HC Deb 17 December 1963 vol 686 cc1039-42
Q3. Mr. Fernyhough

asked the Prime Minister, if, in his forthcoming talks with the President of the United States of America, he will raise the question of flag discrimination, particularly in relation to the recent grain transaction with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Q9. Mr. Rankin

asked the Prime Minister, if, during his visit to the United States of America, he will discuss with President Johnson the problems created by the granting of independence to British Guiana, in so far as they affect United States interests.

Q10. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Prime Minister, what proposals on the mixed- manned surface vessels force he intends to place before the House in preparation for his discussions with President Johnson when he visits the United States of America.

The Prime Minister

My talks with President Johnson will be confidential.

Mr. Fernyhough

Does that mean that in his visit to the United States the Prime Minister is not prepared to raise this grave issue concerning British shipping? Is he not aware that since I put this Question down the United States Maritime Board has demanded that British ships should give up to it certain confidential documents? Will he make clear that Her Majesty's Government will back our ship owners in refusing to do this, and will he ask the President how it is that the United States Government allow American ships to trade freely with Communist Russia, Hungary and other Communist countries but blacklist British ships which carry freight to Cuba? Will he ask the President how he can justify it? Furthermore, will he tell him that it is nonsense to continue to co-operate militarily if they are trying to crucify us economically?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman will be glad to know that the Minister of Transport has already advised ship owners not to take notice of these documents. That has already been done. I hope that there will be no need, therefore, for me to raise this particular question, as the Minister of Transport has already made our attitude clear.

Mr. Rankin

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the situation at present in British Guiana is causing a good deal of consternation in America, as I discovered in the late autumn, and does he think that he could talk with President Johnson without having something to say on his method, or the method of his Government, in settling the problem which now presents itself to us in British Guiana? Does he realise that if he would concentrate more on seeking to heal the breach between Dr. Jagan and Mr. Burnham he might solve the problem of independence a little more easily and, at the same time, bring some confidence into the mind of President Johnson?

The Prime Minister

Perhaps I might remind the hon. Gentleman of what the late President Kennedy said about this: Quite obviously the United States Government is concerned about what happens in this hemisphere and observes matters in this hemisphere closely but I think it is very important that we point out that this is primarily a British matter and we should leave the judgment to them.

Mr. Shinwell

The right hon. Gentleman seems to be deliberately evading Question No. Q10 on the Order Paper. I am well aware, as all hon. Members are aware, that his discussions with President Johnson have to be confidential. I am not asking about that. I am asking whether, on the subject of the mixed-manned force, which concerns both sides of the House and the country, as well in the matter of defence, he will ascertain the views of the House before he enters into discussion with representatives of the United States? Is he aware that there is now a proposal for a pilot scheme, accepted by the United States, and it looks as though we are committed to it? If we are committed to it, is that not in defiance of the statement which he has made to the House?

The Prime Minister

May I tell the right hon. Gentleman that we are committed to nothing as yet. The question of a mixed-manned force in general is being discussed both in Washington and in Paris, and there is a proposal that there might be an experiment on an American ship, not a nuclear ship, to try to find out the problems which arise from mixed manning. We have not decided whether to take part in it or not.

Mr. H. Wilson

On the mixed-manned force, would the right hon. Gentleman agree in the New Year, before his visit to Washington, to make a clear statement in the House on this question and allow the House a chance to debate it? On the other point about British Guiana, while welcoming the reiteration of what President Kennedy said about this being a matter for the British Government and this House, may I ask him to have another look at the whole question? In other words, will he have talks with the Secretary of State rather than with the White House on this, with the intention and purpose of trying to bring in a Commonwealth presence, whether from the West Indies or Canada, to guarantee human rights and the control of the police as a means of bringing about the very necessary reconciliation between Dr. Jagan and Mr. Burnham?

The Prime Minister

I should like to consider a little further the last proposition which the right hon. Gentleman has made with my right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretary. So far as a debate on the mixed-manned force is concerned, there is really, I think, very little to debate as yet because we do not know what the findings of the Washington group or the Paris group will be. But, of course, this is a matter for the usual channels.