HC Deb 03 May 1966 vol 727 cc1425-6
Q10. Mr. Orme

asked the Prime Minister what representations the United States Government have made to the British Government over the past two months asking for the participation of British forces in Vietnam; and what replies have been sent.

Q11. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Prime Minister what approaches have been made by the United States Government for any form of British participation in the war in Vietnam.

Q15. Mr. Will Griffiths

asked the Prime Minister what requests he has received from the Government of the United States for British military assistance in Vietnam; and what was his reply.

The Prime Minister

I explained our attitude on troops for Vietnam in answer to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) on 8th March. The United States Government have not raised the matter with us since then.

Mr. Orme

As a great deal of anxiety still remains in this country about the possible commitment of British troops, would the Prime Minister give an assurance that, if this Government are asked in future, in no circumstances will we make a commitment of British troops to the war in Vietnam?

The Prime Minister

I have said many times in and outside this House and in the United States that we are not sending troops to Vietnam. I have made that very, very clear. If there is any misapprehension, it must be because some hon. Members, on more than one side, keep on perpetuating this myth.

Mr. Allaun

While welcoming that last reply, is it proper that the Prime Minister, who will not send any troops or material to help the American war in Vietnam, is nevertheless prepared to give it his constant support?

The Prime Minister

I thank my hon. Friend for thanking me for the assurance. But, if he has been listening, he will know that I have been giving this assurance for the best part of a year. There was nothing new about it. I think that there is a difference between supporting particular action and involving troops in that action, because, as I said in my reply on 6th March, the Government of the United States fully understand the position of Her Majesty's Government as one of the co-Chairmen of the Geneva Agreement. