HC Deb 18 February 1964 vol 689 cc1025-31

The following Questions stood upon the Order Paper:


To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his discussions with President Johnson.


To ask the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on his recent talks with President Johnson.


To ask the Prime Minister what request he made to President Johnson regarding the threatened boycott in the United States discriminating against certain types of British motor car as a reprisal for the sale of buses to Cuba.


To ask the Prime Minister whether he has reached complete agreement with the President of the United States on the next steps to be taken towards achieving a further reduction in armaments.


To ask the Prime Minister whether, during his recent talks with President Johnson, he raised the American threat to blacklist British-owned ships if they were to carry buses from the United Kingdom to Cuba as part of their lawful carrying trade.

The Prince Minister (Sir Alec Douglas-Home)

With permission, I will now answer Questions Nos. 7, 14, 20, 22 and 23 together.

I will, with permission, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the text of the joint communiqué issued after my talk with President Johnson.

Mr. Storehouse

While thanking the Prime Minister for that reply, which does not add to anything that the House has already seen—we have already had an opportunity of reading the stale platitudes of the joint communiqué—may I ask him two questions? First, what did the Prime Minister say in America about British participation in the mixed-manned force; and, secondly, did he make any protest about the provisions in the American Foreign Ail Bill which prohibit aid to any country which engages in trade with Cuba?

The Prime Minister

On the mixed-manned force, I said to the President exactly what I have said to this House: that we could not make up our minds whether we should join such a force until we have seen the conclusions of the Committees which are sitting on this matter in Paris and in Washington. It is not for me to protest to foreign Governments about their own legislation.

Mr. A. Henderson

May I ask the Prime Minister whether agreement was reached that first-step proposals for physical disarmament should be put forward at Geneva, including a proposal for the freezing of production of nuclear vehicles and also the abolition of obsolescent bombers?

The Prime Minister

These matters, which I would put in the general bracket of anti-surprise attack and measures of that kind, were certainly discussed. My right hon. Friend is going to Geneva, on, I think Monday, and will put forward the British proposals.

Mr. Edelman

On a matter of immediate concern to my constituents, will the Prime Minister confirm that while defending the right of British industrialists to freedom of trade with Cuba, he obtained at the same time an assurance from the President that no British ships carrying peaceful goods will be blacklisted?

The Prime Minister

I have no doubt that the American Government have no intention of a boycott of this sort.

Mr. Rankin

Does the Prime Minister recollect saying last night on television that partition for Cyprus would he the worst of all possible solutions? Will his circulated reply tell us what will be the best of all possible solutions for Cyprus and how it will be achieved?

The Prime Minister

That question might be put down to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.

Mr. Mendelson

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Leyland Bus Company has concluded a deal to ship 450 buses to Cuba, which will bring a great deal of work to a number of constituencies, including my own? Is he aware that the American authorities have threatened to blacklist any British-owned ship carrying these buses to Cuba? Is he aware that under the contract drawn between Leyland's and the Cuban authorities, Leyland's have the duty of carrying these buses to Cuba?

Is the Prime Minister also aware that Leyland's will have to engage ships from East Germany and pay in foreign currency for the shipment, thereby losing valuable trade to shipping in this country and having to pay in valuable foreign currency? Did the Prime Minister raise this matter with the President when he was in the United States?

The Prime Minister

I do not think that the hon. Member should anticipate all these troubles. I have no reason to believe that the United States Government would in any way support a boycott of British goods?

Mr. Shinwell

In the Prime Minister's conversations with President Johnson, did the President give any indication that there might be an occasion when the United Kingdom might be the subject of aggression in the European zone when the United States would not, inconsistently with its obligation to N.A.T.O., come to the assistance of the United Kingdom? I ask this in view of the right hon. Gentleman's statement that we require to continue with the independent nuclear deterrent in the United Kingdom because there might be such an occasion when the United States would not come to our assistance.

The Prime Minister

The United States Government, as far as I know, does not challenge in any way our right to retain ultimate control over our own nuclear arms.

Mr. Shinwell

Answer the question. Do not run away from it.

Sir T. Moore

The right hon. Gentleman should not get cross.

Mr. Shinwell

Shut up. Will the Prime Minister answer the question?

Mr. H. Wilson

To try to elucidate what the Prime Minister said in answer to two previous questions, can he tell us—because there was a little noise and I could not hear the last word of his answer—whether he said that there was no reason to think that the American Government was behind an unofficial boycott of British goods or of British ships'? Did he say "goods" or "ships"?

The Prime Minister


Mr. Wilson

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, whether he has not, perhaps, misunderstood the two questions put to him by my hon. Friends the Members for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) and Penistone (Mr. Mendelson), since they were asking not about the unofficial boycott of Triumph Herald cars, and so on, but about the blacklisting of British ships which have been to Cuba or of British ships owned by companies who have had ships going to Cuba? Since the right hon. Gentleman took a great deal of credit for what he said about trade, and we supported him—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Of course we did; that has been the position of both parties for years—will he tell us whether he made any protest about the blacklisting of British ships, and if so, what reply he got?

