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Volume 889: debated on Wednesday 9 April 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if British relations with Portugal have been affected by the recent abortive coup and if he will make a statement.

Britain's good relations with Portugal have not been affected by the attempted coup of 11th March. It is our hope that the changes taking place in Portugal and the results of the forthcoming elections for a constituent assembly will promote the cause of democracy, so that our relations can be strengthened.

The Portuguese authorities have reaffirmed their adherence to their international commitments, of which NATO is one.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the abortive Portuguese coup demonstrated the existence of a threat to democracy from the Right which has not been a feature of the carefully orchestrated campaign backed particularly by hon. Gentlemen opposite regard- ing the present situation in Portugal? Will he make it clear that the British Government would be utterly and completely opposed to any steps taken from any quarter which would overturn the present Portuguese régime from the Right and lead to the situation which came about in Chile following the coup against the Allende Government there?

It is my hope that the changes taking place in Portugal will strengthen the cause of democracy and neither the Right nor the Left in its extreme form. Indeed, I understand that one Right-wing and two Left-wing parties have been banned from taking part in the elections. I hope that there remains a broad spectrum of parties which will offer the Portuguese people the opportunity to express a wide range of opinions through the ballot box. As I have said on other occasions, I hope that the armed forces movement will hold the ring so that these elections can take place in a peaceful and orderly way.

Does the Foreign Secretary accept that, despite all that has been said, the main threat to democracy in Portugal comes from the extreme Left? If we can equate the armed forces movement in Portugal with democracy, it is a surprising state of affairs indeed.

I do not think that we can equate the armed forces movement with democracy, but I do not believe that anybody has ever tried to do so. Portugal has emerged from 48 years of dictatorship. In a country where I have seen and had personal knowledge of and contact with the leaders of those who do not have that democratic tradition and background, the struggle towards democracy is difficult. That is why we should be slow to condemn. It is for the Portuguese people to choose their own régime. All I ask is that they choose it in free and orderly elections.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement about the safety of British subjects, interests and property in Portugal and its overseas territories.

We have no reports of any threat to the safety of British subjects in Portugal, Mozambique or Angola. We shall watch the situation with care.

When a British journalist was seriously molested in Lisbon, was appropriate action taken by Her Majesty's embassy? Have the Government obtained assurances from the new rulers of the Cape Verde Islands that specific British facilities there will be safeguarded?

The second question is clearly unrelated to the Question put down by the hon. Gentleman. If he wants information about facilities, he must table a Question.

Concerning the journalist molestation, as the hon. Gentleman described it, certainly inquiries were made and a point was made. But I suspect that both the hon. Gentleman and I have different interpretations of what then took place.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May we be told the name of the journalist concerned in this matter?

Reverting to the right hon. Gentleman's answer, I should point out that my hon. Friend's question referred to

"the safety of British subjects, interests and property".
Surely that covers the Cape Verde Islands. Will he now answer my hon. Friend's Question?

I think that the right hon. Gentleman is being a little unnecessarily casual in his reply. My hon. Friend's original Question quite plainly asked for a statement about the safety of British subjects and "interests" in Portugal and its "overseas territories". We have interests in the Cape Verde Islands, and although it may have escaped the right hon. Gentleman's attention, the Cape Verde Islands happen to be among the possessions of Portugal. So will he kindly answer the question or tell the House that either he or his civil servants have come here unprepared?

I shall answer the Question if I am given notice of it, and only then.