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South America

Volume 32: debated on Wednesday 24 November 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has any plans to meet his United States counterpart to discuss Anglo-United States of America interests in South America; and if he will make a statement.

I look forward to meeting Mr. Shultz during his proposed visit to London from 16 to 19 December. Our discussions will be wide-ranging and will, no doubt, include Latin America. It is our view that Western interests in the region have not been significantly affected by the Falkland crisis. Apart from Argentina, our relations with Latin American countries remain good.

Will the Foreign Secretary inform America of the Prime Minister's view that the Falkland Islands are vital to the strategy of the West—a view stated in the House yesterday? What is that strategy, and what input has there been into its development from America and other countries, especially our Western allies?

The whole of that region is now of considerably greater strategic importance, and every country recognises that. As that region includes the Falkland Islands, obviously the islands are important.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that since 1945 there has been a consistent underestimation of the importance of Britain's interest in Latin America? When he meets Secretary Shultz, will he emphasise that, because of recent events, our interest is now revived and must be maintained?

I agree with my hon. Friend. My predecessor took a great deal of trouble to make a special effort to improve relations with Latin American countries. He paid them an extended visit. Since the conflict in the Falkland Islands has ended, a number of my right hon. and hon. Friends have visited that region. We shall continue that policy.

What interest has the United States Government shown in the Shackleton report on the economic development of the Falkland Islands? When can we expect the Government's response to the report? When will there be an opportunity to debate it?

The United States is aware of the Shackleton report. We have not had any detailed discussions with America about it. I hope that the Government will be able to tell the House in the near future their conclusions about the report.

Is not one of the central issues affecting Latin and Central America the excesses in respect of human rights by various Governments? Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the United States and the Soviet Union have besmirched any reputation for credibility by their selectivity of condemnation? Is it not a pity that the right hon. Gentleman has shared that selectivity today by, rightly, condemning the Argentine, but saying not a word about Chile, and by, rightly, condemning the Soviet Union, but saying not a word about Syria?

The views of the Government and the House on human rights are well known. We wish that all countries would pursue a standard similar to ours in their relations and dealings with human beings.

Will my right hon. Friend tell the Americans, when they come to London, that their vote on the Falklands issue at the United Nations was inexplicable to many of their friends in Westminster? Will he remind them that they are supposed to stand for the rule of freedom and democracy, as we do, unlike many of the Governments of the mainland South American countries?

The United States Government and every Government must decide how to vote on any issue. The United States has made clear its reasons for its vote. We remain grateful for its strong support during the conflict.