HC Deb 17 March 1953 vol 512 cc2061-3
45. Mr. Ernest Davies

asked the Prime Minister if he can now announce the decision that has been reached on the offer made by the Hungarian Government in regard to the release of Mr. Sanders in exchange for Mlle. Lee Meng.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Winston Churchill)

Her Majesty's Government, after earnest consideration, have decided that they cannot entertain the proposals made by the Hungarian Government.

Mr. Davies

Would the Prime Minister give the House any indication of the reasons which led the Government to reach this decision? In view of the rejection of this offer, will he explore every other possibility of obtaining the release of Mr. Sanders by making an offer on our side, or by entering into negotiations, in view of the fact that Mr. Sanders has been in prison for more than three years, convicted of crimes of which he is known to have been innocent?

The Prime Minister

The answer to the second part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question is in the affirmative. We shall continue to persevere, but I do not think I ought to take up the time of the House in dealing at length with arguments as to the balance of reasons which have led us to take our decision.

Hon. Members

Why not?

Mr. Davies

This is a very serious matter, and there are human factors involved, and I think that, if this decision has been reached by the Government, the House should be taken into the Government's confidence and informed as to what those reasons are for it. If the Prime Minister cannot give them now, could he publish them in the OFFICIAL REPORT?

The Prime Minister

As I say, I do not feel that Question time is the opportunity for dealing at length with questions of this kind, on which, quite naturally, opinions may differ. I should really be standing in the way of other hon. Members who have put down Questions on the Paper.

Mr. Davies

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what is the correct time to obtain this information?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is well informed about the procedure of the House of Commons.

Mr. Nicholson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that he will receive the complete support of the whole country in any measure, however severe, that may be applied to obtain this gentleman's release?

Mr. S. Silverman

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that no one is asking him for a long, detailed description of the various considerations which have led the Government to this conclusion, but only that he should indicate to the House in a short, general way what has been the prevailing consideration which has led him to turn down what a great many people found attractive?

The Prime Minister

I do not think I could undertake to do that without an opportunity afforded for debate.

Mr. Bellenger

As the Government are no longer able to protect British citizens against injustices of this nature, will they consider the advisability of taking a leaf out of the book of the American Government?

The Prime Minister

As is, I think, well known, very severe curtailments have been made in the trade between Hungary and this country, which are costly to us, but are also, I believe, effectively severe upon Hungary. That is at work at the present time. If there are other methods by which pressure can be brought upon them, they will certainly be carefully studied.

Mr. McGovern

As the Hungarian Government are anxious to have someone substituted for Mr. Sanders, could we not offer Mr. Harry Pollitt in exchange?

Mr. Davies

In view of the Prime Minister's reticence on this matter, and the unsatisfactory nature of his reply, I beg to give notice that I propose to raise this matter on the Adjournment.