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Orders of the Day — Chile

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 28th November 1973.

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Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark 12:00 am, 28th November 1973

We shall study the hon. Gentleman's remarks in HANSARD, but I have dealt with one of the points made by him.

This is another aspect of what I believe to have been the Government's complicity in the invisible blockade. I have with me some notes which I made last February during a discussion lasting an hour and a half with Senor Almeyda, the Foreign Minister of Popular Unity, at La Moneda, which has now been destroyed. On my return to the United Kingdom I conveyed to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs the Foreign Minister's request that the British Government should seek to mediate in the dispute about copper compensation between the American and the Chilean Governments.

A number of possibilities for a compromise solution were opening up at that time, but the problem was that the atmosphere between the Americans and the Chileans was so acute that the discussions could not be held. Almeyda, the Foreign Minister, told me that the one country they thought might possibly assist in mediation was Britain and I was requested to ask the Foreign Secretary whether he would do that. I asked the right hon. Gentleman but as far as I know he did not mediate. I should, however, be happy to hear to the contrary.

The Prime Minister told me in a letter : I share your hope that constitutional government will soon be restored in Chile, but that is a task we must leave to the Chileans themselves. We say that there should be no help from us for the unconstitutional régime I now turn to the question of recognition and refugees. It is this area in which our feelings run deepest. We must bear in mind that Britain was the first, in company with Spain, Portugal, Brazil and Guatemala, to recognise the military régime. Our excuse was that we sought to protect British nationals in Chile. At almost the same time the French recognised the régime and said that their recognition was to protect both foreign and Chilean refugees.

It was disgraceful to rush so headlong into that recognition with a totally inadequate expression of regret about the coup or about the death of President Allende, apart from a formal unpublished message from the Queen two weeks later. There was no condemnation of the coup by the Government and there has since been no expression of concern about the savagery of the junta. This has deeply offended and outraged not only the Labour and trade union movement but also many people outside. It has offended all sense of decency in Britain.