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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 Arthur Davidson Mr Arthur Davidson , Accrington 12:00 am, 28th November 1973

What a tatty speech that was! I do not think there is anything that the Conservative Party any longer holds sacred, except perhaps the preservation of its own skin. There was not a word of indignation in the speech of the hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) about the fact that 20,000 people have been killed in Chile, and not a word of disgust about the fact that 10,000 people are still imprisoned without trial. On the contrary, the hon. Gentleman appeared to be almost rejoicing in the brutality and savagery of the coup. He should be thoroughly ashamed of himself.

There was a time when the Tory Party paid tribute to democracy, and there are very many people in it who still do. But not one Conservative Member has denied that a democratically elected Government was overthrown by a brutal coup. I thought hon. Gentlemen opposite would have been delighted that, in a part of South America which is known not for electing Governments but for having Governments imposed upon it, there was in existence a Government which the people of Chile had elected and re-elected. Tory Members do not seem to worry one jot about that. It may well be true that the Chilean Government was not the best Government in the world, but neither is our Government here. Bad as the present Government are, I have never heard it suggested that they should be overthrown by the Armed Forces.

I was delighted to hear the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir Robin Turton) refer to the fact that in Chile under Allende there had been a strike. I have news for the right hon. Gentleman. There will not be any more strikes under the present Government, because they will not be allowed. That is the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship. The Minister made a cheap point about how we would feel in this country if there were criticisms by another nation of our treatment, for instance of IRA internees. In this House, to our credit, we have spent a great deal of time debating how we should give the fairest possible trial to people accused of crimes in that very sad country in these disturbed times. We do not shoot people, murder them and imprison them without trial. That is the difference. The Minister well knew that he was making a false point.

One of the people in the Conservative Party for whom I had much admiration before the war was a man who recognised, a long time before other people, the horrors of what was happening in Nazi Germany, and to his credit he spoke up about them. I refer to Leopold Amery. I am very sorry that his son, whom I like and respect personally, and who is a most courteous man, did not recognise that in Chile a decent, democratically elected Government who were trying their best to distribute wealth in favour of the peasants, workers and poor people had been ousted by a ruthless, corrupt dictatorship which in every sense including book burning, was reminiscent of Nazi Germany.