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Yugoslavia (Pub Airport Incident)

Volume 958: debated on Wednesday 22 November 1978

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7.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Yugoslav Government concerning the treatment of Miss Little at Pula airport; and what compensation is to be made.

Since the hon. Member wrote to my right hon. Friend about this case on 1st November, our consul general in Zagreb has raised it with the authorities at the airport who have explained that their refusal to allow Miss Little to enter Yugoslavia was because they did not consider her passport to be in order. In the circumstances, my right hon. Friend does not think there are grounds for compensation.

Is it not intolerable that a British subject travelling on a valid British passport should be returned on the next plane to England because the passport officer did not think that her photograph looked like her passport photograph? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this might happen to many other people? Surely it is most unsatisfactory that, under those circumstances she was not allowed to get in touch with the British consul and was sent straight back to this country, to an airport from which she had not left, which cost her a great deal of money?

I have some sympathy with the hon. Gentleman's constituent, but I must correct him on one or two points of fact. It is not the case that she tried to get in touch with our consul in Zagreb. According to our information, there is no record that she made such an attempt. She was staying at a hotel from which she could quite easily have telephoned had she wanted to. Secondly, the hon. Gentleman said that she had a perfectly valid passport. I must inform him that the passport has been examined by our own passport authority since she returned and it agrees that there is evidence that it was tampered with. In those circumstances, I do not think that we would be justified in making a protest to the Yugoslav Government.

Despite that case, is the Minister aware that a similar situation took place with one of my constituents who was refused entry to Czechoslovakia—

Order. In that case I advise the hon. Gentleman to put down a Question about it.