HC Deb 13 February 1978 vol 944 cc24-6
43. Mr. Litterick

asked the Minister of Overseas Development how much of the United Kingdom current overseas aid programme for Guatemala and Nicaragua is paid direct to Her Majesty's Government and how much is channelled through international institutions.

Mr. Tomlinson

Our bilateral assistance to Guatemala this year will cost about £8,000 and is for training Guatemalans here. We expect to spend £195,000 on our bilateral aid programme in Nicaragua, almost all of this being for technical co-operation in the fields of technician training and forestry redevelopment, and training of Nicaraguans in the United Kingdom. My hon. Friend will understand that I cannot identify separately the comparatively small British contribution to the assistance which these countries receive from multilateral institutions.

Mr. Litterick

Will my hon. Friend assure the House that his Department is prepared to use the leverage indicated by the figures he has just given to bring to bear pressure on the Governments of both those countries at least to desist from the most ferociously anti-democratic character of many of their practices, particularly in the case of Guatemala, which appears to be singularly determined to act against British interests?

Mr. Tomlinson

The question of leverage can be considered only if one has a substantial aid programme. In these circumstances, although I am fully aware of the human rights problems in both countries, I think that our modest technical co-operation programme is fully justified on developmental grounds. But human rights matters are always taken into account and are very seriously considered.

Mr. Rhodes James

Is the Minister aware that the concern on this matter is fully shared on the Opposition Benches, with particular reference to the loathsome and corrupt regime in Nicaragua?

Mr. Tomlinson

I am aware of the concern felt by hon. Members on both sides of the House. It is certainly taken into account. But in the circumstances that we are now discussing our aid programme is very small. It is a modest technical co-operation programme which, as I have said, is fully justified on developmental grounds.

Mr. Dalyell

Does my hon. Friend accept that, although £8,000 is a small enough sum of money, and although we are all in favour of co-operation, given that the Guatemalans are requiring us to keep a military force in Belize, many people believe that giving any aid is open to question?

Mr. Tomlinson

Bilateral assistance is only £8,000 this year and that sum is used for training Guatemalans here. I cannot anticipate what might result from the dispute between Guatemala and Belize. We take these matters seriously. The question of human rights is never far from our minds.

Mr. Luce

Can the Minister give a clearer answer? Since Guatemala has a claim on Belize, and since we have an overwhelmingly important duty to maintain the territorial integrity of Belize, is it not wrong to give any assistance to Guatemala until a proper settlement has been reached?

Mr. Tomlinson

I am afraid that I cannot agree with the hon. Member. This is part of a long-standing agreement and involves a modest sum. I accept hon. Members' concern about the position of Belize, but I cannot anticipate what needs to be done in the circumstances of a settlement of the dispute. This is a long-standing arrangement for a small technical programme and the money is used exclusively for the training of Guatemalans in this country.

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