HC Deb 26 July 1978 vol 954 cc1541-3
8. Mr. Hugh Jenkins

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will publish the letter from the Minister of State to the hon. Member for Putney, in which the view was expressed that the Indonesian playwright, W. S. Rendra, should either be brought to trial without delay or released.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Evan Luard)

No, Sir, but my hon. Friend is at liberty to publish it if he so wishes.

Mr. Jenkins

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. However, as he is aware, the Government have prepared a sort of league table of the degree to which human rights are repressed in various countries. Why is it that the Government will not publish that league table?

Mr. Luard

Because we do not consider it in the interests of our foreign relations generally to publish this table. The table was compiled for our own purposes for making decisions concerning human rights policy.

Mr. Alan Clark

Is this not one more ludicrous example of the apparently unlimited capacity of Her Majesty's Government to sound off about the way in which foreign Governments treat their own nationals and call the odds about who should or should not be brought to trial, what sentences they should receive, and so on? What possible interest can it be to the people whom we represent here how foreign Governments treat their own citizens? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] World government may or may not be desirable, but it is no good behaving as though it is already in existence.

Mr. Luard

I am glad to say that I do not think that the hon. Member represents the views and feelings of the vast majority of the people of this country. I do not think that his right hon. and hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench would in any way endorse his suggestion that the people of this country are not concerned about, for example, recent events and recent trials in the Soviet Union, or the trial in Indonesia which was raised on this Question, and many other matters. We certainly are concerned about those matters. As for the hon. Member's suggestion that I have been sounding off on this question, in fact I made no statement at all about the situation.

Mr. Kinnock

Will my hon. Friend disregard the remarks of lumpen and insular reactionaries such as the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark) and acknowledge the generally self-evident truth —at least, self-evident to all people who profess support for democracy—that we sustain our own freedoms best by trying to expand those of others?

Mr. Luard

I entirely agree with what my hon. Friend has just said. I am quite sure that the vast majority of the people of this country expect their Government to express firmly the views and feelings which they hold about human rights violations in all parts of the world.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

Is it not a fact that within the last 24 hours Indonesia has released no fewer than 4,000 political prisoners? If that is true, should not the hon. Gentleman turn his attention to other countries that have political prisoners, such as the Soviet Union, and to countries whose Governments claim to have political prisoners, such as that of Mr. Andrew Young, even if they have not got them?

Mr. Luard

It is perfectly true that the Indonesian Government have announced a programme of releases of political prisoners. They are planning to release 10,000 this year and, I believe, a further 10,000 next year. I warmly congratulate the Indonesian Government on that programme. I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman that it would he very desirable if many other Governments who hold political prisoners would follow a similar course.