HL Deb 30 June 1981 vol 422 cc80-1

2.40 p.m.

Lord Renton

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 are aware that such information as is available is to the effect that Anatoly Shcharansky has been kept in solitary confinement for several months, that his health continues to deteriorate, and whether they will therefore make further representations to the Soviet Government concerning his welfare.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, we are naturally aware of the worsening conditions of Mr. Shcharansky's imprisonment, and remain deeply concerned about his health. This case has been raised with the Soviet Government both bilaterally and at the Madrid CSCE meeting. The Government hope that the Soviet authorities will recognise the strength of the humanitarian grounds for releasing him.

Lord Renton

My Lords, may I thank my noble friend for that reply, and may I ask him whether Her Majesty's Government will continue to make it clear to the Soviet Government that their maltreatment of Mr. Shcharansky and others who have been striving to establish human rights in Russia can only damage the reputation of the Soviet Government in the eyes of the world?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I agree with my noble friend's sentiments. Our view of the Soviet record on human rights is well known; we of course take the opportunity on suitable occasions to put it across to the Russians directly, and will continue to do so.

Lord Hooson

My Lords, with the impending visit of the Foreign Secretary to Russia next week, as now reported, would that not be a very suitable opportunity to raise this case directly and personally with the Soviet authorities?

Lord Skelmersdale

Yes, my Lords, my noble friend is to visit Russia on Monday next for talks with Mr. Gromyko, and a wide range of issues will certainly be discussed. But there is no agenda for this meeting, and I cannot of course guarantee or pre-empt what my noble friend might want to say.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, would my noble friend consider asking our delegate at the Madrid Conference, which is considering the outcome of Helsinki, to draw attention to the fact that Helsinki laid it down very firmly that human rights should be a matter of very high priority; and does not this particular imprisonment make a farce of the signature which the Russians put on that agreement?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, this matter has been raised at the Madrid Conference and its subsequent meetings no less than three times. The European Community, the United States, Canada and ourselves are co-sponsors of a proposal at Madrid for improved observance by participating states according to the Helsinki Final Act and its human rights provisions, which includes a specific reference to the work of Helsinki monitors like Mr. Shcharansky.

Lord Wells-Pestell

My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord the Minister whether he would give an undertaking to draw to the notice of his right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary today's Question standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, and the comments made by other Members of your Lordships' House?

Lord Skelmersdale

Yes, my Lords. I shall be seeing my noble friend tomorrow, and I will certainly give that undertaking.