HC Deb 12 June 1961 vol 642 cc21-3
34. Mr. P. Noel-Baker

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will make a statement about a cease-fire in Laos, and about the proposed 14 nation Conference to be held in Geneva on 12th May.

58. Mr. Healey

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a further statement on the current negotiations for a settlement in Laos.

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Edward Heath)

The Conference met this morning for the first time since 6th June. We and our friends had asked for a suspension of meetings in order to consider the situation arising from the Pathet Lao attack on the fortified Government position at Phadong.

The Phadong attack raised, in acute form, the question of the observance of the cease-tire in Laos, about which the parties concerned exchanged statements of understanding on 13th May. We have for some time been trying to secure the agreement of the Soviet Government to the sending of new instructions to the International Control Commission, which would make clear its responsibility for investigating all suspected breaches of the cease-fire.

My noble Friend went to Geneva yesterday and was able to get agreement that the Conference should meet today. This agreement followed a message from the Co-Chairman calling upon the parties in Laos to co-operate with the International Commission in its work of supervising the cease-fire.

Mr. Noel-Baker

In view of the great obscurity of Press reports about what is actually happening in Laos, would the Lord Privy Seal consider asking the International Commission to make an interim report at once about what is happening so that the public may be properly informed on the matter?

Mr. Heath

The Control Commission has made a number of reports to the two Co-Chairmen. I will see whether it is possible for any of that material to be published.

Mr. Healey

While we appreciate the efforts of Her Majesty's Government to keep this Conference going, will the right hon. Gentleman convey to the Soviet Government, and other participants, the widespread feeling in this House and in the country that we must regard the success of this Conference as a test of the possibility of reaching general agreement with Communist Governments on the possibility of co-existence?

Mr. Heath

I am sure that that is the case.

Mr. A. Henderson

Would the Lord Privy Seal not agree that, according to the B.B.C.'s correspondent in Laos, the Control Commission has been immobile and impotent? Is that because of the shortage of observers or because of obstacles which have been put in the way of the Commission in carrying out its responsibilities?

Mr. Heath

The reason is entirely because the Pathet Lao were unwilling to allow the Commission to go into the areas it controls, for the purposes of inspecting the observance of the cease fire.