Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 2:16 pm on 7th June 1995.

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Photo of Ian Davidson Ian Davidson , Glasgow Govan 2:16 pm, 7th June 1995

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the security arrangements devised to safeguard the independent future of Belize. [25429]

Photo of David Davis David Davis Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

Belize is an independent country within the Commonwealth. Since 1 January 1994, Belize has had responsibility for its own defence.

Photo of Ian Davidson Ian Davidson , Glasgow Govan

Having withdrawn British troops from Belize, are the Minister and the Government satisfied that sufficient arrangements are in place to ensure that the territorial integrity of Belize is safe in the event of any external aggression? In particular, are there arrangements in place which will assist Belize in the event of substantial illegal migration affecting the territorial integrity of that state?

Photo of David Davis David Davis Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

The Government do not believe that a renewed military threat is likely. The Guatemalan Government have made clear their intention to resolve their disputes peacefully through negotiation.

As to the ability to cope without the support of British forces, we agreed with the Government of Belize that the British garrison should be reduced to a training presence and that the Belize defence force would assume responsibility, as I said, on 1 January 1994. We have made it clear that we shall maintain our programme of assistance for the development of the BDF to sustain and improve the force's capability through the provision of loaned service personnel, equipment, training and advice. In addition, Belize continues to receive substantial amounts of British aid.

Photo of Mr Jacques Arnold Mr Jacques Arnold , Gravesham

One possible cause of instability in that area is, of course, the run-up to the presidential elections in Guatemala in October. Will my hon. Friend assure the House that he will make it clear to the Guatemalans that any playing with Belize would be extremely unhelpful because that country is a member of the United Nations and the Commonwealth and would get our full backing, and that we should like to see our warm relations with Guatemala extended and developed?

Photo of David Davis David Davis Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My hon. Friend, as ever, asks a wise question about Latin American affairs. We have maintained good relationships with Belize and Guatemala. Guatemala is clear about our stance with respect to Belize, and I think that that had a sizeable influence on their current position on the matter.