HL Deb 23 July 1986 vol 479 cc209-11

2.53 p.m.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

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 whether they have made any representations to the United States Administration regarding its decision to provide extra funds for the "contras" for their attempts to overthrow the elected government of Nicaragua.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Young)

My Lords, We discuss all important issues with the United States Government Recently my right honourable and learned friend the Foreign Secretary and I had comprehensive discussions with Ambassador Philip Habib, President Reagan's special envoy to Central America. Details of such conversations are confidential.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that this support for the "contras" in Nicaragua is an example of state supported terrorism against the people of a sovereign state? Is she aware that the decision was taken just at the most delicate moment, when there was at least a possibility of the peace treaty that was prepared by the Contadora Group being signed by Nicaragua?

Baroness Young

My Lords, we have made clear quite consistently that we have our own policy on Central America. We have advocated a political solution to the problems of Central America on the basis of the Contadora objectives. I should like to make it quite clear that the "contras" are in fact Nicaraguans who have resorted to armed struggle against their own government.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Baroness can help the House by defining the policy of Her Majesty's Government toward the "contras" in Nicaragua and the decision of the United States Administration to support the "contras". Do Her Majesty's Government approve of the policy of the United States Administration on this point, given that the Government of Nicaragua are a democratically elected government? Secondly, there have been reports of a scheduled date for the ratification of the Contadora treaty. Can the noble Baroness say a word about this? Was it successful?

Baroness Young

My Lords, it may be helpful to remind the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, and other noble Lords that the United States Senate has still to act over the allocation of the funds in aid to the "contras". However, as I have already made clear, we have consistently advocated a political solution to the problem of Central America on the basis of the Contadora objectives and so far as I know no date has been set for a final signing of the Contadora Act. We do not consider that the problems of the region can be solved by armed force and we ensure that the United States Government are made aware of our views.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, can the noble Baroness at least inform the House whether in the discussions that have been held with Mr. Philip Habib there has been expressed apprehension at the attitude of the United States to Central America? If that has been done, is it possible to convey to the President of the United States Britain's misgivings about US attitudes and behaviour toward certain Central and South American states?

Baroness Young

My Lords, I have made clear the Government's view on this matter.

Lord Wilberforce

My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness whether it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to urge on the United States the necessity of complying with the decision of the International Court of Justice that was given in the case of the United States against Nicaragua, in which most of the activities of the United States in supporting interests in Nicaragua were condemned in strong terms by the great majority of the judges?

Baroness Young

My Lords, in answer to the question of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, adherence to the rule of law is fundamental to our foreign policy. We are still studying the reasoned and lengthy judgment of the court, but we have consistently made it clear that we advocate a political rather than a military solution to the problems of Central America.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, is the answer to the question that was asked by my noble friend Lord Cledwyn that the date set for the peace treaty was 8th June and the decision of the American Congress sabotaged any chance of it being agreed? Can the noble Baroness state the attitude of Her Majesty's Government to the summary made by one of the leading Latin American experts in Washington who when describing this decision of Congress said: The new money will make no differences in bringing about a military defeat of the Sandinistas but it will allow the 'contras' to widen their war in the more remote parts of the country, causing death and destruction in their wake"?

Baroness Young

My Lords, the answer to the first part of the noble Lord's supplementary question is, no. The answer to the second part is that the Government really have to pay attention to what the United States Government are saying and not to the unnamed spokesman.

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