HC Deb 23 November 1960 vol 630 cc1117-8
18. Mr. Stonehouse

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a further statement about the release of the Bahraini prisoners now detained in St. Helena.

Mr. Heath

I regret that at present I have nothing to add to my reply to the hon. Gentleman on 26th October.

Mr. Stonehouse

Why is the Minister allowing this matter to drag on for so long? This is a very serious question. Does he not realise that these men were convicted, so-called, in a feudal court without having a proper trial and that the conviction was announced in the Official Gazette of St. Helena even before that fake trial took place? In view of all the unsavoury aspects of the case, will not he release the men forthwith?

Mr. Heath

I fully realise all the facts. I am well aware of them. I am at the moment carrying out the undertaking which my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave to the House when he was Foreign Secretary to ask all those concerned to look at this question again. I will tell the House as soon as the decision is reached.

Mr. Healey

Is not the Lord Privy Seal aware that it is now nearly six months since the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave this undertaking? Is he not also aware that this type of intervention in the internal affairs of a foreign State and the acceptance of responsibility for imprisoning men over whose conviction we have had no influence whatever is one of the things which is causing most anxiety in the Middle East and is most responsible for Arab distrust of British policy in that area?

Mr. Heath

The legal situation was clarified, and that was the original purpose of my right hon. and learned Friend's Answer. I, too, am anxious that I should be able to make a statement to the House as soon as possible.