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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 Robin Turton Mr Robin Turton , Thirsk and Malton 12:00 am, 28th November 1973

The right hon. Member for Lanark (Mr. Hart) rightly said that we must form our judgment on this from the facts as we know them. This is the essence of the issue between the two sides of the House. She quoted extensively from reports by Communist and Left-wing correspondents who have been expelled from Chile in recent weeks. Those reports did not correspond with reports from other correspondents throughout the world, nor do they correspond with the evidence of those who have come back from Chile since 11th September. Thus we must try to discover the facts and pass our judgment.

The hon. Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Clinton Davis) traced it back to the time when Senor Allende came to power. He had 36 per cent. of the votes of the country behind him and then in order to be elected president he signed a document—the Statute of Constitutional Guarantees. In that document he guaranteed the freedom of the mass media and of speech and security for the medium-sized and small agricultural and industrial firms. All went well for a few months until Senor Altamirano, who is Secretary-General of the Socialist extreme wing of the Government, took power. From that time newsprint was refused to the opposition Press ; State advertising was restricted to Government newspapers ; and opposition television stations were periodically shut down.

In February 1972 the Government announced their intention to take over 91 key firms which accounted for 50 per cent. of Chile's output. I can see that, with the exception of the right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice), right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Labour benches must have felt a certain sympathy with that move. However, at the same time small farms and small firms were being requisitioned either by the Government or by the guerillas and the MIF, particularly around Osorno, without compensation. As a result, by August of this year inflation was running at 320 per cent. per annum, food was scarce and a black market was prevalent. It was clear that the country was then running into a state of economic collapse.

On 23rd August the Chilean Congress passed the following resolution : The Government is not merely responsible for isolated violations of the law and the Constitution, it has made them into a permanent system of conduct. Congress was saying that democracy had disappeared. The resolution said that Señor Allende, and particularly Señor Altamirano, had destroyed democracy in Chile.