HC Deb 11 April 1934 vol 288 cc295-7

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that Mr. William Maxwell Bickerton, an English master resident in Tokio and a British subject, was arrested and imprisoned in Tokio on 13th March, was refused permission to communicate with the British Consul until 23rd March, and that, although no charge has been made against him, he still remains in gaol; if he has any information as to the reason for which Mr. Bickerton has been imprisoned; what steps are being taken to see that he is either released or brought to trial and, in the latter event, what arrangements are being made for his defence; and will he state what rights, by treaty or otherwise, as to communication with the British Consul are enjoyed by British subjects in Japan in the event of arrest by the Japanese authorities?


Yes, Sir; I am aware of the circumstances relating to Mr. Bickerton's arrest. According to the statement of the Japanese authorities, he is suspected of an offence in connection with alleged Communist activities. On receiving information of Mr. Bickerton's arrest, His Majesty's Consul immediately took steps to visit him in prison. Representations were also made on the 26th March by His Majesty's Embassy to the Japanese authorities, and a request was preferred that the case should be expedited and that Mr. Bickerton should either be released or brought to trial before a public court without delay. The Japanese reply was to the effect that the case was under investigation in accordance with Japanese law, and that it was not yet possible to make a definite statement on this point. His Majesty's Embassy understand, however, that the police examination has now been concluded, and the case is due to be handed over to the examining judge. His Majesty's Ambassador has been informed that adequate funds for Mr. Bickerton's defence will be available if necessary. His Majesty's Consul has secured permission for Mr. Bickerton to be supplied with supplementary food and clean clothing. Both Sir Francis Lindley and His Majesty's Consul are closely following the case, and will continue to do all that they properly can to protect Mr. Bickerton's interests. As regards the last part of the question, the practice of permitting prompt communication with the British Consul in the event of the arrest of a British subject does not rest upon treaty, but it is normally permitted in most countries as a matter of international courtesy.


While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his reply, may I ask him if he is aware that this gentleman, who has resided in Japan for some years, and is a highly respected English master at the University, has been informed unofficially that his offence is that of harbouring dangerous thoughts; and whether, in the circumstances, the position of British nationals in Japan is not one to which His Majesty's Government should give serious consideration?