HC Deb 02 February 1970 vol 795 cc25-8
33. Mr. Dodds-Parker

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Common- wealth Affairs whether he will now propose to the other three Powers concerned that Herr Hess be allowed to visit his family at Easter.

Mr. George Thomson

The hon. Member will appreciate the difficulty of making plans of this sort for Hess at this stage. My latest medical information is that he requires some weeks further hospital treatment. Meanwhile the hon. Gentleman will be glad to have confirmation of newspaper reports that Frau Hess and Herr Wolf Hess will be visiting Rudolf Hess this afternoon.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Which of the four Powers refuses to look at this case on humanitarian grounds?

Mr. Thomson

I think that previous answers have shown that, for some time, the three Western Powers have felt that the time is ripe for Hess's release and that, so far, the Soviet Union has refused to agree with that view.

Mrs. Renée Short

Nevertheless, will my right hon. Friend be very careful about allowing right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to manoeuvre him into a position which is likely to create difficulty between ourselves and any of the other three Powers concerned?

Mr. Thomson

I think that the feeling on this matter lies on both sides, as the Motion on the Order Paper at the moment shows. There is an important distinction to be drawn between sentimentality, of which I think that my hon. Friend is afraid, and humanitarian feelings. Hess is one of the principal architects of the Nazi régime which caused such suffering to Europe. But he is now an old and sick man, and I think that the very humanitarian values for which we went to war against Nazism now leads us to believe that the time has come for his release.

49 and 50. Mr. Neave

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what is Her Majesty's Government's policy on the detention of Rudolf Hess;

(2) what is the latest report from the British Military Hospital, Berlin, on the health of Rudolf Hess; and whether he will seek to arrange for Professor Rudolf Zenker of Munich to conduct an independent examination.

Mr. George Thomson

I would refer the hon. Member to the answers given in the House by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary on 19th January. Latest reports on the health of Herr Rudolf Hess are encouraging; his ulcer has responded to treatment and there is no need at present for examination by an outside specialist.—[Vol. 794, c. 20–1.]

Mr. Neave

As this is a question entirely of humanity, will the right hon. Gentleman invite the Prime Minister to raise this matter on his next visit to the Soviet Union?

Mr. Thomson

I am ready to consider that and any other suggestions. The immediate concern is to make sure that Hess's health is looked after by the British Military Hospital. I take this opportunity to assure the House that the Chief Medical Officer of that hospital is in charge of the medical considerations there and that Hess is receiving medical treatment of the same standards that any other patient in that hospital would receive.

Mr. Winnick

While there may be a case on compassionate grounds for Hess's release, is it not a fact that he was one of the most notorious Nazi leaders responsible for tortures, the concentration camps and the general barbaric rôle of Nazi Germany? Are there not more worthy political prisoners about whom we should be concerned?

Mr. Thomson

I do not dissent from the basic proposition put forward by my hon. Friend. However, as I told him earlier today, I do not approach the matter as a question of sentimentality. I have no illusions about the historic rôle that Hess played as one of the founders of the Nazi régime. But, for the reasons that I gave, I think that humanitarian considerations should prevail.

Mr. Peyton

Hess may, and does, have responsibility for his part in the founding of this evil régime, but will the right hon. Gentleman remind his hon. Friend that Hess spent most of the war in this country? Will he therefore ensure, if this cruel and barbaric sentence is to be continued, that future visits from his family are conducted in a decent and civilised manner?

Mr. Thomson

Speaking for myself, and, I think, for right hon. and hon. Members on both sides, our opposition to what Nazism meant started a long time before Hess landed in this country. I do not wish to take away anything from what I have said on that aspect of the matter, but I think that the time has come for humanitarian considerations to prevail.

The arrangements for visits to the hospital are bound by prison regulations which are the subject of quadrupartite agreement. I am sure that the medical officer in charge has behaved in a most humane manner, as anyone would in these circumstances, in regard to giving Frau Hess proper information about the medical condition of her husband.