HC Deb 22 May 1974 vol 874 cc348-50
1. Mr. Robin F. Cook

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he is making on behalf of those British citizens at present in prison without trial in Malawi; and if he will make a statement.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Miss Joan Lestor)

The detention of the United Kingdom citizens at present in prison in Malawi is legal by Malawian law, but the British High Commission continues to press the Malawian authorities to bring the detainees to trial if there are charges to be answered or else to release them.

Mr. Cook

I am grateful for that reply. My hon. Friend will be aware that in the particular case with which I was concerned there has been a release since I tabled the Question and as far as we can find out the release has been as unexplained as was the arrest. Does my hon. Friend agree that to arrest or imprison people without grounds and to detain people without trial is an intolerable denial of natural justice, and that this will be the view of the House? Further, docs she agree that such view should be conveyed to the Government of Malawi?

Miss Lestor

With regard to the first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, it is interesting to note that the people who were under inquiry have now been released. There are 11 United Kingdom citizens detained in Malawi of the total of 16 mentioned in a reply on 3rd May. Five have been released and three proved to have no claim to United Kingdom citizenship, but, unfortunately, three more have since been detained.

On the general point which my hon. Friend raised, we are opposed to the whole question of detention without trial and we are making whatever representations we can, as effectively as we can, with regard to British citizens.

Mr. Evelyn King

Did not the Prime Minister yesterday, in the context of Chile, seek to establish a moral principle, which may be acceptable, that arms and aid should not be supplied to an oppressive dictatorship? We have on the Order Paper today Questions about Malawi as well as India, where trade unionists are being persecuted and in some cases are being shot——

Mr. Speaker

Order. This Question relates to Malawi. The hon. Gentleman must ask a question.

Mr. King

May I, therefore, ask the hon. Lady whether she will establish the principle that arms and aid should not be supplied to any country which so behaves?

Miss Lestor

On the matter of general principle, I was delighted to hear the statement by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister yesterday about human rights in Chile. If the hon. Gentleman cares to put down a general or specific Question on the supply of arms to Malawi or any other country, I shall be happy to answer it, but unfortunately such a Question is not on the Order Paper today.

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