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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 Mr Julian Amery Mr Julian Amery , Brighton, Pavilion 12:00 am, 28th November 1973

The process of law is still continuing. The coup itself may or may not be regarded as illegal, but the processes of Chilean law continue in accordance with Chilean statutes. As to the right hon. Lady's point about safe conduct, the last news that I had from Santiago this afternoon was that safe conduct had been or was being given to the Uruguyan lady in question, who had been the subject of the incident concerning the Swedish ambassador. That is why I say that we cannot press for the release of all political prisoners automatically and immediately in Chile when we do not do it in other countries. It is the same regarding an end to executions. I do not remember protests being made about the executions carried out in Cuba. Alas, there are many political prisoners in many countries, and all too many political executions. There are reports in the papers this morning that 54 people face political execution in Zanzibar.

It is not possible for the Government of the United Kingdom to intervene everywhere all over the world. We do our best to protect human rights in the Council of Europe and through the United Nations, but it would be unrealistic to intervene in the internal affairs of other countries as suggested in the motion and it would also very often be, in our experience, counterproductive. I would go further and say that I think it would be invidious to intervene in Chile and not in other countries where there are more political prisoners and where there have been even more political executions.

The motion asks us to provide refuge for Chileans who seek it. No visas are required for Chileans to visit this country, but settlement in this country is severely restricted. At a time when we are excluding a number of Commonwealth citizens and when we have undertaken the obligation to accept free movement of labour within the European Community, I do not think that we could undertake to give priority to Chileans who wish to come and settle here.

Applications, when they are made, will be processed in the ordinary way and will take full account of security considerations. Normal appeal procedures will be observed, as the right hon. Lady said. So far, eight Chileans sponsored by Professor Stafford Beer have been allowed to come and settle here and have skilled jobs to which they can go.

The right hon. Lady also mentioned, though it is not in the motion, the problem of the non-Chileans, of the many refugees—I think that there are 12,000 or more—who took refuge in Chile under President Allende's regime and who are not allowed to remain there much longer by the present regime. The Chilean Government have made it plain that they are not seeking to repatriate these people to their country of origin. There is an Inter-American Convention on Asylum which in our view should allow most of these people to re-settle in Latin America, and those who are for reasons of their political affiliations in danger could easily go to countries with which they have an ideological affinity.

We are prepared to examine individual cases put to us by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. We worked very closely with him when we had the problem of the Uganda refugees.

I do not think that there can be any question of our granting a quota. We have in mind that a number of the people concerned belong to extremist groups such as the Tupamaros who were responsible for the kidnapping of Sir Geoffrey Jackson.

We are asked by the motion to prevent the sale of arms to Chile. There are important naval contracts for the sale of arms to Chile worth about £71 million. Most of them were signed in the time of President Frei. There are important aircraft contracts, some signed in the time of President Frei and some of them signed in the time of President Allende. No military aid is or has been given to Chile. The Government have arranged insurance cover through ECGD. This was arranged before medium- and long-term cover was suspended, which it still is.

On what principle are we asked to suspend the sale of arms to Chile? There is no civil war in Chile. There is no war between Chile and her neighbours ; nor is there a threat of war between Chile and her neighbours. There is no hostility on the part of Chile to Britain or to Britain's allies. I can see no reason why we should suspend these sales of arms and why we should suspend the contracts into which we have entered.

What would happen to the ships and the aircraft if we were to suspend the sale of arms? Is it suggested that the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force should take them up? If so, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force will need a good deal more than the new estimates propounded by the Labour Party at the Blackpool Conference when it called for a cut of £1,000 in the Defence Estimates.

What about the jobs of the people concerned? I suggest that the right hon. Lady goes to Kingston-upon-Thames, Clydeside and Tyneside and has a talk with the trade unions and workers concerned. If she did that I think she would get a very different answer from the one put forward in the motion.