§ 34. Mrs. Thatcher
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement concerning the proposed transfer of Mr. Gerald Brooke to a Soviet labour camp; and what further representations he has made to the Soviet Government for clemency.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Michael Stewart)
Since my right honourable Friend the Prime Minister spoke to Mr. Kosygin in February, we have continued to make repeated representations in Moscow and here about Mr. Brooke. The Prime Minister spoke to the Soviet Ambassador personally about 528 it on 18th April. However, the Soviet Government have given no indication of willingness to release Mr. Brooke, except on conditions which are quite unreasonable, and have refused Mr. Brooke's request to be allowed to spend a second year in prison instead of being transferred to a labour camp. Certain other requests have also been refused. We shall continue to press the Soviet authorities, but I cannot offer much hope of success.
As the situation is rather complex, I am circulating a more detailed note in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
§ Mrs. Thatcher
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his assurance that he will not let the matter drop. Would not he agree, however, that if his future representations are to meet with more success than those he has made in the past, they must be made of much sterner stuff? Would he, therefore, not consider revising the Anglo-Russian Cultural Agreement?
§ Mr. Stewart
I know that that suggestion has been made, but we should be wary of taking action which would not help Mr. Brooke and which would simply make relations in general between this country and the Soviet Union more difficult. If I could be satisfied that action of this kind would be of real help to Mr. Brooke, the situation would be very different from what it now is.
§ Mr. Peyton
Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is rather a terrible thing when a Secretary of State can stand at the Dispatch Box and say that he cannot hold out any hopeful prospects in a matter of this kind? Does not he really think that further cultural exchanges should not be engaged upon indefinitely in view of a perfectly disgraceful state of affairs like this?
§ Mr. Stewart
I must draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the answer I have just given. I did not say that cultural relations would be continued indefinitely. I said that the suggestion of a complete break-off in cultural relations because of this incident would not, unhappily, be helpful.
Following is the note:Since my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister spoke to Mr. Kosygin in February the Embassy in Moscow have continued to make repeated representations to the Soviet Government about Mr. Brooke. Her Majesty's Consul saw him in prison on the 4th of March 529 and confirmed that the state of his health gave cause for concern. My noble Friend, Lord Chalfont, during his visit to Moscow at the end of March urged the Soviet Government to extend clemency to Mr. Brooke. In London the Foreign Office have raised the question with the Soviet Ambassador and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister also spoke to him about it and renewed the plea for clemency on 18th April.The Soviet Government have given no indication of willingness to release Mr. Brooke except on unreasonable conditions which they know to be totally unacceptable. They have refused Mr. Brooke's request to be allowed to spend a second year in prison instead of being transferred to a labour camp. In their view, labour camp is a less servere punishment than imprisonment. They have not given permission for the Consul to see him again before his transfer. They have also made it clear that he will not be granted the concessions he has hitherto enjoyed in the way of parcels and visits by his wife and Her Majesty's Consul in excess of the limits permitted by the Soviet regulations. The Soviet attitude is deeply disappointing and the Soviet Government should not underestimate the strength of feeling in this country on this issue. We will continue to press for Mr. Brooke's release, but I should not wish to give the House the impression that there has been any sign from the Soviet side that would justify optimism on ours.Mr. Brooke was convicted of an offence which would not be regarded as criminal in this country. British tourists who are thinking of visiting the Soviet Union should bear in mind the grave consequences which can follow from actions, which, although quite unexceptionable in this country, can be treated as State crimes in the Soviet Union. Advice on this point was given by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Thomson) in a written reply to a Question from the hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) on 2nd August, 1965.