HC Deb 12 October 1976 vol 917 cc233-4
Q1. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister if he has any plans to visit India.

The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)

I have at present no plans to do so.

Mr. Marten

Since India is the largest country in the Commonwealth and is of immense importance, will the right hon. Gentleman explain why there has been no visit to that country by a leader of the Labour Party, I think, for the last quarter of a century? Will the Prime Minister follow the example of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, who clearly recognises the importance of India's rôle, particularly in the Commonwealth and particularly of its influence on today's world problems?

The Prime Minister

I agree that no Prime Minister from this country has visited India for some years, but let me remind the hon. Gentleman that my right hon. Friend the Lord President has just returned from a very successful visit and he has given me an account of his discussions with Mrs. Gandhi and other Ministers there which I think have helped to strengthen the tics between us. However, I would certainly consider such a visit if it is possible to fit it into the programme.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Has my right hon. Friend had any reports from Hans Janichek, Secretary of Socialist International, about the continuing detention of George Fernandes, the leader of the Socialist Party of India? Grave disquiet is being felt about the conditions of his detention.

The Prime Minister

A number of representations have been made about Mr. Fernandes. The Indian Government are aware that we are concerned about the proceedings being taken there. I trust that that action will result in his receiving a fair trial—I am sure that it will. I trust that in the end justice will prevail.

Mr. Gow

What lessons did the Lord President bring back from India about the freedom of the Press and the freedom of journalists to write freely in it?

The Prime Minister

That might be an interesting question to put down to my right hon. Friend. I am sure that he will be glad to answer it. I think that everybody who is not an enemy of India will welcome the fact that restrictions on the Press were lifted, I believe towards the end of September. I am sure that that will be welcomed by everybody who has connections with that country.