HC Deb 10 February 1947 vol 433 cc8-9
11. Sir Waldron Smithers

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what representations His Majesty's Government have made to the Spanish Government on the desirability of holding, as soon as possible, public trials of political prisoners now in Spanish gaols.

Mr. McNeil

His Majesty's Government have repeatedly represented to the Spanish Government the desirability of quickly bringing to trial those persons still held for political offences and the inhumanity of imposing harsh sentences upon those innocent of acts of violence. Recent trials have shown some improvement. They are still held before military courts but under the code of military justice in Spain all military trials are public and it has been possible for foreign observers and journalists to attend. Moreover, the defence is now conducted with greater freedom.

Sir W. Smithers

May I ask the Minister of State whether His Majesty's Government have received notification of an amnesty decree of the Spanish Government, dated 17th January, 1947; whether he will invite the Spanish Government to make it quite clear that properly conducted trials will be held as soon as possible; and whether he will ask the Spanish Government if they will invite a properly accredited British legal representative to be an observer at these trials?

Mr. McNeil

On the latter part of the supplementary question, I am not as au fait with the niceties of this matter as the hon. Gentleman obviously is. On the first part, I am not sure that it would be competent or desirable for us to make representations officially to the Spanish Government on such a subject, but the hon. Gentleman can be assured that a reply from the Spanish Government such as he has indicated would be welcomed both by the Government and, I believe, by the country in general.

Sir W. Smithers

Would the right hon. Gentleman make unofficial representations?

Mr. Wilson Harris

Would not all these representations carry greater weight if there were a British Ambassador in Madrid?

Mr. Sydney Silverman

Would my right hon. Friend draw the attention of the Spanish Government to the significant fact that tyranny and persecution are now causing grave disquiet even in the minds of their greatest friends in this country?

Mr. McNeil

I should think that perhaps that would be obvious by tomorrow.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

May I ask the Minister of State whether the political prisoners referred to are Spaniards and, if so, by what right we interfere with the administration of Spain?

Mr. McNeil

They are Spaniards. As I have already pointed out, we cannot and do not take official action, but it would be wrong and unusual for accredited representatives of His Majesty's Government in Madrid not to make representations in the sense indicated on matters which interest this country.

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