§ Mr. Selwyn Lloyd
Yes, Sir. The four students referred to by the right hon. Gentleman left this country on 1st January of this year, it was believed for a visit to Austria. They were expected back about 18th January. Mr. Cripps, the father of Judith Cripps, received a letter dated 11th January from his daughter, from Belgrade, stating that the party was motoring home through Hungary. They did not return when expected.
Accordingly, on 23rd January, the British Missions in Belgrade and Budapest were instructed to make inquiries about their whereabouts. The Ambassador at Belgrade replied, as a result of his inquiries, that the party had obtained 673 Hungarian transit visas there on 14th January and had left for Hungary the same day.
The British Minister at Budapest made repeated inquiries and reported on 25th January that he believed them to be imprisoned in Budapest. This was confirmed the following day by the Hungarian Foreign Ministry in a Note, a translation of which I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
The Minister has made repeated requests to be allowed to see these four people. He has also asked that they be allowed to receive British legal assistance. These requests have not so far been granted, but they are still being pressed.
The Hungarian Note states that one of the young men was a member of the British Military Intelligence Corps and another served in the Field Security Service of the British Army. The implication was that they were spies. The facts are that, during their National Service, one of them took a Russian language course with the Intelligence organisation, which occupied his whole time. The other took the usual Field Security course.
I can state categorically that none of them received any instructions from any Department of Her Majesty's Government either to act as spies or to indulge in any improper activity.
So far as the other charges are concerned, I think that the Hungarian Government are in danger of making themselves look ridiculous.
I hope that all four will be speedily released, or, if that is not done, that the Hungarian Government will at least bring them at once to fair, and public, trial, at which proper facilities will be afforded for their defence.
I am sure that the whole House will sympathise with the relatives of these four people in their anxiety.
§ Mr. Bevan
I should like to associate the Opposition with the observations which the Foreign Secretary has just made, and to say that, for our part, we think that the Hungarian Government should exercise a little sense of humour in this matter. From what I can gather about the facts of the case, it is hardly likely that these four were engaged in espionage in a second-hand motor car which broke down on several occasions and which had to be started with the 674 assistance of a tow by the Russians themselves. It seems to me that such espionage activities belong not to serious international relations but to a Mack Sennett comedy.
§ Captain Waterhouse
Will my right hon. and learned Friend also bear in mind the four people who are at present in prison in Egypt under charges for similar offences equally trumped up?
§ Following is the text of Note dated 26th January received from the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
§ On 17th January, 1957, the authorities of the Ministry for Internal Affairs, on the basis of reports by the Hungarian population, took into custody J. R. Cooper, C. A. Lord, B. D. Lord and Judith U. Cripps, British subjects. When they were taken into custody they were found in the possession of forged documents dated 12th November, 1956, and made out in the name of the Budapest Soviet Military Command.
§ At the investigation of their case it was found that J. R. Cooper was a member of the British Military Intelligence organisation, the Intelligence Corps, and B. D. Lord served at the Field Security Service of the British Army it was also found that they had brought messages and letters from those members of the so-called Hungarian University Revolutionary Students' Council who had defected to Britain, to members of the Students' Council who are still in Budapest.
§ Their task was to establish contact between these two groups. According to their statement they sought to gather information on the Hungarian and Soviet armies and the Hungarian political and economic situation.
§ J. R. Cooper and C. A. Lord had already been in Hungary without Hungarian entry-visas at the beginning of November, 1956, and both of them had participated with counter-revolutionary groups in the building of barricades. Returning from Hungary, both of them gave false reports to the British Press and radio about the situation in Hungary, and had slanderous statements published about the Hungarian People's Republic. As soon as the investigation of their case has been completed the above-named persons will be turned over to the Hungarian Public Prosecutors' Office.