Skip to main content

Central America

Volume 19: debated on Tuesday 2 March 1982

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

7.15 pm

I beg to move,

That this House expresses its concern about the deteriorating situation in Central America, deplores the decision of Her Majesty's Government, contrary to the views of Canada and the countries of Western Europe, to send observers to the elections to be held in El Salvador on 28th March, and calls on Her Majesty's Government to support the proposal of the Government of Mexico for a negotiated settlement of the civil war in El Salvador.

We do not often debate the affairs of the Caribbean basin these days, but it is worth recalling that 20 years ago the Cuban missile crisis brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. What is happening now in Central America may present less urgent dangers, but in some circumstances it could prove almost as disturbing in it s long-term consequences.

The House knows that Central America suffers from grinding poverty as a result of centuries of colonial exploitation and misgovernment by a parasitic ruling class which handed the economy over to foreign companies which condemned the area to dependence on a few crops, whose price was highly vulnerable to events in the outside world. Last week, President Reagan pointed out that to buy the same barrel of oil they have to sell five times more coffee today than they did five years ago.

In recent years, besides these long-standing economic problems and partly as a result of them, there has been a tidal wave of revolutionary feeling against the military dictatorships which rule most of the countries in the area.. The revolution was successful in Cuba and Nicaragua, but so far it has been suppressed with appalling brutality in Guatemala and El Salvador. A country such as Costa Rica, which has just had a peaceful transfer of power in a free election, is, I fear, an exception to the rule.

I do not need to describe the appalling atrocities which have taken place in these countries in recent years. We have supped full of horrors on British television. In addition to the official forces of Government, death squads operate on a large scale in Guatemala and El Salvador. I am sorry to say that the exiled supporters of the ex-dictators are allowed to train their private armies publicly on American soil in Florida and Texas.

In El Salvador, over 30,000 people have died in the past two years as a result of the fighting—that is, about 400,000 for a country the size of Britain. Many of them were tortured and mutilated before being shot or hacked to death by the death squads. The Catholic Archbishop of El Salvador was shot while celebrating mass in March 1980, and those who went to a service in his honour were mowed down by rifle fire in front of the cathedral.

The Reagan Administration recognises that there is an economic factor behind these appalling events, although the programme that the President announced last week does little more than make good cuts in lending by the Inter-American Bank and the World Bank which are due to a reduction in America's contribution to them. Moreover, many of the proposals that the President made last week depend upon Congressional decisions, which cannot be taken for granted. The President appears to see the political revolution in the area simply as the product of a conspiracy by the Soviet Union and Cuba, and forgets that the revolution in El Salvador is at least 50 years old.

Both the President and Secretary Haig see the possible victory of the guerrillas as a threat to their vital strategic interests, particularly in the Panama Canal. Therefore, he has given large-scale military aid to the Government of El Salvador, and is now attempting to destabilise the Government of Nicaragua, as his predecessor succeeded in destabilising the Government of Chile some years ago.

I hope that the Lord Privy Seal will answer two questions. First, is it true, as widely reported, that the Central Intelligence Agency has been given $19 million by the American Administration for destabilising the regime in Nicaragua? Secondly, can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that there is no truth in the reports which have been widely spread on American television that Her Majesty's Government are involved in some way in this operation of subversion?

So far, no American fighting troops have been sent to El Salvador. That is not surprising because opinion polls show that 89 per cent. of the American population would be against their despatch, but there has been talk of the Governments of Argentina, Chile and Paraguay providing troops not only to train but to fight in El Salvador in support of the junta.

Although the Government forces in El Salvador outnumber the guerrillas by three to one, according to Government figures, they have suffered three times as many casualties during the last two years. Despite increasing American military aid, there is no prospect of the Government winning the civil war. Equally, there is no chance of the guerrillas winning the civil war so long as America stands behind the Government. Therefore, we face the sombre prospect of a continuing civil war inflicting appalling suffering on the people of El Salvador, ruining its economy and polarising political feeling.

Many Governments outside Central America have felt this strongly for over a year. The House will recall that the Socialist International proposed negotiations to end the fighting. It had support of several European Governments whose parties were members of the Socialist International. The Social Democratic Party in El Salvador, which is part of the guerrilla movement, has welcomed those proposals, and has declared its readiness on behalf of the movement to take part in such negotiations.

Last August the Governments of Mexico and France formally recognised the guerrilla forces as a valid partner in such negotiations, but the most comprehensive proposals were those made last week by the President of Mexico who was speaking in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. First, he proposed that he should be allowed to use his good offices to promote negotiations between the Government and the guerrilla forces in El Salvador. Secondly, he proposed that there should be international support for negotiations between the United States and Nicaragua, and between the United States and Cuba, in the hope of reducing the current conflict which he believes—I think rightly—is based to some extent on a genuine misunderstanding by each of the other's motives.

In making those proposals last week, the President of Mexico expressed several opinions that I believe will be widely shared in the House. He said that if there were no negotiations the United States might find itself dragged into direct military action in El Salvador, Nicaragua or even Cuba. He said that that would be a "gigantic historical error" bringing about a conflict of "unthinkable proportions" and provoking a
"continental convulsion and a resurgence of profound anti-American sentiments among the best men of all of Latin America."

Those opinions should not and cannot be ignored. They were expressed by the President of a country that has excellent relations with the United States. He has much better knowledge of what is going on in that area than people sitting several thousand miles away in Washington.

I am sure that the President was right in what he said. I do not believe that it is anti-American to say so because the views that he expressed are widely held in the United States by congressmen, senators of both parties and by the ambassador to El Salvador, who served there under the Carter Administration.

It was a serious blunder that President Reagan totally ignored President Lopez Portillo's speech when he spoke to the Organisation of American States a day or two later in an address that President Lopez Portillo described in Le Monde today as diminishing the chances of peace in El Salvador.

It is bewildering to me that President Reagan ignored that important speech by the Mexican President, because in the same address President Reagan said that he wanted to develop a new North American accord among the United States, Canada, and Mexico, approaching them
"as a friend seeking their ideas, and their suggestions as to how we can become better neighbours."

The American Administration could not have had clearer or more well-meant suggestions than those offered by the Mexican President a couple of days earlier. I fail to understand how President Reagan could have insulted the Mexican President by failing to say anything about his proposals. I hope that the Lord Privy Seal will tell us exactly what Her Majesty's Government think about those proposals.

I suspect that the reason why the American Administration ignored the proposals by the Mexican President was that they had committed themselves some time ago as being in favour of a macabre ritual of elections in El Salvador, which will take place in a few weeks' time on 28 March. Surely Her Majesty's Government do not believe that those elections can conceivably produce a valid result or that they can do anything except make the solution of the problem more difficult. In the first place there is no election register in El Salvador. At least half a million people are living away from their homes either in refugee camps inside the country or as refugees in neighbouring countries.

Candidates for the opposition parties all figure on various death lists produced by the Government forces and are bound to be shot if they campaign in public. When someone pointed that out to the American ambassador in San Salvador, he was told that those members of opposition parties could campaign from outside the country. It is ridiculous to imagine that an election carried out in those circumstances, which are familiar to Her Majesty's Government, can produce a valid result. There is no freedom of movement in that country, as was said in an interesting report by an emissary from Oxfam who earned his spurs doing a similar report in Kampuchea not long ago.

There is no guarantee that, if the result is unfavourable to the military junta, it will not be over-ruled. That is like the election result that is said to have given Mr. Duarte a majority in 1970, and which was immediately suppressed by the authorities. The best that the election could produce would be to confirm the present junta in power, but it cannot in any circumstances legitimise the present junta because the elections will not be free. The elections cannot possibly produce a result which is representative of the views of the people of El Salvador.

There is a real risk that the elections will make the problem far more difficult by putting the extreme Right wing in power—perhaps by producing Major D'Aubuisson, who is said to have been responsible for the murder of the archbishop, as the next leader of the Government in El Salvador.

I must tell the right hon. Gentleman and, through him, the American Administration, that it is dangerous to base Government policy on an assumption that an election in a foreign country will go the way one would like it to go. The right hon. Gentleman and the American Government experienced that recently in a country in the Middle East.

I cannot understand why, instead of supporting the Mexican initiative which is supported by the Governments of France, Germany and Italy, and is attracting growing support in Latin America, her Majesty's Government should have chosen to separate themselves from the rest of Europe, and all of America's other allies in NATO, by sending a team of observers whose only conceivable purpose can be to legitimise the elections, yet which cannot possibly succeed in that objective. Since the elections are less than four weeks away, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us this evening who these paragons will be. Will they speak Spanish? Do they know Latin America? Do they know anything about election procedure?

It is difficult to understand why the Government have associated themselves with this shabby facade. I understand that 60 Governments have been approached by the Government of El Salvador to send observers to the elections. Apart from Britain and the United States, only six have so far accepted. They include the Governments of Argentina and Uruguay, who can hardly be considered good judges of the freedom of elections.

I cannot help feeling that the only reason for sending observers is that these Governments wish to curry favour with the Americans at a delicate moment in the Trident missile negotiations. There can be no other reason. We have been told that the Americans are prepared to make concessions on Trident provided we support them on matters which are considered to be of current defence interest. If that is not the reason I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will inform us what is because so far neither he, nor the Foreign Secretary, has said a word to justify sending observers. So far as I know, they have not tried to justify the decision in discussions with their colleagues in Cabinet.

A day or so after the news that we were sending observers to the elections in El Salvador was sneaked out—in a written answer on a Friday—The Times reported that the Government might not, after all, send observers. The report said that the Government might decide that the observers would not have freedom of movement and that their safety could not be guaranteed. The House is aware that the Canadian Government, having initially decided to send observers, changed their mind.

The Government are in a mess in this respect. The American Secretary of State has already described his British colleague as a "duplicitous" unparliamentary expression. The Mayor of New York has described the Foreign Secretary as a "schmuck". Nothing would do more to reinforce the unfortunate impression created by the Foreign Secretary in the United States than a wobble on this issue at this late stage.

I know, as the House knows, that our influence in that part of the world is perforce limited. It is therefore all the more important that we use it for the best. We should be co-ordinating our policy towards Central America with our friends in Europe and in North America, with Canada and Mexico, who share our views, instead of acting as President Reagan's poodle. We do no real service to the American people in pandering to these illusions. America's present policy offers no prospect of success but only the certainty of a continuing civil war accompanied by all the sickening atrocities of which we read every day and which we see on our television screens. The only conceivable way by which that prospect could be avoided, in the sense that President Reagan wants, would be by committing American forces directly to intervention in a new Vietnam. That, of course, would be the ultimate folly.

America will have to move towards a negotiated settlement of the war in El Salvador. The longer it delays moving, the more difficult it will be to make negotiations a success. Opinion is bound to polarise at the two extremes so long as the fighting and the suffering continue. All hon. Members know that the present leaders of the American Administration are obsessed by the danger of revolution. That is odd, because the United States is a country born of revolution. Indeed, the Daughters of the American Revolution are now the fiercest protagonists of extreme conservatism in the United States. This is not an unfamiliar experience in the world. Mexico itself was born much more recently of revolution. Yet Mexico has been singled out by President Reagan as one of his two main partners in the hemisphere. The other is Canada.

I sometimes think, looking back on the post-war years, that the most tragic error in Western policy was perhaps the failure of America and Britain—they were the only two powers that mattered at the time—to respond to the approaches of the new Communist rulers of China in the late 1940s. That failure has been well documented recently in an impressive book by Mrs. Tuchman. If the response had been made at that time, the world could have been spared 30 years of war in the Far East, including the war in Korea, the emergency in Malaya and the tragedy in Vietnam.

The West must not make the same mistake again in Central America. A revolutionary El Salvador, Nicaragua and even Cuba may respond if they are given the chance. If they are given no chance, there is no chance of their responding: they are bound to move further into the Soviet embrace. It is worth recalling that it was a Republican President elected on an anti-Communist platform who finally succeeded in establishing good relations with Communist China over 10 years ago. It is by no means impossible for another Republican President, also elected on an anti-Communist platform, to do the same in Central America. But there is no chance that this can happen so long as those of the President's friends who should be telling him honestly what they think refrain from doing so for some reason or other and confirm him in his folly.

Her Majesty's Government's failure to tell the Americans what they really think about what is happening in Central America is the reason why we have put down the motion and why we shall vote for it tonight.

Before I call the Lord Privy Seal, I should say that Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

7.40 pm

I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:

"this House expresses its concern about the situation in parts of Central America, endorses the efforts of Her Majesty's Government's to encourage democracy and stability in the region, welcomes the steps taken by Her Majesty's Government and this House to inform themselves about developments, and supports Her Majesty's Government intention to help achieve a just and lasting end to the fighting in El Salvador."

The right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) predictably spent most of his speech talking about those countries in Central America where there is fighting and oppression, where the regimes in power have no democratic legitimacy and rely only on force, and where human rights as we understand them have little place. He briefly touched on other countries in the region. I am glad that he did because the opening phrase of the motion that he moved
"That this House expresses its concern about the deteriorating situation in Central America,"
implies that it is the Opposition's view that there is no difference between one country and another in the whole region, that everywhere the situation is going from bad to worse. That is simply not the case.

It is essential to remind hon. Members that, contrary to what some would have us believe, democracy and stability flourish in some parts of the region. It has been the policy of successive British Governments, the Labour Government as much as the present one, to encourage the growth of democracy and to support the institutions of fair and impartial justice wherever we can. Not least our efforts have borne fruit in one country—Belize. For more than 200 years we worked to develop democratic and judicial institutions in that country and when finally last year we were able to grant independence to Belize the institutions we left were well founded. They continue to flourish.

In Costa Rica, too, a country with which we have traditionally had good relations, democratic traditions are deep and have recently been confirmed by the successful holding of national elections. We look forward to developing our contacts with the new Administration of President Monge.

In Honduras, the elections of last November have led to the installation of the new president and the ending of military rule. We welcome this and will do whatever we can to support that country in its struggle with severe economic difficulties, and with the danger of conflicts spilling over from its neighbours Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador.

The Government have been shocked and appalled by the reports of brutality and suffering in Guatemala and El Salvador. We share all the concerns expressed in the House and outside. We have forcefully condemned those who are responsible for acts of brutality no matter which side of the conflict they may be on. I repeat that condemnation now.

When security forces directly responsible to the Governments of Guatemala and El Salvador have committed these violations of human rights, we call on those Governments to bring them under control and to ensure that those guilty of atrocities, whoever they are, are brought to justice. We have said this in the plainest terms to representatives of both Governments and they are in no doubt of our views.

We have also shown our concern in a practical way. The violence in El Salvador has produced large numbers of refugees and displaced persons. We have contributed to the efforts of the International Red Cross in El Salvador and to those of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. We have done this both directly and through our contributions to the efforts of the European Community to provide assistance to these ends.

The miseries of these countries and the discontent caused by the long history of inequality have been ruthlessly exploited by Cuba with the backing of the Soviet Union. Violent revolutionaries have been supported by Cuba. They have been trained in camps in Cuba and Cuban advice is behind much of what they do. The Cubans have launched an extensive propaganda campaign on behalf of the revolutionaries. These activities are completely unacceptable and we call on Cuba to cease all forms of interference. A country that has as unimpressive a record as Cuba, in which all the unattractive features of totalitarianism are present in good measure, to such a degree that large numbers of the population are ready to risk their lives and livelihoods merely to escape, has no business to export its political doctrines or its recipes for economic disaster.

We believe that any solution to the conflicts in Central America must be political, not military. In this context, I draw attention to President Reagan's recent initiative for the economic development of the regions as a whole. We warmly welcome this as a positive step, and we hope that trade and private investment will be encouraged by the proposed measures. If some of the poverty, some of the inequalities and some of the economic difficulties of these countries can be tackled, stable Governments, justice and democracy will have a better future.

I turn to El Salvador. The history of this unhappy country has been one of unrelieved violence and cruelty, dominated by a few families who have abused their wealth and privileges and have ruled by military force. But there was a presidential election in 1972. It was won by Mr. Napoleon Duarte running as a Christian Democrat. The military frustrated the people's choice, imprisoned Duarte, tortured him and forced him into exile. Further military Governments followed, but at the end of 1980 Mr. Duarte was installed as president.

President Duarte's belief in the democratic process is not in doubt. From the moment that he took office he made clear his intention that elections should take place. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East said that the elections were an American idea. They are President Duarte's idea and have been ever since he has been president. It is by elections that his position or that of some other president can be legitimised. President Duarte is committed to a wide programme of land reform and economic and fiscal reforms.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman somewhat truncating his account of what happened? There was a coup d'etat in 1979 by a group of progressive young officers with wide support. However, within a year they had been displaced. The bulk of the progressive officers were removed and replaced by extremely Right-wing officers. President Duarte was installed in the face of such social democrats as Mr. Ungo. There is no reason to believe that President Duarte, whatever his views in 1972, represents anything other than those of the junta who are his colleagues in the Cabinet.

I shall make two points about that. The colleagues with whom President Duarte works are four—three civilian and one military. President Duarte recognises that because he was installed as President but not by the democratic process his position is not so democratically legitimate as it should have been. That is why from the moment he was installed as President he has believed that a president should be elected democratically. I do not think that the Opposition would dissent from that. That is a way of proceeding which the Opposition have advocated in all countries. My point is that it is President Duarte's own idea that it should happen. His position as a civilian President is difficult because he is opposed by both Left and Right wings. Right-wing death squads and elements of the security forces and the army have, as the House knows, been responsible for terrible atrocities. President Duarte is trying to bring them under control. That is a formidable task and he deserves all support.

On the other side is the FMLN guerrilla organisation, a coalition of five terrorist groups with Cuban assistance and advice which has been responsible for the murder of Ministers, the terrorising of rural areas and countless atrocities including the kidnap for ransom of two British business men. The hard-core guerrillas number at our best estimate some 5,000 out of a total population of more than 4 million.

As the House knows, President Duarte, faced with these intractable problems, has called for elections to a constituent assembly on 28 March. He has invited all parties to register and participate. The parties of the Left have declined to do so on the grounds that if they did their lives would be at risk. I do not believe that theirs are the only lives that are at risk in El Salvador—others are standing for election. To put it mildly, it is clear that the conditions for elections will be much less than perfect.

Therefore, we do not join with those who would discredit the elections even before they have taken place. The democratic path must be tried. We are not alone in this judgment. Last Sunday the Pope associated himself with a declaration by the Episcopal conference of El Salvador, which represents all the Catholic bishops in the country, supporting the election and urging all Catholics to vote. Our partners in the Western Alliance all agree that a political solution to the conflict must be found. I quote, for example, from the Foreign Minister of Canada who has said:
"we continue to believe that elections in this country, imperfect as they may be, are better than none."

The right hon. Gentleman, whom I know to be an enthusiast for political co-operation in Europe, must nevertheless face the fact that not one of our partners in the European Community is willing to send observers to the elections.

Not all of them have been asked, but the hon. Gentleman is right that none has agreed to send observers. Nevertheless, President Duarte has invited observers to witness the election campaign and the election itself. As the House knows, the Government have decided that we should send two observers, subject to being satisfied about their security. That decision has been construed by some as a gesture of support for the Salvadorean Government. It is nothing of the kind.

Let me make the Government's position quite clear. We want to see a political solution to the conflict in El Salvador. Democratic elections must be part of such a solution. We will not join those who prejudge the issue. Our gesture in sending observers is an entirely neutral act and is in no way a gesture of support for any of the political parties fighting the election. The fact that we are sending observers means that we want first-hand information about the situation. We want to see for ourselves, and we are in good company. The House itself has shown an interest in being better informed about developments in the region. Even as I speak, the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs is in Mexico and will be in El Salvador in 10 days' time to see and to find out for itself.

I do not pretend that the decision to send observers was an easy one. Some countries have accepted the invitation, including those of the Organisation of American States. Some have not. As the right hon. Gentleman rightly said, Canada has decided not to send observers, but it is very far from the case to suggest, as the Opposition motion does, that Canada asked us not to. Indeed Dr. MacGuigan has indicated that Canada would have been willing to participate in observing the elections on the understanding that one international team rather than separate national teams was intended.

Our observers will be two men of acknowledged integrity and entirely independent status. They are Professor Derek Bowett, QC, a renowned international lawyer and president of Queen's college, Cambridge, and Sir John Galsworthy, a former ambassador in Mexico City and a Spanish speaker. I should like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to their sense of responsibility and public duty in agreeing to carry out what will inevitably be a difficult task.

We envisage that our observers will be in El Salvador for about two weeks to cover the election campaign, polling day and the immediate aftermath. They will be completely free to report without restriction on the circumstances in which they were allowed to observe the elections. They will be asked to report on the conduct of the elections, including the campaigning of the candidates, on the polling, and on the counting of votes. Most important, they will form a judgment as to whether the elections constitute a valid test of public opinion in El Salvador. As soon as possible after their return, they are to deliver a written report to my right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, and we shall arrange for that report to be published and made available to Parliament.

To offer a snap judgment on the election observer team, the two individuals seem very appropriate to the task. Nevertheless, the House is left in some perplexity. The right hon. Gentleman told us that President Duarte did not control even his own armed forces, never mind the death squads, although he was seeking to do so He reminded us that a Select Committee will be visiting El Salvador, but many groups have visited that country , including representatives of the World Council of Churches, the Baptists' Mission and Oxfam, and all have reported that it is not possible to hold elections in the present circumstances. The right hon. Gentleman has confirmed that view in his remarks about the relative independence of the armed forces and the death squads, so why is he going through with this charade?

It is because I prefer not to have my views made for me by people with strong views of their own before the event has taken place. It makes every kind of sense that we should send reliable, experienced observers to see what happens, to form a judgment as to whether the elections constitute a valid test of public opinion in El Salvador and report to us. We shall then be able to decide, not on the basis of people's ideas before the event but on the basis of hard information from intelligent men present at the time.

Before sending the observers, will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what knowledge he has about the mechanics of running the elections? Will the hundreds of thousands of people who have moved to Nicaragua and Honduras be allowed to vote? What does he know about the proceedings? Like the Irish Parliament and many other groups who have gone to assess the situation, the Government should first have discovered the facts. They might then have agreed with Mexico and France that there should be a ceasefire before elections take place.

The hon. Gentleman makes my point for me. It is because we want to find out exactly how the elections are run and what the arrangements are that we are sending people to observe them. I am glad of the hon. Gentleman's support.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about the initiative of the President of Mexico. We share his desire to find the best way forward, but the ideas that we have heard from him so far are in general terms and a great deal remains to be elaborated. No doubt he will do that, but in the meantime his ideas have not received acceptance in El Salvador and the elections are going ahead. The President of Mexico may well have a substantial part to play in settling this unhappy affair, and I in no way seek to run down anything that he has put forward. Nevertheless, four weeks before the elections, his ideas are not precise, they have not been accepted and the elections are going ahead. Therefore, it seems to us that, although his ideas are well worth studying, and when we have obtained and studied the details we may well wish to support what he is doing, at the moment this,has no bearing on our decision to send observers to the elections.

The right hon. Gentleman must be aware that the spokesman of the Revolutionary Front made a statement in Mexico three days ago in which he supported the Mexican Government's proposals and substantially reduced the Revolutionary Front's previous demand for the restructuring of the armed forces, confining it to the sacking of some of the worst offenders. Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that if the mission finds that elections cannot be held in such a way as to legitimise Mr. Duarte's Government the Government will seek to work with the Mexicans, the French, and other European Governments to achieve a negotiated end to the civil war?

As I said at the beginning, it is and has been the Government's policy in any way possible to further the democratic process and to produce stability in the area. What will happen after the elections, I cannot tell the House, because I do not know—nobody here knows—whether the elections will have been fair or not. That is the whole purpose of sending observers. As I said at the beginning, that has been the policy of successive Governments.

The Government deplore the forces, both Right and Left of the political spectrum, which frustrate the democratic process and in so doing cause misery, poverty and despair. We support those States which have achieved democracy, and efforts by the others to move in that direction. We are convinced that in El Salvador a political settlement is the only way to achieve a just and lasting end to the fighting.

To that end we are sending observers to the elections to see whether the elections will further that aim. We do not prejudge the fairness or the effectiveness of the elections. Let us wait until the House has the report before we make up our minds. We shall do that in the light of the observers' conclusions. When I ask the House to support the Government's decision to do this, I am sure that I shall carry with me everybody who believes in fairness and democracy and in the way of behaving to which we are all accustomed.

Before the Lord Privy Seal sits down, will he answer the questions that I put to him?

Order. The right hon. Gentleman has sat down.

There are only two hours left for this important debate and there is great pressure from right hon. and hon. Members wishing to take part. May I therefore appeal for short contributions?

8.2 pm

I am sure that the whole House shares the Government's concern about the situation in Central America. In discussing the region as a whole, it is right to say that there are some signs of optimism. The House should pay tribute to Belize's transition to an independent democratic State. It is a considerable achievement that successive British Governments have attached immense importance to buttressing the democracy in Belize, fearing that if a colonial situation had been allowed to continue it would have been exploited by the Cubans. In an attempt to anticipate that situation, successive Governments stressed the importance of independence. I wish that the Government of the United States of America had, at various times, understood the urgency of the matter and had been prepared to exert more pressure on the Guatemalan Government to resolve the problem of Belize. Belize is a good example of anticipation of political pressure and the development of a democratic independence.

Costa Rica is the outstanding example of a democratic country in the Caribbean basin. It now faces appalling economic problems. At least one benefit of the present deterioration in the Caribbean basin may well be that Western Governments will give the Costa Rican Government the aid that it needs without the fiercer conditionality that the IMF might have applied. It is vital that the Costa Rican Government should be given every possible support. That also applies to Honduras which, after a long and very difficult period, has moved to democracy.

The main strategic problem in the region is the necessity to face bluntly Cuba's motives. The main focus of Cuba's adventurism has to some extent switched from Africa to the Caribbean basin. We should delude ourselves, and fail to understand the genuine strategic anxieties about El Salvador and Nicaragua that are felt—not just in America but in many countries in Latin America—if we did not pay serious attention to the extent to which Cuba has changed the direction of its policy. Our central criticism of much of the policy being pursued, particularly by the new Administration, is that it fails to understand that the most important priority is to find a political solution which can then be buttressed with economic support.

In some ways, President Reagan's speech to the Organisation of American States was a considerable improvement. Not before time, he has increased the aid programme to the Caribbean region. His speech may also have opened the door to preferential trading arrangements that will enable some of the countries to sell their products to the United States of America in a unilateral opening of trade. It is vital that they should be able to do so. When the measures were first unveiled they may have appeared greater than they do now. I am worried that other Government Departments within the American Administration, and Congress, may narrow down the interpretation. If the United States of America does not recognise that there must—along with the economic measures—be a change in its political appreciation, that initiative will not develop and produce stability and security in the region.

I turn to two countries of considerable importance. After a difficult time under the Somoza regime—which no hon. Member would wish to support—Nicaragua has established a Government who are well to the Left and who contain strong elements of Marxism. The question is whether Nicaragua will go the way of Cuba. Will the Americans handle the Nicaraguan Government just as they handled the revolution in Cuba? It would be a tragedy if the United States of America were to push Nicaragua ever increasingly into the Soviet sphere of influence. It is not inevitable that it should move into that sphere. Of course, Nicaragua will remain non-aligned, but, properly and sensitively handled, there is a possibility that the Nicaraguans will choose a more genuinely non-aligned position that is closer to that of Yugoslavia than to that of Cuba. Cuba is not, in any real sense of the term, non-aligned.

El Salvador is a much more difficult problem. In 1978, human rights in El Salvador were so bad that the then Government felt that we had to stop selling Ferret cars to the Government of El Salvador. Because of our concern about the deteriorating situation, we acted in an unprecedented manner. In retrospect, that was the right decision. Since then, the situation has steadily and progressively deteriorated. All hon. Members want genuine elections to be held in El Salvador. However, the Government must decide whether, in present circumstances, it is possible to hold an election in El Salvador. The Lord Privy Seal made the under-statement of the year when he said that conditions for the elections were much less than perfect. Let us hear from one of Oxfam's most experienced field workers in El Salvador. His reports make clear
"a grotesque and horrifying picture of terror and violence which has made normal life impossible for the majority of El Salvador's people. Over 300,000 people, mostly the poor and disadvantaged, have taken the dangerous journey across the border to neighbouring countries. There is no shortage of documented reports of the harassment that they suffer on the journey with many being massacred before they reach safety."

