HC Deb 18 December 1985 vol 89 cc283-4
1. Mr. John Fraser

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will seek to pay an official visit to Nicaragua.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Tim Eggar):

My right hon. and learned Friend has at present no plans to do so.

Mr. Fraser

In the absence of a visit, what steps are being taken by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to support stability in Nicaragua so that democracy can flourish? In what strong terms has the Foreign and Commonwealth Office protested to President Reagan about the trade, terrorist and psychological vendetta which is being waged by the United States against that country and which can only bring about the reverse of what the President hopes for?

Mr. Eggar

We want Nicaragua to make progress towards genuine democracy and to end its arms build-up and support for the subversion of its neighbours. We very much regret the recent suspension of civil liberties, which we regard as a step in the wrong direction. United States' policy is a matter for the United States.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Has my hon. Friend made any representations to the Government of Nicaragua about their outrageous anti-humanitarian action in blocking British helicopters from Nicaraguan air space when they were on their way to give urgently needed relief to the victims of the Colombian earthquake?

Mr. Eggar

My hon. Friend shares widespread concern about this matter. I think that the press reports were based on misunderstanding. There was some difficulty in telephone communications between London and Managua regarding the transit of the helicopters.

Mr. Beith

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that, in answers to me and to others, he said that the forces were well satisfied with the co-operation that they had received from Nicaraguan authorities with respect to helicopter overflights? How does he envisage the continued American action against Nicaragua helping the essential process of restoring the plural democracy and stability which many people in Nicaragua still believe can be achieved and which were originally part of the objectives of the Nicaraguan revolution?

Mr. Eggar

I confirm the replies that I gave about the helicopters. The Americans continue to support the Contadora process.

Mr. Peter Bruinvels

Is my hon. Friend aware of the daft suggestion of the so-called moderate leader of Haringey council, Councillor Bernie Grant, who said that only Nicaraguan coffee beans could be sold and distributed in the council chamber and around Haringey? Is that not just as daft and offensive as poor old Leicester city council trying to twin with Nicaragua?

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is a bit wide of a visit.

Mr. Eggar

I understand that Haringey council's leader has directed that only Nicaraguan coffee should be drunk in the Haringey civic centre. I understand also that the coffee has a distinctive taste, which may not please the majority of people unless they are used to it. The same could be said about Mr. Bernie Grant.

Mr. Heffer

Does the Minister agree that it is time that the Government, as a friend of the Government of the United States, informed them that Britain believes genuinely in democracy and that they should stop their nonsense in relation to Nicaragua because it is driving that country into the Soviet sphere of influence, which is what happened to Cuba in the past? Will the Americans never learn from their mistakes?

Mr. Eggar

We have our policy with regard to Nicaragua. As I have said, we support the comprehensive and verifiable Contadora agreement, which is based on the 21 Contadora principles. The American Government also support the agreement.

Mr. Foulkes

Does the Minister not see the contradiction in making comments about Nicaragua but refusing to say anything about American policy towards it? Has he noted that President Betancur, who is the architect of Contadora, has said that the greatest single obstacle to achieving peace in central America is continued American support of the Contras? That goes for military as well as financial support. Will the British Government break away from the coat-tails of America for once and condemn financial and military aid to the Contras?

Mr. Eggar

I would listen with a great deal more respect to the hon. Gentleman if he, for once, condemned the recent suspension of civil liberties by the Nicaraguan Government.

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