HC Deb 01 July 1987 vol 118 cc484-5
7. Mr. Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement concerning Her Majesty's Government's latest information on human rights violations in the Soviet Union.

Mr. Mellor

We have welcomed the release of dissidents earlier this year and the recent increase in the rate of Jewish emigration. We hope that the amnesty announced on 18 June will lead to further releases. We remain concerned, however, about the many still unjustly detained in prisons and psychiatric hospitals and the thousands who are being denied the right to leave their county. We shall continue to press the Soviet authorities on these matters, both in bilateral contacts and at the conference on security co-operation in Europe Vienna meeting.

Mr. Chapman

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that information. Can he confirm that the practical, beneficial effect of the much-proclaimed policy of glasnost has led to more Soviet Jews who wish to do so being able to leave the Soviet Union? Will my hon. Friend pay tribute to the many individuals and organisations in this country who are trying to make personal contact with people in the Soviet Union who are denied basic human rights. in an attempt to keep their hopes high and to bring to the attention of a wider public the human tragedy involved in such policy within the Soviet Union?

Mr. Mellor

I had the opportunity of saying almost precisely that to the chairman of the British Council for Soviet Jewry at our meeting yesterday. I look forward to giving a similar commendation on the efforts of so many, including many Members of this House, at a conference on this topic next week.

The welcome fact is that, taking the June provisional figures into account, the number of Soviet Jews who were allowed to leave the Soviet Union in the first six months of this year stands at around 3,000. That is more than the total number of those allowed to emigrate in the past three years taken together. My hon. Friend will be aware that problems and difficulties still lie ahead, but that figure represents a welcome development.

Mr. Grocott

While it is of course right that we make representations on human rights violations whenever they occur, is it not high time that the Government recognised that there is a new mood of reform in the Soviet Union? May we ask the Government to act entirely out of character and respond to that mood of reform positively and sympathetically?

Mr. Mellor

Of course we respond, but the best form of response is not just to roll over and forget about all the difficulties that we know exist and will continue to exist. Naivety has no part in these matters.

Mr. John Marshall

Does my hon. and learned Friend accept that the increase in the number of people leaving the Soviet Union is as nothing compared with the 400,000 who are in receipt of invitations to do so?

Mr. Mellor

I congratulate my hon. Friend, who has been a very distinguished Member of the European Parliament for some time, on his election to the House. I also congratulate him on asking a question that hits the centre of the target of our concerns. It is certainly true that there has been an increase in the number of exits permitted this year to those established refusniks, but there remains a much larger group of people who have been invited to come here and who are now subject to the restrictions imposed by the Soviet Union in January—restrictions of a new and fresh kind. If those restrictions are rigorously imposed and result in the refusal of a substantial number of those people to leave, that will pose a major obstacle to proceedings between our two countries.

Mr. Mullin

Would it not be possible to take the Government's posturing on human rights in the Soviet Union more seriously if they were willing to extend an amnesty to the six innocent men convicted of the Birmingham pub bombings, who have now been in prison in this country for 14 years?

Mr. Mellor

Although I know, from my previous incarnation, of the hon. Gentleman's interest in that case, his is not a worthy question. He knows full well that the case is now subject to reconsideration by the Court of Appeal, and that no such liability to reconsideration exists in the Soviet Union for any of the people with whom we are concerned.

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