HC Deb 21 May 1968 vol 765 cc283-4
33. Mr. Worsley

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs if he will now restore the British passport of Mr. F. Gordon Harper, taken from him in Malta.

Mr. George Thomson

I have nothing to add to what I said in the House on 14th May.

Mr. Worsley

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his decision in this case is widely thought of to be inhumane and unjustified, and also, owing to the record of Mr. Harper, to be a case of mistaken identity?

Mr. Thomson

It is not a case of mistaken identity. I cannot take refuge in that explanation. I explained briefly to the House last week the reason for it. I also said that I am always ready to reconsider these cases. I have explained to the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke), who has raised this matter with me in correspondence, how I should be willing to deal with it.

Mr. Braine

Has not the right hon. Gentleman yet grasped the point, that if a known opponent of the Smith regime and a respected businessman can be treated in this way on what I can only describe as a trumped-up excuse, as I am ready to prove to the right hon. Gentleman, there is no hope whatsoever of persuading moderate opinion in Rhodesia to return to the path of legality?

Mr. Thomson

I cannot accept that premise. As I have explained earlier, I think that the use of passports and the strength of feeling that generated in Rhodesia is an indication of how much of a deterrent value this weapon has in the total sanctions policy. In regard to the individual case, I am ready in present circumstances to reconsider this carefully, and I will listen most carefully to what the hon. Gentleman says.

Mr. Henig

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of us on this side of the House find it increasingly nauseating that hon. Members opposite are interested only in the welfare of so-called respectable businessmen and so-called distinguished ex-governors, and are not at all interested in the sufferings of millions of ordinary coloured citizens of Rhodesia?

Mr. Thomson

The House must remember that it has conflicting responsibilities. It has its responsibility for the rights of individual British citizens holding British passports, which is not to be taken lightly, and it equally has the responsibility for the political freedom of 4 million Africans in Rhodesia. My charge against the Opposition is that they have these two things hopelessly out of perspective.