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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 Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton 12:00 am, 28th November 1973

It is difficult to follow some of the speeches from the Government benches. One thing is very clear from them—that many Conservative Members are democrats as long as they are winning. If they and their friends in various parts of the world are losing by democratic decisions, it appears that they are happy to turn to violence and to support the military overthrow of democratic régimes.

We are discussing the military overthrow of a democratically-elected government. President Allende would obviously not be supported by the votes of Conservative Members. But he was democratically elected to his position and could never have been accepted as President without the support of Congress and the Senate. That man and his Government have been murdered, overthrown by force. Do not Conservative Members realise the enormity of what they are defending? Has it not dawned on them that we are talking about the destruction of democracy? Of course some Conservative hon. Members say "No". That only confirms what I said earlier—namely, that Conservative hon. Members are democrats as long as they are winning.

I ask some of the younger Conservative hon. Members, who I believe are democrats, to search their consciences and to look closely at what has happened in Chile. All right, it was a Marxist Government, but it was led by a Marxist who happened to be a Freemason. That is a remarkable Marxist. The Popular Unity Government had in it a strong Catholic organisation known as MAPU. It was supported by masses of Catholic workers throughout Chile.

For the first time in the history of the Chilean people, those who were living in the slums were beginning to eat properly. The middle classes were saying "The country is going to ruin. There is no food." There was no food in certain places because for the first time the workers were getting food. The Allende Government immediately raised the rates of pay and helped to better the conditions of the working class people in Chile. That was not undemocratic. Such action was initiated by democratic decisions.

I wish to take up some of the matters which were raised by the Minister in what was the most disgraceful and odious speech I have ever heard in this House. The right hon. Gentleman talked about asylum as though we had no traditional attitudes to the giving of asylum. We have always boasted that political refugees, no matter who they are, are welcome to our shores as long as they are political refugees. If we look back in history we can see a long list of political refugees. Do the right hon. Gentleman's words mean that the Government have now changed our traditions? If so, they are turning their back on something which has made me feel proud as an Englishman. Is that what the Government are doing? It would seem so.

The Chilean Popular Unity Government apparently was a Government of which the British Government did not approve. Reference has been made to Greece. The argument was used that the Labour Government recognised the Greek Colonels. I say, "Shame on the Labour Government for doing so." I said so at the time. Nowadays we too hastily use the argument that certain people are effectively in control. When democracy is destroyed in any part of the world it is a blow against democracy in Britain. Democracy is indivisible. Our task is to fight for democratic government in every part of the world, whether it is in the Soviet Union, Chile, Greece or elsewhere.

The right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir Robin Turton) said that only the Left-wing or Communist people who have come out of Chile are writing and telling us what had happened. Newsweek, I suppose, is run by Communists. I am sure it is! An article which appeared in Newsweek on 8th October said : The military junta will not admit that there have been mass executions since the overthrow of Salvador Allende's Marxist Government. 'We have executed perhaps eight people since then for shooting at troops,' Colonel Pedro Ewing told newsmen. The article continues : But that simply is not true. Last week I slipped through the side door into the Santiago city morgue, flashing my junta press pass with all the impatient authority of a high official. One hundred and fifty dead bodies were laid out on the ground floor, awaiting identification by family members. Upstairs I passed through a swing door and there in a dimly lit corridor lay at least 50 more bodies squeezed one against another, their heads proped up against the wall. They were all naked. Is a Communist writing for Newsweek? I urge all hon. Members to read the article to which I have referred—namely, "Slaughterhouse in Santiago".