HC Deb 03 May 1965 vol 711 cc901-5
13. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what representations have been made to him by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament about the war in Vietnam; and what reply he has sent.

Mr. M. Stewart

Between 8th February and 29th April, 39 letters relating to the situation in Vietnam were received at the Foreign Office from branches of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Replies have been sent setting out Her Majesty's Government's views and policy and, where appropriate, drawing attention to the statements which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I have made in this House.

Mr. Marten

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament also appeals to Ministers in the Government who are sympathetic to it to work within the Government to express the views of the C.N.D.? Would the hon. Gentleman agree with the Prime Minister that noisy demonstrations, such as the C.N.D. has been making about Vietnam, are not the right thing at present and that the right things now are skilful diplomacy and firm strength?

Mr. Stewart

It has been made quite clear what the whole Government's view is on this matter, and that has been made clear in the replies sent to the letters from the C.N.D.

Mr. Rankin

Can my right hon. Friend say when the "war" referred to in the Question was officially declared, what country made the official declaration, and whether Britain was consulted beforehand?

Mr. Stewart

I can be responsible for the answers, but not for the wording of the Question. I think that everyone knows what was meant by the use of this word and that the effect of what has been happening in Vietnam has been as cruel and unhappy as any in any declared war would be.

Mr. Rankin

On a point of Order. May I have your guidance on this matter, Mr. Speaker? I have often submitted Questions which have been declared unsuitable because the Minister had no responsibility. Surely, if this Question is tabled the Minister ought to have responsibility for any reference to any war in which this country seems now to be engaged.

Mr. Speaker

What the right hon. Gentleman was saying was that he was not responsible for interpreting the words used in the Question. It would be a bit hard to make him do that.

16. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what progress has been made in his efforts, as co-chairman, to find among the Powers concerned a basis for the settlement of the problem of Vietnam.

17. Mr. Hamling

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the result of his invitation, as co-chairman, to the Powers concerned to provide a basis for settling the Vietnam problem.

31. Mr. G. Campbell

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's recent diplomatic actions concerning Vietnam.

39. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what progress he has made in his attempts to create conditions for bringing the war in Vietnam to an end.

40. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a further statement on progress towards a peace settlement in Vietnam.

Mr. M. Stewart

I still await the full results of the two initiatives about which I told the House during the Foreign Affairs debate on 1st April. So far my message to members of the Geneva Conference and the International Control Commission has been answered directly by four of those to whom it was addressed. Mr. Gordon Walker has yet to complete his tour of the Far East and to make his report. Unhappily neither these initiatives nor those from other quarters—such as the appeal of the 17 non-aligned nations for negotiations without pre-conditions and the efforts of the United Nations Secretary General—have produced anything other than a negative response from Hanoi and Peking. We hope this intransigent attitude will change. Once it does, we should be able to make progress towards a peaceful settlement.

Mr. Hamilton

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the very deep concern in all parts of the country, and I hope on all sides of the House, at the continued escalation of the war in Vietnam? Is he aware that that concern is that of people not pro-Communist or indeed anti-American? Will he continue to use his best offices, even himself going to the area, to try to get some kind of consultation direct with Peking or Hanoi as a further earnest of his good endeavours in this matter?

Mr. Stewart

I agree with my right hon. Friend that anxiety over this matter is universal. The Government certainly will continue their efforts, despite discouragement, to get a peaceful and right settlement of this dispute. I will consider what my hon. Friend said about a visit myself, but I am obliged to notice at present that Peking and Hanoi refuse to receive Mr. Gordon Walker, who is representing me as co-chairman, and I wish that we had had a more helpful attitude over that.

Mr. G. Campbell

Is there still any prospect of a conference on Cambodia and has anything yet been achieved by Mr. Gordon Walker's Far Eastern tour?

Mr. Stewart

The situation on Cambodia is as I stated it in my statement to the House recently. There is nothing further to tell the House since then. It would be better to wait until Mr. Gordon Walker's return and his report to me before answering the rest of the hon. Gentleman's question.

Mr. Hector Hughes

On my Question No. 39, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend has considered sending specific invitations to the nations which are involved in this, with a view to having a peace conference and bringing that war to an end in that way?

Mr. Stewart

Such invitations could be sent out if the other co-chairman and I were in agreement. It was in default of that agreement that we sent out the message we did. I hope that events may develop in the way in which my hon. and learned Friend expresses himself.

Mr. Allaun

Since America and North Vietnam are in agreement on three major points, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend will press for a ceasefire and a conference on those three points, not necessarily via Cambodia? Would he do that now before the dètente between East and West is completely destroyed?

Mr. Stewart

The position is that the United States have made it clear that if there is a cessation of the action by the North their action will cease straight away, and even indeed without that they are prepared to enter into a conference. Therefore, all that is missing there is a statement from Hanoi that they will fulfil their part of the cease-fire. If we got that the whole situation would be different.

Mr. Hooson

Could the Foreign Secretary confirm that there has been close co-operation with the European Governments concerned with regard to a common European attitude towards the problem of Vietnam?

Mr. Stewart

This is not only a European matter; it concerns all the Powers which met at Geneva. When we have been in contact with the European Governments, we have expressed our views on the matter, and the nearer we could get to a common European point of view the better. But we must remember that this is not only a European question.

Lady Tweedsmuir

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we on this side of the House fully support Her Majesty's Government in their support of an American policy in Vietnam, but will he explain how it was that his colleague the Minister of State, a former president of U.S.D.A.W., remained silent at the union's conference the other day when the union passed a resolution urging the Government to dissociate themselves from American policy in Vietnam?

Mr. Stewart

I suggest, first, that, if the noble Lady wishes to question the conduct of my hon. Friend, she should do so direct to him; second, that she should acquaint herself a little more closely with trade union practice in this country; and, third, that there seems to be a difference between our points of view on this matter. I am trying, so far as it is possible, to stop a war. The noble Lady seems to be anxious to start a squabble.