HC Deb 31 October 1979 vol 972 cc1205-6
1. Mr. Neubert

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will make a statement on the Minister of State's recent tour of countries in South America.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Nicholas Ridley)

Between 18 July and 2 August I visited the Falkland Islands, Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela. I spent a week in the Falkland Islands, taking careful note of the views of the islanders on their economic and political future. In Buenos Aires I had a general exchange of views on Anglo/Argentine relations, and we agreed to restore ambassadors. In Brazil and Venezuela I discussed our mutual economic and political interests with Ministers of the respective Governments and others.

Mr. Neubert

Does the Minister agree that we as a nation tend to neglect the immense potential of close relationships with South American countries? Having toured that area, what prospects does my hon. Friend see of extending our trade and influence there?

Mr. Ridley

I agree that it is a market of about 200 million people who are friendly and helpful towards Britain. There are great opportunities for business and every other sort of exchange. However, we must first get our production right so that we have surplus goods to sell to those important export markets.

Mr. Christopher Price

Will the hon. Gentleman reverse the shabby decision of the Government to refuse admission to any more refugees from Chile and other dictatorial fascist regimes in South America? Is it the Government's policy that the victims of fascism must stay and suffer in their own countries?

Mr. Ridley

That is a question for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. However, nationals of South American countries may still apply for settlement in England.

Mr. Kershaw

Was my hon. Friend able to form any opinion of the value attached to the BBC external services by the countries that he visited? Would it not be a good thing to retain those services?

Mr. Ridley

I invite my hon. Friend to await the statement to be made tomorrow.

Mr. Shore

I know that the Minister raises the subject of human rights through British ambassadors and whenever he meets Latin American representatives. How can it be that his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is able to announce a deplorable decision to abandon the special programme for political refugees? Only a few hundred people are involved, but this is important. Are we to understand that there is no liaison between the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office? Will he pursue the matter, particularly as on the day of the announcement by the Home Secretary the Organisation of American States passed a resolution condemning Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile?

Mr. Ridley

That is a matter for my right hon. Friend. The question of human rights and our reception of political refugees should be decided on an evenhanded basis throughout the world.

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