§ 8. Mr. Jacques Arnold
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the state of the United Kingdom's relations with Cuba.
§ Mr. Arnold
May I commend my hon. Friend's work, and that of our hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Taylor), the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Technology, during his recent visit to Havana, when much was done to develop British exports and investment?
Should Cuba not realise, however, that Fidel Castro is now well past his sell-by date? Cuba should take a leaf out of the book of Hastings Banda or Kenneth Kaunda, and hold all-party elections in Cuba. If it did so, it would join every other Latin American republic in becoming a true multi-party democracy.
§ Mr. Davis
My hon. Friend is right. There is a healthy two-way exchange of Ministers between Cuba and the United Kingdom. As my hon. Friend pointed out, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Technology went to Cuba earlier this year, and I believe that Isabel Allende visited London earlier this year as well. We enjoy normal relations with Cuba, and they continue to develop; but it is certainly true that progress in those relations would be enhanced by improvements in civil and democratic rights in Cuba. Earlier this year, it received the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, and I hope that that will lead to co-operation with the UN special rapporteur, which would also be helpful.
§ Mr. MacShane
On a more serious point concerning Cuba—[Interruption]—is there any way in which the British Government can simply ask our friends in Washington, the American Administration, to lift the unnecessary and self-defeating boycott? The quickest way to bring Cuba to democracy would be to allow hundreds and thousands of Americans to go there as tourists and business men, to travel and to trade. That would undermine Fidel far more quickly than the absurd boycott that Washington insists on maintaining.
§ Mr. Davis
The subject of human rights is rather a serious point, and I hope that the first phrase in the hon. Gentleman's question was simply a slip of the tongue. We take the view that the relationship between America and Cuba is a bilateral issue. What we do is aimed at improving our relationship with Cuba, which we have done in a number of ways and which has been marked by an increase of about 140 per cent. in our trade with that country, from £8.8 million in the first nine months of last year to £21 million this year. We shall continue that process in a way that will encourage democracy and economic reform in Cuba. We think that that is the best policy both for ourselves and for Cuba.