HC Deb 02 March 1994 vol 238 cc925-6
1. Mr. Morgan

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what consultations he has had with his opposite numbers in the European Union concerning relations with Belize.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory)

We keep other member states informed of developments affecting Belize. The European Community welcomed Guatemalan recog-nition of Belize in 1991 and its reaffirmation by the new Guatemalan Government in 1993. The European Community also urged Belize and Guatemala to continue to work for a full settlement of their territorial dispute.

Mr. Morgan

Does the Minister agree, however, that there is a serious potential threat to Europe from the creation of a vacuum in Belize when the British garrison is withdrawn in October? These days, that vacuum is likely to be filled not so much by Guatemala as by the Colombian cocaine and crack cartels. That has happened already, since the pretty disastrous Drug Enforcement Agency spraying campaigns aimed at locally grown marijuana in the mid-1980s. The vacuum has already been partly filled by Colombia. Will the Minister therefore give some thought to how we can ensure that when the border ceases to be patrolled by a British garrison, there is no threat to Europe—

Madam Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has obviously not heeded at all the statement that I made to the House on Thursday. I am sure that I have the support of the House in asking that hon. Members ask brisk questions.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

We are not withdrawing entirely from Belize. There will continue to be a British training presence and an aid programme there. We have also made it clear that we stand ready to be consulted in the event of a real threat to Belize materialising, contrary to our present assessment.

Mr. Wilkinson

Notwithstanding the good relations between the United Kingdom and Guatemala and between Guatemala and Belize that happily exist at present, will my hon. Friend consider discussing not with the European Union but with the Government of Nepal the possibility of basing a Gurkha battalion in Belize? That would be beneficial to the Gurkhas, who have been drawn down from Hong Kong, and potentially to the defence of Belize as well.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

Our position has been made clear. The garrison is being withdrawn—indeed, progress in withdrawing it is already in hand—but a training presence will remain. If the Gurkha units mentioned by my hon. Friend require jungle training in central America, doubtless they will be considered for that role.

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