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Volume 21: debated on Wednesday 31 March 1982

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asked the Lord Privy Seal if he has had any recent discussions with the Foreign Minister of France concerning the aid given and the policies pursued by France in respect of Nicaragua; and if he will make a statement.

No, Sir, but my right hon. and noble Friend has recently had discussions with the French Foreign Minister, M. Cheysson, on many issues, including Central America.

Is it not a fact that the French Government are recognising the freedom and independence of the Nicaraguans? Bearing in mind the overwhelming sympathy of the British people towards the Nicaraguans and their independence, is it not about time that the Government gave a lead to all the super Powers in urging them to allow the Nicaraguan's to have the freedom to which they are entitled?

We can all say that we want to see freedom and independence in that part of the world. The Government have noted with some concern that the Nicaraguan Government have decided to suspend all civil rights and to declare a state of emergency. We regret that very much. There are some indications that the Nicaraguan Government are not entirely independent, as the hon. Gentleman suggests. The actions that they are taking against the Miskito Indians causes great concern to those of us who have respect for human rights, as I am sure the entire House has. We want to encourage the consolidation of a pluralist society in Nicaragua. I have had two meetings this month with the Nicaraguan ambassador. The discussions have been extremely useful.

Has my hon. Friend heard, through the press or direct from the Nicaraguans, whether they plan to bring their proposed elections forward from 1985? If they are to continue to have a plural society, it will be helpful to have elections so that people with different political views can be elected to a Nicaraguan Assembly.

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. I think that the outside world would be encouraged if there were evidence that the Nicaraguans were prepared to hold early elections and thereby demonstrated their wish to have a pluralist society. This is something that we have urged upon them in our recent discussions.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that on many occasions the United States Administration has made threats of direct intervention in the affairs of Nicaragua? It has been widely reported and not denied that the CIA has had a plan accepted costing $19 million for destabilisation of the regime in Nicaragua. As the United States has twice this century intervened by military force in Nicaragua, it is immensely important that Nicaragua should know that it has friends other than those in the Communist world who are prepared to support its desire for independence.

As was said in an earlier debate, the Government have no knowledge of the use of any particular United States funds through the CIA. We have also noticed that on a "Panorama" programme earlier this week ambassador Bosworth of the United States denied that the United States had any intention of military intervention, or the use of troops. We should take note of the fact that Secretary of State Haig has repeatedly said that the United States wants to foster and encourage democracy in that part of the world.

Is the Minister aware that many of us have had opportunities to talk to Mr. Bosworth on this issue, and while it may be the case that the United States does not intend to send its troops to Nicaragua, it has made threats, widely reported in the American press, and supported by members of Congress and the Senate, of an organised campaign to destabilise the Government in Nicaragua? Does the hon. Gentleman not know that Nicaraguan terrorists are being trained in the United States for intervention inside Nicaragua? That, too, was recorded in the "Panorama" programme to which the right hon. Gentleman referred.

I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman and I disagree. Any actions that are taken by countries interested in stability, whether in Nicaragua or any other part of central America, would be to help to do what we can to foster greater stability. That is our objective. All I was saying was that I had noted, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman has noted, that the United States Government's objective is to try to foster and encourage democratic Government. That is something with which we ought to agree rather than disagree.

While no one in the House can doubt that the replacement of the Somoza regime by the Sandanista revolution was a step forward, does my hon. Friend agree that the injection of French weapons into the situation is not helpful? Does he accept that there is grave disappointment in Nicaragua about a Government who have allowed their revolution, which had much support, to go sour in the suppression of civil rights, to bring about the militarisation of the country and the use of Nicaragua as a base for the destabilisation of surrounding countries?

The British Government do not believe that it would be helpful to sell arms to Nicaragua. We condemn and criticise the suspension of civil rights as a result of the recent declaration of emergency and we express concern about the substantial build-up of the military in Nicaragua beyond any requirement for their own defence purposes.

However, it is the desire of Her Majesty's Government to do whatever is possible to encourage and foster stability. We are in touch with Governments such as the Mexican Government and other Governments who play an important role in that part of the world.