Reports—not only from Oxfam, but from others—all too often make it clear that the Salvadorean security forces have perpetrated such atrocities. The Lord Privy Seal was quite honest when he said that he did not believe that President Duarte had full control over the security forces. I share the right hon. Gentleman's belief. We can no longer believe that President Duarte is in control of the military junta. Oxfam states:
"Inside El Salvador it is reliably estimated that 250,000 to 300,000 people have been forced to abandon their homes and flee the threat of violence. A large proportion of these people have drawn together for mutual protection in 80–100 sanctuaries".
We have reports from people who have visited those sanctuaries: virtually everyone to whom one speaks talks of an experience of violence and horror that is guile shocking, with grandparents and babies murdered, mostly by para-military assassination groups. These are by no means circumstances in which it is possible to hold a fair election.

One of the things the Lord Privy Seal must consider is that in the United States at the moment there is considerable anxiety not that President Duarte will win but that we might see a Right-wing extremist element win, the unsavoury nature of which can hardly be over-emphasised. I do not believe that these conditions can be described as "much less than perfect". I feel that they are already intolerable.

There is a very interesting analogy with the Canadian situation. I think that Prime Minister Trudeau wanted to have an election. As the House knows, Canada has taken a very close interest in this region where it has tended to concentrate much of its aid and support. The Prime Minister wanted to send observers. In the last few days, however, the people who were sent to El Salvador came back and reported that these were no conditions under which to hold elections. In consequence, Canada has gone back on its earlier decision to send observers.

Mr. Wischnewski, who was Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in the German Administration and is a prominent figure in the German Social Democratic Party, described elections in the present conditions as "a farce" Anyone who knows him knows that he is a man who would not make such an allegation unless it was on very good evidence. Not a single European Community member State is sending observers.

Why is it then that the British Government have sent observers? The explanation from the Lord Privy Seal is, totally inadequate. The Government's decision has been condemned by practically every outside observer. The Observer newspaper called it a bad blunder for Britain. The Sunday Times has attacked it. Very few people in this country who have any understanding of present conditions in El Salvador can justify that decision.

The Lord Privy Seal says he thinks that it will help us to form a judgment. He must know that two observers, however distinguished, are simply not going to be in a position to cover the whole area of this country. The danger of giving anyone the impression that we would accept the outcome of this election is that we are effectively saying that this is a possible way out of the present dilemma. It is not. I believe that President Duarte knows this himself. I believe that even if he were to win the election he would seek to attempt negotiations. However, this will be much harder once the elections have been held.

What I fear is that he will not have a mandate to conduct those negotiations. In my view, it would now be far preferable for the United States Government to follow the constant advice from Mexico and Venezuela—two countries to which they are close and which understand the Caribbean basin—to put the whole weight of American diplomacy behind a negotiated settlement.

There are amongst the El Salvadorean guerillas many political views, covering almost the whole spectrum. I think that the guerrilla movement, if it were to achieve the position of a Government—through the ballot box, one hopes—would be well to the Left, but that is not a situation that is either unusual or unique.

I am loth to make parallels with what has happened in Zimbabwe; I believe the situation is very different. Nevertheless, this business of trying to pre-empt negotiations by internal elections is fatally flawed, as it was in Zimbabwe.

There is a world of difference between the Government sending official observers and Members of Parliament, journalists and outside observers going. The Government will have a much greater degree of commitment to the election result. I ask the Lord Privy Seal, who has already isolated himself in the Community by sending observers, how much harder will it be for him and for the British Government to say that these are unfair elections if, for example, President Reagan's Administration were to say that they were fair? It is putting a very heavy burden of responsibility on two observers, however distinguished.

I welcome the fact that the report will be published and that the Lord Privy Seal has stressed the importance of a political solution. Nevertheless, I believe he will regret this decision to tie Britain into this election in El Salvador. It would have been far better, not to have washed our hands of it, but to have shown a greater recognition of the limited influence we possess, to stay within the broad span of opinion in Western Europe and in many other countries, and, rather than sending observers, to have committed ourselves to a negotiated settlement. There is no other solution. It would be far better also to commit ourselves to increasing aid wherever we can, to buttressing those three democratic States, Belize, Costa Rica and Honduras, and trying to modify the American position over Nicaragua.

I do not want us to supply arms to Nicaragua, as the French have done, but I hope we will make it very clear to the Nicaraguans that we are not putting them into the Soviet sphere of influence, that we wish to have relations with them, that we will have a distinctive and different position towards them from that of the United States and that we will not in any way use our connection with what are often termed, rather pejoratively, the "mosquito Indians" to encourage the destabilising of Nicaragua. It will be very helpful if the Lord Privy Seal or whoever winds up will give us a clear commitment that the British Government will not be party to any destabilising of the Nicaraguan Government.

There is only one way in which we shall stabilise Central America. It is through much greater economic aid. The poverty is appalling. It will also be necessary for all those Western nations that sell arms to stop pouring them not just into Central America but into Latin America generally, because there is a grave danger of the wars and the armaments from Central America slipping further down into Latin America as a whole.

The way to outwit the Cubans and the Soviets is the way in which successive British Governments have now moved into Africa. It is to recognise national independence, to recognise that there will be revolutions and changes in the political atmosphere, Left and Right, and that it is not in our interests to distance ourselves from those movements or to force them to look only to the Soviet Union. It is in our interests to attempt a negotiated settlement, whether within existing Right-wing politicians in control of the Government, a junta or a regime, and to encourage the guerillas to come to the negotiating table, to compromise, to give up their arms, to have a ceasefire controlled by some outside monitoring force and to hold fair and free elections. This is what the Organisation of American States wants and this should be the policy of the British Government.

8.18 pm

We have a long historical association with the Caribbean basin. We still have important interests there. Nearly 2 million of our population have their roots in the Caribbean. Therefore, what goes on there must naturally and properly be a matter of considerable concern to us.

In the days when we had political responsibility we tried to help the evolution and development of the area by the unfortunately abortive West Indian Federation, by the Commonwealth sugar agreement, by preferential arrangements, some of which have been continued by the Lomé agreement, and by a military presence to help maintain stability.

President Reagan's Caribbean basin initiative seems to me to be in the tradition of what we tried to do on a smaller scale. I was surprised that the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), unlike the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), made no reference to the President's initiative. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East may be right in saying that it is not on a big enough scale—only time can tell—but the total absence of any reference to it by him made me wonder why the Labour Party chose to have this debate at all. It did not seem to be to reinforce our natural concern about the Caribbean. It did not seem to be to come to the support of President Reagan's initiative, or—what an Opposition might well have done—to press my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal to make a small contribution ourselves towards it.

When the right hon. Gentleman reads the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) he will see that in fact my right hon. Friend referred to the Caribbean basin programme.

If the right hon. Gentleman did so, it was so brief a reference that it would hardly have sunk into the consciousness of the House.

The gravamen of what the right hon. Gentleman said, and of what the right hon. Member for Devonport said, was to register a protest against our sending observers to the elections due to be held in El Salvador. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East produced the argument that there was no register. That is a bit silly. We had two elections in Rhodesia—one lot which the right hon. Gentleman opposed and one lot which he approved of. There was no register in either case. By the standards of the observers who watched both, they were held with remarkable fairness and gave a pretty good idea which way the peoples wishes were going.

After all, one can boycott an election, and the boycott is also quite an important vote and can be registered as such by those who watch. There is by no means any certainty that intimidation, which will come from both sides, will affect the outcome all that much. But both right hon. Gentlemen said "No. What we need is a political settlement."

What is the alternative to an election? It is a negotiation between the junta and the guerilla bosses. Is that really a better way to proceed than having elections first, which will at least give us some idea where various people stand?

Neither right hon. Gentleman has much of an opinion of the junta. I do not have much opinion either of the junta or of the guerilla leaders, but I am not sure that I would like to see the fate of the Salvadorean people settled entirely between those two, with the United States, with perhaps the help of Mexico, on the one side, and the Cubans, with the help of the Soviets, on the other, trying to tell the people of that small country how their lives should be determined. I am not sure that the negotiated settlement in Nicaragua looks very healthy at present.

So why was this debate held? Almost every Latin American country, including Costa Rica, to which the right hon. Member for Devonport paid tribute, supports the holding of the elections. Mexico and Nicaragua—and Cuba, of course—are the outstanding exceptions. I think that I am right in saying that virtually all the other Latin American countries concerned have come out in support of holding the elections.

So why this debate? I shall tell the House. It has been held in an attempt to justify the growing neutralism of the official Labour Party, by trying to equate the breaches of human rights that are undoubtedly taking place in Central America with what has been going on in Afghanistan and Poland. It has not been said, but that is the underlying theme. That is why Labour tabled the motion.

Of course, every guerilla war is rough. I have taken part in such wars. Those in the resistance movements with which I worked were not all angels, and the Germans that we fought against were not all fiends, but there were plenty of fiends on both sides. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East talked about the fearful derogation of human rights in both Guatemala and El Salvador. It has been just as bad in Nicaragua, and over the years it was just as bad in Cuba. But, if we are serious, we are not talking about the situation in El Salvador alone. This is not a morality play; it is a global issue.

Let me explain what I mean. I do not know whether the Cuban people were happier under Batista than they are under Castro today. I do not think that anybody knows. I am inclined to think that they probably did better under Batista, but I may be wrong. What I do know is that when Cuba was under Batista it was not an international problem. Cuba today is a major military and political base for Soviet imperialism.

Nobody can question that. One has only to look at the 15,000 Cubans in Angola, the 15,000 in Ethiopia, the 4,000 in south Yemen and many others dotted about in other places. They are the Gurkhas of the Soviet Empire. They are pretty strongly represented already in Nicaragua, along with North Koreans and East Germans. The right hon. Member for Devonport says that we might just pull Nicaragua back from the brink. I hope that he is right, but I am not sure that we shall do it by making concessions or urging concessions—it is not we who can make them—on our American allies at this stage.

There is a real danger that Cuban imperialism, which is a front for Soviet imperialism, will spread, and spread quite quickly, to Central America. Can we be indifferent to that? Of course not. Those who, consciously or unconsciously, serve the purposes of Soviet imperialism can welcome the development, but the facts are not in doubt about the extent to which Soviet influence has already penetrated—total control of Cuba, partial control of Nicaragua and considerable control of the guerrilla movement in El Salvador.

That is something to which the rest of us cannot be indifferent. We are allies and friends of the United States. That does not mean "the Americans right or wrong" any more than "our country right or wrong" is a good doctrine, but here is a forest fire burning at the Americans' back door. They face the danger. They run the risks. They have to play the hand, and if they play it wrong the loss will be theirs more than that of any others.

After his youthful flirtation with Communism, the right hon. Member for Leeds, East became almost a lackey of the United States. I am sorry to see him today moving—no doubt for internal, domestic reasons—to a position almost of neutralism. We would show ourselves poor allies and no friends of the United States if we did not offer it our support in the present crisis.

8.27 pm

No one who studies the situation in El Salvador today can have any doubts about the appalling suffering which its people have experienced over recent years. Journalists, priests, politicians, relief workers and all those others who have visited the country tell a similar story of cruelty, murder, poverty and misery.

Of the population of about 4½ million, 300,000 are estimated to have fled abroad and 350,000 have become refugees in their own country. In the past two years about 30,000 people have been beaten, tortured, hacked, shot or otherwise cruelly done to death.

While the economy sags, savagery reins supreme, trampling underfoot all the civilised values that we in this House claim to stand for. If we have a spark of compassion or humanity in our being, our hearts must go out tonight to the poor and oppressed people of El Salvador. That is why I am proud that the Opposition tabled the motion.

Where the main responsibility lies is not in question in the eyes of the vast majority of observers. Bill Yates of Oxfam tells of the savage reprisals by the junta's armed forces. The Trocaire Catholic Agency for world development speaks of lists of alleged traitors published in a daily newspaper by the armed forces to be hunted down and eliminated. An Irish parliamentary delegation states that the security forces are primarily responsible for 36,000 murders. Even The Observer of 21 February, which places part of the blame on the guerrillas and their Christian Democrat and Social Democrat allies, says:
"All impartial observers agree that the Duarte junta, the Salvadorean armed forces, which President Duarte nominally controls, and the death squads which work hand in glove with the army have been responsible for the bulk of the 30,000 killings estimated to have been committed over the past two years."

There can be no dubiety about what the vast majority of independent observers have concluded. Yet President Reagan in his speech to the Organisation of American States on 24 February, as in previous statements, puts the blame entirely on guerrillas
"armed and supported by and through Cuba,"
and fails to mention the atrocities of the junta. I am at least relieved that the Lord Privy Seal was prepared to concede that there had been some atrocities committed by forces under the control of those authorities.

Anyone who has looked into the previous statements of the American Administration on El Salvador knows how little reliance can be placed on much of what they say. On February 23 last year the State Department released a White Paper said to provide concrete evidence that outside forces were supplying the guerrillas in El Salvador. It was based on 19 of 80 documents alleged to have been captured from a guerrilla hiding place. The diplomat John D. Glasman, who was responsible, has now withdrawn a large part of what was said. The Wall Street Journal of 8 June last year—hardly a Left-wing source—commented:
"Several of the most important documents were attributed to guerrilla leaders who did not write them. Much information in the White Paper cannot be found in the documents at all."
The Sunday Times of 14 June stated:
"former CIA members have claimed the documents were forged."

It would be tedious, and I have not the time, to go through all the details. There can be no question, however, that the information which has been circulated by the United States to justify their claims that the Cubans are involved is totally discredited. That shows the lengths to which the United States Administration are prepared to go to justify their support for a vile and wicked regime.

There is, furthermore, genuine fear in the Caribbean that the United States may take military action against Nicaragua, Grenada, or Cuba. It is clear that vast amounts of money are being spent to destabilise those countries. United States Governments have a long record, of which they should be ashamed, of supporting reactionary dictators in Latin America.

