HC Deb 06 July 1965 vol 715 cc1326-8
8. Mr. Blaker

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what further steps Her Majesty's Government propose to recommend to their Commonwealth partners in order to facilitate a peaceful solution of the crisis in Vietnam.

17. Mr. Channon

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations if he will make a further statement on the progress of the proposed Commonwealth mission to Vietnam.

18. Mr. Gower

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what further initiative about the situation in Vietnam has been discussed with other Commonwealth Governments; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Bottomley

I have nothing to add to the answer given by the Prime Minister on 1st July. Her Majesty's Government do not intend at the moment to take any further initiative with Commonwealth partners on Vietnam.

Mr. Blaker

Is the Secretary of State aware that there will be general support for any further initiatives that the Commonwealth may be able to take in the cause of peace, whether in Vietnam or otherwise, but would he not also agree that unless such initiatives are adequately prepared and very carefully launched they may actually damage the Commonwealth?

Mr. Bottomley

Yes, Sir. It is always desirable, of course, to try to launch any attempt to secure peace in the most careful manner. We were aware at the time of the Commonwealth Prime Minister's Conference that here was an admirable opportunity to seize the initiative, and that is what was done.

Mr. Channon

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what is the latest news he has received from the capitals concerned as to whether or not they are not likely or willing to receive this proposed mission?

Mr. Bottomley

In the case of Peking and Moscow, we have replies which indicate that the mission at this time would not be acceptable. The Hanoi authorities have neither formally refused nor agreed to accept the mission.

Mr. Gower

With regard to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker), would the right hon. Gentleman acknowledge, not only that careful and patient preparation is necessary in regard to our Commonwealth partners, but that it is also advisable that every attempt should be made to ascertain what reception such an initiative will receive before action is taken?

Mr. Bottomley

If we did that, perhaps nothing would ever be attempted.

Mr. Rose

In view of the prejudicial effect which the presence of Australian troops may have on the Commonwealth peace initiative, would my right hon. Friend take action to meet the Prime Minister of Australia with a view to the withdrawal of these troops?

Mr. Bottomley

This is a matter for the Australian Government.

Mr. Sydney Silverman

Would my right hon. Friend consider this? If we wish to pursue a useful and profitable attempt at peace negotiations with North Vietnam, it might be a useful preliminary to recognise the Government with whom we propose to negotiate. Would not this ease the path, and might not we advise some of our Commonwealth associates to make that recognition?

Mr. Bottomley

This is a question which might properly be addressed to the Foreign Secretary.

21. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations which Commonwealth countries have now officially informed Her Majesty's Government of their support for United Kingdom policy in regard to Vietnam.

Mr. Bottomley

At the recent meeting of the Heads of all Commonwealth Governments, or their representatives, unanimous support was given to the proposal made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for a Commonwealth initiative on Vietnam as set out in the communiqué issued after the meeting. The Governments of Kenya and Tanzania, however, have indicated their reservation on certain points.

Mr. Hughes

How many of the Commonwealth countries have indicated their opposition to American action?

Mr. Bottomley

That is a question which ought to be put to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and not to me.