HC Deb 20 April 1961 vol 638 cc1384-7
41. Mr. Warbey

asked the Prime Minister what discussions he had with President Kennedy on joint Anglo-American action, through the United Nations or otherwise, in respect of the Cuban situation.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I have been asked to reply.

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister told the House on 13th April, he does not wish to go beyond what he then said about the substance of his talks with President Kennedy.

Mr. Warbey

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that answer will not do in a serious matter of this kind? May we have an assurance that any further advice offered by the British Government to President Kennedy will be totally different from that given by the noble Lord the Member for Berwick-on-Tweed (Viscount Lambton), who wants to see the Americans intervene in Cuba with full force in order to ensure the success of the invasion?

Now that the first attack appears to have failed, will the British Government advise President Kennedy to do as they did after Suez, and withdraw before it is too late, before he burns his own fingers and perhaps sets the world alight in the process?

Mr. Butler

First, I cannot possibly accept the hypothesis on which the hon. Member's question is based. Secondly, I am not aware that any such advice has been given, or, indeed, is to be given. I am aware that the matter is before the United Nations, and that is the best place in which to handle it.

Mr. M. Foot

Is it not a fact that the British Government have been making statements about their attitude at the United Nations? Should not this House be informed of any conversations and discussions which may have taken place between the British and United States Governments prior to these tragic and terrible events?

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that the best service that we could have given to the Americans as our allies was to have warned them beforehand of the consequences which might follow from the act of folly and crime on which they were embarking?

Mr. Butler

Again, that is a presupposition of the situation which we cannot accept. Nor can we accept the hypothesis on which the hon. Member has based his question. If he wishes to hear the latest view of the British Government, it was stated yesterday in the Political Committee of the United Nations by Sir Patrick Dean—that the resolution put forward by the representatives of the Argentine and six other Latin-American countries offers the best chance of reaching a peaceful solution of this matter.

Mrs. Castle

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is also another resolution before the Political Committee, in the name of Mexico, which calls on all countries to refuse to give help in any form to this invasion and interference in the internal affairs of another country? Is not the Latin-American resolution purely a face-saving device for the United States? Will he not, therefore, convey to the Prime Minister the views of many of us that the right course for Britain in this dispute is to warn the United States that if she becomes embroiled any further we shall dissociate ourselves publicly from her action?

Mr. Butler

I have studied the resolutions before the United Nations. They are in the form of a Roumanian draft resolution and a Mexican resolution. The difficulty about the Mexican resolution is that it does not even mention the Organisation of American States, and Her Majesty's Government attach special importance to their coming into resolving this matter. That is why, among other reasons, we support the resolution put forward by the Argentine and six other Latin-American countries.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is it not extremely difficult for the United Nations, or for anybody else, to come to a sensible conclusion on this matter without knowing more of the facts of the situation? In those circumstances, would not the appropriate thing for the United Nations to do be to conduct an inquiry into the matter so that it could be properly informed?

Mr. Butler

That is a matter for the United Nations. I cannot add to the statements of the American Government, by President Kennedy, and later by Mr. Dean Rusk on 17th April, because I cannot speak for the United States Government.

Mr. P. Williams

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the United Nations is not notorious, nor even notable, for establishing facts?

Mr. S. Silverman

While what the right hon. Gentleman says about the United Nations being the proper place for handling the situation is no doubt true, is it not equally true that Her Majesty's Government are responsible to Parliament for what they do at the United Nations, and would it not be a very good idea for the cloak of secrecy and silence to be lifted and for the House to be at least informed, if not consulted, about what the Government do about these events, which are fraught with so much danger to the peace of the world?

Mr. Butler

It so happens that Sir Patrick Dean's remarks are fully reported in today's Press, and that is the best way of ascertaining the view of Her Majesty's Government.