HC Deb 20 July 1949 vol 467 cc1354-6
26. Mr. Blackburn

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reply has been received from the Soviet Government to the aide-mémoire addressed to it by the British Government on 27th April with relation to the disappearance of Miss May Peters.

Mr. McNeil

As stated on 11th July, the aide-mémoire of 27th April did not refer solely to the disappearance of Miss Peters but also to other recent cases of interference by the Soviet authorities with the work of His Majesty's Embassy in Moscow. The Soviet reply, which was handed to His Majesty's Charge d'Affaires in Moscow on 20th May, stated that The assertions … about cases of persecution of employees of the British Embassy … are devoid of all foundation and that questions about the relations between Soviet authorities and Soviet citizens cannot fall within the competence of the Embassy. The Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the same time made it clear that they regarded Miss Peters as a Soviet national.

Mr. Blackburn

Has my right hon. Friend any news of Miss Peters, where she is and what has happened to her; and will he consider, by way of reciprocal retaliation, a principle which the Government have accepted, of expelling at least one official from the Soviet Embassy here?

Mr. McNeil

On the second part of the question, I should not like to agree that it was a principle. It is true that in one case we have acted in a fashion which might be so described. The answer to the first part of the supplementary question is "None, Sir."

Mr. Henry Strauss

What further action do His Majesty's Government propose to take; and is it the settled policy of His Majesty's Government not to allow any atrocity to interfere with their trade negotiations with Russia and her satellites?

Mr. McNeil

The hon. and learned Gentleman is very slack in his use of language. This is an impropriety of which we are very well aware, and about which we protested; but it is not an atrocity.

Mr. Oliver Stanley

How does the right hon. Gentleman know?

Mr. McNeil

As far as I know, it is not. If the right hon. Gentleman has any information to back up his extraordinary use of this word I think he might offer it to the House.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

Will not the Government take some further definite action? Do not they realise that by carrying out the normal procedure between friendly countries in a matter of this sort they will never get any satisfaction out of Russia?

Mr. Marlowe

Could the right hon. Gentleman provide the House with some evidence or information upon which hon. Members could consider the validity of the claim that this woman is a Russian national? At the moment, as far as I know, most people are ignorant of the facts upon which a conclusion could be drawn.

Mr. McNeil

Two answers have already been given upon this subject. I will gladly consider giving any information, but I am inclined to the conclusion that even if all the information we have were made available, it would be a debate for lawyers and for no one else.