HC Deb 28 November 1973 vol 865 cc369-70
1. Mr. Evelyn King

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what contact he has had with the Government of Tanzania following the sentencing of a British journalist, Percy Cleaver, to three years in prison after a secret trial in Dar-es-Salaam ; and to what extent Mr. Cleaver has had access to the British consul.

The Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Lord Balniel)

The high commission at Dar-es-Salaam has been in contact at official level with the Government of Tanzania. Mr. Cleaver was visited 13 times by high commission staff during the period between his arrest in June 1972 and the opening of his trial in July 1973. I regret that since then, despite repeated requests, no visits have been allowed although one is promised for 11th December.

Mr. King

Does my right hon. Friend not recognise that the last part of his reply constitutes an international outrage? Is he aware that any weakness on the part of the Foreign Office only provokes similar incidents? Is he further aware of my constituent, Mr. Coles, this time in Zambia, who has had three ribs broken and a lung punctured, and who has been jumped on by thugs in the Zambian Army for no offence whatever, other than that of holding a British passport? Will the British Foreign Office demand an apology and compensation, and make the strongest possible representations about such incidents, which occur all too frequently?

Lord Balniel

My hon. Friend's Question referred to Mr. Cleaver, in Tanzania. His supplementary point relates to Mr. Coles, in Zambia. I would point out, with respect to Mr. Cleaver, that we expect he will receive a visit from a member of the high commission on 11th December, in a fortnight's time. On the subject of Mr. Coles, it is clear that he was badly beaten. We have expressed our concern to the Zambians and asked for an explanation. The high commissioner has discussed the case with the Zambian Prime Minister.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Although there does not seem to be much indignation from the Labour benches about the treatment of British subjects, may we be assured that Her Majesty's Government are at least as zealous on behalf of these individuals as they rightly were in the case of Mr. Niesewand?

Lord Balniel

I can assure my hon. Friend that the fact that we have raised the matter with the Zambian Prime Minister is an indication that we do regard it as serious.

Mr. William Hamilton

Is the Minister aware that hon. Members on the Labour benches take great exception to the remarks of the hon. Member for Chig-well (Mr. Biggs-Davison), since there are things going on in Rhodesia just as reprehensible as events in Zambia or Tanzania? Is he further aware that we object to all such events, without exception?

Mr. King

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise this matter on the Adjournment.