HOME SECRETARY MEETS WITH BIRMINGHAM PUB BOMBING FAMILIES
KRW LAW LLP (KRW) is instructed by ten families who are relatives of those victims killed in The Birmingham Pub Bombings 1974.
At a scheduled zoom meeting today organised by Andy Street, Mayor the West Midlands Combined Authority, the Home Secretary met with our clients.
This is fourth Home Secretary to have engaged with the families since 2011. The meeting was organised and chaired by Andy Street who is seeking re-election in the Mayoral elections in May. The families will be seeking a face-to-face meeting with the Home Secretary in Birmingham before the May elections. By that time, they will expect her to be able to indicate when she will provide a written decision as to whether to establish a public inquiry under section 1 of the Inquiries Act 2005.
This morning our clients became aware of a Home Office Written Ministerial Answer to a question asked by Preet Kaur Gill MP regarding whether the Home Secretary would assess the merits of a public inquiry into the pub bombings. This was posted on the UK Parliament website yesterday. The families had not been informed in advance of today’s meeting of that Ministerial response. They will be seeking clarification from Preet Kaur Gill MP as to what promoted her question.
Since the conclusion of the unsatisfactory inquest in 2019 and the failure of the West Midlands Police to further any investigation into the pub bombings, our clients have been clear that they seek a public inquiry into the pub bombings under section 1 of the Inquiries Act 2005. This is what they assumed the meeting today with the Home Secretary was going to be about. Only those who described the loss of their loved ones – again to a politician – mentioned the need for an inquiry. Neither the Mayor nor the Home Secretary used the word inquiry.
In the written response to the question, Home Office Minister Kevin Foster answered, “There is an ongoing investigation by West Midlands Police into the bombings, and it would be inappropriate to make a decision on whether to establish an inquiry while this is proceeding.” (Ministerial Statement)
When pressed by Julie Hambleton on this at the start of the meeting she was advised by the Mayor that the Home Secretary would address that at the end of the meeting. The Home Secretary did respond at the end of the meeting that she
knew of this but it was a standard response when there is a ‘live’ police investigation. Julie Hambleton had made it clear during the meeting that she has evidence that there is no on-going investigation by WMP. She noted the failure of the WMP to effectively follow up on any evidence adduced at the inquest. This underscored the need for a statutory inquiry which would examine all the circumstances around the bombings including the question of perpetrators, forewarning, prior intelligence, and PIRA infiltration and any state involvement.
The families stressed the importance of an inquiry to the City of Birmingham. This view was endorsed by Maurice Malone who attended the meeting in his capacity as CEO of the Birmingham Irish Association.
The Home Secretary said she would consult with civil servants and ask “sharp” questions. We hope she can do this prior to a meeting in Birmingham before May.
Barry O’Donnell, Associate Solicitor, KRW said:
“Our clients went into this meeting with the Home Secretary expecting to explain their reasons for requesting her to establish a public inquiry into the pub bombings. That was not forthcoming and the decision to publish the Ministerial Response was insensitive and inept. Once again, as with so many relatives of victims of the Conflict, politicians have played fast and loose with their hopes and expectations in a shameful way. We will now consider, with our clients, ways forward. We need a commitment from the Home Secretary for a meeting with the relatives in Birmingham before the Mayoral election in May at which she will indicate her position of a public inquiry. ”