Argentine Air Force (Commander-in-Chief)

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th January 1979.

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Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan , Stirlingshire West 12:00 am, 17th January 1979

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether, pursuant to his reply to the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire on 30th November, any firm arrangements have yet been made for a visit by the Commander-in-Chief of the Argentine Air Force.

Photo of Mr Ted Rowlands Mr Ted Rowlands Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

We have now heard that this visit will not be taking place.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan , Stirlingshire West

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. But since the main purpose of any such visit, or proposed visit, would be to buy arms, may we have a categorical assurance that no such visit will take place in the foreseeable future by any member of the armed forces of Argentina, bearing in mind the possibility that those arms will be used to escalate the level of violence throughout South America and to increase and continue the reign of terror and the mass violation of human rights in Argentina itself?

Photo of Mr Ted Rowlands Mr Ted Rowlands Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

I cannot give such a categorical assurance, because there is no general ban on the sale of arms to Argentina. Individual sales are dealt with under the criteria—be they political, security or financial—that we apply to sales of this kind.

Photo of Mr Robert McCrindle Mr Robert McCrindle , Brentwood and Ongar

What are the different human rights considerations in the mind of Her Majesty's Government which allow them to decide that it is possible to sell arms to Argentina but not to Chile?

Photo of Mr Ted Rowlands Mr Ted Rowlands Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

During the last election the Labour Party made a firm political commitment that it would operate an arms embargo on Chile in the light of all the circumstances of the way in which the junta came to power and the way in which it has behaved in an abominable sense since.

Photo of Mr Hugh Jenkins Mr Hugh Jenkins , Wandsworth Putney

Bearing in mind that 30,000 citizens of Jewish origin were allowed out of the Soviet Union and that nobody is allowed out of China, does my hon. Friend agree that China is a more repressive State than the Soviet Union? How does this tie in with the decision—

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. It is a long way from the Argentine to China, and it is not connected with the original Question.

Photo of Mr Alan Clark Mr Alan Clark , Plymouth, Sutton

Is not this attitude typical of the unconstructive attitude of Her Majesty's Government in foreign affairs? Would it not be very much better to negotiate arms deals with the Argentine—because it has to get arms from somewhere—to the benefit of British employment and technology, and at the same time incorporate appropriate negotiations to secure the safety of the Falkland Islands?

Photo of Mr Ted Rowlands Mr Ted Rowlands Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

The hon. Gentleman did not listen to my reply. I said that there was no general arms ban on the sale of arms to Argentina.