HC Deb 01 February 1982 vol 17 cc17-8
43. Mr. Hooley

asked the Lord Privy Seal what aid projects his Department is currently financing in Nicaragua.

Mr. Neil Marten

No aid projects are currently being financed in Nicaragua. Total aid expenditure for 1981–82 is expected to be about £30,000 for the supply of two ambulances, training of four students in Costa Rica and a short consultancy visit on grain storage.

Mr. Hooley

Is the Minister aware that Nicaragua has just emerged from a bloody civil war and badly needs external assistance? Will he assure the House that any specific requests for civil projects will be given a sympathetic hearing?

Mr. Marten

I realise that Nicaragua is emerging from a very troubled situation. I recognise, too, that it is receiving a lot of help from Cuba. Several thousand Cubans are in the country dealing with agriculture, industry, education, health, internal security, and so on. They follow a doctrinaire Marxist-Leninist line. As we are giving aid to 130 countries, we cannot spread our aid all over the world. There are limits.

Mr. McNamara

Does the Minister accept that the Nicaraguan Government's request to Her Majesty's Government would fit in with supplying jobs for people in this country, and yet it has been turned down by Her Majesty's Government? If we accept what the Foreign Secretary said about the new direction of British aid policy, how will we make friends and influence people if, when a country emerges from a bloody civil war, we say "You are taking help from Cuba, so you cannot have it from us"? Does the Minister believe that that is the best way to influence a Government?

Mr. Marten

We made it clear to Nicaragua that Her Majesty's Government cannot provide, for example, credit cover for United Kingdom exports to Nicaragua at previous levels. That decision was taken in accordance with the criteria that the ECGD normally applies to export credits. We have had no specific requests, such as for mining machinery, from Nicaragua. We have checked with the Nicaraguan embassy here. It has not surfaced on that one, either.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I want to be fair to those right hon. and hon. Members who have questions on the Order Paper.