§ 4.19 p.m.
§ Lord GORONWY-ROBERTS
My Lords, with permission, I will now read a Statement being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. The Statement is as follows:
§ "I will, with permission, Mr. Speaker, make a Statement on the trials of Anatoly Shcharansky and Alexander Ginsburg which have opened in the Soviet Union today.
§ "The whole House will deplore the fact that the Soviet Government have now put on trial 15 members of the Helsinki Monitoring Group. The Helsinki Final Act states that individuals have the right to know and act upon their rights and duties in the field of human rights. These trials, in as much as the charges relate specifically to activities fully compatible with the Helsinki Final Act, are in direct contravention of the spirit and intention of the Act.
§ "The British Government have repeatedly warned the Soviet Government of the consequences which their handling of such cases could have for the atmosphere of their relations with the United Kingdom, and for the chances of making progress on vital issues in East/West relations generally. I personally made this clear to the Soviet Foreign Minister when I met him on the first of June.1339
§ "A Preparatory Meeting for the CSCE Scientific Forum is now taking place in Bonn. I have instructed our representative to raise at the earliest opportunity Soviet actions in relation to the Helsinki Monitoring Group and to make it crystal clear that we expect all the provisions of the Act to be implemented".
§ My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
§ Lord CARRINGTON
My Lords, the House is obliged to the noble Lord for repeating that Statement, and your Lordships on all sides of the House will welcome the firm tone of that Statement. Recent events are indicative of the Soviet Union's disregard of, and indeed contempt for, world opinion. They seem not to take any notice of the views of the whole civilised world about these trials and, incidentally, this action makes nonsense of the Soviet claims that they represent freedom-loving people in Africa.
In view of the Helsinki treaty, and the seemingly empty Russian acceptance of it, would the Government assure the House—and they have gone some way towards doing this—that there will be a linkage between the policies of the Soviet Union as a whole and the individual items, such as the SALT Treaty, on credit on easy terms, which they are either eager to finalise or eager to accept? Secondly, might I ask the noble Lord whether these trials were discussed at the EEC Heads of Government meeting, so that there is a concerted view on the part of the whole EEC towards what is happening in the Soviet Union?
§ Lord BYERS
My Lords, we join in deploring these latest Russian trials. Those of us who have been in politics since before the Second World War must be gravely concerned at what looks very like a return to Stalinism in these trials and these charges. It is clear that the Russians do not understand the meaning of détente. They cannot understand it if they can proceed in a mockery of justice to make the monitoring of an agreement which they signed at Helsinki a crime against the State. It simply does not make sense. May I ask the noble Lord whether Western broadcasts are still getting through to Russia, and, 1340 if they are, I should like to express the hope that the media in this country and the West reflect the feeling of grave concern in this country to the Russian people.
§ Lord GORONWY-ROBERTS
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, asked for an assurance that there is a relationship between various aspects of détente. Without using his words, I think I put it in a way that he would not disagree with. There certainly is a relationship and we point this out from time to time. I particularly take the point he made about detente being indivisible; that it is impossible to expect the good results of détente to be confined to one area of the world without regard for what is happening in other areas, and that applies particularly to Africa. As to the point he raised about the EEC, this question was not specifically discussed. One of these cases was the subject of discussion. The discussion was more general in the Community about this, but I have no doubt that there will be essentially concerted attitudes and action by our partners on these cases. It is necessary, as your Lordships will agree, to await the results of this trial before we definitively decide—possibly with our partners—precisely what further steps and further attitudes we should take.
I very much welcome, as always, the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Byers. I believe that everything he has said coincides very closely indeed with the attitude of Her Majesty's Government and with our friends and allies both inside and outside Europe.
My Lords, may I thank my noble friend first of all for the steps which are being taken and also for the manner in which he has consulted with other members of the European Council, and so on. Does he realise that there is anguish in the hearts of millions of people throughout the world at what is happening today in these trials; that they very much resemble the Stalin trials at which, for example, even two very eminent Russians who came over here in order to obtain funds from this country to help during the war—in which I had the privilege of participating as an officer—were murdered; and that the world as a whole can only shudder at the horrific manner in which the USSR is 1341 treating this matter? My noble friend said that we have to await the result of these trials. May I respectfully ask him to try to get together as many people of standing in the world before the trials proceed further, so that iniquity may not be carried to the same bitter end that Stalin himself carried it. Knowing that public opinion eventually had the effect of making even the people of the USSR condemn what Stalin had done, perhaps it is not too late. So may I ask him to see what can be done without further delay.
§ Lord GORONWY-ROBERTS
My Lords, yes, certainly. I was addressing myself to the question of action, the expression of attitude or action by Her Majesty's Government, and addressing myself to a specific point made in these exchanges. We shall want to see how this trial proceeds. We have tried, unsuccessfully, to have an observer there. It is part of the illustration of how this trial is proceeding that we have not been able to get an observer to attend the court. We must await the result of the trial before we can decide whether further representations should be made, and, if so, of what kind. In the meantime, of course, during the trial the attitudes of the Government and people of this country will be made crystal clear to the Soviet authorities. Indeed, exchanges such as this here in your Lordships' House and no doubt in another place will not be lost upon the Soviet authorities.
§ Lord WIGODER
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether he is aware that neither of the defendants in these cases has had the right to choose an advocate of his own choice; that neither of them will have the right to give evidence, and that neither of them will have the right to call witnesses on his own behalf, and, if that is so, is the noble Lord really in serious doubt about what the result of these farcial trials will be?
§ Lord GORONWY-ROBERTS
My Lords, I am in no serious doubt about the difficulties placed upon the defence, which the noble Lord has substantially illustrated. I do not know what the result of the trial will be. I can only hope it will be nothing like the savage treatment meted out to Orlov only a few weeks ago. While one 1342 is very careful not to use emotive words from this Box while this trial is proceeding, it is a function of the British Parliament—and it is performing that function today in the other place as well as here—to make it clear, through the voice of Parliament, that we expect this trial at least to be conducted within the bounds of fairness and equity and that we await its result with apprehension; one would like to say hope. It is for that reason that I venture to say that exchanges in this House and in another place may conceivably he of some help to the unfortunate people now facing these charges in Soviet Russia.
§ Lord WIGG
My Lords, does the Minister realise that when the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, put his question to him he asked for an assurance that there was a linkage between trials, on the one hand, and a policy, on the other? Is the Minister aware that the word "linkage" in that context has a special technical meaning, carrying with it consequences of very great seriousness? When the Minister replied he carefully avoided using that word, and he gave an assurance on something much less than linkage—rather a relationship, which I understand and approve—whereas linkage in this connection involves a path which leads right to the abyss. I should like to know whether the Minister was giving an assurance in relation to linkage, or whether he used the word "relationship" carefully and advisedly.
§ Lord GORONWY-ROBERTS
The short answer is, yes, my Lords. I used the word "relationship" advisedly, and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in using the word "linkage", had in mind much the same meaning as I had in using the word "relationship".