HC Deb 07 November 1973 vol 863 cc965-7
1. Mr. Clinton Davis

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the Government's present relations with the Government of Chile.

The Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Julian Amery)

Her Majesty's Government recognised the new Government of Chile on 22nd September. We shall seek to maintain good relations with the new Chilean Government as we did with its predecessor.

Mr. Davis

Has the Minister noted the heroic attempts of the Swedish Ambassador, in contrast to our own, to offer refuge to those who are seeking asylum from the barbarities practised by that wicked regime? Is it not in stark contrast to the attitude of Her Majesty's Government in supplying military weapons to that régime? Are there no limits to which this Government will descend in appeasing dictators?

Mr. Amery

On the question of asylum, it has been the long-standing practice of British Governments of all colours and connections not to give asylum to individuals seeking asylum there, unless they were in danger of arrest in the immediate vicinity—[HON. MEMBERS: "They are."] No, this has not been the case. As for the arms, the orders were placed by the previous Government. We are fulfilling the orders which were contracted for in the ordinary way and which are important from the point of view of employment and the interests of the countries concerned.

Mr. Temple

Is it not a fact that the whole House will deplore the temporary suspension of parliamentary government in Chile? Is the present Government of Chile not pledged to restore parliamentary democracy just as soon as the present situation has been stabilised? Second, is my right hon. Friend aware that, when elected by Congress, the late President Allende gave certain specific constitutional guarantees and that by the time his Government left office all those guarantees had been abrogated?

Mr. Heffer


Mr. Amery

I join my hon. Friend in regretting that a long-established constitutional régime should have been overthrown by force. I would not wish to take sides in the internal controversies of Chile. We naturally hope that a constitutional Government will be restored, but it is not for us to pass judgment on Chile's internal affairs.

Mr. Kaufman

Why not?

Mr. Amery

We shall, of course, watch the situation carefully.

Mr. Callaghan

Is the Minister aware that his unsympathetic attitude on this matter is in strong contrast with the feelings of people in this country about this régime? Is it true that Belgium, Holland, Denmark and Ireland among the EEC countries are offering refuge in their embassies to people who are seeking it? If that is the case, and if we are now so proud of getting concerted foreign policies, when does the Minister propose to fall in line and allow refugees to take refuge in our embassy?

Mr. Amery

It has never been our practice—nor was it the practice of the previous Government—to give asylum in embassies except when people were in danger in the immediate vicinity——

Mrs. Hart

They are!

Mr. Amery

When I say"in the immediate vicinity", I mean if someone is being chased or pursued. The same problem has arisen time and again in all the countries behind what used to be called the Iron Curtain. In the Soviet Union and elsewhere dozens of people have sought refuge in our embassies, and we have not thought it appropriate—nor did the previous Government—to fall in with those requests.

Mr. Callaghan

Is the Minister proposing to make representations to the Chilean Government about the position in which the Swedish Embassy in Santiago finds itself? If there is an assault on that embassy in the way that seems likely, is not that an affront to all of us?

Mr. Amery

I have, of course, seen the Press reports about the Swedish Embassy; I am still awaiting an official report from our people on the spot. We have previously made representations to the Chilean Government expressing to them the strong feelings held in this country about the situation. They have assured us that everything will be carried out in accordance with the due processes of Chilean law.