Our embassies in all the countries of Central America keep a close watch on developments throughout the region, especially the progress of the peace process. Through the United Nations we support the work of the United Nations observer mission in El Salvador which has the task of monitoring all the elements of the recent peace agreement there, including the ceasefire.
Will the Minister join me in welcoming the ceasefire which is under way in El Salvador and the prospects that it brings for a long-lasting peace? Does he recognise that the underlying social problems within the region—in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador as well as Nicaragua—are the basis of many of its problems? Will he ensure that the vast amount of aid which has been sent into the region for military purposes will in future be for peaceful purposes so that the region's social injustices are dealt with as rapidly as possible?
Certainly, I very much welcome what the hon. Gentleman said. Indeed, the Prime Minister sent a message of congratulation to President Christiani when the peace agreement was reached. Through the United Nations and the European Economic Community we shall certainly be doing all that we can to encourage the social reforms—for example, the reform of land ownership—to which the hon. Gentleman referred. We very much hope that such reforms will underpin the peace process.
Does not President Christiani of El Salvador deserve widespread support, bearing in mind the fact that he was elected by the people of that country and that he has to cope with the violence of unruly military officers and also the murderous activities of the Farabundi Marti Front for the Liberation of the Nation? May I welcome the action of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in giving the president his direct support.
Yes. The Government have supported the process throughout. My hon. Friend may be aware that the prosecution of a number of military officers involved in the assassination of Jesuit priests was assisted by a team sent from Scotland Yard. That was much appreciated by the El Salvadorean Government and helped to bring the perpetrators of that murder to justice.
Is the Minister aware that for once—perhaps surprisingly—the House is united in welcoming the agreement and in congratulating all those involved, including the FMFLN for their part in the peace process? We are also interested in what the priorities are now for demilitarisation and reconstruction, and I ask the Minister specifically to approach our American colleagues to ask them to convert the substantial military aid that has until now been given to El Salvador into civilian aid to help with that reconstruction. Also, will the United Kingdom take the lead in ensuring that the next elections are full pluralist, democratic elections in which all elements of El Salvador society can participate fully and freely?
Yes. I welcome what the hon. Gentleman says. As he will be aware, in June the United States Government had a sum of, I think, $21 million which had been earmarked for military aid set aside for the very purposes that the hon. Gentleman suggests. I understand that a further sum is now to be transferred from military aid to the promotion of the work that he suggests. I expect Britain and the European Economic Community to be standing ready to support the elections and the democratic process in El Salvador.