HC Deb 11 January 1989 vol 144 cc838-9
13. Mr. Tony Banks

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has any plans to visit Nicaragua.

Mr. Eggar

My right hon. and learned Friend has no plans at present to visit Nicaragua.

Mr. Banks

Is it not a fact that the Minister has a great predeliction for gallivanting around the world, saying nasty and offensive things about Nicaragua? I understand that he will be in that area during 1989, but why does he steadfastly refuse to visit Nicaragua? Is it because he is worried about upsetting his masters in the United States or because he does not want to find that the facts conflict with his prejudices?

Mr. Eggar

Unlike the hon. Gentleman, I do not use General Noriega's aeroplane to get around central America. The hon. Gentleman is, however, quite right—I shall represent the Government at the conference in San Pedro Sula in February. I do not by any means rule out the possibility of a visit to Nicaragua at some stage in the future but unfortunately, other commitments will not make a visit possible in February.

Mr. Marlow

In view of my hon. Friend's responsibility towards this House, will he consult—I am not sure whether it is a psychologist or a psychiatrist—to ask why the Opposition have such an obsession with Nicaragua, a country for which we have no responsibility and in which we have even less interest?

Mr. Eggar

I would very much like to hear the result of a similar inquiry addressed by my hon. Friend to a psychiatrist. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I also will read Hansard carefully!

Miss Lestor

If the Minister is seriously thinking of going to Nicaragua, may I urge him to go as soon as possible, bearing in mind the fact that hon. Members and Ministers visit a large number of countries in which we have no direct responsibility? If the Minister went and saw the results of the hurricane, the economic embargo, horrific inflation and the Contra fighting, and saw the Government's efforts to make a success of the economy, he might come back and persuade the Minister for Overseas Development to give more humanitarian aid, in particular, to the people of Nicaragua.

Mr. Eggar

I am sure that the hon. Lady will welcome the fact that the Government made more than £400,000 available for relief assistance following the recent hurricane. I know that she is also aware that Nicaragua is the largest recipient of European Community aid to central America, so the Government's contribution to assistance for Nicaragua is already considerable.

Mr. Greg Knight

Is it not important to ensure that massive Soviet and Cuban military aid to Nicaragua is reduced? Does my hon. Friend accept that that aid is quite disproportionate to the country's needs?

Mr. Eggar

I agree that a considerable amount of Soviet Union and Cuban assistance goes to Nicaragua. I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware that recent actions by the Sandanista Government continue to be contrary both to the letter and to the spirit of their Esquipulas obligations.

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