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Portugal

Volume 888: debated on Wednesday 12 March 1975

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11.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on his official visit to Portugal.

I would refer the hon. Gentleman to my replies to the hon. Members for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing) and Epping Forest (Mr. Biggs-Davison) on 17th and 19th February respectively.— [Vol. 886, c. 309 and c. 1319.]

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for what he said. In view of the serious events of the last two days, will he say whether any British lives or property have been affected by the recent outbreak of fighting? In the attempt to secure democratic elections in Portugal, was the advice of the Council of Europe sought? That, I understood was the right hon. Gentleman's objective a few weeks ago in advising the Portuguese interim Government on how a democratic election should be held.

In reply to the first part of the supplementary question, although information is not complete, I have no reports that any British subjects have been injured or even directly endangered as a result of what has happened. As to the Council of Europe's role, I am not up to date with that, but, if I may venture an opinion without intruding on Portuguese internal affairs, in view of my recent visit, I would utter the obvious remark that violence has no part in the proper democratic process. In view of my detailed discussions with some of the leaders of the Armed Forces movement who have such great influence in the country, I hope that they will use that influence to hold the ring, so that the democratic parties may conduct without interference the election which is due to take place on 12th April.

Did my right hon. Friend make clear that in no circumstances would the British Government be prepared to approve intervention by the American CIA to subvert and destabilise any progressive democratic regime in Portugal, as the CIA has done in Chile and numerous other countries? Will he also make that clear to Mr. Henry Kissinger, whose association with what happened in Chile is well known?

I do not think that there is much point in extending what happened in one country to what might happen in another without any evidence. I know that allegations have been made, but I am not aware of any evidence in that direction. My understanding of American policy is that it would not be directed to the ends suggested by my hon. Friend.

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that there is great concern on the Opposition benches— I am sure he shares that concern— about the present situation in Portugal and the threats of violence to democratic movements and parties? Is he also aware that any contribution which he, as Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, can properly make towards solving or helping to solve this problem will have the support of the entire House?

Yes, Sir. I am in touch with Dr. Mario Soares, the Foreign Minister of Portugal, and, although every country must conduct its own affairs, he knows that he has the support of the British Government in endeavouring to ensure that the elections to be held on 12th April are carried out fully and without fear.