HL Deb 19 November 1981 vol 425 cc569-70

3.20 p.m.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the cruiser HMS "Norfolk" and the naval tanker "Tidepole" have been delivered to Chile, and if not, whether the sale will be cancelled in view of the evidence that 600 persons have been abducted and often tortured by the security forces in that country and that 1,500 persons have disappeared, including the British businessman, Mr. William Beausire.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, both HMS "Norfolk" and RFA "Tidepool" will be delivered to Chile during 1982. This sale was agreed only after full consideration of all relevant factors, and we are content that it should proceed.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, will the Government reconsider this decision in view of the latest evidence of torture and disappearances in Chile? Would the noble Earl agree that these have grown worse since the British ambassador was withdrawn because of the torture of Dr. Cassidy, and is this not now indicated in the disappearances which include a British citizen who is charged because his sister had some association with the son of the late President Allende? Have the Government noted the new constitution for Chile which stabilises this denial of human rights, including detention and house arrest without charge, without trial and without any right of appeal?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, we share the noble Lord's concern about abuses of human rights in Chile as elsewhere, and we shall continue to take every appropriate opportunity in our bilateral contacts as well as in the United Nations and other international fora to apply constructive and effective pressure on the Chilean Government in this respect. Her Majesty's Government are fortunate to have an ambassador there to give our points more force.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, would the Minister agree that it is not appropriate that the livelihood of those who work in our shipyards and of those who work to supply those shipyards should be put to the hazard of the type of consideration which is adumbrated in the noble Lord's Question?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, while repeating that of course we share the concern about the abuses of human rights, I take my noble friend's point. Of course when we had the embargo, such countries as Germany, France and Israel did not have an embargo and benefited accordingly.

Baroness Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe

My Lords, is the Minister aware that we on this side are glad that the Government have expressed their disapproval of the Chilean Government's attitude to human rights and are glad indeed that the Minister of State mentioned that to the visiting Chilean Minister, who I think is the Minister for Mines? Would it not be even more effective if the question of handing over these two warships had been put into the argument as a possible quid pro quo?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, it is always difficult to balance the two, but it is the view of Government that applications for export licences for the supply of defence equipment to Chile should be treated on their individual merits. All relevant factors, including human rights considerations, are taken into account in each case, and in this context we agree to the sale of defence equipment only which in our judgment is not likely to be used for internal repression.