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Czechoslovakia (Religious Freedom)

Volume 466: debated on Monday 27 June 1949

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63.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will suspend the current negotiations for a trade treaty between this country and Czechoslovakia, in view of the public disapproval in this country of the lack of religious freedom accorded to Czechoslovak citizens.

67.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware of the restrictions placed upon Archbishop Beran and religious liberty in Czechoslovakia; and if he is prepared to suspend trade negotiations with that country until religious liberty is restored.

No, Sir. His Majesty's Government are not prepared to suspend these negotiations on political grounds.

Are His Majesty's Government aware of the intense concern prevailing in Christian communities with regard to the treatment of distinguished ecclesiastics in Czechoslovakia?

We have made known our detestation of persecution everywhere. We have made our views well-known, but we cannot trade only with countries of whose politics we approve.

Are we to understand from the Government, in view of the persecution that is going on in godless nations, that they are not considering making some protests? Have they forgotten their English history, especially under Mr. Gladstone?

Will the Minister undertake that the trade treaty will not be carried through until there is some satisfactory arrangement with Czechoslovakia about her indebtedness to this country?

It is not the policy of His Majesty's Government to use economic weapons in that way.

Is it not most undesirable to make a bargaining factor of religion in trade relationships? Is it not the case that questions of religion have never been raised at any time in connection with trade with Franco Spain?

Is not the Minister aware that this persecution in Czechoslovakia is only a continuation of the general persecution of religion in Eastern Europe.

In view of the very woolly nature of the Minister's reply and the statement he has made about the use of the economic weapon, I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter at an early date.