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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

There is a simple answer and it is perfectly straightforward. Naturally we regret that a country which has enjoyed many generations of constitutional government should see that constitutional government overthrown. Naturally, also, we deplore and regret bloodshed and forced imprisonment wherever these occur

The right hon. Lady had a good deal to say in the early part of her speech about the Chilean revolution and about the coup d'état which is the cause of this debate. She told us her views on the motivation of the Allende regime and gave her evaluation of the different forces at work in Chile. She spoke at some length of the consequences of the coup in terms of imprisonment and casualties, and I acknowledged both her close interest in the subject and the access which she has had to first-hand sources of information about recent events in Chile. From what I know of these debates in the House, other hon. Members will no doubt traverse the same ground, some in support of what she said and some, perhaps, taking issue with her.

In my present job, I have had access to a good deal of information on the Chilean situation, both during the Allende regime and since. I had the privilege of a talk with President Allende in Buenos Aires not very long ago, when he was there for the inauguration of President Cámpora. I also had talks with our own representatives in Santiago, who came to meet me at the conference of ambassadors in Lima, and with Latin American statesmen, particularly Peruvian and Argentinian statesmen, who were in a good position to form a judgment.

It may be helpful to the House if I reserve my comments on the Chilean situation until the end of the debate when, if I may, I will try to answer points raised both by the right hon. Lady and by others. Meanwhile, I would only say that the Government recognise the events that have taken place in Chile as essentially a Chilean dispute settled by Chileans. I know that there have been allegations, which may well have some foundation, of both American and Cuban intervention, but the matter was essentially an internal affair. We are all members of one another, and it is natural that hon. Members in this House should have strong sympathies in a matter of this kind and should wish to express those sympathies. But the Government do not regard it as their duty to pass judgment on what is an internal Chilean conflict.

Our duty is to ensure the protection of British subjects and the promotion of British interests, and to work for peace in the area. This involves developing normal friendly relations with the Chilean Government of the day, whatever its political colour. This we have done.

I believe that the official Opposition, if they purport to be an alternative Government of this country, should do the same. I deeply regret that they have chosen instead to take up a strongly partisan attitude against the new Chilean Government, by implication in support of the old. This is a quarrel of limited concern to the people of this country.