HC Deb 19 January 1949 vol 460 cc151-4
21. Mr. Leslie Hale

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether in view of the terms of the Human Rights clause in the Treaty of Peace with Hungary, he proposes to appoint an official observer to attend the forthcoming trial of Cardinal Mindszenty.

Mr. McNeil

As no arrangements for the trial of Cardinal Mindszenty have been announced, this question does not yet arise. I will, however, bear my hon. Friend's suggestion in mind.

Mr. R. A. Butler

Can the right hon. Gentleman give a little more definite assurance on this vital matter, which affects the human conscience, that they will do more than bear the matter in mind and will take some positive action?

Mr. Hale

In view of the very widespread concern among His Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects—[HON. MEMBERS: "And others."]—about the circumstances of the trial of this very high ecclesiastical dignitary on a political charge, will my right hon. Friend do his best to see that the fullest information about the circumstances is made available in the country and that a careful watch is kept on the procedure?

Mr. McNeil

As far as lies in our power to see that information is made available for publication, I am most glad to give that assurance.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept the statement that not only are Roman Catholics interested in this, but every branch of the Christian Church and every other church as well?

Mr. Sydney Silverman

In view of the Prime Minister's explanation the other day about the Declaration of Human Rights, does my right hon. Friend consider that there is any difference between the binding effects of such a Declaration on Hungary and on this country?

Mr. McNeil

My hon. Friend is unwittingly confused. This does not refer to that Declaration, but to a Treaty obligation which the country in question accepted.

22. Mr. Hale

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the terms of the Human Rights clause in the Treaty of Peace with Hungary, he has received any report from the British Embassy in Hungary relating to the circumstances of the arrest of Cardinal Mindszenty.

36. Sir Patrick Hannon

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what protest he has made to the Hungarian Government, under the Human Rights clause of the Peace Treaty, at the arrest of Cardinal Mindszenty; what reply has been received from them; and what further action is contemplated through the United Nations organisation on this violation of the promise to maintain religious freedom embodied in the Atlantic Charter.

Mr. McNeil

My right hon. Friend has received numerous reports from His Majesty's Minister at Budapest about the arrest of Cardinal Mindszenty. His Majesty's Government have not protested officially to the Hungarian Government nor do they contemplate action through the United Nations organisation because His Majesty's Government have no reason to believe that either of these courses would lead to the Cardinal's release. I am glad, however, to express the profound disapproval of His Majesty's Government of this action of the Hungarian Government and to urge them both to release the Prince Primate and to have, in all matters, that respect for the freedoms which they have accepted by their treaty obligations.

Sir P. Hannon

Can the Minister justify the attitude of the Government in not making a protest to the Hungarian Government at this gross assault on a distinguished member of the Christian Church? Do they propose to take any further action to bring to the notice of the whole Christian world the indignity inflicted upon this Catholic representative of all Christian religion in Western Europe?

Mr. McNeil

His Majesty's Government have every sympathy with the outspoken indignation of the hon. Member. Unfortunately, this is by no means our first experience of comparable cases. We have no reason to believe, even more unfortunately, that protests of this kind are effective, but His Majesty's Government will continue to keep in closest contact with the subject and to take any action they think appropriate, or likely to be effective.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

What is the difference between censuring the Hungarian Government—and rightly censuring them—from that Box and making a formal protest in Budapest? Would not the latter be the preferable alternative and the most effective?

Mr. McNeil

I was asked about two courses, of which one, the more laborious, and not very speedy process was through the United Nations.

Mr. Logan

Viewing the matter from the point of view of Christianity as a whole, is it not possible for our Government to make a protest—everybody in the country is talking about it?

Mr. Gallacher

While I appreciate and understand the attitude of hon. Members towards the arrest of this cardinal, if the right hon. Gentleman is making representations, will he also make representations to the American Government about the arrest of 12 Communist leaders who are charged with political beliefs and there is no question of an overt act?

Mr. McNeil

There are these differences. The American charges are publically specified and the men are being publicly heard according to the canons of well known law. Secondly, we have no locus in the United States, but we have a locus as a joint signatory to a Treaty with the Hungarian Government which Communists there and in some other countries have run away from every time that civil liberty has been assailed.

Mr. R. A. Butler

In view of the right hon. Gentleman's last reply, will he bear in mind the opinions expressed in this House and make a protest to the Hungarian Government embodying the terms of his answer given in this House this afternoon?

Mr. McNeil

I will certainly bring to the attention of my right hon. Friend the representations made this afternoon.

Mr. Paget

Is there not something to be said for hearing the evidence first?

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