Before we talk about aggression on the part of the Cubans, we should recall some Latin American history. The Cubans have never attacked the United States, but the Bay of Pigs assault was launched with the backing of the United States against Cuba. There are no Cuban forces in the United States, but there are United States forces on the soil of Cuba. Whatever people such as the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) say about the situation in Cuba, let them recognise, if they have any respect for morality, that Cuba is no longer the centre for prostitution, drug taking, corruption and gambling which flourished under Batista.

Those of us who claim to have decent moral standards should recognise these things instead of brushing them aside as some right hon. and hon. Members are inclined to do. The United States Government's policy is a patent effort to crush underfoot any attempt by the people of El Salvador to rid themselves of a vile dictatorship if that threatens United States interests. To hold elections in El Salvador in the circumstances which prevail at present is farcical, as every country in Europe save one has recognised by refusing to send observers. Britain is alone in Europe in agreeing to give some legitimacy to them by despatching observers for the event.

To conduct a fair election in El Salvador now is like trying to conduct a plebiscite in the middle of a civil war. As The Observer put it, to seek to establish the fairness of a Salvadorean election in 1982 is in the same realm of absurdity as trying to find out how much snow is falling in the Sahara desert or whether the Ayatollah Khomeini is a communicant member of the Church of England.

It is absurd that we should be sending observers to El Salvador. We know very well what the situation is at present. Why then are the Government to send observers? It has been rumoured that one reason is that Britain is seeking to inveigle the United States into making financial concessions on the Trident deal. It has been rumoured also that the Foreign Office has been seeking to influence the BBC and the IBA not to allow an appeal to be broadcast to raise funds for the victims of the war. These are serious charges and when the Under-Secretary of State replies I hope that he will make it clear that the rumours are untrue. If he does not, the Government will be even more discredited following the decision that has already been taken.

The position that the Government have adopted is characterised by double standards. The Government are insensitive to a situation that cries out for compassion. Their present stance justifies, and will only earn, that contempt of many in the Third world whom we should be seeking to make our friends. Britain should stand out for human values in other countries apart from Poland and the Soviet Union. I entirely support the criticisms which have been voiced on many occasions about what happens in Poland and the Soviet Union, but Britain must stand out equally strongly against the cruelly oppressed members of countries which are ruled by dictatorships nominally friendly to the West. In fact, this Government have double standards.

If the Government wish to retain a single shred of decency they should take their courage in their hands and stand out against the appalling and cruel deeds that are now being perpetrated in El Salvador, which they can genuinely do only if they cancel the decisions to send observers. They should tell President Reagan clearly that they will not turn a blind eye to murder and that they will not send observers who will serve only to legitimise the farce which is due to take place.

The Government should make it clear, on behalf of the people of Britain, that we stand out for human rights, even for tiny El Salvador. If the right hon. and hon. Members on the Government Front Bench do not have the courage to take that stand this evening, many hon Members will be proud to go into the Lobby to speak out for the British people as a whole in condemning the appalling state of affairs which presently prevails in El Salvador and on which this Government refrain from coming clean.

8.41 pm

There were several moments during the speech of the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) when, although one generally accepts what is his point of view, even I found myself a little staggered. For example, he said that there was no question—it was only an American invention—that Cuba was playing any role of a subversive nature in either Nicaragua or El Salvador. Even Mr. Castro would not agree with him on that. He recently claimed proudly that he is playing a decisive role in those two countries. The hon. Member for Harlow finds himself to the Left of Mr. Castro which is an unusual position, even for him.

The hon. Member for Harlow also said that the Americans were in Cuba, referring to their base, which, as he knows, is perfectly legal and constitutional. He also said that there were no Cubans in America.

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman meant no Cuban armed forces and I am prepared to give him that point. There may not be Cuban armed forces, but I wonder whether he considered, when judging Cuba, that there are over 2 million Cuban refugees now in Florida. If his remarks are correct, it is they who should be helping to build a new Cuba rather than being refugees in the United States. That point is much more telling than the presence of a few thousand American troops in Cuba. Nobody could legally disallow their presence; they are there by treaty arrangements, in the same way that we and others countries have forces in various parts of the world. The real question we should ask is why there are more than 2 million refugees, who gave anything to get to the United States and escape from the Government of which the hon. Member for Harlow spoke so highly.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) spoke about oppression and said that he was unsure about whether the Nicaraguans and Cubans were happier now than under the previous dictatorial regimes. My right hon. Friend the Member for Pavilion was jeered for making such remarks. The 2 million who escaped do not sound overjoyed at the change. The easiest way to discover whether they approved of their Governments would be for them to vote. If we are not to have free elections in El Salvador, there might be free elections in Cuba and Nicaragua. Such elections would prove to all hon. Members and observers whether those people approve of the regimes. Surely that would be the best test, rather than making assertions that they are happy, which none of us is capable of substantiating. The people have so far had no such opportunity of expressing themselves.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Pavilion also spoke about the reasons for holding this debate now. I am always pleased when we use the Opposition's or the Government's time for debates on foreign affairs because there are too few rather than too many such debates. However, it is worth asking why, with the massive horrors now occurring in the world, we should choose tonight a very narrow issue, not just on El Salvador—which is important—but on whether we should send observers. The ready answer, at which my right hon. Friend the Member for Pavilion hinted, is that it is one subject on which every Labour Member can go into the Lobby. Anything in this debate that is a criticism of the United States of America and a defence of regimes that are unfriendly to Britain is sure to get the maximum support from Labour Members. It was a very wise choice by the Opposition.

The hon. Member for Harlow said that he was equally concerned about events in Russia and Poland. He did not mention Afghanistan, but I shall give him the benefit of the doubt about that. It is odd that, on one of the rare occasions when we discuss foreign affairs, he did not say that El Salvador is important, but that the forgotten war in Afghanistan is more so, since Afghan refugees are more numerous than the entire population of El Salvador. We could also discuss what is happening in the Soviet Union, Poland or Iran, where the Shah was replaced by a diabolical regime. I wonder whether Opposition Members believe that the Iranians are feeling more cheerful since the famous revolution took place.

I shall not give way. I have studiously avoided interrupting in the debate, because I believe that Back Benchers have a right to make the points that they wish.

It is a pity that the Opposition motion could not include a genuine debate on the real position in Cuba and in Nicaragua. There are two points of view about what is going on in Cuba, the amount of Cuban subversion and infiltration in the Caribbean and what is happening in Nicaragua. The hon. Member for Harlow read from some documents about what is allegedly happening in El Salvador and Nicaragua. I have read two sorts of document, and it would have been worthwhile to decide for ourselves, on the best information available, whether it is true that there is a massive arms build up in Nicaragua as a mainland base for a further Soviet-Cuban invasion.

The American reports about that are substantive. As we have heard, there are American advisers in El Salvador. No one denies the fact that in Nicaragua there are Russian, East German and many Cuban advisers. Yet they are not mentioned when we discuss affairs in that country. However, if we are to consider the matter impartially, it would be a good idea on another occasion to broaden the debate and not pick on one aspect of a highly complex and dangerous problem.

The right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), who opened the debate for the Opposition, made a rather freudian slip when he said that the revolution in El Salvador was not yet successful but that there had been successful revolutions in Cuba and Nicaragua. I wonder what he meant by "successful". Did he mean that the regime, which was highly unsatisfactory and distasteful, had been replaced by another no less distasteful dictatorship, or did he mean that he did not believe that Cuba or Nicaragua have bad Governments? Did he take into account the feelings of the people who live in the countries where those revolutions are supposed to have been successful?

I believe that the military, Right-wing or reactionary people have been guilty of the most appalling atrocities in El Salvador. However, from all the documentation that I have read—I am not as selective as some Labour Members—I know that an appalling level of atrocities has also been committed by the guerrillas with weapons supplied, undeniably, by Cuba through Nicaragua. I quoted Mr. Castro earlier. A leader of the Salavador guerrillas said only two or three days ago that he was proud of the fact that in the last few weeks of 1981 his guerrillas succeeded in killing 2,000 people. That was not a claim by myself but a proud admission of the success of their enterprise by the guerrillas.

I come finally to the narrow point of the elections. I cannot understand the point of view of Labour Members who always urge elections when it seems that they think that they will like the result but who always come later to take the opposite view. I am a member of the Council of Europe and week after week, month after month we were told that the Turks must immediately have free elections. Curiously enough, the Left would earlier have been perfectly happy to have held elections in El Salvador to see what would happen. A strange turn around came, when the impression began to get about that, after all, the people of El Salvador might not want a Communist revolutionary Government and a Fascist type dictatorship, such as that which exists in Cuba, and nearly exists in Nicaragua. I wonder where, in Socialist thinking, the moment of parting came, when it was not, after all, a good idea to have free elections to let the people speak. It became so when, it seemed on the whole, that the Marxists would be able to get a better deal by negotiation, than by elections.

Over the years, these changes have come about, and have been followed on the Order Paper for longer than I care to remember. First, there is a dramatic urging of elections until the moment comes when those who advocate them think that they may not get a result that is satisfactory to themselves.

I tell my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal that no observer sent to El Salvador will be able to say whether the elections were fair. I use that adjective, because I do not believe that the correct conditions obtain in El Salvador because rival parties use pressure, threats and intimidation. What we would regard as a fair result is not conceivable—I doubt that it is in many countries. I do not care how many observers are sent, elections judged by the word "fair" in our sense are not available.

However, I support the view of my right hon. Friend and the action that the Government are taking. They will be able to obtain a much easier result. They will be able to say whether the elections, bearing in mind the number of boycotts taking place, the level of intimidation, and all other factors, indicate that a majority of El Salvadoreans have said, as far as they can, what they want their future to be. It is for that reason that we should support the elections, and send observers. I wish my right hon. Friend the best of all possible success in what is a wise and statesmanlike policy.

8.53 pm

I shall not follow the hon. Member for Torbay (Sir F. Bennett) in detail, save to remind him of one thing that has often been spoken of by Archbishop Helder Camara. In the context of America he has often spoken of the spiral of violence whereby the structured violence and pressure of poverty lead to a violent response on the part of the oppressed population, which leads to a further escalation of violence on the part of the forces of so-called law and order to maintain their position. Revolutionary violence is always caused by the violence of oppression, injustice and poverty. The sooner Conservative Members, who are opposed to revolutionary violence in Latin America, realise that, they will know that the causes of that structured violences against the poor and oppressed in that continent must be removed, the fewer will be instances of the kind of hypocrisy that we have had tonight.

I wish to speak about the position of refugees displaced from El Salvador and of those inside the country. The Lord Privy Seal, in opening the debate, referred yet again to the contribution that the Government have made to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. I hope that, in winding up, he will say what representations the Government have made about the position of the Salvadorean refugees in Honduras, about whom we have heard recently from the delegation from the British Council of Churches and other international observers who visited the refugee camps.

The violence in El Salvador is following the refugees across the border, and a refugee relocation programme is now taking place. There is concern among many relief workers that the relocation campaign is part of a military strategy to clear the border zone between Honduras and El Salvador, and that the removal of refugees and relief workers may be a prelude to the creation of a free fire zone along the frontier in which Salvadorean and Honduras troops could collaborate to contain the guerrilla war in El Salvador. I therefore ask the Government what representations they have made and what discussions they have had with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees about what is happening.

I turn to the more general issue of the situation within El Salvador. As we heard, it is a country the size of Wales, and 36,000 people have been killed since the present Government came to power. In this debate, as in the official standard reply which the Foreign Office sends out to letters about El Salvador, we have the operation of a double standard. We are told in official Foreign Office statements that this Government have reminded the Government of El Salvador of their obligations not to murder their own citizens. Apparently, the Foreign Office does not send out letters reminding General Jaruzelski of his obligations. Clearly, there are double standards as between El Salvador and Poland or Afghanistan. I endorse all that was said on that subject.

The Prime Minister told the House, after appearing in a Ronald Reagan television programme for Poland, that there was no need for a "Let El Salvador be El Salvador" broadcast. She informed us that the elections in El Salvador rendered superfluous any further Government action to promote peace and justice in that country. The reason is, of course, that El Salvador is located in the United States' own backyard. Apparently, the Government are prepared to accept a bland statement that elections in the context in which they are being held in El Salvador are bound to be democratic. The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the hon. Member for Shoreham (Mr. Luce), appearing on the television programme "Newsnight" the other week, said that it was important not to prejudge the elections, and tonight the Minister said the same thing. Apparently, the Government can prejudge the fact that elections will be democratic.

I have seen a recording of that television programme and the Minister said several times during the interview that the elections were democratic.

I refer the House to early-day motion 116, standing in my name and that of my hon. Friends. It sets out the precise reasons why any elections in the present context of military activity in El Salvador could not be considered democratic. It is not merely an issue of the lack of electoral registers. The basic issue is that no candidate standing for the election has placed on the agenda a discussion of the causes of the conflict. There is to be no debate in the election in El Salvador on the gross inequality of wealth and the institutionalised oppression and violence that have been part of the life of that country for 50 years. No candidate in the elections will discuss the deaths of 30,000 non-combatants and half-a-million refugees. Only the war itself, which is revolutionary violence and an uprising of last resort by the poor and Moppressed of El Salvador, has been the means of placing these issues on the international agenda. It is right that the House should discuss this issue and make it clear to the British Government and international opinion where we on the Opposition Benches stand on this issue.

It is not possible to speak in the context of the present war in El Salvador of representative elections. The interim archbishop, who stands in the place of the martyred Archbishop Romero, said that elections do not create democracy. It may be that the Government do not want to listen to the voices of theology and liberation in Latin America. The Government should understand that the Catholic Church, through people such as Archbishop Romero and his successor, speaks for the poor and oppressed in El Salvador. Such voices are often the only democratic ones that those people hear. The present archbishop has said that the elections are the manifestation of a democracy that is already at work.

