HC Deb 02 February 1970 vol 795 cc31-2

Mr. Edward M. Taylor (by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on the position of the British missionaries who are reported to be imprisoned or under house arrest in Port Harcourt, in Nigeria.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Michael Stewart)

As soon as reports were received of the presence of four Marist Brothers and two Presentation Sisters in Port Harcourt, our High Commission sought from all possible sources information about their situation.

The four Marist Brothers were located on 24th January in a hotel in Port Harcourt, where they were comfortably lodged.

Following the reports of their detention, the High Commissioner made contact with the Nigerian authorities, but has not yet received confirmation of the reports.

Mr. Taylor

Have any of our representatives in Nigeria actually seen the Marist Brothers concerned, and has the right hon. Gentleman any guarantee that they will be able to return safely to this country? Further, in view of the wonderful contribution made by schools run by these Marist Brothers in Nigeria, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether there is any guarantee that they will be able to return to the former war-torn areas to carry on their work?

Mr. Stewart

I think I made it clear in my original answer that the four Marist Brothers were located by one of the staff of our High Commission in an hotel at Port Harcourt on 24th January. There are at present unconfirmed reports that they have been convicted on charges of illegal entry into Nigeria. I cannot at present confirm those reports. According to a statement of the Federal Ministry of Information, the cases of persons convicted of illegal entry are being reviewed.

I cannot give the House further information than that at present, but I shall keep the House informed.