HC Deb 18 February 1987 vol 110 cc895-6
3. Mr. Stevens

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's relations with Poland.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Tim Renton)

Recent contacts with Poland have included a meeting between my right hon. and learned Friend and the Polish Foreign Minister at the United Nations General Assembly in September, and my visit to Warsaw from 5 February to 8 February. We intend to continue an active dialogue in which human rights and the need for national reconciliation in Poland will play a major part.

Mr. Stevens

I thank my hon. Friend for that encouraging reply. Does he regard today's news that the United States Government are to lift some economic sanctions on Poland as encouraging? What are the prospects of the Polish Government ceasing to jam broadcasts to Poland by the BBC world service?

Mr. Renton

I raised this matter specifically with Mr. Olechowski the Polish Deputy Foreign Minister, during my visit, and this morning in the course of a discussion with Mr. Urban, the Polish Government press spokesman. It was denied that the Polish Government jammed BBC broadcasts in Polish, but I was assured that it was not the Polish Government's intention to "disturb" BBC broadcasts. I use the word "disturb" deliberately because that is the word that was used. Mr. Urban told me that on his return to Poland he would investigate the sources of any disturbance and would take steps aimed at ending it.

Mr. Freeson

Did the Minister discuss with the Polish representatives the recently revealed shameful policy of successive British Governments since 1948 in failing to pursue Nazi war criminals who carried out terrible acts on Polish territory and the revelations that we assisted the departure of war criminals responsible for such conduct in Poland and other territories to safe haven in the United States? Is that why the Mengele file was not published, for sensitive reasons, a year or so ago?

Mr. Renton

The hon. Gentleman has made wide-ranging allegations that go far beyond any evidence that has ever been put before this or any other Government. He has raised matters of great seriousness and if he cares to write with full details to me or to other Ministers we shall consider very carefully what he says.

Mr. Galley

Does my hon. Friend see any prospects for the development of further democracy in Poland and for improvements in human rights? On the latter point, the amnesty on political prisoners last year was very welcome, but a number of opponents of the regime are still held on minor, supposedly criminal, offences. Perhaps the most celebrated case is that of the Krakow leaflet bombers. Does my hon. Friend believe that there is now a more enlightened attitude on human rights issues in Poland?

Mr. Renton

During my visit to Warsaw I raised specifically the question of the 18 prisoners who are still detained, following the release of substantial numbers of political prisoners last autumn. In the case of those 18, there certainly seems to be evidence of a political nature either in the charges brought against them or in the sentences that they have received. The Polish authorities have promised to send me full information about those 18 cases, which I will examine further when I receive it.

On the more general question, I believe that Poland is at the crossroads, as so often in the history of that troubled nation. The Polish authorities have released many thousands of political prisoners, but it is hard to detect any true democracy or pluralism as we see it emerging either in the Polish trade union movement or in the new consultative council. These are developments which, with our long-standing friendship with the Polish nation, we shall be watching very carefully.