HC Deb 29 October 1986 vol 103 cc313-5
10. Mr. Patchett

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received from the Committee for a Free Nicaragua; and if he will make a statement.

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

None, Sir.

Mr. Patchett

In view of the Government's strong antiterrorist position, will the Minister display consistency by making a statement dissociating himself from any person, party or country supporting the Contra terrorists active in Nicaragua?

Mr. Eggar

With regard to the organisation to which the substantive question referred, it is fundamental to any democratic society that individuals and groups should be allowed to lobby freely on behalf of their political and other aims, provided that their activities remain within the law.

Mr. Ashby

Will my hon. Friend condemn the censorship which exists in that country? The fact is that civil rights are badly affected in that country, martial law has been imposed and there is a singular lack of freedom. Does my hon. Friend agree that that aspect must be considered?

Mr. Eggar

I agree with my hon. Friend. After all, certain civil rights were suspended in Nicaragua last October. It is of considerable concern that recently the Opposition Newspaper La Prensa was closed and two bishops were expelled.

Mr. Corbyn

Has not Nicaragua been in a state of war since the revolution of 1979 due to United States' aggression, and have not thousands of innocent people been murdered by Contra forces financed by the United States? Is not the least that the Minister could do the taking of action to prevent organisations working for the Contra recruiting people from this country to go to Central America to destroy a democratic Government and murder innocent people?

Mr. Eggar

It is a pity that, after the long recess, the hon. Gentleman remains as clouded by prejudice as usual.

Mr. Churchill

Is it not a matter of concern that the Nicaraguan regime should have been persecuting the Mesquito Indian minority? Will my hon. Friend on behalf of Her Majesty's Government condemn that persecution?

Mr. Eggar

Of course Her Majesty's Government condemn all human rights abuses.

Mr. Wareing

Is the Minister not taking prevarication to a fine art with the answers that he has given to Labour Members? If the Government are opposed to terrorism, torture, rape and mass murder of innocent peasants, no matter where they are, can he not give a positive answer to the questions that he has been asked? Should not the Government be registering the protest of what is probably the majority of the British people against the mass murders being perpetrated by those being trained by our allies, the United States?

Mr. Eggar

Her Majesty's Government condemn human rights abuses, wherever they may occur. However, the hon. Gentleman should be prepared to condemn publicly the abuses of civil rights that have happened inside Nicaragua.

Mr. Foulkes

Let us return to the question. Is the Minister aware that the inaptly named Committee for a Free Nicaragua, which is organising mercenaries to fight alongside the Contra terrorists, is run by an officer of the Federation of Conservative Students, who has privileged access to the House as the research assistant of the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle)? Why is it that the chairman of the Tory party is able to discipline a Tory student officer who merely upsets Lord Stockton, but refuses to take any action to stop this Tory support for state-sponsored terrorism? Will the Minister now restore some little respect to the Conservative party by dissociating himself and the Government from the actions of the Committee for a Free Nicaragua?

Mr. Eggar

It is a pity that the hon. Member did not listen to the answer that I gave to the first supplementary question. As he did not, perhaps I should repeat it. It is fundamental to any democratic society that individuals and groups should be allowed to lobby freely on behalf of their political and other aims, provided that the activities remain within the law. I should have thought that Labour Members, above all, would be aware of that. After all, that is what the Knowsley, North Labour party has been doing over the past few days.

Mr. Beith

Is it not a travesty to suggest that the people of Nicaragua could be freed by gangsterism and banditry supported by the Government of the United States? Should not those with influence in the United States persuade that country to end its support for this activity, and should not those who have influence in Nicaragua be speaking up for human rights in that country?

Mr. Eggar

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. Of course there is a role for the United Kingdom, and we are playing it very actively—together with our European partners—in promoting a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Central America. We are working through the Contadora process.

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