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E1 Salvador

Volume 163: debated on Monday 4 December 1989

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the current level of United Kingdom support for El Salvador.

British bilateral aid to El Salvador is running at about £40,000 to £50,000 a year. In addition, we contribute to European Community assistance: in 1988 our share was about £240,000. We also provided £300,000 recently in emergency aid—£100,000 through the International Committee of the Red Cross and £200,000 as our share of European Community emergency aid.

In view of those contributions, have the Government responded to the El Salvadorian Government's request that they should provide a specialist commission of inquiry to consider the killings of the six Jesuits, their cook and her daughter? If that commission reaches the conclusion that the Salvadorian military was responsible for this dastardly act, will the Government influence the United States Government to stop military aid to El Salvador forthwith?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we condemned the murder of the six Jesuit priests, their cook and her daughter and appealed for restraint on both sides. Resolving this problem is very much a political question and one for the Government of El Salvador as well as those in America concerned with the issue.

Should not the Government be commended for giving emergency assistance to El Salvador, particularly at a time when the democratically elected Government of that country are having to cope with insurgency, which is causing considerable difficulty to the civilian population?

I am grateful for what my hon. Friend has said. The Government's position is that the FMLN guerrillas should end their offensive and negotiate. For obvious reasons, we would not be able to add to United Kingdom personnel deployed in El Salvador, but we hope that the task that the Red Cross is undertaking will be facilitated, that the wounded will be evacuated, and that supplies to hospitals and the follow-up of those captured on both sides will now take place.

It is all very well expressing concern about the horrific murders of the six Jesuit priests, but does the Minister accept that she could have some effect by making British aid conditional on bringing the killers to justice, and on an improvement to human rights in El Salvador?

The hon. Gentleman is aware that I believe in human rights, wherever they may be at risk across the world. He will also know that humanitarian aid for those who are wounded and those who are without facilities such as medical facilities should not be conditional on such premises.

I welcome the aid that has been given to El Salvador, but should we not take into account those countries that are greater friends of the United Kingdom and especially, in west Africa, the small but very friendly country of Sierra Leone?

We send about 70 per cent. of our bilateral aid to the poorest 50 countries in the world. We help the country that my hon. Friend mentioned and we are doing better than other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development donors in that respect.