HC Deb 05 July 1966 vol 731 cc244-7
Q1. Mr. G. Campbell

asked the Prime Minister if he will now make a further statement on the Commonwealth Mission on Vietnam.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I have nothing to add to my Answer to a Question by the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker) on 21st June.

Mr. Campbell

Although the Mission may not be received in person by the Hanoi régime, should it not now be active in consulting other Governments concerned in accordance with its original terms of reference if it is ever to promote a conference?

The Prime Minister

There may be a case for reactivating this Mission. if it had to be done, as I have already explained in the House, it could be done very quickly by consultation with other Commonwealth Prime Ministers.

Mr. Maxwell

Would my right hon. Friend agree that exhortation with the North Vietnamese pays as little as exhortation with anybody else? In view of this, would he consider whether this country could promise to contribute, say, £50 million or £100 million to the redevelopment of South and North Vietnam if they agree to peace talks?

The Prime Minister

I hope that appeals and exhortation will be successful. I am not certain that promises of economic aid would add anything. But my hon. Friend will be aware of the very imaginative programme being worked out internationally for the Mekong River, costing, I think, 1,000 million dollars in Western aid, a great deal of it from the United States. He will also be aware of other work which will be undertaken by the Asian Bank.

Mr. Blaker

In any consultations within the Commonwealth, or within the Commonwealth Peace Mission if it is re-established, will the Prime Minister do his best to make sure that full weight is given to the views of the Governments of Australia and New Zealand?

The Prime Minister

When the original Commonwealth Peace Mission was appointed—and it was very enthusiastically supported by the then Prime Minister of Australia, Sir Robert Menzies, as he made clear—they were fully involved in not only the selection of the proposed Peace Mission, but also in its terms of reference and in the guide lines given to it.

Mr. Park

In considering reactivating the Commonwealth Peace Mission, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the widespread alarm caused by the growing impression that the United States Government no longer favour a negotiated settlement in Vietnam, but are now seeking to secure a military victory at any cost? Will he repudiate the view that the solution to the conflict lies in the partition of the country along Korean lines? Will he reaffirm that—[HON. MEMBER: "Too long."]

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Member's supplementary question is long enough.

The Prime Minister

I have always said—and I think that the whole House agrees—that a political solution is the only solution which can bring peace in Vietnam. The actual form of that solution must be left for those who get round the conference table to negotiate it. But as recently as last Saturday the President of the United States made clear once again his Government's willingness to engage in totally unconditional discussions, given, as he said, only a room, a table and somebody to talk to.

Mr. Heath

In view of the emphasis which the Prime Minister has rightly placed on consultation with Australia and New Zealand over the Common- wealth Mission, can he now say why it was that there was no consultation with Australia and New Zealand over his own statement dissociating the Government from the latest steps in American policy in Vietnam, especially in view of the fact that this had been commonly discussed in the Press as well as elsewhere for a number of weeks before the action was taken?

The Prime Minister

The Australian and New Zealand Governments were fully aware of our position, stated in the House as long ago as 21st December last, that if such bombing occurred we would dissociate ourselves from it. We have had no representations from them on that question at any point.

Q4. Mr. Zilliacus

asked the Prime Minister if he will seek clarification from President Johnson of the reasons for the negotiation by the United States Administration of 99-year leases on the main American bases in Vietnam, including Da Nang, with a view to taking action in the matter as co-chairman of the Control Commission and a party to the 1954 Geneva Agreements, which provide for the withdrawal of all foreign forces and bases from Vietnam.

The Prime Minister

The United States Government do not hold any such leases whether in Da Nang or anywhere else in Vietnam and I have certainly no knowledge of any negotiations for the purpose of acquiring any such leases.

Mr. Zilliacus

Would my right hon. Friend make further inquiries into this subject, because I have reason to believe that my information is correct? Furthermore, will he make it clear now that he would oppose any American measures that perpetuate their occupation of South Vietnam or partition Vietnam, even if those demands are put forward in unconditional negotiations backed by a large American force?

The Prime Minister

I should be very glad to consider any evidence that my hon. Friend cared to send me. I do not need to make any such representations to the United States Government. As recently as 18th June, President Johnson made it clear that they do not intend to hold bases in Vietnam. He said, "We are not fighting to remain in Vietnam, not to retain bases there, and not to control the affairs of their people." It is not American policy, in fact.