HC Deb 07 May 1986 vol 97 cc134-6
3. Mr. Torney

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will ask the European Economic Community Council to condemn any United States military aid to the Contras in Nicaragua.

14. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received regarding doctors in the Contra forces in Nicaragua being involved in the torture of political prisoners; and what action he has taken.

15. Mr. Park

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations have been made by the European Economic Community Council to the United States of America about its policy towards Nicaragua.

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

We and our European partners have repeatedly made clear our conviction that the problems of Central America can be resolved only through a negotiated settlement based on the Contadora objectives rather than by armed forces. We have ensured that our views are well known.

As regards doctors, we have received no reports that doctors in the Contra forces have been involved in torture.

Mr. Torney

Is the Under-Secretary of State aware that Congress is likely to approve military aid to the Contra forces? Does he agree that that is contrary to international law? What does his colleague the Foreign Secretary propose to do about it?

Mr. Eggar

We advocate a political solution, through the Contadora process, rather than a military solution. We believe that Nicaragua should negotiate seriously on the basis of the Contadora objectives and avoid actions such as the recent incursion into Honduras.

Mrs. Short

Will the hon. Gentleman renew his efforts to obtain more information, because of reports from Nicaragua to the effect that doctors are being used for the purpose mentioned in my question? Will he mobilise the forces of Amnesty International, and perhaps the BMA, which have been instrumental in collecting a large amount of material, not necessarily from Nicaragua, but from different parts of the world where doctors have been used in the implementation of torture?

Mr. Eggar

We have made extensive inquiries. We have no such reports in our possession. If the hon. Lady has such information. I should be grateful is she would make it available.

Mr. Park

Does the EEC intend to sit back and allow the Contadora process to be sabotaged by increasing United States involvement in the guerrilla war in Nicaragua?

Mr. Eggar

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, the Community supports the Contadora process and believes that progress can be made through political dialogue and economic co-operation. The Twelve in the Community are in close touch with the Contadora group. The Community's role is to provide support for the Contadora group's efforts. The economic co-operation agreement, which was signed in Luxembourg in November, offered practical support.

Sir Peter Blaker

What is the attitude of the Government of Nicaragua to the peace treaty which was proposed recently by the Contadora group?

Mr. Eggar

Obviously we want Nicaragua to end its support for guerrillas in neighbouring countries and to make progress towards a genuine pluralist democracy. We believe that the suspenson of certain civil rights in Nicaragua last October was a step in the wrong direction.

Mr. Peter Bruinvels

What advice does my hon. Friend think the European Community Foreign Affairs Council should give to local authorities, such as Leicester, which intend to twin with Nicaragua? Will that help, or hinder, the Contras?

Mr. Eggar

I do not think that the conduct of Leicester city council is a matter of great concern.

Mr. Heffer

Will the Government inform their colleagues in America that they should consider United States history? The United States gained power after a struggle against the British, and only later did it have democratic elections. Nicaragua is in precisely the same position. Nicaragua has a democratically elected Government. The United States of America should not support those who are trying to overthrow a democratically elected Government who are carrying out policies on behalf of the Nicaraguan people.

Mr. Eggar

The armed forces and nearly all the national institutions in Nicaragua are under the control of the Sandinista political party. The draft constitution under discussion in Nicaragua provides for the formalisation of these powers. Does the hon. Gentleman really believe that that is a democratic system?

Mr. Winnick

If international terrorism is to be condemned, as it should be, why did the international summit in Tokyo not condemn the way in which President Reagan and the United States Administration are arming and supporting the bandits who are carrying out terrorist acts against the elected Government in Nicaragua? Why are there double standards?

Mr. Eggar

There was a brief discussion among the Foreign Ministers at the Tokyo summit about the position in Central America. All the Foreign Ministers supported the efforts of the small democratic nations of Central America to make democracy work in their region. Mr. Shultz reiterated the United States' continuing support for the Contadora proposals for peaceful resolution of disputes in the area.

Mr. Key

I understand the American sphere of influence argument and recognise that our influence in the area is now limited to Belize, but is my hon. Friend sure that the Americans understand that there is growing concern in the United Kingdom about the Nicaraguan situation, which appears to be deteriorating?

Mr. Eggar

I do not entirely accept the premise on which my hon. Friend's question is based. However, we have made clear to the United States Government our views on the position in Central America.

Mr. Healey

Did the Government remind President Reagan at the Tokyo summit that his proposals for military' aid to the Contras involved the United States in a most blatant form of state terrorism, because the Contras have engaged in horrifying atrocities, including torture and mutilation, against innocent women and children, and they are now accused in the United States of drug running and of plotting the murder of an American ambassador in Central America? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, so long as President Reagan supports such activities, he has no right whatever to claim to be an opponent of state terrorism?

Mr. Eggar

I think that the right hon. Gentleman is trying to draw a parallel between the United States' action in Libya and its action in Nicaragua, which simply does not stand up to any examination. Gaddafi has committed the Libyan Government to organising and directing a worldwide campaign of terrorist violence against innocent people outside Libya. In Nicaragua, the Contras and the Nicaraguans have resorted to armed struggle against their own Government. The Contras do not seek to advance their cause by terrorist acts in third countries.