HC Deb 11 October 1976 vol 917 cc36-8W
Mr. Rooker

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many meetings took place and over what time period between him or other departmental Ministers and representatives of the USSR Government concerning the Katyn Memorial to Polish prisoners.

Mr. Crosland

Since the Labour Government came into office in February 1974 there has been no discussion of the Katyn Memorial between myself or other Ministers in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and representatives of the Soviet Government. Over the same period the question was raised by representatives of the Soviet Union during four meetings with officials in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) why Her Majesty's Government were not represented at the unveiling of the Katyn Memorial;

(2) whether the Armed Forces of the Crown were represented at the unveiling of the Katyn Memorial to Allied dead.

Mr. Crosland

As the House is aware, Her Majesty's Government were not represented at the ceremony at Gunnersbury Cemetery on 18th September to unveil the memorial to those who died at Katyn, nor were any serving members of the Armed Forces present. The decision not to be represented in no way implies a lack of respect for the dead. I wholly share the concern and revulsion over the massacre at Katyn, and have profound respect and gratitude for the supreme sacrifices made by all our allies during the Second World War, including those of our Polish allies whose bodies were discovered at Katyn. This was made clear by the FCO spokesman before the ceremony took place. I take this opportunity to repeat it now. Official representatives of Her Majesty's Government have on numerous occasions visited the various war memorials and cemeteries, both in this country and overseas, which commemorate the sacrifices of the Polish people in the war. This of course includes memorials at Northolt and at Perth.

Nevertheless, neither this nor previous administrations have considered the evidence firm enough to justify a governmental statement as to the responsi- bility for the massacre; and successive Governments have therefore declined to lend official support to any such historical judgment. The Gunnersbury memorial is, however, designed and inscribed in such a way as to assume such a judgment.

Furthermore the memorial bears the Polish national emblem in a manner derogatory to the present Polish Government, with whom Her Majesty's Government have good relations which serve the interests of the Polish as well as the British people.

For these reasons it was decided that there should be no official representation either from the Government or from serving members of the Armed Forces. If the memorial had been simply a memorial to the dead, I should have gladly authorised official attendance at it. But it was clear that the purpose of the memorial was wider than simply to honour the dead at Katyn.