HC Deb 29 November 1989 vol 162 cc698-700
3. Mr. Wray

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has any plans to discuss the situation in Nicaragua with his European counterparts; and if he will make a statement.

10. Mr. Tony Banks

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assistance has been offered to the Government of Nicaragua in preparation for February's election.

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

We have regular discussions on Nicaragua with our European Community partners. At the invitation of the Nicaraguan Supreme Electoral Council, we have appointed an official British election observer for the elections. The European Community is currently considering providing assistance.

Mr. Wray

Does the Minister agree that the Nicaraguan people are not the Communist menace as stated by the Honduran Government and the United States? Why does Britain act as a Trojan horse to the Nicaraguan people? Does the Minister agree that President Ortega was treated in an appalling manner when he visited this country? He was shown the floorboards, but when President Cristiani of E1 Salvador visited he got the red-carpet treatment.

Mr. Sainsbury

The hon. Gentleman will agree that we should judge the performance of the Nicaraguan Government carefully and on the facts. We wish to see free and fair elections. When they take place, and are not interfered with by the Government, and when the constitution has been restored to normal and lost its present features—whereby the Sandinistas keep control of the army, police and judiciary, come what may—we shall know that there is democracy in Nicaragua.

Mr. Tony Banks

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am assured that it is normal custom to be notified when questions are linked. These questions should not have been linked in the way that the Minister has done, and he should have had the courtesy to—

Mr. Speaker

Order. They are linked by Government. It is normal courtesy to inform Members. I call on the hon. Gentleman to ask question No. 10.

Mr. Banks

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Nicaraguan authorities require about $25 million to ensure that elections are conducted efficiently and fairly.

So far they have received about $10 million from western European Governments, but not one cent from this country, despite their request. The electoral board wants that money for registration and identity cards and for training electoral returning officers. Will the Government provide resources for the Nicaraguan Government to ensure that the elections are conducted fairly and openly, or does the Minister want the elections to fail, just like his masters in Washington?

Mr. Sainsbury

The best help to ensure free and fair elections in Nicaragua would be for the opposition to have equal access to the media. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will support that. About his question being linked with question No. 3, I apologise to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Bowis

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the European counterparts to whom he should talk about Nicaragua is the Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union? Will he take time to talk to him about the arms and missiles going into Nicaragua and being used from there to destabilise other countries in Central America? If the Soviet Union is serious about wanting world peace, it should desist from that practice.

Mr. Sainsbury

I assure my hon. Friend that we share the view of the leaders of Central America and our European Community partners that the supply of arms to the region is one of the most destabilising factors and one which most endangers progress to democracy.

Mr. Wilkinson

Further to that point, will Her Majesty's Government, in concert with their European counterparts, produce a joint policy to ensure that every possible pressure is brought to bear upon the Nicaraguan authorities to stop the vile practice of supplying arms and guerrillas equipment to the guerillas in E1 Salvador who are destroying democracy and seeking to subvert a democratically elected Government?

Mr. Sainsbury

The supply of arms to the FMLN is a flagrant breach of the Esquipulas commitment and even goes against the recent promises made by President Ortega at the Tela summit in August. It must make it more difficult—

Mr. Banks

Yankee lickspittle!

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) must not utter such words in the Chamber. Will he withdraw his remarks?

Mr. Banks

Would you, Mr. Speaker, accept "lackey"? Frankly, the Government are a bunch of United States lackeys in relation to—

Mr. Speaker

Order. These are foreign affairs questions and we should behave with decorum.

Mr. Sainsbury

I hope that even the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) would agree that we should seek peaceful solutions to disputes in the area and progress to real democracy. The supply of arms does not assist that process.

Mr. Foulkes

As all sides have agreed that the elections in Nicaragua should not only be fair, but be seen to be fair, will the Government agree to give technical assistance in the registration and voting procedure, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) reasonably and moderately asked—[Interruption.] That was in the early part of his remarks. Will the Government also press the Americans to ensure that the Contra forces are demobilised and allowed to participate in the elections. and the United Nations supervisory force is in place and operating as soon as possible? Before the superpowers summit will the Government remind President Bush of the Americans' part in stoking up this conflict in Central America?

Mr. Sainsbury

The European Community is currently considering giving aid and we would make our usual contribution of 20 per cent. to any aid that is given. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have also provided an election observer. I reiterate that the important issue in ensuring free and fair elections in Nicaragua is that the Government there should provide equal opportunity, as we would expect in this country, for the Opposition to have access to the media.

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