HC Deb 03 November 1980 vol 991 cc959-61
Mr. Speaker

Private notice question, Mr. Peter Shore.

Mr. John Wells

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can you give the House some guidance about the criteria for getting a private notice question tabled and accepted on a matter for which this Parliament and the Ministers of Her Majesty's Government can have no possible responsibility? If I were standing as a candidate for the leadership of the Mereworth parish council, would my private notice question be accepted?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The House knows that it is not my custom to give reasons why I have called private notice questions. I would say to the hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. Wells), in passing, that it is not unknown for this House to express its opinion on matters for which Her Majesty's Government are not responsible. Mr. Peter Shore.

Mr. Shore

(by private notice) asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the representations the Government have made to the Government of South Korea about the death sentence imposed on Mr. Kim Dae Jung and now confirmed by the court martial authorities.

The Lord Privy Seal (Sir Ian Gilmour)

The Government's concern about the death sentence has been expressed to the Korean Government on a number of occasions, both bilaterally and in association with the other members of the Nine. Although confirmed by the military appeal court, the sentence is subject to further appeal.

Mr. Shore

The House will be grateful to the Lord Privy Seal for that statement. Although there is, as I understand from the Lord Privy Seal, a further judicial procedure, it is extremely important that the views of both sides of the House should be communicated to the South Korean Government. Will the Lord Privy Seal make clear that it is not only the sentence but the whole court martial proceedings that appals us, the flimsiness of the case against the Mr. Kim and, most profoundly, the lurch backwards of South Korea to military and authoritarian rule. [Interruption.] Will the right hon. Gentleman make plain to South Korea, in whose defence the United Nations, including Britain, was heavily involved 30 years ago, the loss of international support that will follow if this sentence is carried out? Will he discuss urgently with the United States and Japan, as well as with the Nine, how their joint influence can best be deployed to achieve justice for Mr. Kim?

Sir I. Gilmour

As I have already indicated, there is a further appeal to the supreme court. If that is rejected, the president can exercise clemency. The right hon. Gentleman will understand, however, that South Korea is a sovereign State. This is an internal matter for the Korean Government. If the right hon. Gentleman really wants to save Mr. Kim's life—I have no doubt that he does, as I am sure is the case with all hon. Members—he will bear in mind that public pressure is far from necessarily being the best way of securing the objective he has in mind.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I shall call one more hon. Member from either side.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Will my right hon. Friend say why he has made representations? Is it because he objects to the sentence? Is it because he feels that the form of the trial was unjust? Having made representations, it will help the House if he says why he has made them.

Sir Gilmour

That may be so. I have already told the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) that I do not believe that public pressure is the right way of securing what we have in mind. It will be clear to my hon. Friend that we on the Government side of the House and our allies have a strong interest in the stability of South Korea. We do not believe that the carrying out of the death sentence will be conducive to that stability.

Mr. Dalyell

In contrast to the ignorant interventions from below the Gangway on the Government side, is not the real issue democracy in Asia? Is the right hon. Gentleman, as one of the official delegation from this House to the United Nations last week, aware that there are many delegates from developing countries in Asia who see this matter as being of crucial litmus paper importance for the advancement of democracy in Asia? Will he ask our delegation at the United Nations—where this matter is our responsibility—to do everything possible to save Mr. Kim's life?

Sir I. Gilmour

We shall consider what further action is appropriate. We shall also be discussing the matter with the Nine. I repeat earnestly that I do not think that conspicuous public pressure is the right way of achieving, the ends that the hon. Gentleman has in mind.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can you clarify the position? Can the granting of leave to ask that private notice question be treated as constituting a precedent for future purposes?

Mr. Speaker

I exercise my discretion as I think best. What I did is not quoted as precedent. It is not held against me or for me. Private notice question, Mr. John Smith.

Mr. MacLennan

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can you reaffirm that it is the rule of the House that when criticisms of the Chair are to be made there is a way for it to be done and that the manner pursued by the hon. Member for Knutsford (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne), by repeatedly shouting from a sedentary position, which should never have been allowed, is not in accordance with the precedents of the House?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I did not hear the hon. Member for Knutsford (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne). Both sides of the House get excited from time to time about questions that are allowed or not allowed. The hon. Gentleman knows, if he made an interruption, what I think about it.