HL Deb 13 October 1986 vol 480 cc523-5

2.53 p.m.

Lord Kennet

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their policy with regard to United States financing of rebels against the elected government in Nicaragua.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Young)

My Lords, we have consistently advocated a political solution to the problems of Central America on the basis of the Contadora objectives rather than a military solution. We do not believe that the problems of the region can be resolved by force.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, have the Government any comment to make on the findings of the International Court of Justice that the mining of Nicaraguan harbours by the United States was illegal and that the financing and arming of rebels against the Nicaraguan Government by the United States is illegal? Have they any comment to make on the announced intention of the rebels to set up a rival Nicaraguan government in exile?

Baroness Young

My Lords, the noble Lord has asked three supplementary questions. First, with regard to the mining of the Nicaraguan ports, we noticed with interest the finding of the International Court of Justice about the mining of the Nicaraguan ports and the interruption of maritime communications. We made it known at the time of the United Nations Security Council meeting that we deplored the mining of Nicaraguan waters.

On the noble Lord's second supplementary question about support to the Contras, the Contadora objectives require all states to end support for subversion of other states. This also applies to Nicaragua. The large-scale Nicaraguan incursion in March into Honduras was contrary to Contadora principles. The Contadora objectives also include a strengthening of pluralistic democracy, and we should like the Nicaraguan Government to respect this principle and end the repression of other political parties.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, does not the fact that a United States plane was shot down and a United States citizen captured by the Nicaraguans demonstrate that the United States Administration not only finance acts of violence against Nicaragua by mercenaries but also directly plan and instigate them? Is there not good evidence to show that this incident was planned and executed with the knowledge and on the instructions of the Secretary of State himself? How can we maintain a united and vigorous stand against terrorism in the West if we remain silent when conduct of this kind is perpetrated by our allies—conduct which we would condemn if it were carried out by Colonel Gadaffi?

Baroness Young

My Lords, we understand that the United States Secretary of State Mr Shultz has confirmed that none of those involved belonged to a United States government agency, including the CIA, and that this had not been a government operation.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, the noble Baroness has made it plain on more than one occasion from that Dispatch Box that Her Majesty's Government strongly favour a political solution to the problems of Central America and to the problems of Nicaragua specifically along the lines of the Contadora principles to which she has just referred. Will she confirm that that remains the policy of Her Majesty's Government; and can she say what representations have been made by Her Majesty's Government to the United States Administration about the need to find political solutions?

Baroness Young

My Lords, I am glad to confirm to the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, that we have our own policy on Central America and that together with our European partners we support a comprehensive and verifiable negotiated settlement to the problems of Central America based on the Contadora principles. The agreements reached at Luxembourg in November 1985 were a practical demonstration of that support, but we do not believe that the problems of the area can be solved by armed force, and the United States is well aware of our views.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that in the United States Congress there have been serious complaints that the Contras, aided by the CIA, have committed appalling acts of terrorism, and that many in the Congress believe that this should cease, as indeed the noble Baroness has said? Will the Government make representations to the United States Government that they cannot on the one hand rightly condemn the IRA and those who harbour terrorists while on the on other hand they are prepared to aid and finance other forms of terrorism?

Baroness Young

My Lords, we have made quite plain to the United States Government our own view that the problems of Central America can best be resolved through the Contadora process which we hope will be continued by the countries of the area involved.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, is it not paradoxical that the American Government, as I understand is the case, should still have diplomatic relations with the Government in Nicaragua which on the face of it they now seemed pledged to destroy?

Baroness Young

My Lords, that is a matter for the American Government.

Lord Mellish

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that the problem of Central America and of Nicaragua in particular is that this area is the back door of America and that obviously the American Government will be alarmed if there is at their back door a hostile government who are prepared to let troops in and to commit acts of aggression against them?

Is it not part of the trouble in dealing with this Central American problem that unless one understands the American point of view one tends to believe that the elected government—the term loosely used—must necessarily be right? Is it not therefore correct to say that the only solution to this is a political one and that it does not help very much to sneer and jeer at the Americans for taking what personally I regard is the necessary action against hostile forces in their back yard?

Baroness Young

My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right in saying that the Americans view Central America as their back yard and are naturally concerned about what might happen there; but we believe that these problems will best be resolved by a political solution based on the Contadora principles.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree, and will she explain it to my noble friend, that when democracy produces a form of government—and there is no doubt that this is a genuinely elected government in Nicaragua—no other country, however large, however important and however near, is entitled to destablilise it?

Baroness Young

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, will be fully aware of the Government's view about the elections in Nicaragua. I shall not repeat them now because I am sure that his noble friend Lord Mellish has heard what he said on the matter.

Lord Mellish

Yes, my Lords, and I think it is rubbish, the way he says it.