In no sense can there be any such manifestation in this case. General Medrano, a leading member of one of the seven Right-wing parties that are contesting the election, said at a recent gathering of business men:
"A purely military government does not suit our purposes since that would be badly received abroad … for the time being we must wear democrats' clothing …"
Indeed, Signor Ungo, the president of the Revolutionary Democratic Front, has described the contest between the seven Right-wing parties as "fascist pluralism". That is what is being supported by Conservative hon. Members when they advocate sending observers to the elections. The Prime Minister has told the House that the Salvadorean Opposition has refused to take part in the election. We have heard the same view being expressed by Conservative hon. Members. How often must we tell the Government and the House that the Opposition cannot take part? All the major Opposition leaders have been named on a death list, publicised by the military. Parties cannot participate without furnishing the authorities with a list of supporters' names. To do so would be to place oneself on to a death list.

Even if parties were able to take part, how would it be possible to fight an election in a country that is fighting a war, and where a large proportion of the territory—at least about 30 per cent.—is out of the control of the present military Government and is therefore disenfranchised? The army will be overseeing the polling, and is under the command of the same officers who were responsible for the electoral frauds of 1972 and 1977. Will the two British observers be able to observe the conduct of those officers in the polling booths of the areas that are controlled by the Government?

There is no independent press, and there are no electoral rolls. We are concerned about the way in which voters will be identified. If voters are to have their hands stained with indelible ink after voting, that will ensure a high poll in the areas where the poll can take place. The army will be able to identify at a glance all those people who have not voted. Therefore the House cannot accept the present position in El Salvador as a context in which an electoral contest—in our democratic sense of the word—can be held. Therefore, it is essential that the Government should now withdraw their proposal to send observers.

There is an alternative. The British Government can join with other States such as France, Ireland, Holland, Austria and Denmark in recognising the Salvadorean Opposition as a representative political force. It is important to rebut the allegation that was made in the House that the Revolutionary Democratic Front is constituted entirely of Left-wing marxists. The opposition in El Salvador is not Leftist in that sense. It is an extraordinarily broad church. It represents not only the leader of the Social Democratic Party of El Salvador but members of the Christian Democratic Party. It includes Leftist-oriented members of popular organisations. It is a coalition. To describe the Revolutionary Democratic Front as a coalition of Leftists is like describing as Leftist a British coalition of everyone from Tory "wets" to the Communist Party. That is not the position.

We must understand that it is a broad democratic movement, which has been driven to revolutionary violence because of the oppression in which it has operated. Therefore, the way forward for the British Government is to ensure that negotiations take place. Then we can talk of democratic elections taking place in a democratic context.

Do the Government agree with a statement made in Britain last Tuesday on television by American Defence Secretary Weinberger who said that he felt that there were no moral problems in supporting questionable Governments in Central America as long as they were "fighting Communism"? Is that the position of the British Government?

What position will the British Government take when the observers, if they decide to send them, come back and report publicly to the House that the elections have not been democratic? Will the Government take a new policy option and recognise that the violent oppression of the people of El Salvador must cease? It cannot cease by false democracy. It can cease only through the liberation for which Archbishop Romero and others have died.

9.6 pm

I shall refer to a number of points made by the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas).

Hon. Members have referred to Costa Rica. My first contact with Central America was at a Liberal conference in 1969 in Germany attended by the candidate for the Presidency of Costa Rica. I associate myself with hon. Members who have referred to the excellent record of democracy in Costa Rica. They have shown in an estimable way that there is nothing in the Central American situation that prevents the proper working of democracy. Therefore, I support what my right hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) said in urging economic support for Costa Rica and Honduras.

The Opposition motion, while referring generally to Central America, centres on El Salvador. The bulk of my remarks will be concerned with that. El Salvador has become a flail in the hands of those who are unsympathetic to Western pluralist democracy on a simple and, I am afraid, sound basis, as we have heard at Prime Minister's and foreign affairs Question Time—that it is inconsistent for us in the United Kingdom to condemn what is happening in Poland or in Eastern Europe generally while at the same time our major ally, the United States, is propping up a regime that is responsible for horrifying breaches of human rights, to make no mention of killing on a savage scale.

If the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) had still been present I would have referred to what he said. We fail in our responsibility as a democratic House if we do not record our horror at the effect on individual men and women and their children of the harsh battle in El Salvador.

El Salvador is the crux of the debate. However, I must remark in parenthesis that United States policy in Guatemala is open to similar criticism. Criticism is an inadequate word—the policy is open to outright condemnation.

I speak as a friend of the United States, as a supporter of the Western Alliance, and as one who has no doubt about his preference for American democracy as against Eastern autocracy. As a Liberal I condemned Batista in Cuba, but I did not wish his replacement by a Castro. I take the point made by the hon. Member for Merioneth about the spiral of violence. However, I wonder whether the violence practised by the IRA is in his view structured, as is the violence in El Salvador.

I come to the nub of the matter. How should the large and relatively affluent democratic powers behave in their dealings with smaller States where things may go sadly wrong, as they have done in El Salvador, given that our capacity to stop change and maintain a status quo by military means is not matched by any easy equivalent capacity to promote democratic advance? That is our problem.

The Americans have simply taken the view that a Communist system, once established, because of its dictatorial nature, cannot be changed and so must be opposed, whatever objections there are to the regime that it seeks to supplant. As a Liberal I believe that to be a profoundly flawed analysis. We must face the fact that, military intervention excluded, we have a limited capacity to dictate to an independent country what it should do. We must be prepared to provide all possible support to democratic forces in undemocratic regimes. Bluntly, the Goverment should tell the United States that in supporting the people they are supporting in El Salvador and Guatemala they are assisting the advance of Communism. That is the effect of their actions, and it is counter-productive.

What should Britain do? First, we should tell the United States Government to revise their previous policy and to consider other possibilities. Secondly, we should take an initiative within the European Economic Community and build on what France has done with Mexico. That means withdrawing our observers. The Lord Privy Seal did not give an adequate response to my intervention earlier. We are isolated within the EEC. We are the only country in the EEC to send observers and to vote the way we did in the United Nations. That does not make sense. It is all very well sending these two estimable people as observers. I do not know the two people concerned, but I accept the assurance of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) that they are good people.

I attended the Rhodesia/Zimbabwe elections. In practical terms, two people going to a strange country to observe elections is an inadequate way of judging the system. It cannot be done effectively in that way. One cannot shuffle off responsibility on to two people, however estimable they may be.

Thirdly, if we are seriously interested in helping, rather that condemning, we must sit down with the Organisation of American States at the United Nations and work out what can be done. A democratic solution means more than disengaging and letting the parties fight it out. I take the Government's point in that respect.

The Americans can influence the situation effectively and we, in turn, must use all our influence on them to ensure that that is what they are doing. Unfortunately, that influence is being used in the wrong way. I do not believe that the Government, or the justified critics of what is happening, have properly thought this through. Sadly, the Government's approach is complacent.

The hon. Gentleman refers to the importance of working with organisations such as the OAS. Does he recognise that the OAS voted in favour of sending observers to the El Salvador elections?

I recognise that, and particularly that Costa Rica is willing to send observers. But I still maintain the view that the European Economic Community Governments, and Canada, have taken an opposite view. I, too, hold that contrary opinion.

The British Government have a remarkable ability to influence the United States. As the major advocate of Western pluralist democracy, the United States stands condemned in its attitude in El Salvador and Guatemala. We must do something positive to change that.

9.14 pm

We are never sure whether the alliance holds together in the Lobbies, but if the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) and the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) gave their parties' views, and they are joining the Labour Party in the Lobby tonight, it is sad for democracy in Britain that they intend to vote against an electoral process.

I spent over three years in Latin America and, as a result, I often meet people from Latin and Central America as they travel through London. They are people from all walks of life, of all political shades, and some with no political persuasion. They have three points which they put to me on the treatment of their region of the world by the British and Western European media.

Their argument has been "We do not seem to exist at all. You do not talk of us". Lately, they have been saying "Why do you only talk of the horrors, killings and disasters in Central and Latin America?" Over the last year or so, there has been incredible puzzlement, to put it mildly, as they ask "Do you in Western Europe and Britain believe that the only killing that is done in El Salvador is done by the Rightists, by the army and by the Government forces?" They find inexplicable the diet that we are fed in Western Europe.

The right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) and a number of other hon. Members have referred to parallels with Vietnam. This is a point commonly made in the United States. One close parallel with what is happening in El Salvador is the large propaganda battle that is being fought. I commend to hon. Members an interesting article in Encounter last August dealing with the manner in which the Western media helped to lose Vietnam, and all that this has meant for the people of Indo-China. It seems to me that the same sort of developments are now happening on both sides, on the extreme Right and on the extreme Left, in El Salvador.

I offer only one example because time is pressing. We were told last December of a massacre in a place called Mozote in which it was said 920 people were slaughtered. A well testifed and, I think, unchallengeable investigation subsequently proved that never had more than 300 people lived in Mozote. Yet the Western world accepted that 920 of the inhabitants of that place had been massacred. We must work much harder to penetrate the propaganda fog and barrage to which we are subjected.

There is a deteriorating situation in Central America. To that extent, I agree with part of the motion put down by the Leader of the Opposition. The situation is, for example, deteriorating in Nicaragua. It seems that the 10,000 Miskitos have been shifted en bloc because they are said to be a security problem for Nicaragua. Some of the compassion sincerely expressed by the Opposition might also be appropriate in respect of those unfortunate inhabitants in Nicaragua. If we look at Nicaragua and consider elections, we should remind ourselves that the Sandinistas came to power—everyone condemns the Somoza regime—on a promise of elections. Not surprisingly, that promise has receded. There is now talk of possible elections in 1985. This situation has shades of Angola.

Much has been heard from Opposition Members about elections in what was then Rhodesia. No one from the Opposition Benches has questioned why the people of Angola have never had the opportunity of elections. In talking of the situation in Central America, we should remind ourselves of Cuba. Why do 1 million people leave Cuba? That in itself is testimony of the situation in terms of human rights.

Many words have been expressed in the media and in this House tonight about El Salvador. A surprising contribution has come from Oxfam. All hon. Members have presumably had the benefit of the propaganda barrage from an organisation calling itself the campaigns department of the information department of Oxfam. I feel, as someone who contributes to Oxfam, that the status of Oxfam under the Charity Commission is called into question if it indulges in this sort of political propaganda. It would not be the first charity to be so scrutinised. It seems correct that the Charity Commission should look into the matter.

The propaganda tells a story. Like all good propaganda, it tells very far from the whole story. It is known that El Salvador and other areas of Central America have terrible problems arising from the oligarchies and military regimes.

Before 1979, 38 per cent. of El Salvadoreans were landless. That is a terrible condition when there is no other form of employment. The House has not been told by the campaigning department of Oxfam or anyone else of the effect of oil prices on El Salvador, that whereas in 1977 they could buy a barrel of oil for 5lbs. of coffee they must now pay 26lbs. of coffee for one barrel of oil. Those are the problems with which any regime would have to deal with and operate under.

We have also not been told of the efforts made by the reforming group in the present regime. It has been helped by Napoleon Duarte, who is the one man in El Salvadorean politics who has made an impact on elections. He has been twice elected as mayor of San Salvador and obtained 28 per cent. of the vote in the presidential election of 1972, unlike Mr. Ungo who is no longer in the country and who obtained only 1.7 per cent. of the vote. President Duarte and the reformist military officers put a remarkably far-reaching and ambitious land reform programme into effect in October 1979. Of course, that programme has run into serious trouble, but it has also been extremely effective—1·25 million formerly landless peasants now have land. That was 70 per cent. of the land, and the proportion of landless people has now been reduced from 38 per cent. to 11 per cent.

That is progress, and it is to be welcomed. I am deeply sorry that there have been no other words of welcome for those efforts. Of course, such efforts create enemies on both the Left and the Right. Owners of more than 500 hectares, who lost some property, are bound to oppose the land reform programme and they have worked against the Government and the reformist group. So also have the people of the Left, who do not want people to own land as they feel that landed people are not good territory for their political objectives.

We have not been told that the Right-wing organisation Orden was banned and that more than 1,000 members of the armed forces have been forced to leave because they have been found guilty of the oppression of the El Salvador populace. We have not been told about the code of conduct on human rights that the regime has sought to impose. No one denies that there are horrors, but let us understand the real efforts that are being made.

We should also understand that the elections are welcomed by the embryo trade union movement, the campesino movement of peasants in El Salvador, and all the bishops. The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) was quite wrong in his remarks about the successor to Bishop Romero, as his successor has certainly welcomed the elections and has said that people must have the right to vote because that is the only way.

The former president of the International Court of Justice and former President of Peru, Mr. Bustamante, has also been in El Salvador recently. He is certain that the Salvadorean election commission is doing its job and he believes that the electoral process looks as if it is to be held cleanly and without tricks and that
"it will be a valid expression of the will of the Salvadorean people."

Again, we have heard much about the fact that other Western European Governments are not joining us. Be it noted that, apart from the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party, we are talking about members of the Socialist International who made up their minds months ago in many countries. For them, the Frente Democratico Revolucionario is the legitimate representative of the Salvadorean people. They do not care if the archbishop in El Salvador says that it holds the support of only a small percentage of the people of El Salvador. The Socialist International has made up its mind. The Labour Party, the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party have all made up their minds that they do not want elections because they know who are the representatives of the El Salvadorean people in the House of Commons. I offer one other group that will accompany us—the Christian Democrats in West Germany. They are sending observers, and it is right that we should do so.

The United States of America has faced a difficult task—as we all have—in sorting out the extreme Right and the extreme Left. However, we must try to give the democratic process a chance. The American Government recognise that. They also recognised their duties, not only to El Salvador but to Central America as a whole, in the imaginative package that the President offered on 24 February. If the Opposition are genuinely worried about the deteriorating situation in Central America, they will support that American initiative and will vote with us for democracy in the Lobby tonight.

9.26 pm

One cannot help comparing the attitude of Conservative Members when we debated events in Poland with the attitude that they have adopted tonight. When we debated Poland, Conservative Members were full of indignation and anger at the imposition of martial law in Poland and the suppression of civil liberties—sentiments which we on the Opposition Benches shared. However, tonight Conservative Member after Conservative Member has tried to defend and justify the position in El Salvador.

There is a cruel, bloody and oppressive regime in El Salvador. The junta death squads carry out regular killings. There is no control or punishment of those thugs, who are usually connected with the army or security forces. We made our protest clear on Poland. We opposed what had happened and continues to happen in that country. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) said, we do not believe in double standards. That is the essential difference between the Government and the Labour Benches.