The Prime Minister

We have constantly told the American Government that freedom for shipping is of cardinal importance to the United Kingdom. The measure which the United States has adopted is to prohibit the carriage of United States Government cargoes in ships of any nationality which have called at Cuban ports since 1st January, 1963. This decision was taken before the question of buses raised by the hon. Member arose. It is true that some British ships have had difficulty in United States ports, but I am bound to add that the difficulty that British ships have suffered up to now has been because of the opposition of the United States trade union and not of the United States Government.

Mr. Shinwell

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am not quite sure whether I should ask for your guidance when the Prime Minister deliberately evades answering a question. [HON. MEMBERS: "That is not a point of order."] Hon. Members are wasting their time. The matter is between me and yourself, Mr. Speaker. My point of order is this. In view of the deliberate evasion by the Prime Minister in not answering a question, I give notice that I will raise the matter during the defence debate.

Mr. Speaker

I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman requires any guidance from me to give notice.

Text of Joint Communiqué by the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom following discussions held in Washington, D.C., February 12–13, 1964.

On February 12th and 13th, the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom met to discuss matters affecting the interests of their two countries and the welfare and security of free people everywhere. The United States Secretary of State, the Hon. Dean Rusk. and the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, the right hon. R. A. Butler, also took part in the talks.

President Johnson and Sir Alec Douglas-Home welcomed this opportunity of holding their working meeting since they assumed the leadership of their respective Governments. Underlying their talks was the determination that the pursuit of peace should be unfalteringly maintained.

They consider this pursuit of peace with security, in co-operation with their allies, their primary task and responsibility. The conclusion of the partial Test Ban Treaty in 1963 marked an advance on the road to the peaceful resolution of the problems which divide East and West. The President and the Prime Minister think it essential to go forward from there and continue with their friends the search for other ways of reducing tension, with its risks of war and its crushing burden of armaments. They hope that the Soviet Union will examine with the greatest seriousness the proposals put forward at the Geneva Conference and elsewhere by the United States and the United Kingdom, aimed at bringing about effective and controlled disarmament. In particular, the Prime Minister welcomed the proposals made to the 18-nation Disarmament Conference by the United States in President Johnson's message on January 21st.

Both Governments will continue to give their full support to the United Nations and will work in close step to enable it by statesmanship and institutional improvement to fulfill its responsibility and satisfy the hopes of mankind

But each Government recognises that no progress can be made without a strong and united Western Alliance prepared to defend its interests against threat and intimidation. The defence commitments which both countries share with their allies in N.A.T.O. will be maintained. It is within the Atlantic framework that the United States and the United Kingdom are conducting their examination of mutual defence problems, including force goals and are also considering the proposal for a multi-lateral nuclear force. Similarly, the widest possible political and economic cooperation in Europe within a broad Atlantic partnership remains a common aim of United States and British policy.

The President and the Prime Minister reviewed the events of recent months during which sudden tensions in many parts of the world have made unforeseen calls on the resources of the United States and the United Kingdom. The two Governments are responding to these calls whilst at the same time taking all political action that is open to them to diminish the causes of tension. Each Government recognises the value of the contribution that the other is making to the common task.

The Prime Minister and the President gave special consideration to South-east Asian matters and [...]o the problem of assisting free States of the area to maintain their independence. Both Governments stressed the value of the defence agreements which they have concluded there, and of the establishments which they maintain in the area. The Prime Minister re-emphasised the United Kingdom support for United States policy in South Vietnam. The President reaffirmed the support of the United States for the peaceful national independence of Malaysia. Both expressed their sincere hope that the leaders of the independent countries in the region would by mutual friendship and cooperation establish an area of prosperity and stability.

The President stressed his concern at the present situation in the Caribbean area and the subversive and disruptive influence of the present Cuba[...] regime. The Prime Minister fully recognised the importance of the development of Latin America in conditions of freedom and political and economic stability. Both expressed their belief that a valuable contribution can be made by Europe to this end.

Both Governments reaffirm that in all these fields their aim remains solely to achieve and safeguard the integrity and stability of the countries of the free world on the basis of full independence. The President and the Prime Minister agreed that the task is, however, not only that of establishing and preserving the peace, but of expanding international trade and promoting economic growth for all. To this end, both pledged their Governments to act affirmatively and decisively to promote the success of the forthcoming Kennedy Round of trade and tariff negotiations.

In view of the importance that both the President and the Prime Minister attach to such meetings, they have determined to continue to maintain close and continuous personal contact.

February 13, 1964.