Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Margaret Thatcher

HC PQ [Private Notice Question: USSR (Mr Gerald Brooke)]

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [711/777-79]
Editorial comments: Immediately after prayers at 1100.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 807
Themes: Civil liberties, Foreign policy (USSR & successor states)
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Mrs. Thatcher

(by Private Notice) asked the Foreign Secretary if he will make a statement about Mr. G. Brooke of Finchley, who has been detained by the Soviet authorities while on a visit to Russia.

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. George Thomson)

Yes, Sir. On 26th April Her Majesty's Embassy were informed by Mrs. Barbara Brooke that her husband, Mr. Gerald Brooke, had been detained the previous evening by the Soviet authorities. Inquiries were immediately made by Her Majesty's Embassy at the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the whereabouts of Mr. Brooke and the charges against him. The Ambassador also asked that immediate arrangements should be made for Her Majesty's Consul to visit Mr. Brooke. On 28th April the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed the Embassy that Mr. Brooke was detained in custody and that a criminal charge had been preferred against him.

The Ministry did not specify the charge but referred to alleged involvement in subversive activities. The Ministry has since stated that the question of a meeting between Her Majesty's Consul and Mr. Brooke will be considered at the appropriate stage of the investigation of the criminal charge. The Embassy will continually press for Her Majesty's Consul to be allowed to see Mr. Brooke, and I hope the Soviet Government will take serious account of these representations. I am arranging for similar representations to be made to the Soviet Embassy here this morning.

Mrs. Thatcher

I thank the hon. Gentleman for letting us hear the full facts as they are known. May I urge on [column 778]him to stress to the Soviet authorities how strongly we in this House and in this country feel that the rights of natural justice require that any national who is detained by another authority should have immediate access to a representative from his own embassy and how dismayed and distressed we are that this does not appear to have happened in this case?

Secondly, I ask him to assure the House that all possible help will be given to Mrs. Brooke—who, I understand, has been marvellous—to enable her to help her husband and that if need be facilities will be granted for her to go backwards and forwards to Moscow to be near her husband in his ordeal.

Mr. Thomson

Yes, Sir. I think I can assure the hon. Lady on both points. I am sure that her very prompt defence of the interests of her constituent and the feelings which are obviously expressed on both sides of this House will have the kind of effect which she wishes in making the Soviet authorities aware of the feelings of public opinion on this matter. We are arranging to give Mrs. Brooke every help we can. She is expected to arrive back in this country today and we are investigating how we can give help in relation to the possible defence of Mr. Brooke.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

In supporting all that my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) said, may I ask the hon. Gentleman if he is aware that this grievous news about Mr. Brooke will cause very great dismay among those who are intending to take cultural parties of young children to the Soviet Union? Those of us whose children have done this—and I am in that position—have found very great benefit was derived from it, and it ought to be brought to the notice of the Soviet Union as soon as possible that if they behave in this manner such visits will have to be stopped.

Mr. Thomson

On behalf of the Government I signed the latest cultural agreement with the Soviet Union only a few weeks ago, and I am very conscious of the point which the hon. Member has made, but I think we must await further developments in this case before coming to any further conclusions.

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Mr. Dalyell

The point I wished to raise has been made by the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke).

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

May I ask a further question? I welcome what the Minister of State has said. Will he consider as soon as possible making some statement from the Foreign Office which can act as guidance to those who have been intending to arrange this sort of visit?

Mr. Thomson

Yes, I will bear that point in mind.