HC Deb 23 October 1972 vol 843 cc773-4
20. Mr. Greville Janner

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will now protest to the Soviet authorities concerning the proposal to impose a ransom upon Jewish scientists seeking repatriation to the State of Israel, and whether in view of the new tax he will now raise the plight of Academician Benjamin Levich, who was appointed to a Fellowship by University College, Oxford.

Mr. Godber

On 19th September the Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office drew the attention of a senior official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union to the strength of feeling in this country on the question of Soviet Jews and specifically to the tax on emigrants. Her Majesty's Government have no responsibility in the matter of the treatment by the Soviet Government of individual Soviet citizens and are, therefore, unable to make representations in such cases.

Mr. Janner

May I first thank the Minister for his answer and for having seen that these representations were made. I ask him to keep this matter particularly in mind as there have been certain relaxations in the last week which are welcome, but Academician Levich and others have indicated to me that they regard the situation as particularly dangerous because still they have no visas and still people may be fooled into think- ing that the present methods have been relaxed. May I have the right hon. Gentleman's assurance that he will if necessary raise the matter in the way he has in the past?

Mr. Godber

I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman for the first part of his supplementary question and I gladly give the assurance that we will do anything we can in the difficult matter. I think that he understands the difficulty, but we will certainly do what we can.

Mr. Wilkinson

Can my right hon. Friend take this matter further and in the light of this precedent bring to the attention of the Soviet Government their treatment of Ukrainian intellectuals and writers, and intellectuals and thinkers of other minorities in the Soviet Union who are also experiencing persecution?

Mr. Godber

We always regret any such action within a State, but we must recognise the limitations upon us with regard to citizens of those States. It is for that reason that it is not possible to go as far as my hon. Friend would wish.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts

Will the right hon. Gentleman be assured that on both sides of the House there is strong approbation of the attitude he has taken to the recent relaxation on the part of the Soviet Union in regard to this religious minority and in particular in regard to this very distinguished man whose case, while not being special in relation to others who have suffered terribly in the past few years for these reasons, is nevertheless unique in that he must be regarded as being part of the normal interchange of intellectual, cultural and scientific knowledge between civilised countries?

Mr. Godber

Yes, Sir. I do not dispute what the right hon. Gentleman says. This is a matter which must be of concern to us all, but I have had to explain the limitations imposed on us in the matter.

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