HC Deb 12 May 1930 vol 238 cc1429-31
20. Sir. K. WOOD

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the result of his inquiries as to procedure followed in the Soviet Union as to the position of foreign nationals charged with political and other offences; and whether British Consular officials have full access to all judicial proceedings in which British subjects are concerned, and to premises and prisons in which British subjects are incarcerated?


His Majesty's Ambassador at Moscow reports that cases in which British subjects are involved in judicial proceedings in the Soviet Union are extremely rare. A member of the staff of His Majesty's Embassy has attended in Court during certain recent proceedings in which the interests of a British company were involved. No British subjects have been imprisoned in the Soviet Union since the arrival of His Majesty's Ambassador in Moscow. The question of access to prisons has not, therefore, arisen, but I am advised that there is no recognised international practice in these matters, and that Consular officers have no inherent right of access to their imprisoned nationals unless that right has been granted by treaty. In this country, for example, His Majesty's Government are under no obligation to notify foreign Consuls when their nationals are arrested. The point will, however, be borne in mind during the negotiations for a commercial treaty with the Soviet Union.


Will the hon. Gentleman explain to the House how it is that he is able to inform us of reports from the British Ambassador on this subject, and not on the matter of religious persecution in Russia?


I should have thought that hon. Members opposite would have been able to use their own commonsense and would have known that, in regard to some subjects, no objections can be raised to giving information, while in regard to others there may be objections.


Have any general instructions been issued by the hon. Gentleman's Department to the Minister in Russia as to the subjects which he proposes to mention in this House and the subjects which he does not propose to mention in this House; otherwise, will he explain a little more fully what is the nature of the rule which allows some subjects to be mentioned and some not to be mentioned?


The nature of the rule is determined by my right hon. Friend in his discretion in the same way as it has been determined by previous Foreign Secretaries.