HC Deb 07 December 1983 vol 50 cc303-5
2. Mr. Anderson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government on political and military cooperation with Chile.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Sir Geoffrey Howe)

Our cooperation in these fields reflects the normal range of diplomatic relations we maintain with Chile.

Mr. Anderson

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman confirm that no negotiations are in progress or in prospect for the sale of HMS Hermes, given the estate of play on other arms sales such as HMS Antrim, the Jaguars, and the Sea Eagles? How can we in Britain influence the United States of America over its arms sales to Argentina when we are seen to be so eager to sell arms to the most repressive regime in that area, and the regime with the highest indebtedness?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The two aspects are completely different, in particular because Argentina has still not offered a formal cessation of hostilities. Chile is no threat to us and has defence preoccupations of her own. Negotiations are continuing on the sale of HMS Antrim to Chile, but no sale has been concluded. Chile is one of a number of countries which have expressed an interest in purchasing Jaguar aircraft when they become surplus to our requirements. HMS Hermes remains in service with the Royal Navy and no decision has been reached on her future after she pays off. As to arms sales in general, we maintain normal relationships with Chile and will continue not to supply weapons that are likely, in our judgment, to be used for internal repression.

Mr. Lawrence

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that those of us in the Bow Group who have just returned from a visit to Chile have seen for ourselves a marked improvement in human rights and a development towards democracy there? Will my right hon. and learned Friend encourage those helpful moves by a somewhat closer attitude towards Chile than has so far been demonstrated?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for conveying to me information arising from his recent visit. As I said in my original reply, we have maintained the normal range of diplomatic relations with Chile. In the course of such relations we have made clear our condemnation of violations of human rights when they have occured. We are doing everything that we can to encourage the restoration of democracy in Chile by peaceful means. I am much encouraged by what my hon. and learned Friend said about that.

Mr. Nellist

Would the Foreign Secretary like to reconsider his reply to the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) about human rights, bearing in mind that the war tribunal in Chile has been reconvened and is trying some workers? Is he aware that the jury of the tribunal is handpicked and that defence lawyers are not allowed to cross-question evidence, but are allowed only to make a statement? In the light of that, how can the Foreign Secretary continue to justify the sale of arms to a regime which is as despicable as the Argentine junta?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

There are conflicting views about the matter and it is our function to maintain the right balance between them. We welcome progress when it takes place. However, that does not prevent us from making representations such as I have made to the Chilean Foreign Minister and the Chilean Ambassador about human rights issues when they arise. I understand that the Chilean Supreme Court has ordered a temporary suspension of the war tribunal and that it has been invited to rule on the constitutionality of the law under which the tribunal sits.

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