HC Deb 10 March 1976 vol 907 cc395-6
3. Mr. Newton

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement on his efforts to obtain the release of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Whitecross from detention in Argentina.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Edward Rowlands)

Despite our repeated and strong representations, the Argentine Government have not yet indicated their intentions. If not released, expelled or charged by 11th March, Mr. and Mrs. Whitecross will be entitled to seek writs of habeas corpus.

Mr. Newton

Does the Minister not agree that this really is becoming a matter of great concern, in view of the long delay and the deadline to which he has referred? Does he not further agree that it is intolerable for people to be detained without charge in this way for more than three months? Will he tell the House what further steps he and his officials will take if nothing happens there next week?

Mr. Rowlands

I have made very clear to the chargé d'affaires in London, as well as in Buenos Aires, the strength of feeling in the House and in the country about this case, and I shall certainly consider what further action is necessary. In view of the fact that 11th March is the key date, it might be advantageous to wait until then to see what happens.

Mr. Kinnock

Is it not the case that under Argentine law, after the lapse of 60 days in custody, in certain circumstances, people in the situation of Mr. and Mrs. Whitecross can require to leave the country? Can my hon. Friend tell us what has been done along those lines, especially in view of the fact that I understand that Mrs. Whitecross and Mr. Whitecross, senior—Mr. Whitecross's father—are seriously ill?

Mr. Rowlands

I certainly made the latter point clear when I spoke to the chargé d'affaires recently. As I said in my reply, if Mr. and Mrs. Whitecross are not released or expelled by 11th March they will be entitled to seek writs of habeas corpus.

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