§ 23. Mr. Healey
asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a further statement on the negotiations for a settlement in Laos.
§ 29. Mr. Warbey
asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a further statement on the Laotian situation.
§ Mr. Heath
The appeal by the two Co-Chairmen of the Geneva Conference for a cease-fire was conveyed to the two sides in Laos on 24th April. All the parties concerned in Laos have now issued statements welcoming this appeal. I understand that attempts are now being made to arrange a preliminary meeting, 414 between representatives of the forces engaged, to fix the time that the ceasefire will come into force.
The invitation to the Prime Minister of India to reconvene the International Commission and invitations to a conference in Geneva were also issued on 24th April. Members of the Commission are now assembling in New Delhi. We hope to receive acceptances for the conference in due course.
§ Mr. Healey
While very much welcoming the progress which has been made with this problem in the last few days, may I ask the Lord Privy Seal two questions? First, further to the question of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition the other day, at precisely what stage does the International Commission enter Laos and on whose invitation? Is it permitted to enter Laos as soon as it is convened in Delhi by the Indian Prime Minister, or does it have to wait until somebody or other inside Laos announces that a cease-fire has in fact taken place? Secondly, is it yet agreed how the State of Laos shall be represented at the fourteen-nation Conference and, if it is not yet so agreed, what is Her Majesty's Government's policy towards this problem?
§ Mr. Heath
The arrangement about the Control Commission is that its members will assemble in Delhi and then meet to discuss what action they should take and then put their proposals, as a result of their discussions, to the two Co-Chairmen and then ask the two Co-Chairmen for instructions.
The general proposal is that if a ceasefire has been arranged—as we hope it will have been by then, as the Commission will possibly have its first meeting on 28th April—the Commission should then go to Laos, of course by negotiation with the authorities and forces there, in order to supervise the cease-fire. The representation of the Government of Laos is a matter for the members themselves to arrange. It is our hope that by the time the Conference meets there will be a broadly based Government in Laos which will be able to represent Laos at the Conference.
§ Mr. Warbey
Does not this favourable development in Laos show how effective the influence of this country can be in international affairs when it is prepared 415 to stand up firmly against an ally pursuing a dangerous and foolish course?