HL Deb 12 July 1982 vol 433 cc3-5

2.42 p.m.

Lord Northfield

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what support they have given recently to Guyana's application for World Bank assistance towards the financing of development projects in the frontier region that is being claimed by Venezuela; and where the matter now stands.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, the United Kingdom representatives at the World Bank supported an 8 million dollar loan in 1980 for a study of possible hydro-electric schemes in the region. This is currently taking place and is expected to be completed by the end of October this year. No other proposals have come before the bank's board. Any proposals arising from the study will be carefully considered.

Lord Northfield

My Lords, I am much obliged for that reply. Since the Venezulan Government are in this case denouncing frontier treaties which we have signed, are claiming over half the territory of Guyana and are being bellicose in order to whip up support for themselves at home, may I ask whether the noble Lord agrees that potentially at least we have something like a Falklands crisis situation brewing here unless every- body is very firm about it? Moreover, since the attempt by Venezuela at vetoing the development in the disputed areas is part of the war of nerves against Guyana, which we do not want to see escalated into something worse, do we not have to be very resolute in supporting Guyana in getting help for the area if the World Bank study shows that the project is feasible?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I can see absolutely no parallel between the Falklands situation and the Venezuelan-Guyanan situation. The Venezuelan Government have made it clear, both in public statements and to British Ministers, that they intend to follow the provisions of the 1966 Geneva Agreement in order to reach a peaceful settlement of the controversy. Since the Argentine invasion of the Falklands there has been no evidence that the Venezuelan Government have changed their resolve to settle the dispute by peaceful negotiation. With regard to the reference made by the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, to a war of nerves, I should like to say that the Venezuelan Government and the Venezuelan representative at the World Bank have absolutely no power to veto. The decision is taken by a majority of the bank's directors.

Baroness Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe

My Lords, while I partially accept the noble Lord's remarks about the Falklands situation, may I ask whether he is aware that this country feels a real debt of gratitude to Guyana for being, with Trinidad, almost the only country in central America to support us over the Falklands issue? Will not the noble Lord assure the House that we shall give every possible assistance to Guyana if there is a dispute over the World Bank loan?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, with regard to the first part of the noble Baroness's supplementary question, yes, I would agree most certainly that the Guyanan Government, and of course the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Mr. Ramphal, who is Guyanan, were among the first to give their support to us in our endeavour over the Falklands. Regarding the second part of the supplementary question, we shall of course have to await the results of the study. So may I say to the noble Baroness that her question is, first, hypothetical, and, secondly, a little premature.

Lord Bethell

My Lords, can my noble friend indicate whether or not the United Kingdom have guaranteed the territorial integrity of Guyana?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I am not precisely sure as to that, but I can say that there is no garrison in Guyana.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, granted that the Venezuelans have no right to veto the application to the World Bank, do the Government regard it as significant that they should have attempted to defeat the proposal?

Lord Skelmersdale

No, my Lords. I would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, when he talks about a war of nerves. This was a political act, and it has failed to come off.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, will the Government make it plain to Guyana that it would be easier for us to support applications for international financing of this kind if the Government in Guyana ceased to violate human rights?—as, for example, exemplified by the murder of the distinguished scholar, Dr. Walter Rodney, and the continued persecution of his brother, Mr. Donald Rodney.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, aid is never specifically tied to human rights.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, will the Government note that Venezuela also claims that Trinidad is draining off Venezuelan oil under the seas?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I rather think that that is another question. I am not prepared at this time to get into arguments about the state of oil fields in that part of the world.