HC Deb 08 May 1989 vol 152 cc554-5
33. Mr. Tom Clarke

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what was the level of aid given to Nicaragua by Her Majesty's Government in 1988, expressed as a per capita sum of the population of Nicaragua.

Mr. Chris Patten

The level of aid given to Nicaragua by Her Majesty's Government in 1988 through the European Community, disaster relief and other channels was around £1.05 per capita.

Mr. Clarke

The Minister did not mention bilateral aid. Will he bear in mind that the warmth of the welcome given by the people of Great Britain to President Daniel Ortega at the weekend suggests that we should support positive policies that will assist a country which has been savaged by a war not of its own making, which has lost 60,000 people, and where there is clearly a need for investment in education, health care, and the rest? Will the Minister take this great opportunity to open a new chapter in the relations between this country and Nicaragua?

Mr. Patten

The hon. Gentleman's account of public joy is somewhat selective. It remains our policy to concentrate bilateral aid programmes on the poorest countries and on Commonwealth countries as much as possible. There are 60 countries in the world poorer than Nicaragua.

Mr. Soames

Does my hon. Friend agree that Nicaragua's thoroughly reprehensible regime is far less deserving of aid than the excellent programme that he is running in Gujarat? Does he agree also that it would be better to concentrate aid in that particular area?

Mr. Patten

I am conscious that countries such as Malawi, Bangladesh and Nepal have per capita GNPs about one fifth of Nicaragua's. As for what my hon. Friend said about the political situation in Nicaragua, I think that the whole House should be looking for action, not just words.

Miss Lestor

No doubt the president has informed the Prime Minister of some of Nicaragua's problems, particularly those arising from the war and other difficulties. Can the Minister give an assurance that when he considers the needs of Nicaragua and its progress—especially on human rights, and education—he will ensure that no aid to Nicaragua or any other country, however poor it may be, will have any connection with the supply of arms by us?

Mr. Patten

There is certainly no connection between defence sales and civil aid. That is made clear in the statute setting up my Department and in my programme, and it remains true, whatever recycled Guardian stories may say to the contrary.

No doubt the president of Nicaragua made a number of interesting observations to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister this morning, and I should be surprised if my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister did not make a number of interesting observations to the president of Nicaragua.

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