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Belize: Independence Proposals

Volume 416: debated on Wednesday 28 January 1981

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2.55 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will give details of the discussions with the Prime Minister of Belize, held in Jamaica, concerning proposals leading to the possible independence of Belize.

My Lords, my honourable friend the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had discussions with the Premier of Belize on 22nd January in Kingston to review progress in the negotiations with Guatemala and constitutional steps towards independence.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. Is it not the case that the United Nations agreed that Belize should be independent as soon as possible? In fact, there has been a settlement there since 1638; a commander-in-chief was appointed in 1786, and the colony was recognised in 1862. Surely by now it is time that some action was taken with Guatemala to reach a settlement. Have the Opposition been consulted?

My Lords, my noble friend is quite right, and that is what the constitutional conference is about. The Opposition are being consulted.

My Lords, are Her Majesty's Government aware that there would be widespread support for the views expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, on this rather difficult and dangerous point; that in particular there would be general support for any attempts by the United Kingdom to resolve the difficulties in the area, relating mostly to frontiers, and also to ensure the viability and the security of the area, whatever constitutional forms are decided?

My Lords, yes. Once again the noble Lord opposite is quite right. Over the years the difficulty as regards the independence of Belize has been the Guatemalan claim to Belizian territory. It would obviously be better if we could reach an agreement with Guatemala before independence, and we are still seeking to do that.

My Lords, in view of the character of the Government of Guatemala and the uncertainty in that territory, will the Government be careful not to sign a treaty with that country which would be contrary to the view of the people of Belize?

My Lords, the noble Lord can be quite sure that whatever we do about the independence of Belize, we shall be very careful.