HC Deb 12 April 1937 vol 322 cc600-1
20. Sir N. Grattan-Doyle

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can give the House any information concerning the case of Messrs. Edward Anthony Ashton and J. W. Webster, two British subjects, who are now in custody in Bolivia; how long have they been in prison; what are the charges against them; and why they have not been admitted to bail?

Viscount Cranborne

I understand that Mr. Ashton and Mr. Webster were arrested on 28th January, since when they have been in custody on the charge of intention to defraud the Bolivian Government in certain sales made during the Chaco war. Their difficulty in securing bail appears to be due to the fact that it involves the sureties not only pledging their own persons but also accepting responsibility for all financial liabilities should the accused leave the country. My right hon. Friend hopes to receive further information on the case from His Majesty's Minister at La Paz at an early date. In the meantime, the Minister has received instructions to ask the Bolivian Government for a detailed statement of the offences with which the two gentlemen are charged. I can assure my hon. Friend that His Majesty's Government will continue to keep a close watch on this matter.

Sir N. Grattan-Doyle

Will my Noble Friend see that His Majesty's Government are sufficiently active in this matter, in view of the fact that these British subjects have been in custody so long under such extraordinary conditions that no time should elapse before the Government take definite steps?

Viscount Cranborne

I can assure my hon. Friend of that.