HC Deb 09 May 1973 vol 856 cc479-80
12. Mr. Jessel

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Portuguese Government concerning the detention of Mr. John Francis Rice, a British subject.

Mr. Anthony Royle

Mr. Rice was arrested in Lisbon on 20th February. No representations have been made to the Portuguese Government about his detention, but the British consul in Lisbon will continue to be in touch with the Portuguese authorities.

Mr. Jessel

Although I am in no position to comment on what, if any, charges may be under consideration, may I remind my hon. Friend that Mr. Rice has been imprisoned in Lisbon since 20th February without any charges yet having been preferred? I draw my hon. Friend's attention, in particular, to Mr. Rice's state of health. I understand that he has been diagnosed to be in need of an internal operation in the near future, and that he is in a run-down condition and has lost a great deal of weight. May I ask that representations be made, so that the finest possible medical services available in Lisbon are put at Mr. Rice's disposal, and that he be put on a diet so that he can gain strength before his operation? In view of his indifferent state of health, can the Portuguese authorities please be asked to take a compassionate view and give priority to coming to a decision about what action to take?

Mr. Royle

I have noted my hon. Friend's request. It is contrary to international usage for there to be governmental intervention, whether in civil or criminal proceedings, while the cases are still sub judice. However, I take the point about Mr. Rice's physical condition. He has seen the prison doctor and has received attention at the prison hospital, and the consul has passed the medical history to the prison authorities.

Mr. Richard

Are the Government seriously saying, in relation to a British subject who has been in prison from 20th February to 9th May, and in respect of whom no charges have been brought, that they have not even seen fit to inquire as to the circumstances—to inquire of a country with whom, apparently, we are just about to celebrate 600 years of closeness and alliance?

Mr. Royle

It is quite possible to inquire as to the circumstances, but, according to international usage, to make formal representations is not possible until the subject is charged.