HC Deb 18 November 1968 vol 773 cc889-90
27. Mr. Alison

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has studied the recent issue of the United States information agency's journal, Problems of Communism, a copy of which has been sent to him, which was devoted to documenting political, literary and religious dissent in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; and if he will initiate a similar study and publication by a United Kingdom Government agency.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts

This issue is being read with interest in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office together with information from a wider range of sources. It is not the practice of Her Majesty's Government to publish controversial material about the internal affairs of other countries; this subject is best handled by the press and by academic bodies.

Mr. Alison

Will the right hon. Gentleman abandon the passive doctrine of "Hear no evil and see no evil" in matters lying outside the immediate sphere of Government relations with the Soviet Union and adopt the same robust, overt and critical attitude towards persecuted minorities in the Soviet Union that the Soviet Union adopts towards persecuted minorities outside its frontiers?

Mr. Roberts

I assure the hon. Gentleman that our attitude to any form of discrimination, especially on religious grounds, does not lack robustness. But the point of the Question is whether in addition to studying the material, which we are doing, we will issue a publication similar to that of the United States. I have said that it is not our practice to do so.

Mr. Archer

As this week is being celebrated within Human Rights Year as Prisoners of Conscience Week, will my right hon. Friend try a little harder and accept that questions of human rights are the concern of the whole international community? Will he at least press for the speedy implementation of the draft convention on religious discrimination?

Mr. Roberts

Certainly. United Kingdom representatives take a full part in discussions on these subjects on the human rights bodies of the United Nations, and I take full note of what my hon. Friend has said about the significance of this year.

Forward to