HC Deb 14 February 1949 vol 461 cc757-62
1. Mr. J. Langford-Holt

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reports he has received from Budapest as to the character of the trial of Cardinal Mindszenty.

The Minister of State (Mr. McNeil)

Since the Hungarian Government refused permission for an official British representative to attend the Cardinal's trial, His Majesty's Minister has been unable to report his impressions at first hand. He has, however, reached the firm conclusion, with which my right hon. Friend agrees, that the proceedings had no resemblance to a fair trial as the term is understood in this country, particularly since the entire resources of the State were used, before and during the Cardinal's detention, to create prejudice against him.

Mr. Langford-Holt

Does the trial, and the conviction which resulted from it constitute a breach of the Peace Treaty to which Hungary and this country are both signatories?

Mr. McNeil

That is being examined.

Sir Patrick Hannon

Is an investigation being prosecuted in relation to the trial and will the fullest information be made available to this House at the earliest possible moment?

Mr. McNeil

My right hon. Friend will consider issuing a White Paper later on.

Mr. Gallacher

Has the Minister received, or made, any representations regarding the Cardinal's associate, Prince Esterhazy, or do we take it that there is one law for the laity and another for the clergy?

Mr. McNeil

No, but there are quite different laws relating to different offences.

Sir Henry Morris-Jones

Is not the demeanour of these prisoners in all these trials behind the Eastern curtain consistent with the administration of a drug which paralyses all will and all consciousness?

Mr. McNeil

Of course, I would not put my experience and judgment of drugs against the distinguished experience of the hon. Member for Denbigh (Sir H. Morris-Jones), but I would confine myself to saying that certainly the Cardinal's behaviour after arrest and in the court compared most surprisingly with his behaviour before.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

What further action are the Government going to take in view of the farcical trial of the Cardinal?

Mr. Gallacher

It was not a farce, but a very good trial.

Mr. Benn Levy

Can my right hon. Friend clarify the differentiation to which he referred just now and say why he is comparatively complaisant about the treatment of Prince Esterhazy, though indignant about the Cardinal?

Mr. McNeil

I am not at all complaisant about any of the seven men, but there seems no doubt that the burden of this propaganda campaign—because it was a propaganda campaign and not a trial—was directed primarily against the Cardinal.

Mr. R. A. Butler

How soon may we expect a White Paper to clear up some of the views put on either side of the House?

Mr. McNeil

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to say that just as soon as our investigations are completed, we will consider the advisability of issuing a White Paper.

12. Mr. Teeling

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what action he has taken since the announcement of the sentence passed on Cardinal Mindszenty; and what further action he proposes to take.

Mr. McNeil

On my right hon. Friend's instructions, His Majesty's Minister at Budapest addressed a Note to the Hungarian Minister for Foreign Affairs on 10th February regarding the Hungarian Government's refusal to permit His Majesty's Legation to observe the trial. The Note informed the Hungarian Government that His Majesty's Government were quite unable to accept the arguments on which the refusal was based; and reaffirmed their right to investigate any and every act by the Hungarian Government which, in their opinion, might contravene the obligations accepted by the Hungarian Government under Articles 2 and 3 of the Peace Treaty of 10th February, 1947.

On 10th February my right hon. Friend also sent for the Hungarian Minister in London and gave him a copy of this Note. He directed the Minister's attention to the strong feeling aroused in this country by the Cardinal's trial, and protested against the offensive terms in which the Hungarian Government had replied to a perfectly proper and reasonable request. I regret that I am unable to state, meantime, what further action may be taken.

Mr. Teeling

Does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that the time has now arrived when the British Government should consider whether they should definitely state that they will oppose the entrance of Hungary into the United Nations or into any international agreements or conferences until Cardinal Mindszenty—

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman must not anticipate the next Question.

Mr. Warbey

While deprecating the more extreme forms of hysterical propaganda which have been worked up about this matter, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is aware that many Members on this side of the House would gladly support a reasoned appeal and a reasonable appeal for a reduction of the sentence?

Sir P. Hannon

Has a time limit been fixed in this Note which has been addressed by His Majesty's Government? Has His Majesty's Minister asked for a reply within a short time?

Mr. Leslie Hale

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, while many of us view with horror the trial of Cardinal Mindszenty, many of us have also viewed with horror trials of Greek trade unionists, and would he make proposals for his Eminence's release based on a reciprocal release of political prisoners?

Mr. C. S. Taylor

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether His Majesty's Government are considering withdrawing diplomatic representation from Hungary?

13. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will give an assurance that the veto of the British Government will be used to prevent the election of Hungary to the United Nations until Cardinal Mindszenty is restored to liberty.

Mr. McNeil

The United Kingdom Representative stated, during the recent Session of the United Nations Assembly, that His Majesty's Government will in no circumstances make use of their privileged veto to bar the admission to the United Nations of any State which secures a majority of seven votes in the Security Council. This does not imply that His Majesty's Government consider that Hungary is a State duly qualified for admission to the United Nations, nor that we would necessarily vote for her admission.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Would it not be salutary for the right hon. Gentleman to convey in this way to the Hungarian people the fact that its conduct really puts Hungary outside the comity of civilised States, and that the sooner they change their policy or their Government, the better?

Mr. Gallacher

Is it not the case that within the British Empire as well as outside the most ferocious trials are taking place against workers, and never a word has been said; but that when the high and mighty are put into gaol, then it is a different matter for the Tories?

Mr. Thurtle

Is it in Order for a Member of the British House of Commons to libel the British Empire?

14. Mr. Hollis

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in protest against the Hungarian Government's treatment of Cardinal Mindszenty and that Government's refusal to receive the note of His Majesty's Government on the exclusion of British observers from the trial, he will break off economic relations with Hungary.

Mr. McNeil

The protest made by His Majesty's Government was against the refusal of the Hungarian Government to allow a British observer to attend the trial and against the language used in the refusal. The Hungarian Government will, no doubt, themselves realise that their behaviour has aroused in this country much indignation which may find many means of expression. His Majesty's Government will naturally consider all courses of possible future action in regard to Hungary and other countries guilty of similar behaviour.

Mr. Hollis

When the right hon. Gentleman says that the Hungarian Government realise this, is he not aware that the Hungarian Government did, in point of fact, reply in terms of the grossest offensiveness to His Majesty's Government?

Mr. McNeil

But the people of Hungary, as well as the Government of Hungary, despite Press censorship, are aware of the reactions and statements in this country and in this House upon this subject.

Mr. H. D. Hughes

Is it not the case that the Government still have economic relations with Spain whose Government is guilty of far more offences against decency than even the present Government of Hungary?

Mr. Henry Strauss

Has the right hon. Gentleman observed the statement made publicly by the Dean of Canterbury that he was aware of the charge against the Cardinal before it was published in the Press, and can he state whether the Dean was good enough to inform the Foreign Office of the source of his information and the date on which he received it?

Mr. Benn Levy

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many hon. Members in this House deplore the exploitation of these personal tragedies, either East or West of the iron curtain, for political and propagandist purposes, and that this tendency could be largely counteracted if the Government themselves would be completely impartial in their protests wherever these horrible things occur?

Mr. Derek Walker-Smith

Since he repudiates every constructive suggestion from these benches, could the Minister state the method of bringing home to the Hungarian Government and Hungarian people the feelings of the British people in this matter, and what sort of steps he visualises that the Government may in time use to bring this matter to the notice of the Hungarian people?

Forward to