HC Deb 21 December 1944 vol 406 cc1926-8
32. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he can now assure the House that renewed consideration will be given to the question of releasing those political prisoners in India who are still detained without charge or trial.

Mr. Amery

The authorities in India have constantly under review the cases of persons detained as a result of the Congress disturbances of 1942; and releases are made so far as is compatible with essential considerations of security. I do not think that present circumstances call for a revision of this policy, which has resulted in a large and progressive reduction in the number of those detained.

Mr. Sorensen

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he has said nothing about those who had not been charged or tried, but who were arrested before the disturbances took place; and may I ask him if he is aware that last week the Labour Party Conference asked for the release of these prisoners?

Mr. Shinwell

May I also ask whether, if the Minister is aware of the Labour Party decision last week, he will take note of the fact that the Labour Party decision expresses the view of a very large number of people in the country? Ought he not to give this matter reconsideration?

Mr. Amery

I will certainly take note of any decision taken at an important Conference like that.

Mr. McGovern

May I ask if someone could not be placed in complete charge of these political prisoners with a view to reviewing the cases periodically, as many who were arrested are inclined to be forgotten?

Mr. Amery

I can assure the hon. Member that, on the contrary, these cases are reviewed by the Governor of the Province very frequently, and, in the course of this year, I have mentioned that the total number of those detained in the first six months of this year was reduced from 7,400 to 3,000.

Mr. Cove

How can the right hon. Gentleman expect the friendship of the Indian people and the effectiveness of their contribution to the war effort, if he persists in keeping men like Nehru and others in gaol?

Mr. Amery

I think the opinions of those who have been detained were by no means endorsed by the Indian people as a whole.

Mr. Austin Hopkinson

If the right hon. Gentleman is taking into consideration the opinion of the Labour Party on this matter, will he also take into consideration the fact that the Labour Party constitutes a small minority of this House?

Sir John Wardlaw-Milne

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether it is a fact that a considerable number of these political prisoners could be released immediately if they gave the necessary guarantee of their good behaviour?

Mr. Amery

Yes, Sir, that is so.

Mr. Sorensen

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter at the earliest opportunity.