HC Deb 02 February 1949 vol 460 cc1657-9
18. Air-Commodore Harvey

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what action he has taken in protesting against the arrest of Cardinal Mindszenty, Primate of Hungary.

Mr. Bevin

His Majesty's Government have already expressed the disapproval which they, in common with the overwhelming majority of the British people, feel at the arrest of Cardinal Mindszenty. After most careful consideration, however, we have come to the conclusion that no useful purpose would be served by making a formal protest to the Hungarian Government at this stage.

Air-Commodore Harvey

Surely the right hon. Gentleman does not intend to let this matter go on without putting a real protest, and will he urge his colleagues to reconsider the question and show what the British people really think about it?

Mr. Piratin

On a point of Order. In view of the fact, of which the Foreign Secretary is well aware, that this trial will actually begin tomorrow, is it in order to discuss this matter in this House?

Mr. Speaker

I see nothing out of Order in this Question.

Mr. Warbey

In view of your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, in regard to trials in other countries, and in view of the fact that there is no evidence so far that this particular case falls within the Human Rights Clause of the Peace Treaty with Hungary, is it in Order to debate and discuss this Question?

Mr. Speaker

We are not debating. We are merely asking questions.

Mr. R. A. Butler

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the depth of feeling in the country on this matter, and will he reconsider the decision which he has announced and make the point of view of this country more deeply felt on this occasion? Will the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that he is taking the fullest steps to be informed of the proceedings as they take place?

Mr. Bevin

The answer to the latter part of the question is "Yes." With regard to the first part, I am not too clear as to the charges against the Cardinal. There is a suggestion of currency charges as well as of others, and I do not know whether they come exclusively within the Treaty or not. We came to the conclusion that we should not do the Cardinal any good at this stage by formally protesting.

Mr. Austin

Whilst having regard to the necessity of a fair trial for this gentleman, will the right hon. Gentleman consider the rights of Roman Catholic subjects in Northern Ireland in the forthcoming Election?

Mr. W. J. Brown

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that irrespective of religion or politics, there is in this country a most intense feeling on this subject of the arrest of the Cardinal, and that he would have the backing of the whole population and hon. Members of this House, except the Communists and their fellow travellers, in making the strongest possible representations to prevent the murder of an innocent man?

Mr. Platts-Mills

In view of the deliberate provocation by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) against this friendly country, would the Foreign Secretary bear in mind that the brother prelates of the Cardinal, namely, the Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church in Hungary, have been reported as declaring that, for their part, they entirely reserve their judgment until they hear the evidence, and the leaders of the non-Roman Catholic Churches in Hungary have condemned the Cardinal?

Mr. Bevin

I am extremely sorry but I have not had this information.

Mr. Blackburn

While entirely accepting the Foreign Secretary's answer, may I ask him if he is aware of the fact that two prominent Ministers of the Crown last night attended a reception at the Hungarian Legation, no doubt with the best motives, and will he see that at a time like this his colleagues do not accept any such invitations?

Mr. Bevin

I can assure my hon. Friend that when he becomes Foreign Secretary he will have some very difficult decisions to take.