HL Deb 07 April 1986 vol 473 cc3-5

2.41 p.m.

Lord Molloy

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations have been made to, or discussions held with, the Government of the USA regarding the possibility of the USA sending combat troops to South America.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, discussions are held regularly with the United States Government on many subjects, including Latin America. There have been no discussions about the possibility of United States combat troops being sent to South America.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for that reply. Will she not be prepared to consider that the vast amount of publicity that has been given to President Reagan's recent statements that it might be necessary to invade Nicaragua has caused great concern among the allies? Does she agree that we should cease always appearing as the 51st state but should appear instead as a loyal but critical friend of the United States when necessary?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, the noble Lord refers to Nicaragua in central America. We have in fact our own policy which is shared by our European Community partners. We support a comprehensive and verifiable Contadora agreement based on the 21 Contadora objectives, which include peace, stability, democracy and development. The United States has stated repeatedly that it also supports the Contadora process. We advocate a political rather than a military solution, and the United States is well aware of our views.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, do the Government share the anxiety expressed by Mr. Thomas Foley, the House of Representatives majority leader, that the policy of President Reagan brings the United States closer and closer to war in the Nicaragua region? Have the Government made any representations about the increasingly belligerent attitude apparently being adopted by the United States?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, we are well aware from our discussions with representatives of the United States of the views that the noble and learned Lord mentions. We are aware also that the House of Representatives rejected on 20th March a proposal for aid to be given. An amended proposal was approved by the Senate voting on 27th March and, as we understand it, there is a likelihood of a new decision from the House of Representatives very shortly.

As I said before, as a result of our discussions with the United States Government and with United States representatives, they are very well aware of our views about activities in the region concerned.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, does the noble Baroness not recall that the decision of the Senate seemed to be much influenced by reports of an incursion into Honduras by the army of the Nicaraguan Government? Have the British Government, through their embassies or any other sources, received any information about those reports?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, as has been said, the situation in the area is extremely delicate. The United Kingdom Government are kept fully informed by their embassies, and the United States Government and any other governments concerned are kept fully aware of the United Kingdom's views on the subject.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, the noble Baroness has stated that the United States is well aware of our views. I believe that this House would like to know what views have actually been expressed by the Government to the United States.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, as I have said, the United Kingdom Government's attitude is fully to support the objectives of the Contadora Group. That we do in concert with our European Community partners. The basic underlying principle is that we advocate a political rather than a military solution.

Lord Mellish

My Lords, does the noble Baroness not agree that the whole area is a very volatile one? The Americans are scared to death of infiltration into any part of Latin America by the Russians, who are there for one purpose only—to create mischief for the Americans. One can fully understand and comprehend why the Americans adopt the precautionary measures that they do. Some of us, at any rate, support them.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, the best contribution that countries outside the region in question can make is to offer political and practical help for the consolidation of democracy in Central America, and to support efforts to achieve peace by the Contadora Group. We are working with our European partners to that end.

Lord John-Mackie

My Lords, does the noble Baroness not agree that the USA would do better to look for the cause of the troubles in Central America, which is, of course, abject poverty? Would the USA not do better to try to relieve that poverty rather than take the action that it is at the present moment? Poverty is what causes Communism, support for Russia, and so on.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, both the United States and the European Community are well aware of the underlying problems. That is why efforts are being made on the economic front.

Lord Paget of Northampton

My Lords, does the noble Baroness have her mind on the statement made by President Theodore Roosevelt—that when he made a declaration on foreign policy, he was in a position to enforce it; but if he was not in a position to enforce it, then he kept his mouth shut? Would that not be good advice for Her Majesty's Government?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, while I may not have had my mind on that particular quotation, I am sure that President Reagan has.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that she should not differentiate between the United States Government and the United States President, because he is that country's Commander-in-Chief? Is the noble Baroness further aware that in the past 48 hours the President of Honduras has condemned the use of the Contras, and has condemned the use of the CIA in his country, in Nicaragua and in El Salvador? By contrast, we have heard a magnificent speech made by the British Foreign Secretary, in which he condemned what the Russians have done in invading other countries. How can we support our Foreign Secretary as we ought to do when we are a little shy of condemning the Americans when they threaten to do precisely what the USSR has done in Afghanistan?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, I can only restate that the United States Government are well aware of our position and of our thoughts on this subject, and that we support a negotiated settlement of the problems of Central America.