HC Deb 15 June 1994 vol 244 cc622-3
13. Mr. McAllion

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last held discussions with representatives of the Cuban Government relating to common security issues in central and Latin America.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

I have had no such discussions.

Mr. McAllion

Does the Minister accept that the basis of common security between nations is mutual respect for, and recognition of, each other's national sovereignty? If so, why did the Government disgracefully abstain on the resolution passed by the United Nations General Assembly, which would have ended America's illegal contravention of Cuba's national sovereignty—its economic blockade of Cuba? Why do the United Kingdom Government preach respect for international law, but, on the international stage, remain silent when international law is brazenly broken by their patrons in Washington?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

The blockade is a bilateral matter between the Governments of Cuba and the United States. For our part, we operate no such embargo and have full diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my hon. Friend find it difficult to answer questions from the Opposition about Cuba when they follow questions which revealed the Opposition's attitude towards the democratically elected Government of Italy, a member of the European Union? Although I have views on that matter, I accept that that Government were democratically elected. Is not it difficult to answer people who ask questions in such conflicting ways?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

It is obvious that the Opposition are operating a double standard. They are happy to recognise and have relations with non-elected Ministers in Cuba, which is the point of my hon. Friend's question, yet we have just heard from Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen that they would refuse to meet or recognise five elected and duly appointed Ministers of the new Italian Government. They would therefore be willing to overlook, ignore and show contempt for the democratically elected Government of modern Italy.

Mr. Ernie Ross

Has the Minister had a chance to read the report, published in May this year, of the Caribbean Trade Advisory Group, which advises the Foreign Office? It calls for a joint effort by Britain and Germany to reach an agreement on co-operation between the European Union and Cuba, so that the transition taking place in Cuba can proceed in a way that will bring stability to that area and trade to this country.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

The hon. Gentleman may know that the Caribbean Trade Advisory Group visited Cuba last year and again last month. The object of those visits was to improve bilateral trade between our two countries. That is of more immediate importance than the longer-term, structural relationship between the EU and Cuba, although that may be developing on a parallel track.

Mr. Jacques Arnold

Is not it the case that in central America and the Caribbean area security tensions have been considerably reduced since the central American republics, in contrast to Cuba, returned to democracy and since, following the defeat of the Sandinista regime, Nicaragua reduced its armed forces? Should not we be more concerned with introducing democracy and human rights into Cuba?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

I agree. All Latin American countries now have civilian Governments, with the exception of Cuba. We look forward to an improvement in the human rights record of Cuba and we constantly urge her to allow free and fair elections.

Mr. Corbyn

Does the Minister accept that the blockade of Cuba that has been carried on by the USA since 1959 is an appalling interference in one nation's affairs by another? Does he recognise that the lives of the people of Cuba have been severely damaged by it? Other Governments have managed to trade successfully and normally with Cuba. Why will not he put pressure on the United States to lift the blockade and recognise Cuban Governments once and for all?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

I have already said in answer to another question that that is a matter between the Cuban and the American Government, but, to repeat the point, we have developing trade relations with Cuba as well as normal diplomatic relations.

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