Pub bombs inquiry decision would be ‘inappropriate’ at moment, says minister

Richard Vernalls, PA
·2-min read

Any decision to hold a public inquiry into the 1974 IRA Birmingham pub bombings would be “inappropriate” while the police investigation is still active, a Home Office minister has said.

Kevin Foster, minister for future borders and immigration, made the remarks in a written answer on Tuesday to a question from Labour Birmingham Edgbaston MP Preet Gill.

In October last year, it was revealed Home Secretary Priti Patel was mulling over a decision to establish a statutory inquiry into the blasts, after years of campaigning by the victims’ families.

Two bombs planted in the Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town pubs exploded on November 21, 1974, killing 21 people and injuring up to 220 more.

A flawed investigation by West Midlands Police led to the wrongful convictions of the Birmingham Six – one of the worst miscarriages of justice in British legal history.

Nobody has ever been brought to justice for the blasts.

The relatives of those killed, including Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine died in the bombings, are due to meet Ms Patel to discuss the issue of a public inquiry but the meeting has yet to take place.

In a question to the Home Secretary on March 8, Ms Gill asked: “What recent assessment she has made of the potential merits of a public inquiry on the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings?”

Mr Foster, replying on behalf of the Home Office, said: “The 1974 attacks on the Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town were appalling events and acts of violence.

“I recognise the desire to see those responsible brought to justice.

“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.”

In April last year, an inquest jury found a botched IRA warning call led to the deaths of those unlawfully killed in the atrocity.

In November 2020, a 65-year-old man was arrested in Belfast in connection with the bombings by officers from West Midlands Police assisted by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

He was later released and the police investigation continues.