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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 Frederic Bennett Mr Frederic Bennett , Torquay 12:00 am, 28th November 1973

There are only two comments I want to make about the speech of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). One is intended to be a sincere compliment. Having debated with him before, I fully accept that he believes passionately in the causes which he advances and that he feels deeply that whatever past Labour Governments may or may not have done does not tie him in the views he expresses. Whatever past Labour Governments may or may not have done or whatever a future Labour Government may do—although if he is a member of such he may find himself in some difficulties then—up to now he has always been able to say, when we point to double standards, that he did not agree with some of those past decisions.

Secondly, I hope that on reflection he will regret having disclosed to the House what he says was said to him in a private conversation. I have been in this House for a considerable time and have at times been tempted to yield to the temptation to repeat what hon. Members opposite have said to me about their party policies and their leadership, but I would thereby have caused a great deal of embarrassment to many of those whom I regard as my friends. I hope, therefore, that on reflection the hon. Gentleman will feel that my rebuke is justified. If we start revealing private conversations in this House, there is no limit to the difficulty of maintaining standards here.

I have not been to Chile and it is not my purpose to argue the merits of what some may or may not have written about events there, and whether the truth of their statements may or may not be proved. Other hon. Members may well know more about the subject of what happened out there than I do. I want to get the debate back into the perspective of what this country should have done and what we ought to be doing today.

Over and over again in the last two or three years, we have seen the most blatant and extravagant and disgraceful of double standards. Tonight, it has been said that any laws which the present Chilean Government may have brought in or which are being enforced are not legal because the regime came to power through a coup and therefore such laws should be disregarded.

I should like to be told of a single Communist Government in Eastern Europe or elsewhere who have come to power other than by a coup. It is a fact that the Czechoslovak Government came to power not only by a coup but by a coup enforced by the bayonets of a foreign Power. Yet there is not a whimper when it comes to the question of recognition being used as a weapon by which we show our approval or disapproval in that context. There has never been a suggestion from the Labour benches—not even from the hon. Member for Walton—that we should withdraw recognition from Czechoslovakia, which is not only a dictatorship but a dictatorship imposed by an alien Power.

Recently the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition went to Prague as a guest of the Czechoslovakian Government—Labour Members will have to listen to this. The right hon. Gentleman indicated quite clearly that he thought that if we were to induce a more reasonable frame of mind within those countries with whose governments we may disagree then we should maintain contacts with them.