HC Deb 09 February 1949 vol 461 cc347-8
10. Mr. Warbey

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on what principles he determines when to request permission for official British observers to attend trials in foreign countries, other than the trials of British nationals.

Mr. Bevin

Frequently permission is not needed since the trial is held publicly but permission may be requested in any case of great political interest where His Majesty's Government require to keep themselves informed of the proceedings.

Mr. Warbey

Does that answer mean that there are no restrictions regarding countries and that requests for observers may be made in the case of any country in which there is political interest in a trial; and, if that is so, why has no request been made for the appointment of an observer in the case of Greek seamen who are being re-tried on capital charges while their appeal against a previous death sentence has not yet even been considered?

Mr. Bevin

So far as the Greek courts are concerned there is no need to make a request. They are public.

Mr. Henry Strauss

Is it not a fact that in many of these trials one of the charges against the prisoner is that he has been in communication with representatives of the British and American Governments and that that is treated as evidence of treason; and is it not particularly monstrous in such cases that the government concerned should not be allowed to send observers?

Mr. Bevin

I agree.

Mr. Piratin

In view of the Foreign Secretary's statement that in cases of great political interest observers might be sent, would he consider sending an observer to the trial which is taking place in America of 11 leading Communists, which is of great interest to many people in this country and throughout the world, and in which case the jury and judge have already made up their minds about their decision?

Mr. Bevin

In the United States the courts are open. We have no need, any more than we have here, to make any requests at all. It is only in countries where there are restrictions on admission that we must do so. I get the same trouble, and receive letters almost every week from hon. Members, about Spain, and I have to make exactly the same kind of representation that I have had to make in the case of the Cardinal in Hungary.