HC Deb 07 February 1949 vol 461 cc16-20
20. Mr. Teeling

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what further action he has taken, and proposes to take in conformity with the recent Treaty of Peace between this country and Hungary concerning the arrest and trial of Cardinal Mindszenty.

21. Sir Patrick Hannon

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps he proposes to take under the recent Peace Treaty with Hungary with regard to the arrest and pending trial of the Cardinal Primate of Hungary.

Mr. McNeil

My right hon. Friend addressed a Note to the Hungarian Minister for Foreign Affairs on 4th February objecting to the refusal of permission for a member of His Majesty's Legation to attend the trial of Cardinal Mindszenty and formally reserved the rights of His Majesty's Government under the Treaty of Peace with Hungary. What further action my right hon. Friend may take must depend on the results of the trial.

Mr. Teeling

In view of the fact that the Foreign Secretary told us last Wednesday that he was being kept in immediate contact with what was going on, can the right hon. Gentleman give us any information that has been received from the Ambassador as to what is happening at the present moment?

Mr. McNeil

The hon. Gentleman doubtless knows that the court has adjourned and will announce the sentences. There is nothing I could add to the reports that have been made available on the conduct of the trial.

Mr. Teeling

Has the right hon. Gentleman received nothing?

Sir P. Hannon

May I ask the Minister of State whether, in view of the profound feeling that animates all the people of this country at the present moment on the possible sentence on the Cardinal at Budapest tomorrow, he would not send to the Hungarian Government from the Foreign Office the strongest possible representations that the present situation be reconsidered in relation to the Cardinal?

Mr. McNeil

I am sure that the Hungarian Government is in no doubt about the attitude of His Majesty's Government and of this House and of great sections of the British population upon this subject.

Mr. Warbey

Has my right hon. Friend seen the well-balanced articles on Cardinal Mindszenty by "The Times" Budapest correspondent and the full, uncensored reports from the same source; can he say whether he has any information which differs materially from that given in these reports and, in particular, whether he has any specific evidence that in this particular case the Human Rights Clause of the Peace Treaty has been violated?

Mr. McNeil

I think it is unfair and inaccurate to separate the trial from the proceedings which preceded it. I should think it would be beyond doubt that the fashion in which these prosecutions were made and approached, did directly conflict with the obligations of the Hungarian Government under the Treaty.

Mr. Teeling

Am I to understand from the right hon. Gentleman that since 4th February he has received no communica- tions on this subject from His Majesty's Minister; or, if he has, can he let the House know about them?

Mr. McNeil

It is quite obvious that we have received communications, and indeed, in response to one, we made a direct protest to the Hungarian Government.

Mr. Sydney Silverman

If my right hon. Friend had made up his mind, and had let it be known that he had made up his mind, that this whole trial and the proceedings accompanying it are a breach of the treaty, is he surprised in those circumstances that the Hungarian Government hardly thinks that an observer from the British Legation would be impartial?

Mr. McNeil

I made it plain that the conduct of the trial is now under study and I have committed myself to no observations upon it.

Mr. Ivor Thomas

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that those of us who have compared photographs of Cardinal Mindszenty taken during the trial with those taken before the trial have no doubt that a great travesty of justice has taken place?

Mr. McNeil

I should, of course, agree that the attitude of the Cardinal before and during the trial is very surprising and very difficult to explain.

Mr. Warbey

Can my right hon. Friend be more specific and say in what particulars the proceedings before the trial were a violation of the Human Rights Clause of the treaty?

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Is the attitude of His Majesty's Government limited to the expression of opinion, or are there any further steps which the right hon. Gentleman thinks it is possible to take?

Sir W. Smithers

Has the right hon. Gentleman received any information from His Majesty's Minister in Budapest that Cardinal Mindszenty has been given a drug called actedron; or, if he has not, will he try to ascertain this, because it would explain the whole change of attitude of this unfortunate man?

Mr. McNeil

The answer to the first part of the question is, "No, Sir."

Mr. Blackburn

Will the Minister emphasise in this connection that, with the disappearance of the Democratic Party in Hungary, there is now no Parliamentary opposition left anywhere in the whole of Eastern Europe, except Greece?

Mr. Nicholson

May I have an answer to my question: Is the right hon. Gentleman's action limited to the expression of opinion?

23. Mr. E. Fletcher

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the provisions of the Peace Treaty between this country and Hungary, the Hungarian Government have given permission for an official observer to be present at the trial of Cardinal Mindszenty.

30. Squadron-Leader Fleming

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the Hungarian Government has permitted His Majesty's Government to be represented by an observer at the trial of Cardinal Mindszenty; and what steps have been taken by his Department to be informed of the proceedings.

Mr. McNeil

The Hungarian Government have refused to provide facilities for a representative of His Majesty's Legation at Budapest to attend the trial of Cardinal Mindszenty. His Majesty's Minister at Budapest has, therefore, on the instructions of my right hon. Friend, addressed a Note to the Hungarian Minister for Foreign Affairs expressing the grave concern felt by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom at this act and warning the Hungarian Government that an adverse construction could not fail to be placed on it.

Mr. Fletcher

Would the Minister convey to the Hungarian Government, particularly as they profess to be so concerned with public opinion in the West, the strong feelings of all sections of the community that their failure to admit a representative of His Majesty's Legation at Budapest creates the strongest suspicion in this country that the proceedings are spurious?

Squadron-Leader Fleming

Would the right hon. Gentleman take steps at the end of this trial to see that a full report is made to this House on what actually has taken place, not only at the trial but before it, so that this House can come to a judgment on whether it is a spurious trial or not?

Mr. McNeil

I will ask my right hon. Friend to consider that suggestion.

Mr. Bramall

Would the right hon. Gentleman say what are the principles upon which His Majesty's Government determine, in each individual case of political trials, whether or not they ask to have an observer present; and would he bear in mind that there are a number of political trials in other countries—for instance, Greece and Spain—in which many hon. Members are interested?

Mr. McNeil

I could not, of course, give an adequate answer in this form, but it must be quite clear that where His Majesty's Government have treaty obligations we must seek to the fullest to meet these treaty obligations.

Mr. Teeling

Is it true that at present negotiations are taking place with Hungary for a trade agreement, and if that is so, under the circumstances would it not be possible to cease these negotiations for the time being?

Mr. Warbey

Since in this particular instance my right hon. Friend is resting his case on the question of treaty obligations, may I have an answer to the question which I put before, to which he has not replied?

Mr. Nicholson

May I have an answer also to my question: If treaty obligations are involved, is the action of His Majesty's Government limited to mere expressions of opinion? May I have an answer?

Mr. Henry Strauss

While the Hungarian Government were treating His Majesty's Government with contempt, was it desirable that His Majesty's Ministers should attend a reception at the Hungarian Legation in London?