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Volume 226: debated on Wednesday 16 June 1993

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about British relations with Cuba.

Relations with Cuba are correct.

The Under-Secretary of State was good enough to give me an encouraging answer to a written question on the subject on 27 April, at column 363, in which he said that the American boycott of trade with Cuba would not have any practical effect on British emergency aid to Cuba. Will the Government take that a step further? They will know that the combination of severe storms and the American blockade is causing severe distress in Cuba. They may not know that Cuban schools and colleges are pleading with Britain for books in English and for other educational aids. Will the Government use their good offices to pressurise the American Government to lift what the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Sir 1. Lawrence) called an iniquitous trade boycott?

We gave some emergency aid to Cuba earlier this year following the storms and the delivery of that aid was not hindered in any practical way by the United States embargo. The Cuban economy is on the verge of ruin not because of the American embargo but because of 30 years of imposed state communism.

My hon. Friend must accept that that is not good enough. The Government must strive to establish and maintain more open and fruitful relations with countries such as Cuba and North Korea, so that more people may be made aware of the glowing achievements of those remaining—although admittedly beleaguered—beacons of socialism and central planning. Would not that at least make more people aware that, although free market systems may not be perfect, they are a hell of a lot less imperfect than the central planning and socialism in countries such as Cuba?

My hon. Friend makes a fair point. Cuba provides a laboratory example of a socialist state gone wrong. We maintain diplomatic and trading links with Cuba, but our relations can improve only if the Cubans hold free and fair elections and respect human rights.