MR. GERALD BROOKE
Mr. Winnick (by Private Notice)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he can make a statement on the latest position of Mr. Gerald Brooke arising from the release of Mr. Weatherly.
The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. William Rodgers)
Both Mr. Weatherly and Mr. Brooke were sentenced on charges which came into categories not covered by the recent amnesty declared in the Soviet Union. We nevertheless approached the Soviet authorities about the possibility that both these British subjects should benefit under it. We have not yet received a reply about Mr. Brooke. As the House will [column 636]know we have spoken to the Russians on many occasions and at the highest levels about him. If the Soviet authorities were to show clemency this would be a decision in accord with the declared desire of both Governments to develop good relations. We hope that the Soviet Government will take the view that this is the occasion for allowing Mr. Brooke to return to this country and to his family.
Is the Under-Secretary of State aware that many people in Britain are very concerned about the way in which Brooke is apparently being ill-treated in order to put pressure on the British Government to exchange him for the Krogers? Is there a serious chance of the Russians treating him in a more humane way and allowing his wife to visit him?
I am sure that my hon. Friend expresses the views of everybody in this House and everybody outside, too. All I can say is that we do hope very much that if in fact clemency is not exercised—although, of course, we have not yet received a reply—the Russians will choose to treat Mr. Brooke with much more humanity than they have done so far.
As Mr. Brooke is a constituent of mine, would the hon. Gentleman state whether he has any recent information about the physical condition of Mr. Brooke, and as diplomatic overtures have not been very successful, would he say how the Government propose to discharge their duty to see that Mr. Brooke is properly looked after?
As the House will know, there have been reports this weekend about what Mr. Weatherly has said on his return from the Soviet Union. We have spoken to Mr. Weatherly and will see him again tomorrow, but at the moment all I can say is that we have no adequate confirmation of any suggestion that a deterioration in Mr. Brooke 's health is in fact the case. As for getting him released, I think we must recognise that although his detention is disgraceful and indefensible and uncivilised, at the end of the day it is for the Soviet authorities themselves to decide on clemency, though I think the House will understand that we cannot expect an [column 637]improvement in Anglo-Soviet relations, such as we would like to see, if this intolerable behaviour continues.
Would my hon. Friend make it very clear to the Soviet authorities that the whole of the British nation are appalled at what they are reading about Mr. Brooke and about what happened to Mr. Weatherly, and that we as a nation protest most vehemently at this sort of treatment, and that if the Soviet Union really believes in close co-operation with this country and with other countries, in harmony and good relationships, that sort of treatment of British subjects is not the right way to try to establish it?
I am most greateful to my hon. Friend.
Would it not help to establish Mr. Brooke 's state of health if the British Consul were allowed to visit him? Would the hon. Gentleman say how long it is since such a visit has been permitted? Are not the Russians in breach of accepted international practice in refusing frequent recent visits?
They are certainly in breach of international practice, as well as behaving, as I have said, in a very inhumane way. The Consul has not been allowed to see Mr. Brooke since last December, and one of our absolute minimum requirements we are seeking is that access should now be given.
The hon. Gentleman has not answered the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher). It was not so much about clemency but about Mr. Brooke 's present state of health, and what are the Government going to do, she asked, to ensure that they carry out their duty to see that this man is properly treated during his detention?
I am sorry if I did not answer that. I thought I had dealt with the question of health in saying that we have been examining and trying to discover the truth of Press reports of what Mr. Weatherly said. Of course Mr. Brooke 's health is of prime concern, and we would not like the House to believe that we considered otherwise, but I think that nevertheless our first duty is to try [column 638]to get him out. So far as there is any delay we shall make full representations about his health and any other matters arising out of his continued detention.