HC Deb 02 August 1965 vol 717 cc201-3W
50. Mrs. Joyce Butler

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware of the references to the activities of the staff of the British Embassy in Moscow made at the recent trial of Mr. Brooke; and if, in view of the public interest aroused by the trial, he will take steps to clear the staff of these charges, if necessary by holding an official inquiry.

Mr. M. Stewart

In the Soviet court, it has been asserted that Mr. Brooke was advised by the organisation known as the N.T.S. that if he was not able to hand over their material to the Russian addressee, he should give it to Mr. Bishop, a member of Her Majesty's Embassy, to forward to London by diplo- matic post. The Soviet Press, which presumably had the benefit of the closed sessions from which all foreigners were excluded, has also stated that Mr. Brooke had been told to give the materials to any member of the British Embassy.

We first heard this story when Mr. Brooke told his wife on 5th June that he had been instructed by a member of the N.T.S. to pass the material in case of need to Mr. Bishop. Her Majesty's Ambassador immediately carried out an investigation in the Embassy, as the result of which he informed a Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister on 11th June, on my instructions, that any suggestion that Mr. Bishop or any other member of the Embassy had any connection with this case, with the N.T.S., or with activities such as those which the Soviet authorities said Mr. Brooke was engaged in would be entirely untrue. The Soviet authorities thus had more than a month before the case came to trial in which, had they wished to do so, they could have returned to this matter with the Embassy. They did not do so.

Another accusation has been made against Mr. Bishop. This is that in 1964 he sent home through the diplomatic bag some material, allegedly hostile to Soviet interests, on behalf of Mr. Dewhirst, a British visitor to the Soviet Union. Mr. Bishop has told us that he did in fact accept from Mr. Dewhirst, an acquaintance, what were described to him as personal papers, and that he sent these through the bag without authority. This was a breach of our regulations and will be dealt with as such. We have gone into this very carefully and I am satisfied that in accepting these papers Mr. Bishop was acting in good faith. Any suggestion that he was a party to activities directed against the Soviet Union is entirely unfounded.

I repeat that these matters have been gone into very thoroughly and that I am convinced that no member of Her Majesty's Embassy is associated with the N.T.S. and that no member of the Embassy had any connection with the activities for which Mr. Brooke has been charged, and as I am sure the House would agree, has been so disproportionately sentenced. I only wish to add that if the N.T.S. led Mr. Brooke to believe that Her Majesty's Government supported the activities of the kind which he is said to have engaged in, or that he would make use of the British Embassy in connection with those activities, they were acting without scruple and without justification. I hope that this statement will be heeded by anyone who might be the object of similar approaches.