HC Deb 27 July 1964 vol 699 cc984-6
16. Mr. Brockway

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what conclusions were reached on the situation in Laos at the recent Vientiane Conference of Ambassadors of the United Kingdom, Canada, India, South Vietnam and Thailand.

Mr. R. A. Butler

Those taking part agreed that the deteriorating military situation in Laos presented a grave threat to the peace of South-East Asia. They unanimously agreed to call on the Co-Chairmen, in the way each thought appropriate, to do everything in their power to urge all parties concerned to bring about an immediate cease-fire throughout the Kingdom, and to withdraw all forces to the positions which they held before the recent fighting, the cease-fire and withdrawal to be controlled and verified by the International Control Commission. A copy of the full Communiqué issued at the end of the talks is in the Library.

Mr. Brockway

Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm that he has received this weekend a message from Mr. Khrushchev, as one of the Co-Chairmen, in which he indicated that he may withdraw from the Co-Chairmanship and urged that there should be a 14-Power Conference on this matter? When the right hon. Gentleman goes to Moscow, will he do his utmost to secure a resumption of the Geneva Conference, which alone could be a solution of these problems?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. We had hoped that the Polish proposals, which I was discussing up to Saturday evening, would be a preliminary, perhaps, to a wider conference. It now appears that the Soviet Government have certain definite views about an immediate wider conference, and it is precisely this problem which I shall be discussing tomorrow.

Mr. Gordon Walker

Will the Foreign Secretary press upon Mr. Khrushchev how grave it would be if Russia withdrew as Co-Chairman and that we have really a very great common interest in this part of the world with the Soviet Union? May I wish the right hon. Gentleman luck in his visit to Moscow?

Mr. Butler

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his sentiments. I certainly intend to press upon both Mr. Gromyko, who is my Co-Chairman, and Mr. Khrushchev, the importance of the Soviet Union not losing an interest in this area. We have hitherto had a wide measure of agreement with the Soviet Government on this area and it would be a great pity if that did not continue.

Mr. Harold Davies

Will the Foreign Secretary, whilst impressing upon Mr. Khrushchev the message that my right hon. Friend has just asked him to convey, bear in mind that it would be wrong to assume that the British public in any way wants to be engaged in any military action in South-East Asia? It would be against the spirit of the British people. Therefore, will the right hon. Gentleman exercise his authority as one of the Co-Chairmen to try to recall the Geneva Conference, irrespective of the wishes of the Government of South Vietnam, which has never been democratic?

Mr. Butler

I do not think that there is any intention of the British actually taking part in operations in South-East Asia. I will certainly bear in mind the rest of what the hon. Member has said.