HL Deb 09 November 1976 vol 377 cc177-8

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have impressed on Mr. Ponomaryov during his visit here the necessity for the USSR to comply with the terms of the Helsinki Agreement; their obligation to refrain from persecuting those who apply for visas to leave the USSR; and the feelings of many in the United Kingdom resulting from the action recently taken against Jewish scientists and others who have applied for these visas.


My Lords, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister discussed with Mr. Ponomaryov the need for the fulfilment of all the provisions of the Final Act of the European Security Conference. He and other members of the Government have repeatedly brought to the attention of the Soviet authorities the strong feelings which exist in this country about certain human rights questions.


My Lords, in view of the recent visit to this country of one of the outstanding persons—I nearly said, personalities—in the USSR, may I ask my noble friend whether Her Majesty's Government brought to his notice the horrific cases of persecutions that are still occurring in that country, with scientists, among others being arrested, being beaten up, and now with the possibility of the old system of show trials taking place, actuated not only against those individuals but against everybody else seeking permits to leave the USSR, despite the Helsinki Agreement? Cannot something definite be done to prevent the continuance of this state of affairs? May I ask my noble friend about two specific cases, that of Yosif As, who has been arrested and who is a very eminent surgeon, and Chernobilsky, a very eminent engineer? Are the Government aware of the appeals that have been made on their behalf by cultural and scientific people of the highest rank not only in the USSR but throughout the world?


My Lords, Her Majesty's Government and, I believe, the whole House are aware of the concern that is felt in the world about these human rights questions. I can assure my noble friend, without of course being able to give precise details about the conversation which my right honourable friend the Prime Minister had with Mr. Ponomaryov, that he was left in no doubt at all about the concern felt about these questions not only by my noble friend but by most people in this country. As to the details of the two cases about which my noble friend gave names, I am afraid that I should require notice.

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