HC Deb 22 February 1954 vol 524 cc15-6
28. Mr. E. Fletcher

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will take steps to enlist the support of the Vatican in making representations to the Government of Colombia to stop the persecution of British Protestants in Colombia and to ensure freedom of worship in Colombia in accordance with the Declaration of Human Rights.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Nutting)

Her Majesty's Government will certainly make strong representations, as they have always done in the past, to the Colombian Government in any case where British lives and property in Colombia are endangered. Her Majesty's Ambassador at Bogota has been authorised to establish contact with the Papal Nuncio.

Mr. Fletcher

Am I right in thinking that the answer means that the Vatican will be asked to join in a protest to the Government of Colombia.

Mr. Nutting

What the answer means is that should Her Majesty's Ambassador deem it advisable or necessary to seek the support of the Papal Nuncio in Bogota when representations are to be made in the case of assaults on British lives or property, he has the authority so to do.

Mr. Follick

Is the Joint Undersecretary aware that this very large and important South American Republic is a great friend of Britain's and always has been, and before taking any steps will he get the fullest report from our Ambassador in Bogota?

Mr. Nutting

We have, of course, had the fullest reports from our Ambassador in Bogota, but I should like to endorse what the hon. Gentleman has said about the consistent friendship of Colombia towards this country.

Mr. Bartley

Will the Under-Secretary inquire into this alleged religious persecution and be assured that the people concerned are really doing Christian missionary work and not attacking the existing Christian beliefs and practices of the people of Colombia?

Mr. Nutting

My responsibility is to ensure that British lives are safeguarded, and where there have been cases of attacks upon British persons in Colombia energetic representations have been made. Action is usually taken by the Colombian Government.

Captain Orr

When making further inquiries, will the Joint Under-Secretary consider the carefully documented evidence which has been sent to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Sir D. Savory).

Mr. Nutting

I will consider any evidence sent to me.

Mr. Hastings

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether reasonable reparation has been made in cases where an attack has been made upon British subjects and their property destroyed; and whether they have received what he considers a reasonable reply from the Government to the protests which I know have been made by the Foreign Office?

Mr. Nutting

That is a little beyond the terms of the Question on the Order Paper, but if the hon. Gentleman would like to put that Question down. I will certainly look at it.