A revealing report appeared in a British newspaper that is not normally associated with radical causes. Last month the Daily Express carried a lengthy article by its correspondent in El Salvador. He wrote:
"A corrupt, authoritarian, military junta hides behind the facade of a civilian Government—and every week there is a massacre to rival or exceed My Lai, in this region."
In the same article in the Daily Express—which I know a number of Conservative Members read regularly—the correspondent went on to say:
"Archbishops are murdered, American nuns are killed. Whole villages are laid to waste … By far and away most of these atrocities are being committed by people who come under the umbrella of the American-backed Government."
Those are not my words but the words of the Daily Express correspondent in El Salvador.

The elections in El Salvador will be a complete mockery in view of the situation there. The death squads with their hit lists of the opponents of the regime are hardly conducive to free and genuine elections. A number of Conservative Members said that we on the Left do not believe in elections when we believe that we are likely to lose. Let me answer that point here and now. I speak, I am sure, for all my colleagues as well as for myself. I believe in meaningful, genuine elections—be they in Eastern Europe, in our own country, in America or Latin America. Win or lose, the right to hold free elections and the right of people to vote is an essential right that generations in this country in previous centuries fought so hard to win. It is not, and never has been our view, that we are against any elections where Left-wing parties are likely to lose.

The situation in El Salvador is such that there cannot be genuine elections. We know that to be a fact. Therefore, the Government and particularly the Prime Minister will be making a stupid blunder when they send observers to those elections and when Britain is associated with that mockery of an election to be held at the end of the month.

No doubt it will be said—if it has not been said already—that our attitude to El Salvador represents another outburst of anti-Americanism. However, those of us who strongly oppose American involvement in Vietnam were frequently accused of the same sin. Who was proved to be right? Did those such as myself, who consistently and strongly opposed the American adventure in South-East Asia, or those Conservative Members who backed the United States to the hilt, do more ultimately to defend America's reputation and integrity?

Again, the American Administration talk of an international Communist-organised military campaign. This time, it is said to be in Central America. The right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) seems to believe that there is not only an international Communist campaign, but a neutralist campaign as well. Apparently the Opposition have tabled a motion only because they are part of a world-wide Communist-organised plot. Apparently all the blame for the situation in El Salvador can be laid at the door of Moscow, East Berlin or Havana. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about Afghanistan?"] When that aggression took place—[Interruption.] Having shouted out, hon. Members should have the courtesy to listen to my reply. I condemned the Soviet Union's aggression. I did not find reasons for justifying the situation in Afghanistan. That aggression by the Russians was morally wrong and they have not had much success in the past two years. What was done in Poland was also wrong.

As I have said, there are double standards. We condemn oppression, crimes and atrocities, but Conservative Members are very selective and that has been shown in this debate. There is no international Communist plot in El Salvador. However, the junta and the death squads have shown great cruelty, with savage repression, killings and atrocities. No Conservative Member has denied the existence of those death squads or the countless murders that have been carried out. At the heart of the situation lies the deep poverty experienced by the majority of those in countries such as El Salvador and the existence of a relatively few rich and corrupt families.

If what is understood as Communism or revolutionary politics wins any success in Central America, responsibility and blame will rest largely not only with the corruption and poverty in such places, but with the United States for the manner in which it has backed such corrupt regimes to the hilt. I wonder whether Cuba would have taken the road that it took if the United States of America had not always been associated with the most reactionary and backward regimes and dictatorships in that country.

The Soviet Union is reluctant to allow countries in eastern Europe to take an independent path. Equally, the United States of America is reluctant to allow Latin American countries to be independent. Time and again, the United States of America has been on the side of tyranny in Latin America. I have the greatest admiration for the democracy and traditions maintained within the United States, but the American Administration should allow that type of democracy to travel onwards into Latin America.

I am very pleased indeed that there are growing numbers of Americans in the United States, both in and out of public life, who are totally ashamed of what their Government are doing in El Salvador. It was these types of American whose voices were raised loud and clear against America's involvement in South-East Asia. Nothing would be worse than for our country to be associated with the type of policy being pursued by President Reagan and the State Department in El Salvador. We must not allow this country to be contaminated by the kind of policy that successive American Administrations, including the present one, have pursued in Central America. It would be against our moral interest and certainly against our national interest.

This is why the Opposition motion should be supported tonight. We should make it quite clear that we dissociate ourselves from President Reagan and his disastrous and criminal policies in central America.

9.35 pm

The situation in El Salvador is, of course, far removed from the ideal for the holding of elections, but I am not persuaded by what I have heard in debate this evening that that is a reason for abandoning the idea of going forward with the elections. Nor do I believe that the Government would have been right simply to take note that these elections were being held and to refuse to send observers.

From conversations I have had with him, the Minister will know that I have had severe doubts as to whether we should send observers, but I believe, on balance, that it is right to do so if for no other reason than that it would give this country an opportunity to influence American policy after the elections have been held.

I do not believe that elections can simply be held and, no matter what the outcome, we can leave it at that. Equally I do not believe that, welcome though the initiative of President Reagan last week was on economic aid and the reduction of trade barriers, this is all we need to do. Nor do I believe that we must just give more military aid to the region and leave it there. There is a very strong argument for moving beyond the elections, beyond economic and military aid, and taking positive diplomatic initiatives.

I suggest that if the United States were to initiate some sort of conference, embracing the hemisphere of which it is the most important constituent member, it might be surprised to discover that there is an area of agreement among such diverse countries as the United States, Cuba and Mexico, not so much political as on the fundamentals of the continued existence of such diverse countries in that hemisphere.

I am sorry that President Reagan seemed to overlook the offer of an initiative by the President of Mexico when he spoke last week. If it is not possible for the United States to take the initiative of which I speak, which is a political one, to build on the elections and on the military and economic aid of the United States, then perhaps we could look to the President of Mexico to take some steps in that direction.

I hope that, in the short time that I have been able to detain the House, I have managed to persuade hon. Members on both sides that once the elections have been held and economic aid has been introduced under President Reagan's plan, and with the military aid continuing, there is a positive need for a diplomatic initiative in the near future. For this I hope we can look to the United States, assisted by this Government, who will be in a position to assist because they have decided to send observers to the elections.

9.39 pm

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. McCrindle) for allowing me time to speak.

If such a debate as this had taken place in 1971 or 1972 it would have been at a time when it was possible to install President Duarte as the elected President of El Salvador, and much of the disaster that followed for that country during the past 10 years would have been avoided. It is always difficult to obtain the acceptance of both sides of the House for the kind of imaginative intervention which the Americans might then have been able to make to ensure that the military in El Salvador did not prevent Duarte from taking over in 1972.

I had the opportunity—I do not think that I can call it fortune—to go to El Salvador in 1978 to visit Archbishop Romero. After going there for the second time on Palm Sunday in 1980 for his funeral, I went to Washington to try to persuade the State Department to push for elections in El Salvador, at the time of the new junta following the Government of President Romero—no relation to the Archbishop. It was clear that, with the democratic forces—the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats—in Government, that was the time to have the elections. Sadly, the United States Administration believed that elections could not be held. Elections are now to be held, and it is clearly a matter of too little, too late, because Reuben Zamora and Guillermo Ungo are not taking part.

It is important to recognise that there are many people in the broad opposition groups who are not Marxists and who would like to find a way other than that advanced by the guerrillas and other fighters.

The question of the observers is a basic irrelevance to El Salvador, because the elections will not solve the problems. If elections can solve the problems in El Salvador, that solution will come when there has been national acceptance, covering the majority of people in the country and those who could represent them, that having elections without the warfare will lead to a satisfactory settlement, which even those who lose are willing to tolerate. At present it is clear that the far Left groups and the far Right groups are not willing to tolerate anything but a continuation of the fighting, bloodshed and indiscriminate slaughter.

The real question is how it is possible to build for the future. Recognising the limitations of the United Kingdom, I think that the important players are the United States, Mexico and Costa Rica.

I wish that Nicaragua could have set an example, because conditions there are not as bad as they are in El Salvador. There is no excuse for Nicaragua not to have held elections to show that many of the fears that have been expressed about that country are unjustified. If the regime in Nicaragua were willing to give an example, I believe many people in El Salvador would be willing to follow it, but that has not yet happened. We should maintain pressure to make sure that it does.

I hope that what President Reagan said last week about taking measures that are prudent and reasonable means that the American Government will move towards talks with the opposition groups. I would not ask them to sit down with Marxist guerrillas who are actually fighting the war, but I ask for the kind of contacts that we saw in a number of countries in Africa before independence. El Salvador has, of course, been an independent country for a long time, but we need to treat it as though it is not independent, because it and its people deserve to have the efforts of Europe, the United States and many of its neighbours in the region directed towards stopping the fighting and killing, which can be no satisfactory answer.

If the present elections led to the election of a group further to the Right than the present junta, that would be no solution. It would simply be a continuation of more of the same military oppression, going back to 1932, when the last bloody slaughter took place during an abortive uprising. I believe that if the extreme Left took over there would be the kind of development that has appeared in Cuba and may still occur in Nicaragua, which is not a very pleasant country for those who are not well in with the Government.

We need to detach President Duarte and those who support him from the ruthless people inside and outside the military. We need to make sure that those who are part of the FDR, the broad coalition on the Left, find that they can move away from the guerrilla groups that were operating at the time when the British bankers were kidnapped three years ago.

I hope that the question of the observers will not cloud the issues we need to take into account when discussing with the Americans and other friendly countries in Central America what can be done to help. The observer question is not the crucial issue. The crucial issue is how we can help, in our limited way, to stop the slaughter. If that does not happen with the elections, we need to build on what happens after the elections, as was so rightly said by my hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar.

9.45 pm

At the very beginning of the debate the Lord Privy Seal said that he shared everyone's concern for those suffering from brutality. He claimed that the Government were in no way selective in their condemnation of that brutality and that they frequently called on Central American Governments to bring offenders to trial. With what effect? Has anybody been brought to trial in Guatemala as a result of his diligent efforts? We all know that that country has been condemned, rightly, as the worst violator of human rights, not simply in Central America but in the world.

It is ironic that President Reagan broke the United States of America arms embargo, which had been imposed by President Carter, by supplying $3·8 million worth of jeeps and trucks recently, on the grounds that the United States want to help the Guatemalan Government to defend peace and liberty.

The Lord Privy Seal then waxed eloquent about Honduras. Amnesty has recently expressed grave concern about the situation there—a continuing chronicle of arbitrary arrests, torture, kidnappings and killings by Salvadorean and Honduran security forces, largely killings of people who are seeking to escape from the fighting in El Salvador.

What effect has his cry to bring offenders to trial had on El Salvador? When President Reagan was recently extolling the record of the junta, to justify increased arms supplies to El Salvador, 700 peasants were massacred in a single village. There were at least 12,500 murders in 1981 and no officers have faced trial for slaughtering civilians. The only officers who have been brought to trial are those who are alleged to have been implicated in the murder of four American nuns a year ago.

We should not be reticent about criticising the assault on human rights whether it is in Cuba, Poland, Afghanistan or in the areas of the world which are the subject of today's debate. All such assaults are to be condemned.

As far as the Caribbean basin programme is concerned, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said at the beginning of the debate, it is a great improvement on merely spending vast amounts on military aid to thoroughly discredited regimes. The sum of £350 million is to be provided by way of economic assistance, but the House will recall the qualification that my right hon. Friend expressed—I do not have to repeat it—and the credibility of that plan is also undermined by the litmus test of eligibility which is to be imposed, a blind adherence to the market economy practised by the Governments who are to be the recipients of that aid.

I believe that the Prime Minister of Barbados put it best when he said:
"Legitimate objectives such as population control programmes, water and sewerage services, roads, seaports and airports cannot be left to private enterprise, and yet private enterprise is the major criterion behind the Caribbean basin programme."

Nicaragua is to be isolated, indeed subverted, clinically, coldly and heartlessly. There is not a word of condemnation from the Lord Privy Seal for the fact that the United States of America is training ex-Somozan guards in Florida and three other States, as my right hon. Friend said, without let or hindrance so as to enable them to conduct their operations againt Nicaragua from Honduras. What else would be their purpose?

The whole process is aided and abetted by Her Majesty's Government. It is grimly reminiscent of the destabilisation and the eventual murder of the Allende regime in Chile. The bitter irony of that is that the Government refuse to assist Nicaragua's economic recovery, including ECGD help, because it was the Somoza regime that ratted on its obligations.

Nobody in the debate has denied the saga of horror that daily occurs, and has occurred for a long time, in El Salvador. The overwhelming majority of deaths has clearly been occasioned by the Government-backed death squads, despite what the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) had to say. The Lord Privy Seal spoke glowingly of Mr. Duarte when the whole world knows that he is the prisoner of the extreme Right in the junta. With a straight face the right hon. Gentleman said that the conditions for elections in El Salvador are "much less than perfect". I refer him to an article which appeared recently in the International Herald Tribune. It read:
"But the armed forces, long a source of El Salvador's agony, are a state within a state. The generals have repeatedly and contemptuously ignored elected civil Governments; on one occasion they robbed even Mr. Duarte of the Presidency.
Therefore, it would be naive to expect the bloody conflict to be ended by the series of elections beginning in March. The country has seen plenty of votes, most of them crooked. It could even happen that the armed forces would rig the outcome to rid themselves of Mr. Duarte and put the extreme right firmly in control—the pattern now visible in Guatemala, where a similarly dubious election is also to be held in March."

In our view, the elections are bound to be a charade. That is not only our view; it is the view of every EEC country, the view of Canada and the view of many other countries. The example of Zimbabwe has been quoted, but let it be remembered that the civil war had been concluded by the time that the elections were held; albeit, the elections were held without electoral rolls.

The Government should not be joining in President Reagan's snub to President Portillo's bold and constructive initiative. They should be warmly welcoming it. They should not be suggesting that it is of no consequence because it is not precise. Indeed, one might accuse the Lord Privy Seal of exactly that offence. We should be saying "Yes, this is an initiative that promises reconciliation". We should not be joining in this charade of an election.

