Oral Answers to Questions — Spain (Arrested British Subjects)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1 November 1965.

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Photo of Mr Richard Glyn Mr Richard Glyn , North Dorset 12:00, 1 November 1965

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many British subjects were detained in custody in Spain pending trial, or otherwise, in the period 20th August to 22nd September 1965; in how many cases the Spanish authorities notified his Department that these British subjects were in custody within three days of their arrest, within seven days of their arrest, and within 14 days of their arrest; whether he is satisfied with this situation; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

British Consular Officers have reported that 32 British subjects were arrested in Spain during the period 20th August to 22nd September, 1965. In 19 cases Consular representatives were notified within three days; in one case between three days and a week, and in no case between a week and a fortnight. In nine cases Consuls learned of the arrest before official notification could be received. In three cases no official notification was received.

During the period 20th August to 22nd September five British subjects were already under detention, one of whom was awaiting trial and four serving prison sentences.

I am confident, in view of the assurance recently given by the Spanish Government, that their authorities will fulfill their obligation to notify arrests.

Photo of Mr Richard Glyn Mr Richard Glyn , North Dorset

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that my constituent, John Balson, was held in Spain for 51 days, that information about his arrest was never passed to the British Government and that no proper attempt was made to find him by the Foreign Office until he had been held in prison, without access to the consul or to a lawyer, for two weeks? What steps is the right hon. Gentleman taking to make sure that this sort of thing will never happen again?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

It is true that the Spanish authorities failed to carry out their obligations to notify us in this case, and they have expressed their regret for so doing. But I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that no adequate steps were taken by the Foreign Office to trace Mr. Balson. I have been in correspondence with the hon. Gentleman about this and I shall be glad, as I suggested then, to explain to him further what happened in this case.

To put this matter in proportion, we should remember that about 1 million British subjects visit Spain every year and that the proportion who get into trouble of any kind is extremely small.

Several Hon. Members:

rose

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. May I say to the House that I am grateful for its keen co-operation at Question Time?

Hon. Members:

Hear, hear.