HC Deb 20 May 1981 vol 5 cc276-8
10. Mr. Newens

asked the Lord Privy Seal what discussions he has had over recent weeks with representatives of the United States Administration on joint policy towards El Salvador; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Ridley

I had a general discussion on Central America with officials of the State Department during my recent visit to Washington, and these discussions included El Salvador. We value such exchanges, but we do not have a joint policy towards El Salvador.

Mr. Newens

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, following the massacre on 19 April of 24 people by El Salvadorean security forces, the American Senate Foreign Relations Committee recommended that no further American aid should be provided to El Salvador until improvements had been made in human rights? Unless America impresses on the Government of El Salvador the point that it must not practise terrorism, will not all of its declarations against terrorism throughout the world fail to ring true?

Mr. Ridley

What the hon. Gentleman says about the American Congress is true. This House and the whole world would like to do everything possible to end the appalling tragedy of human rights abuse in that unhappy country.

Mr. Alan Clark

All the same, would it not be quite a good thing if my hon. Friend and his right hon. Friend were to use those diplomatic skills for which they are properly acclaimed to distance themselves just a little from American policy in El Salvador? After all, it is not as if the Americans are all that keen on supporting us in some of our little local difficulties.

Mr. Ridley

As I said in my initial reply, we do not have a joint policy towards El Salvador. The Americans are assisting the Government of El Salvador in terms of economic and military aid. We are not supplying weapons or economic aid to either side.

Mr. Healey

Now that the Minister has wisely dissociated the Government from American policy in El Salvador, will he welcome the restriction that the American Congress has placed on the granting of military aid to the Government of El Salvador? In addition, will he support the efforts of the Governments of Mexico and of Venezuela to solve that appalling civil war by means of negotiations between representatives of both sides?

Mr. Ridley

The right hon. Gentleman would be more convincing if he also called on the Communist bloc to cease supplying arms to the insurgents.

Mr. Donald Stewart

Since I gather that the United Kingdom has neither an embassy nor consular representation in El Salvador, on what sources do the Government depend for an up-to-date appraisal of the situation?

Mr. Ridley

We have diplomatic relations with El Salvador, although our ambassador is not resident and is based in San Jośe, in Costa Rica. We receive regular information from him as well as from other countries that are represented in El Salvador.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

Does my hon, Friend agree that the only sensible policy is to encourage the forces within El Savador to hold elections so that the people can choose their Government? Will my hon. Friend work with the United States of America to get the Government, the Right wing and the Left wing, in El Salvador to choose that course instead of continual warfare and bloodshed?

Mr. Ridley

As usual, my hon. Friend has got it right. The only person calling for, and trying to arrange elections in El Salvador, is President Napoleon Duarte, who has set up an electoral commission and who hopes to arrange elections during 1982. That must be the right solution. Therefore, we must encourage him and help him in every way to ensure that those elections take place.

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