HL Deb 13 July 1978 vol 394 cc1693-5

3.17 p.m.

Baroness VICKERS

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the second Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government, in view of the recent speech of the new President of Guatemala concerning Belize, whether arrangements will be made to find a solution in regard to the future of that country, and whether the Government of Belize will be invited to be represented at any conference that may be arranged between Her Majesty's Government and that of Guatemala.


My Lords, it is hoped that an early start can be made to our negotiations with the new Guatemalan Administration. The Belize Government and Opposition will be represented at all our negotiations with the Guatemalans. Any settlement would have to prove acceptable to the people of Belize.

Baroness VICKERS

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord very sincerely for that reply; it is the best I have had regarding Belize for many a long day. Can the Minister assure me that the Government will not do away with any land? The Guatemalans have a very adequate road down to Belize port, which they can use at present. May I ask the Minister whether he will look into the affairs of this colony? When I was there some years ago, I found that a mental hospital was in very bad condition. I have been tackling the Government about it ever since and have tried to get them to improve it. I have just received a letter from the Minister of State in which he says that the hospital has now collapsed. Fortunately, no patients were injured; they have been moved to the new youth centre. Can the Minister say when the new accommodation will be built?


My Lords, as we have said, we exclude no possibilities which might lead to a peaceful settlement. We have made it clear that to achieve this aim we are prepared to give aid to assist economic development—and, indeed, social development, as mentioned by the noble Baroness—in both Belize and Guatemala.

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, can the Minister assure the House that, despite plans for economic and social assistance after the granting of independence to Belize, the Government are doing all that they can now to ensure that the economic and social development of the country is pursued? There seems to be an idea that the Government are very keen to get rid of their dependencies in order to give economic aid afterwards. I should like to have an assurance from the Government that such aid is being given now and that it will continue to be given during the negotiations.


Yes, certainly, my Lords. I take full note of what the noble Baroness has said. Anxious as we are to advance Belize on a firm and secure basis to independence, and anxious as we are in doing so to assist and aid them, as well as Guatemala, in the post-independence period, we should certainly not slacken our efforts to build up the country as best we can in the phase leading up to independence.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether we shall be represented diplomatically in Guatemala?


Yes, certainly, my Lords.


My Lords, the Minister said that the people of Belize would be consulted. May I ask the Minister if it has yet been decided whether this shall be by vote of the Assembly or by referendum?


My Lords, the intention is that when there is a proposal for agreement, first, it should be acceptable to the people of Belize as well as to the people of Guatemala; and the people of Belize will be consulted by referendum.