on the global super- highway, and, as many hon. Members may know, the Labour party has set up its own information super-highway policy forum. The enormous interest generated by our report has certainly concentrated a few minds in the Department of Trade and Industry. Although we were disappointed by the Government's response, our report has put the issue firmly on the political agenda. There is now a widely held view that we need a nationwide network sooner rather than later. I think that the Minister will agree.
I welcome the enthusiasm that the Minister has brought to his portfolio, and I hope that it will affect Government policy. The potential for industry, jobs and leisure is vast. Our report states that broadband networks and services are likely to be critical to the competitiveness of businesses and a major factor in attracting inward investment. The report also emphasises the enormous potential social benefits for education, skills training, health care and local government services. However, getting the full benefit depends on the speed at which the highway and the new multi-media services can be developed, and on making the network as open and accessible as possible.
Our report highlights the significant benefits to industry and states that the information industry is expanding worldwide faster than anyone expected. The telecommunications industry alone is growing at such a pace that, within a few years, it will overtake Europe's motor industry in its impact on GDP. I say that to make the point that the competitive advantage of the information industry is relative, and that those countries which develop the networks and software first will corner the market.
To get investment in new broadband services requires an integrated and accessible network. The Committee's concern is that we may not get the infrastructure in place in time, and will fail to stimulate growth in new and innovative software applications.