HL Deb 19 June 1958 vol 209 cc1110-3

2.38 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government if they will convey to the Soviet Government the deep horror and disgust of public opinion in this country at the execution of Imré Nagy and his companions after a secret trial; and whether they will further draw the attention of the Soviet Government to the effect of their action on the prospects of success of any Summit Conference which may be held.]


My Lords, Her Majesty's Government consider that the manner in which Mr. Nagy and General Maleter were kidnapped, held in custody, tried in secret and executed is repugnant to every principle of justice as practised in this country. As regards formal representations to the Soviet Government, both that Government and the Hungarian Government have consistently refused to receive representations about the Hungarian rising and all events associated wtih it, even when they have been backed by the authority of the General Assembly of the United Nations. I have no doubt that any representations Her Majesty's Government might make now would equally be rejected on the ground that the decision to try Mr. Nagy, General Maleter and their associates was a matter within the domestic jurisdiction of the Hungarian Government.

Her Majesty's Government welcome the opportunity afforded by the question put down by the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, to place on public record the horror and indignation which this latest shameful act has aroused in this House and throughout the country. This barbaric behaviour must have seriously diminished the confidence of the West in the sincerity of Soviet intentions, either in relation to the preparations for a Summit Conference or to the settlement of international problems by other means.


My Lords, I thank the noble Marquess profoundly for the very strong expression of Her Majesty's Government's views which he has given. Arising out of the Answer, I would ask leave to submit two supplementary questions. The first is: would the Government consider, perhaps in consultation with other Powers, recalling their representative at Budapest for consultations? Second, would the Government continue to bring home to the Soviet Government the point that, until and unless they are prepared to accept our representations on these matters of morality, there can be no real peace between us; and that such issues as disarmament are seriously prejudiced? If we go on repeating this, day after day, year after year, perhaps it will one day get home into their thick skulls that it is these issues which divide the world, and not the issues of the atomic bomb and such like.


My Lords, in reply to the first question, it so happens that Her Majesty's Ambassador is returning home to-day on his normal annual leave. This leave was arranged months ago. So in fact Her Majesty's Ambassador has not been recalled, but he is returning to-day, and noble Lords may take it for certain that he will be consulted very closely on this matter. As regards the noble Lord's second question, I would remind your Lordships that the United Nations Special Committee on Hungary is still in being, and I have had reports (though they are still unconfirmed) that it has already met in New York. Her Majesty's Government will, of course, co-operate and give the Special Committee any assistance it can in its consideration of this horrible crime.


My Lords, is the Minister aware that it is common to every section of our British Parliament to have very shocked and injured feelings about the action which has been taken against these people in Budapest: it is a cruel and shameful perversion of the proper way to deal with justice in any country. However, whilst I sympathise a good deal with the indignation of the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, would it not be unwise, at a time when all the people who are concerned in promoting a Summit Conference are still hoping that such a conference will be held, to make any of the gestures he proposes? Things might happen at a Summit Conference that might be much more likely to lead to a change of heart and practice than the action suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood.


My Lords would not the holding of a Summit Conference be quite shameful if the liberation of Eastern Europe is to be excluded from the agenda?


My Lords could the noble Marquess none the less assure us that, despite this horrific and outrageous act, there will be no diminution in the exchanges between this country and the Soviet Union, since I believe it is only by such exchanges that Soviet citizens can be brought to recognise the moral values which we in the West all hold so dear?


My Lords, I think that your Lordships' House from all sides has made its feelings sufficiently clear. I can assure noble Lords that Her Majesty's Government are as aware as the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, of these feelings and will take them thoroughly into account.

Forward to