HC Deb 18 July 1966 vol 732 cc3-8
4. Mr. Eldon Griffiths

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the recent visit of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary to Vietnam.

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Michael Stewart)

I would refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply given by my hon. Friend to a Question by the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Fylde (Mr. Clegg) on 7th July. and my own reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Wandsworth, Central (Dr. David Kerr) on 11th July.

Mr. Griffiths

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that his noble Friend forecast the ending of the Vietnam war, with the Americans winning it within 12 months. In view of President Ho Chi Minh's mobilisation statement at the weekend, can the right hon. Gentleman say that this still represents the view of Her Majesty's Government?

Mr. Stewart

What my noble Friend said was that although this could conceivably happen within the next 12 months, he doubted whether it would in fact happen.

11. Mr. Zilliacus

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what agreement he has reached with the United States of America and local authorities in Vietnam about the sending of the British Medical Mision to treat children burned by napalm or mutilated by splinter bombs; how many such children are being brought to this country; and what proportion the number of children so treated is to the total weekly child casualties in South Vietnam.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. George Thomson)

I would refer my hon. Friend to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's reply to a Question on the 7th July by my hon. Friend the Member for Wandsworth, Central (Dr. David Kerr).

Mr. Zilliacus

In view of the extended bombing that is now going on, would not my right hon. Friend suggest to his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that he should make representations to Washington about the advisability of ceasing to mutilate and burn children wholesale?

Mr. Thomson

I think everyone abhors the cruelties which are involved in this war. The Prime Minister is taking most practicable steps to make a British contribution to ending it at this very moment in Moscow. As to deliberate bombing of civilians, including children, that is taking place only on the part of the Vietcong.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Are Her Majesty's Government protesting to the United States about the use of napalm, and if not. why not?

Mr. Thomson

The Government's attitude on these matters is well known. We believe that the right way to end the cruelties associated with this war on both sides is to end the war itself.

26. Mr. Luard

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will give an assurance that it remains the policy of Her Majesty's Government that a final settlement in South Vietnam shall provide for the withdrawal of all foreign troops and the dissociation of that country from military alliances.

Mr. M. Stewart

I would refer my hon. Friend to my remarks in the debate on Vietnam on 7th July, when I summarised once more the sort of solution which we envisage for Vietnam.

Mr. Luard

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that the readiness of the North Vietnam Government and the Vietcong to negotiate on this subject is likely to be dependent on what they believe the ultimate objective of the United States Government to be? It is, therefore, very important that the 14 points which the United States Government put forward some months ago should be reaffirmed by them and that the British Government should use all their influence to bring this about.

Mr. Stewart

The United States Government made it very plain then that they want no United States bases or United States troops in South-East Asia. I think this must be clear by now to the Government of Hanoi. It has been stated several times by the United States, and we ourselves most recently in the debate on 7th July set forward our views on this. I do not think there can be any doubt about it.

Mr. Freeson

Will my right hon. Friend seek to bring pressure to bear on the United States Government to make the position on this point clear now and not rely upon statements which were given months ago, in view of the considerable number of reports which are appearing here and abroad that it is the intention of the United States Government to establish a policy of military containment and retain bases in South Vietnam?

Mr. Stewart

Those reports are contrary to all statements of policy for a long time past by the United States Government.

49 and 50. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) what advice the Advisory Police Mission in Vietnam has given to the Government of South Vietnam concerning the pay of the police force; (2) what advice the Advisory Police Mission in Vietnam has given the authorities on measures for dealing with crimes arising from prostitution in Siagon.

Mr. George Thomson

None, Sir. The Mission advises the Vietnamese Government on the organisation and training of civilian police and its main duties are as outlined by my right hon. Friend in answer to a Question by my hon. Friend on 31st January, 1966.

Mr. Hughes

Can my hon. Friend give some idea of what this police force that we are paying to advise is like? Is he aware of a statement made in The Times on 6th July that an inspector of police had to resort to illegal taxi-driving in order to get a decent wage to feed his children? On the question of prostitution, as this evil has become so great in Siagon, does he not think that it is time that Her Majesty's Government made some representations to the American Government about it?

Mr. Thomson

I have studied the article in The Times to which my hon. Friend refers. The conditions that it describes are, of course, the result of fighting a cruel war, and the way to deal with them is to end the war itself, which is what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is seeking to make his contribution to in Moscow at the moment. I would also add that the article in The Times mentions the crying need in South Vietnam for, above all, security and the rule of law. Our advisory police mission is seeking to make a modest contribution to these civilised ends.

Mr. Hughes

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.

53. Mr. G. Campbell

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reports he has now received on the accuracy of the bombing of fuel installations in North Vietnam and on the civilian casualties resulting from it.

Mr. M. Stewart

Reports received suggest that the bombing of oil installations in North Vietnam has been carried out with great accuracy and with few civilian casualties.

Mr. Campbell

In that event, should not the Government have waited for a short time until the facts were all known before issuing a statement of condemnation of the American action?

Mr. Stewart

No, Sir. I gave the reasons to the House, in the debate on 7th July, as to why we thought it right to make the statement we did. The possibility, which is always there when there is bombing so near to civilian areas, of injury to innocent civilians was one reason but only one reason that I gave in my statement.

Mr. Will Griffiths

May I ask my right hon. Friend, as I asked him in last week's debate, what is the source of this information? Is it coming from the American Embassy or from our own diplomatic representatives in South Vietnam?

Mr. Stewart

There are reports available and my hon. Friend will have noted that I said in my reply that the reports received "suggest" this. I can answer this question only on the basis of such reports as we have received. They come partly from what is said by the United States, partly from what is said by the North Vietnamese and partly from such information as our Consul-General in Hanoi is able to obtain. It is not possible for independent observers to visit the places, and I have therefore had to answer the question on the basis of such information as is available to us.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Was not the real reason for the Prime Minister's statement fear of hon. Members below the Gangway?

Mr. Stewart

The right hon. Member is entitled to take that view if he pleases. I do not think that it carries much conviction.

Mr. Winnick

Has my right hon. Friend seen the various statements by American Senators that the whole of North Vietnam should be bombed out of existence? Have the Americans gone completely crazy in waging their dirty colonial war in Vietnam?

Mr. Stewart

I repeat that these remarks about the horror of the war carry conviction only if they relate to cruelties resulting from action on both sides.

Mr. Marten

Was not the original decision by the Government to dissociate themselves from the bombing taken in relation to centres of population? Yet was not the bombing of the fuel storage tanks two or three miles outside the centres of population?

Mr. Stewart

That point was specifically dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when he answered Questions. One must ask oneself whether one considers two miles to be sufficient distance to have made it wrong to issue a statement. What distance would the hon. Member tolerate?

Mr. Orme

Could my right hon. Friend go a little further in giving the sources of his information about these attacks? I was an air bomber/navigator in the last war and I know that, even with modern weapons, it is not possible to bomb with the accuracy that the Americans claim and that civilians must suffer when an area such as this is bombed.

Mr. Stewart

I have already given the sources of information and have made it clear that I can only give the House such reports as we have received, for it is not possible for independent observers to go there. The sources are the North Vietnamese, the United States and our Consul-General in Hanoi.