Above all, we should heed the fact that the real reason for unrest and civil war in Central America is desperate poverty and inequality. If we do not hear the voice of he hungry and the dispossessed, others certainly will. That should be the lesson of the Government instead of indulging, or helping to indulge, in an election that the late Samuel Goldwyn might have said is bound to be genuinely bogus.

9.53 pm

In the past two months I have heard the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) speak on three occasions. I heard him speak on Poland and on Canada and this evening he spoke on Central Latin America. His speech on Poland was impressive. His speech on Canada was also impressive. In comparison with some of his other speeches his speech this evening did not come in the top league.

There is not a shadow of doubt about the importance of this debate. However, it was extremely disappointing that when the hon. Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Davis) rose there were only eight Labour Members present to listen to his speech. There is no doubt that there is profound concern in all quarters of the House and among the British public about the growing instability in parts of Central Latin America and the tragic level of violence, much of which stems, as we all agreed, from the desperate economic and social conditions and injustices that have existed in many Central Latin American countries and in many parts of those countries over the past several years.

There is an urgent need to have a clear understanding of the complexities of the problems in this part of the world. My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney), who knows it well and who has served in it, highlighted the problems extremely well. In certain countries in the past, such as El Salvador and Nicaragua, there have been dictatorships that have been exceedingly unattractive, to say the least. We also have countries, as many hon. Gentlemen said, which have hollow forms of democracy—some of them being very strong—for example, Belize, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama. There is no simple or easy way out of the problems in that area. It is no good suggesting that there is a single solution to those countries' problems.

One of the biggest dangers is that we see the very unpleasant totalitarian dictatorships of the Right but do not see a volcanic eruption as an attempt to obtain change. There is so often a serious move towards equally unattractive dictatorships of the Left wing.

Friends of the people of that area must surely give whatever encouragement they can to constructive and peaceful change. Many hon. Members, including the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), highlighted the fact that Cuba, supported to the tune of £3½ million per day from the Soviet Union, is able to exploit dissension by violent means in that area. They are a destructive force, whereas there are other nations in the region, such as Venezuela, Mexico and other Western nations anxiously working for constructive change, whether European, Caribbean, the Organisation of American States or the United States of America.

We must all do what we can to foster peaceful change. The British Government's objective is to work for better economic development in the area. The British Government make a considerable contribution towards that. We must also work for political and democratic evolution and for general security and stability. That is why, as the right hon. Member for Devonport and other hon. Gentlemen said, that the Caribbean basin initiative would be warmly welcomed. The combination of aid, trade and investment with the United States and other neighbouring Powers is surely something that we should all warmly support.

I owe an answer on the allegations of secret Central Intelligence Agency files being used for subversion in Nicaragua. First, the British Government have no knowledge of such files. Secondly, recent reports of United Kingdom support for that sort of subversion, of which we have no knowledge, is totally and utterly without foundation. The House listened with interest to views expressed about the initiative of the Mexican President and we certainly note the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. McCrindle). Anything constructive should be carefully studied. However, there is still much scope for more detail than is presumably contained in the Mexican President's statement.

I turn finally to the question of observers—the main burden of the debate. Support was given by my hon. Friends the Members for Brentwood and Ongar, Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley), Wycombe, my right hon. Friend the Member for Pavilion and my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Sir F. Bennett) to our decision to send two distinguished observers to El Salvador. We know about the desperate circle of violence in that country.

However, our objective is to do what we can, in our own modest way, to encourage peaceful change. The Mexican President is determined that the objective should be to hold elections. We believe that that objective is a step in the right direction and that we ought to do what we can to encourage it.

We noted that Roman Catholic bishops in El Salvador, and the Pope over the weekend, supported the concept of holding elections at the end of March. We noted that the Organisation of American States decided to send observers, supported by Venezuala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Columbia, Panama, and Ecuador, all of which are democratic countries. That is a constructive step.

It would be easy to sit back and do nothing; we could sit back like armchair critics and do nothing. However, we believe that it is far more constructive to visit those countries and see the situation for ourselves and not prejudge whether these elections are a fair and valid test of opinion in that country. It is totally wrong for anyone in the House and for so many Opposition Members to prejudge the position. With the greater knowledge gained after those distinguished observers have been to that country, we shall be better equipped to be constructive about the future.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 249, Noes 300.

Division No. 81]

[10 pm


Adams,AllenDavis,Terry (B'ham,Stechf'd)
Allaun,FrankDean,Joseph (Leeds West)
Archer,Rt Hon PeterDobson,Frank
Ashley,Rt Hon JackDormand,Jack
Barnett,Guy (Greenwich)Duffy, A. E. P.
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd)Dunn, James A.
Beith, A.J.Dunnett,Jack
Benn, Rt Hon TonyDunwoody, Hon Mrs G.
Booth,Rt Hon AlbertEdwards,R. (W'hampt'n S E)
Boothroyd,Miss BettyEllis, R. (NE D'bysh're)
Bottomley,RtHonA.(M'b'ro)Ellis, Tom(Wrexham)
Bray,Dr JeremyEnnals,Rt Hon David
Brocklebank-Fowler,C.Evans,Ioan (Aberdare)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Evans,John (Newton)
Brown, R. C. (N'castle W)Ewing,Harry
Brown, Ronald W. (H'ckn'yS)Faulds,Andrew
Callaghan,Jim (Midd't'n & P)Fitt,Gerard
Campbell-Savours,DaleFletcher,L. R.(Ilkeston)
Cant, R. B.Fletcher,Ted (Darlington)
Carmichael,NeilFoot,Rt Hon Michael
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Foster,Derek
Cocks, Rt Hon M.(B'stol S)Fraser,J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd)
Cohen,StanleyFreeson,Rt Hon Reginald
Concannon,Rt Hon J. D.Garrett,John (NorwichS)
Cook,Robin F.Gilbert,Rt Hon Dr John
Cox,T. (W'dsw'th,Toot'g)Grant,George (Morpeth)
Craigen,J. M. (G'gow,M'hill)Grant,John (IslingtonC)
Crawshaw,RichardGrimond, Rt Hon J.
Cryer,BobHamilton,W. W. (C'tral Fife)
Cunliffe,LawrenceHarrison,Rt Hon Walter
Cunningham,G. (IslingtonS)Hart,Rt Hon Dame Judith
Cunningham,DrJ.(W'h'n)Hattersley,Rt Hon Roy
Dalyell,TamHealey,Rt Hon Denis
Davidson,ArthurHeffer,Eric S.
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)Hogg,N. (EDunb't'nshire)
Davies, Ifor (Gower)Holland,S.(L'b'th,Vauxh'll)
Davis, Clinton (HackneyC)HomeRobertson,John

Horam, JohnPavitt, Laurie
Hoyle,DouglasPitt, William Henry
Huckfield,LesPowell, Raymond(Ogmore)
Hughes,Mark(Durham)Price, C. (Lewisham W)
Hughes,Robert (Aberdeen N)Race, Reg
Hughes,Roy (Newport)Radice, Giles
Janner,HonGrevilleRees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)
Jay, Rt Hon DouglasRichardson,Jo
Johnson, James (Hull West)Roberts,Albert(Normanton)
Johnson, Walter (Derby S)Roberts,Allan(Bootle)
Johnston, Russell(Inverness)Roberts,Ernest (Hackney N)
Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda)Roberts,Gwilym(Cannock)
Jones, Barry (East Flint)Robertson,George
Jones, Dan(Burnley)Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldRodgers, Rt Hon William
Kerr, RussellRooker, J. W.
Kilfedder,James A.Roper,John
Kilroy-Silk,RobertRoss, Ernest (Dundee West)
Leadbitter,TedSheerman, Barry
Leighton,RonaldSheldon, Rt Hon R.
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Litherland,RobertShort, Mrs Renée
Lyons, Edward (Bradf'dW)Smith,Cyril(Rochdale)
Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. DicksonSmith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark)
McDonald,DrOonaghSnape, Peter
McKay,Allen (Penistone)Spriggs,Leslie
McKelvey,WilliamStallard, A. W.
MacKenzie,Rt Hon GregorSteel, Rt Hon David
McMahon,AndrewStewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Marshall,DrEdmund (Goole)Thomas,Jeffrey(Abertillery)
Marshall,Jim (LeicesterS)Thomas, DrR.(Carmarthen)
Martin,M(G'gowS'burn)Thorne, Stan (PrestonSouth)
Mason, Rt Hon RoyTilley,John
Meacher,MichaelVarley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Mellish,Rt Hon RobertWainwright,E.(DearneV)
Mikardo,IanWalker, Rt Hon H.(D'caster)
Millan, Rt Hon BruceWatkins,David
Miller, Dr M.S. (E Kilbride)Weetch,Ken
Mitchell, R.C. (Soton Itchen)Welsh,Michael
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)White, J.(G'gow Pollok)
Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)Whitehead, Phillip
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)Whitlock,William
Morton,GeorgeWilliams, Rt Hon A.(S'sea W)
Moyle, Rt Hon RolandWilson, Rt Hon Sir H.(H'ton)
Mulley, Rt Hon FrederickWinnick,David
Oakes, Rt Hon GordonWoolmer,Kenneth
O'Neill,MartinYoung, David (Bolton E)
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Owen, Rt Hon Dr DavidTellers for the Ayes:
Palmer,ArthurMr. Frank Haynes and
Park,GeorgeMr. Hugh McCartney.


Alison,Rt Hon MichaelAtkins, Rt Hon H.(S'thorne)
Amery,Rt Hon JulianAtkins.Robert(PrestonN)

Atkinson,David (B'm'th,E)Fox,Marcus
Baker,Kenneth(St.M'bone)Fraser, Peter (South Angus)
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)Fry, Peter
Beaumont-Dark,AnthonyGardner, Edward (S Fylde)
Bendall, VivianGarel-Jones,Tristan
Bennett, SirFrederic(T'bay)Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Benyon,Thomas(A'don)Glyn, Dr Alan
Benyon, W. (Buckingham)Goodhart,SirPhilip
Best, KeithGoodhew,SirVictor
Bevan, David GilroyGoodlad,Alastair
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnGow, Ian
Biggs-Davison,SirJohnGrant,Anthony (HarrowC)
Blaker,PeterGriffiths,Peter Portsm'thN)
Body,RichardGrist, Ian
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W)Hamilton, HonA.
Boyson,DrRhodesHamilton,Michael (Salisbury)
Brittan, Rt. Hon. LeonHavers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Brooke, Hon PeterHawksley,Warren
Brotherton,MichaelHayhoe, Barney
Bryan,Sir PaulHeseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Buchanan-Smith, Rt.Hon.A.Hicks,Robert
Buck,AntonyHiggins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Budgen,NickHill, James
Cadbury,JocelynHowell,Rt Hon D.(G'ldf'd)
Carlisle, John (Luton West)Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Carlisle,Kenneth (Lincoln)Hunt, David (Wirral)
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n)Hunt,John (Ravensbourne)
Chalker, Mrs. LyndaHurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Channon, Rt. Hon. PaulIrving, Charles(Cheltenham)
Chapman,SydneyJenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Clark, Sir W.(Croydon S)Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Clarke,Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Kaberry,SirDonald
Clegg, Sir WalterKellett-Bowman,MrsElaine
Cope,JohnKing, Rt Hon Tom
Cormack, PatrickKitson,SirTimothy
Corrie,JohnKnight, MrsJill
Costain,SirAlbertKnox, David
Cranborne,ViscountLang, Ian
Dean, Paul (North Somerset)Latham,Michael
Dorrell,StephenLawrence, Ivan
Douglas-Hamilton,LordJ.Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Dover,DenshoreLee, John
du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardLeMarchant, Spencer
Dunn, Robert (Dartford)Lennox-Boyd, HonMark
Eden, Rt Hon Sir JohnLewis,Kenneth (Rutland)
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo)
Eggar,TimLloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Emery, Sir PeterLuce, Richard
Eyre,ReginaldLyell, Nicholas
Fairbairn, NicholasMcCrindle, Robert
Faith, MrsSheilaMacGregor,John
Farr,JohnMacKay, John (Argyll)
Fell,SirAnthonyMacmillan, Rt Hon M.
Fenner, Mrs PeggyMcNair-Wilson,M.(N'bury)
Finsberg,GeoffreyMcNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)
Fisher, Sir NigelMadel, David
Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N)Major,John
Fookes, Miss JanetMarshall,Michael (Arundel)
Forman,NigelMarten, Rt Hon Neil
Fowler, RtHon NormanMates,Michael

Maude, Rt Hon Sir AngusShelton,william(Streatham)
Mawby, RayShepherd,Colin(Hereford)
Mellor,DavidSims, Roger
Meyer, SirAnthonySkeet, T. H. H.
Miller,Hal (B'grove)Smith,Dudley
Moate,RogerSpicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Monro,SirHectorSpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Morris, M. (N'hamptonS)Stanbrook,Ivor
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)Stanley,John
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)Steen,Anthony
Myles, DavidStewart,Ian(Hitchin)
Needham,RichardStradling Thomas,J.
Nelson,AnthonyTapsell, Peter
Neubert,MichaelTaylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Newton,TonyTebbit,Rt Hon Norman
Nott, Rt Hon JohnThatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Onslow,CranleyThomas, Rt Hon Peter
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.Thompson,Donald
Page, John (Harrow, West)Thornton,Malcolm
Page, Richard (SW Herts)Townend,John(Bridlington)
Parkinson, Rt Hon CecilTownsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)
Parris, MatthewTrippier,David
Patten, John (Oxford)van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Pawsey, JamesViggers, Peter
Percival,Sir IanWaddington,David
Peyton, Rt Hon JohnWakeham,John
Pink, R.BonnerWaldegrave,HonWilliam
Pollock,AlexanderWalker, Rt Hon P.(W'cester)
Porter, BarryWalker, B. (Perth)
Price, SirDavid (Eastleigh)Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.
Proctor, K. HarveyWall,SirPatrick
Pym, Rt Hon FrancisWaller, Gary
Raison, Rt Hon TimothyWalters,Dennis
Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)Warren,Kenneth
Rees-Davies, W. R.Watson,John
Rhodes James, RobertWheeler,John
Rhys Williams, SirBrandonWhitelaw,Rt Hon William
Ridley, HonNicholasWhitney,Raymond
Ridsdale,SirJulianWickenden, Keith
Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)Wilkinson,John
Roberts, Wyn (Conway)Williams,D.(Montgomery)
Rossi, HughWinterton,Nicholas
Rost, PeterWolfson,Mark
Royle, SirAnthonyYoung, SirGeorge(Acton)
Sainsbury,HonTimothyYounger, Rt Hon George
St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
Scott,NicholasTellers for the Noes
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)Mr. Anthony Berry and
Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)Mr. Carol Mather.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 32 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

MR. SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.


