HC Deb 04 May 1988 vol 132 cc876-7
10. Mr. Galbraith

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the Government of the United States of America concerning the Nicaraguan Government's negotiations with the Contras.

Mr. Eggar

We have regular discussions with the United States Government on a whole range of issues, including the situation in Central America. They are well aware of our support for a negotiated solution to the problems of the region.

Mr. Galbraith

In his discussions with the American Administration, does the Minister impress on them always that the Contras are terrorists? Has he asked the American Administration to use their influence with the Contras to settle with the Nicaraguan Government and not hang on in the hope that there will be a change in the Administration, so that the Contras may continue their murderous activities?

Mr. Eggar

The hon. Gentleman is not a regular attender at Foreign Affairs Question Time— [Interruption.] I am sorry if I have offended the hon. Gentleman. If what I have said is not right, obviously he cannot have listened very carefully to the explanations that we have given of our policy towards Central America. We have consistently advocated a peaceful, negotiated solution to the region's problems, and we have made our views very clear to the United States Government.

Sir Peter Blaker

Has my hon. Friend seen recent reports that a large number of political prisoners—up to 1,000—have been released by the Nicaraguan Government? If they are such a paragon of democracy, why were there so many political prisoners to release, and how many are still in prison?

Mr. Eggar

As usual, my right hon. Friend makes a very good point. The Nicaraguan Government have not always lived up to the Guatemalan accord, which they signed. We are heartened by the progress that has been made and look to the Nicaraguan Government to make even more rapid progress.

Mr. Foulkes

I am astonished that the Minister is unaware that my hon. Friend the Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Galbraith) is not only a regular attender at Foreign Affairs Question Time but is an expert on Nicaraguan affairs. He has personally given medical aid in Nicaragua, which is more than any Conservative Member can say.

Will the Minister acknowledge that the progress of the dialogue with the Nicaraguan Government is being blocked by extremists among the Contras, egged on by extremists in the United States—including the President? As the Minister has repeatedly said at the Dispatch Box that the problems of Central America cannot be solved by force but only by peaceful means, will he say what the British Government are doing to help the peace process?

Mr. Eggar

I fully recognise the hon. Gentleman's need to maintain good diplomatic relations with his Scottish colleagues, and I congratulate him on the elegant way in which he has done that.

I say to the hon. Gentleman that it does not do him, the Labour party or the House any good to describe the United States President in the way that he did. I hope that on reflection he will withdraw the words that he used.

The hon. Gentleman should take a more balanced view of the problems of Nicaragua. He might, for example, have criticised instead President Ortega's statement on 13 December that the Sandanistas would not hand over power if they were defeated in an election.

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