HC Deb 29 July 1965 vol 717 cc682-4
Q4. Mr. Jackson

asked the Prime Minister what plans he has for keeping the House informed of developments in the Far Eastern situation in so far as Her Majesty's Government's responsibilities are involved during the Summer Recess.

The Prime Minister

The usual channels of communication will be employed and Standing Order 117 is available for use if required.

Mr. Jackson

In view of the worsening situation in the Far East and Vietnam in particular, and since there is genuine anxiety in the country about the crisis, will my right hon. Friend consider, short of recalling Parliament, reporting to the nation either on television or through major Press conferences at least once or twice during the Recess?

The Prime Minister

The Government, like all previous Governments, will respect not only the letter but the spirit of Standing Order No. 117. If a really grave development occurred which required the recall of Parliament, then we should immediately recall it. Keeping the public informed of developments can be done easily without necessarily holding a Press conference.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Since the Government intend drastically to cut defence expenditure, may we be assured that, during the Recess and after, British troops east of Suez will not be denied on financial considerations the facilities and reinforcements they may need for the defence of Malaysia and other British interests?

The Prime Minister

Our record in this matter, both continuing and extending the policy of the previous Government towards Malaysia, is sufficient answer to the hon. Gentleman. There is no question whatever of denying our troops the facilities and reinforcements they need if, unhappily, this confrontation is to continue. One of the aims of the general defence review is to save expenditure and foreign exchange costs and we shall report to the House when that review is ready.

Mr. A. Henderson

Following the very important statement made yesterday by President Johnson concerning the desirability of United Nations intervention in the Vietnam conflict with a view to bringing it to an end, may we take it that Her Majesty's Government will support or even take any initiative during the Recess to ensure that the matter is brought before the Security Council?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, if we think that will be helpful. I have previously explained our hope and intention about initiating action in the Security Council, but after taking soundings we were not convinced that this would be most helpful towards getting initiatives going.

I may add, in view of the strictures of right hon. and hon. Members opposite about the mission to Hanoi by my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance and about the Commonwealth Peace Mission, and their claim that these might upset the Americans, that I was glad to see that President Johnson yesterday not merely paid tribute for the second time to the idea of the Commonwealth Mission but went out of his way to pay tribute to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Heath

Will the Prime Minister agree that, during the Recess, in the very serious situation which now exists, it is of the utmost importance that he should keep open the channels of the co-Chairmanship which can, through diplomatic means, be used effectively in this situation, as indeed it was used during the difficulties in Laos? As the right hon. Gentleman has sometimes shown some reluctance to use this means, will he assure us that he will take the utmost steps through diplomatic channels to keep these lines open?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. I have made clear in repeated foreign affairs debates our desire to use the co-Chairmanship machinery. I gave lengthy details in last week's debate of the approaches we have made to Mr. Gromyko in London, Vienna and Moscow. It has been an almost continuous process since the beginning of the year.

The trouble is that the Russian co-Chairman so far is not agreeable to joining in the reactivating of the Geneva Conference. One of the main aims of the Commonwealth Peace Mission is to create the conditions in which the two Chairmen could act. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will realise that, if it is not possible to get the Soviet Union to move because it thinks that this is a matter for Hanoi and nothing to do with the Soviet Union, all we can do is keep on trying—which is what we shall do.