'That this House expresses its concern about the situation in parts of Central America, endorses the efforts of Her Majesty's Government to encourage democracy and stability in the region, welcomes the steps taken by Her Majesty's Government and this House to inform themselves about developments, and supports Her Majesty's Government's intention to help achieve a just and lasting end to the fighting in El Salvador.'.

It being after Ten o'clock,MR. SPEAKER proceeded to put forthwith the Questions which he was directed by paragraphs (7) and (11) of Standing Order No. 18 (Business of Supply) to put at that hour.

Defence Estimates, 1982–83 (Navy) Vote A


That during the year ending on 31st March 1983 a number not exceeding 76,000 Officers, Ratings and Royal Marines be maintained for Naval Service,
put and agreed to.

Defence Estimates, 1982–83 (Army) Vote A


That during the year ending on 31st March 1983 a number not exceeding 186,000 all ranks be maintained for Army Service, a number not exceeding 60,000 for the Regular Reserve, a number not exceeding 88,000 for the Territorial Army and a number not exceeding 12,600 for the Ulster Defence Regiment,
put and agreed to.

Defence Estimates, 1982–83 (Air) Vote A


That during the year ending on 31 st March 1983 a number not exceeding 95,000 all ranks be maintained for Air Force Service, a number not exceeding 10,775 for the Royal Air Force Reserve and a number not exceeding 1,000 for the Royal Auxiliary Air Force,
put and agreed to.

Civil Supplementary Estimates, 1981–82

Question put,

That a further supplementary sum not exceeding £1,051,785,000 be granted to Her Majesty out of the Consolidated Fund to defray the charges which will come in course of payment during the year ending on 31st March 1982 for expenditure on Civil Services, as set out in House of Commons Papers Nos. 174 and 197:—
The House divided: Ayes 300, Noes 249.

Division No. 82]

[10.15 pm


Alison, RtHon MichaelBrittan, Rt. Hon. Leon
Amery, Rt Hon JulianBrooke, Hon Peter
Ancram,MichaelBrotherton, Michael
Arnold,TomBrown,Michael(Brigg & Sc'n)
Atkins, Rt Hon H.(S'thorne)Bryan, Sir Paul
Atkinson,David(B'm'th,E)Buchanan-Smith, Rt. Hon. A.
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)Bulmer,Esmond
Banks, RobertBurden,SirFrederick
Bennett, Sir Frederic(T'bay)Carlisle, John (Luton West)
Benyon,Thomas(A'don)Carlisle,Kenneth (Lincoln)
Benyon,W. (Buckingham)Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n)
Best, KeithChalker, Mrs. Lynda
Bevan, David GilroyChannon, Rt. Hon. Paul
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnChapman,Sydney
Blackburn,JohnClark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)
Blaker, PeterClark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Body,RichardClarke,Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Bonsor,SirNicholasClegg, Sir Walter
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W)Conlan,Bernard

Cranborne,ViscountLang, Ian
Dean, Paul (NorthSomerset)Latham,Michael
Dorrell,StephenLawrence, Ivan
Douglas-Hamilton, LordJ.Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Dover,DenshoreLee, John
du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardLeMarchant,Spencer
Dunn, Robert (Dartford)Lennox-Boyd,HonMark
Durant,TonyLester, Jim (Beeston)
Eden, Rt Hon Sir JohnLewis, Kenneth(Rutland)
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo)
Eggar,TimLloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Emery, Sir PeterLuce,Richard
Eyre,ReginaldLyell, Nicholas
Faith, MrsSheilaMacGregor,John
Farr,JohnMacKay, John (Argyll)
Fell,SirAnthonyMacmillan, Rt Hon M.
Fenner, Mrs PeggyMcNair-Wilson,M.(N'bury)
Finsberg,GeoffreyMcNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)
Fletcher,A. (Ed'nb'gh N)Major,John
Fookes, Miss JanetMarshall, Michael(Arundel)
Forman,NigelMarten, Rt Hon Neil
Fowler, Rt Hon NormanMates,Michael
Fox,MarcusMaude, Rt Hon Sir Angus
Fraser, Peter (South Angus)Mawby, Ray
Fry, PeterMawhinney,DrBrian
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)Mayhew,Patrick
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir IanMeyer, SirAnthony
Glyn, Dr AlanMiller,Hal(B'grove)
Goodlad, AlastairMitchell, David(Basingstoke)
Gow, IanMoate, Roger
Grant, Anthony (HarrowC)Monro,SirHector
Griffiths,Peter Portsm'th N)Moore,John
Grist, IanMorris, M. (N'hamptonS)
Grylls,MichaelMorrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Gummer,JohnSelwynMorrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Hamilton, HonA.Mudd, David
Hannam,JohnMyles, David
Havers, Rt Hon Sir MichaelNelson,Anthony
Hayhoe, BarneyNewton,Tony
Henderson,BarryNott, Rt Hon John
Heseltine, Rt Hon MichaelOnslow,Cranley
Hicks,RobertOppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.Osborn,John
Hill,JamesPage, John (Harrow, West)
Hogg,HonDouglas(Gr'th'm)Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Hooson,TomParkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Howell,Rt Hon D.(G'ldf'd)Patten,Christopher(Bath)
Howell, Ralph (NNorfolk)Patten,John (Oxford)
Hunt, David (Wirral)Pattie,Geoffrey
Hunt,John (Ravensbourne)Pawsey, James
Hurd, Rt Hon DouglasPercival,Sir Ian
Irving, Charles(Cheltenham)Peyton, Rt Hon John
Jenkin, Rt Hon PatrickPink, R.Bonner
Jopling, Rt Hon MichaelPorter, Barry
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir KeithPrice, Sir David (Eastleigh)
Kaberry,SirDonaldProctor, K. Harvey
Kellett-Bowman,MrsElainePym, Rt Hon Francis
Kimball,SirMarcusRaison, Rt HonTimothy
King, Rt Hon TomRathbone,Tim

Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Rees-Davies, W. R.Temple-Morris, Peter
Renton,TimThatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
RhodesJames,RobertThomas, Rt Hon Peter
Ridley,HonNicholasThorne, Neil(IlfordSouth)
Rifkind,MalcolmTownend, John(Bridlington)
Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)
Roberts, Wyn (Conway)Trippier,David
Rossi, HughTrotter, Neville
Rost, Petervan Straubenzee, SirW.
Royle, Sir AnthonyVaughan, DrGerard
Sainsbury, HonTimothyViggers, Peter
St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.Waddington,David
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)Waldegrave,HonWilliam
Shaw,Michael (Scarborough)Walker, Rt Hon P.(W'cester)
Shelton,William(Streatham)Walker, B. (Perth)
Shepherd,Colin(Hereford)Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.
Shepherd,RichardWall, Sir Patrick
Silvester, FredWalters,Dennis
Sims, RogerWard,John
Skeet, T. H. H.Warren,Kenneth
Speed, KeithWells,John(Maidstone)
Spence,JohnWhitelaw, Rt Hon William
Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)Whitney, Raymond
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)Wickenden, Keith
Stevens,MartinYoung, SirGeorge (Acton)
Stewart,A. (ERenfrewshire)Younger, Rt Hon George
Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Stokes,JohnTellers for the Ayes:
StradlingThomas,J.Mr. Anthony Berry and
Tapsell, PeterMr. Carol Mather.
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)


Alton,DavidConcannon, Rt Hon J. D.
Anderson,DonaldCook, Robin F.
Archer, Rt Hon PeterCowans, Harry
Ashley, Rt Hon JackCox, T. (W'dsw'th, Toot'g)
Ashton,JoeCraigen,J. M. (G'gow, M'hill)
Bagier,Gordon A.T.Crowther,Stan
Barnett,Guy (Greenwich)Cryer,Bob
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd)Cunliffe,Lawrence
Beith,A.J.Cunningham,G. (IslingtonS)
Benn, Rt Hon TonyCunningham, DrJ. (W'h'n)
Booth, Rt Hon AlbertDavies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)
Boothroyd,MissBettyDavies, Ifor (Gower)
Bottomley,RtHonA.(M'b'ro)Davis, Clinton (HackneyC)
Bradley,TomDavis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd)
Bray, Dr JeremyDean, Joseph (Leeds West)
Brown, Hugh D. (Proven)Dixon,Donald
Brown, R. C. (N'castle W)Dobson, Frank
Brown, Ronald W. (H'ckn'yS)Dormand,Jack
Brown,Ron(E'burgh, Leith)Douglas,Dick
Callaghan,Jim (Midd't'n & P)Dubs,Alfred
Campbell,IanDuffy, A. E. P.
Campbell-Savours,DaleDunn, James A.
Cant, R. B.Dunnett,Jack
Carmichael,NeilDunwoody, Hon Mrs G.
Carter-Jones, LewisEadie,Alex
Cartwright,JohnEastham, Ken
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Edwards, R. (W'hampt'n S E)
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S)Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're)

Ellis,Tom (Wrexham)Marks,Kenneth
Ennals,Rt Hon DavidMarshall,DrEdmund(Goole)
Evans,Ioan (Aberdare)Marshall,Jim (LeicesterS)
Ewing,HarryMason,Rt Hon Roy
Fitt,GerardMellish,Rt Hon Robert
Fletcher,L.R.(Ilkeston)Millan,Rt Hon Bruce
Fletcher,Ted (Darlington)Miller,Dr M.S.(E Kilbride)
Foot,Rt Hon MichaelMitchell,Austin(Grimsby)
Ford,BenMitchell,R.C.(Soton Itchen)
Forrester,JohnMorris,Rt Hon A.(W'shawe)
Foster,DerekMorris,Rt Hon C.(O'shaw)
Fraser,J.(Lamb'th,N'w'd)Morris,Rt Hon J.(Aberavon)
Freeson,Rt Hon ReginaldMoyle,Rt Hon Roland
Freud,ClementMulley,Rt Hon Frederick
Garrett,John (NorwichS)Newens,Stanley
George,BruceOakes,Rt Hon Gordon
Gilbert,Rt Hon Dr JohnOgden,Eric
Grant,John (IslingtonC)Orme,Rt Hon Stanley
Grimond,Rt Hon J.Owen,Rt Hon Dr David
Hamilton,W.W.(C'tral Fife)Park,George
Harrison,Rt Hon WalterParker,John
Hart,Rt Hon Dame JudithParry,Robert
Hattersley,Rt Hon RoyPavitt,Laurie
Healey,Rt Hon DenisPenhaligon,David
Heffer,Eric S.Pitt,WilliamHenry
Hogg,N.(EDunb't'nshire)Powell,Raymond (Ogmore)
Holland.S.(L'b'th,Vauxh'll)Price,C.(Lewisham W)
Horam,JohnRees,Rt Hon M (Leeds S)
Hughes,Mark(Durham)Roberts,Ernest (HackneyN)
Hughes,Robert (Aberdeen N)Roberts,Gwilym (Cannock)
Hughes,Roy (Newport)Robertson,George
Janner,HonGrevilleRobinson,G.(Coventry NW)
Jay,Rt Hon DouglasRodgers,Rt Hon William
Johnson,James (Hull West)Rooker,J.W.
Johnson,Walter (Derby S)Roper,John
Johnston,Russell(Inverness)Ross,Ernest (Dundee West)
Jones,Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda)Rowlands,Ted
Jones,Barry (Bast Flint)Ryman,John
Jones,Dan (Burnley)Sandelson,Neville
Kaufman,Rt Hon GeraldSever,John
Kilfedder,James A.Sheldon,Rt Hon R.
Kilroy-Silk,RobertShore,Rt Hon Peter
Kinnock,NeilShort,Mrs Renée
Leadbitter,TedSmith,Rt Hon J.(N Lanark)
Lewis,Ron (Carlisle)Soley,Clive
Lyon,Alexander(York)Steel,Rt Hon David
Lyons,Edward (Bradf'dW)Stewart,Rt Hon D.(W Isles)
Mabon,Rt Hon Dr J.DicksonStoddart,David
McKay,Allen (Penistone)Summerskill,HonDrShirley
McKelvey,WilliamThomas,Dafydd (Merioneth)
MacKenzie,Rt Hon GregorThomas,Jeffrey (Abertillery)

Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.Wilson, Rt Hon Sir H.(H'ton)
Walker, Rt Hon H.(D'caster)Woodall,Alec
Watkins, DavidWoolmer,Kenneth
Welsh,MichaelYoung, David (Bolton E)
White, J.(G'gow Pollok)
Whitehead, PhillipTellers for the Noes:
Whitlock,WilliamMr. Frank Haynes and
Williams, Rt Hon A.(S'sea W)Mr. George Morton.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Civil And Defence Estimates, Supplementary Estimates, 1981–82


That a further supplementary sum not exceeding £407,552,000 be granted to Her Majesty out of the Consolidated Fund to defray the charges which will come in course of payment during the year ending on 31 March 1982 for expenditure on Civil and Defence Services as set out in House of Commons Papers Nos. 173 and 179,
put and agreed to.

Civil Estimates, Excesses, 1980–81


That a sum not exceeding £14,620,065·17 be granted to Her Majesty out of the Consolidated Fund to make good excesses on certain grants for Civil Services for the year ended 31 March 1981, as set out in House of Commons Paper No. 172,
put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in upon the foregoing Resolutions by the Chairman of Ways and Means, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Leon Brittan, Mr. Jock Bruce-Gardyne, Mr. Barney Hayhoe, and Mr. Nicholas Ridley.

Consolidated Fund (No 2)

Mr. Nicholas Ridley accordingly presented a Bill to apply certain sums out of the Consolidated Fund to the service of the years ending on 31 March 1981 and 1982; And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow and to be printed. [Bill 73.]