HC Deb 20 July 1983 vol 46 cc364-5
5. Mr. Lofthouse

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the relations of the United Kingdom with Chile.

Mr. Whitney

We maintain normal diplomatic relations with Chile.

Mr. Lofthouse

What was the purpose of the recent visit to London of General Matthei and other representatives of the Chilean Government? Did any talks take place between Ministers or Government officials and the Chilean party?

Mr. Whitney

General Matthei visited London in March 1983. He met the chief of air staff, other Royal Air Force officers and Ministry of Defence officials to discuss professional air force matters and potential defence sales. He paid a courtesy call on my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement.

Mr. Parry

Will the Foreign Secretary make it clear to the Chilean junta that the Government are completely opposed to the repression of democracy and human rights? Will he support the demand for the release of more than 30 trade union leaders who are now in prison?

Mr. Whitney

The Government have never left the Chilean Government in any doubt about our concern at their poor human rights performance, of which the recent detention of Senor Valdes and his colleagues is a lamentable example. When my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) visited Chile in April as the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, he made the Government's concern clear to the Chilean Government and called on Cardinal Silva and the acting chairman of the Chilean commission on human rights.

Mr. Anderson

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the 10-year-old Pinochet regime is now in its last throes, as shown by recent events? Therefore, will the Government reassess their policies, military and otherwise?

Why did not the Government, as opposed, for example, to the German Government, make a direct protest to the Chilean Government about the arrest of the leader of a sister party to that Government, instead of leaving it solely to the French ambassador at Santiago, speaking on behalf of the EC? What precisely were the terms of that protest?

Mr. Whitney

Not being the possessor of a crystal ball, I cannot forecast the future of the present Chilean Government, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that Her Majesty's ambassador in Santiago, in company with the other Community ambassadors, protested vigorously on 11 July to the Chilean Foreign Minister at the detention of Senor Valdes and the other Christian Democrat leaders. The Greek Government, in their present capacity as president of the Community, also expressed to the Chilean ambassador in Athens the concern of all 10 Community members at the detentions and the repression of political freedom in Chile. As the hon. Gentleman will know, Senor Valdes was released from detention on 13 July.