HC Deb 23 February 1965 vol 707 cc231-3

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:


To ask the Prime Minister whether Her Majesty's Government have now reached a decision on the request for the return to Ireland of the remains of Sir Roger Casement.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I will now answer Question No. Q16.

Her Majesty's Government have now completed their examination of this matter and in response to a request from the Government of the Irish Republic have informed them that they are agreeable to authorising the removal to the Republic of the remains of Roger Casement.

The Government of the Republic have informed Her Majesty's Government of their decision to reinter the remains in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, and of their intention that they should rest there.

Arrangements have been made with the Government of the Republic for the remains to be transferred to Dublin today.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Does my right hon. Friend realise that to do what he has just said will be done will be welcomed by the citizens of the Irish Republic?

The Prime Minister

This matter has been discussed many times. Everyone is aware of the great difficulties here, but I think we have taken the right decision, and that this will lead to an improved understanding between the two countries.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Will the Prime Minister give similar consideration to any similar request with respect to the remains of William Joyce, commonly called Lord Haw-Haw?

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. That question clearly does not arise.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind, also, that the Irish people are very anxious that the documents belonging to Sir Roger Casement should be returned? Will he consider that as long as these documents are kept in a hole-and-corner fashion in this country, a large number of Irish people will still believe that they are forgeries? Will he consider returning the documents as well as the bones?

The Prime Minister

In 1959, the documents were transferred to the Public Record Office, and arrangements were made for limited access to them to be agreed to in appropriate circumstances. We have no intention of altering the present position.

Mr. Simon Mahon

On a point of order. According to the Order Paper, this Question appears in my name, Sir.

Mr. Speaker

Yes, I am sorry. If the hon. Member rose, it is my fault for not having seen him. I call him now.

Mr. Mahon

While thanking my right hon. Friend for this wonderful news, may I, on behalf of the Members of the House, express satisfaction and gratitude for what has been done, and ask whether he is aware that many of us in this House feel that this gesture can only lead to a better relationship and understanding between our two countries?

The Prime Minister

I thank my hon. Friend for what he said. I would not myself call it wonderful news. I think that it is a satisfactory end to an unhappy chapter. I think that it is a commonsense solution, with which I hope the House as a whole will agree.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

On a point of order. Mr. Speaker, could you perhaps consider the procedure which we follow when statements are made? I humbly submit that there are obviously some important issues when Ministers are fully justified in making a statement at the end of Questions, hut now and again issues arise when it is highly questionable whether the matter is of sufficient importance to warrant a statement at the end of Questions.

I wonder whether, in this instance, you would consider whether the issue which has been raised is of sufficient importance to warrant such a statement.

Mr. Speaker

There are various things that arise. One of them is that the Chair does not control the matter. I went into this with some care during the last Parliament. I do not have power to refuse a Minister should he desire to make a statement.

The other thing is that it is very undesirable that anything should be said from the Chair, because sometimes one hears Ministers criticised for making statements, and the next day one hears complaints that they have not made statements to inform the House. It is, therefore, highly undesirable that I should say anything. I know that what the hon. Member has said will have been heard.