HC Deb 11 May 1960 vol 623 cc415-6
48. Mr. Swingler

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what representations he has made to the French Government about the deportation from France of British citizens who marched from Aldermaston to Calais via London with the intention of proceeding to Paris to represent to the Summit Conference their views on nuclear disarmament.

Mr. Ormsby Gore

I have nothing to add to the Answer which I gave to the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) and the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) on 9th May.

Mr. Swingler

In that case, will the right hon. Gentleman say why no protest was made in this case? Does not the Foreign Office represent British citizens abroad any more? What was the misdemeanour which these well-intentioned young men and women were supposed to have committed? Why were they not entitled to proceed, or is there no longer any democracy on that side of the Channel?

Mr. Ormsby Gore

I anticipated that there might be some Questions on this subject, and the British Consul at Lille was instructed to ask the authorities for a precise account of what happened. Perhaps I can let the House know what that report is. According to his report, the group held a demonstration with banners on the evening of 30th April. The local Commissaire de Police informed them that demonstrations were not permitted without a licence, requested them to disperse, and took away their banners. He asked them to call on him on the morning of 1st May. In the course of this call, it emerged that the group were in possession of 5,000 leaflets and numerous documents. The police thereupon confiscated the documents and pamphlets and undertook to consult higher authority before giving them further instructions. On the morning of 2nd May, the Commissaire informed the group that they must return to the United Kingdom. This they agreed to do and returned to the boat without any police escort. At no time did they ask for the assistance of Her Majesty's representative.

Mr. Swingler

I still ask: what was the good democratic reason why these young folks should not make the demonstration they intended to make? Was the literature seditious? What was wrong with it?

Mr. Ormsby Gore rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is clearly not a matter for which the Minister is responsible.

Mr. Lipton

Would it not perhaps be fair to add that in this country these young people might have been sent to six months' imprisonment rather than just be asked to go away?

Mr. Ormsby Gore

That is nothing to do with the Foreign Office.

Mr. S. Silverman

Has the right hon. Gentleman made any inquiries to find out why these people, whose banners had been taken away, whose leaflets and pamphlets had been confiscated, and who thereafter merely desired to walk along the French roads to Paris without their banners, leaflets and propaganda, were requested then to return to this country?

Mr. Ormsby Gore

As I understand it, the French authorities regard that as a demonstration, and a demonstration without a licence is illegal.

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