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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

I have been too long in the House to be caught by a remark like that. I said that I posed it as a rhetorical question. If the hon. Member looks up the word in the Oxford Dictionary, he will see that it means that I do not expect an answer. That is why I prefaced my question with that adjective.

According to the Opposition motion, we rushed too hastily into recognition of the new Chilean Government. But it must surely be said that by the time we extended recognition on 22nd September, 20 other countries had already recognised the Chilean Government, including some Socialist governments, including West Germany and Austria. We have a situation in which the Opposition say we were hasty in recognising Chile. By some strange reasoning it is a bad thing to recognise a government of the Chilean type because apparently we do not wish to exercise the influence which we would have if we did recognise it. But, in the Opposition's view, when one is dealing with a Communist régime, recognition is openly and repeatedly advocated. In other words, they believe that recognition is a necessary prelude to influence only when we are dealing with the Communist world.

I now wish to say a few words about arms and trade. I have seen this day coming. I have looked forward to the day when we could recall the past few weeks when we heard advanced from the Opposition benches arguments to the effect that it was not a matter of favouring any particular country but that the sanctity of arms contracts, once made must be honoured, otherwise Britain's word would never be believed again. That was said only a short while ago, and I am sorry that the hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) is not present to hear me repeat them. I have not let him know of my intention to refer to what he said. However, I intend no criticism.

Only a few days ago the hon. Gentleman spoke lustily at Question Time about the fact that if Britain were to break arms contracts her word would never be believed again in any part of the world. Apparently when we are discussing Chile and arms contracts which have been made, we must cancel them. The word "sanctity" is then removed from the vocabulary of Opposition hon. Members. These are the facts, and the Opposition cannot deny that this is what has been happening. Can they tell me how they manage to select one form of sanctity and not another? I shall be happy to listen elsewhere to any arguments they may advance—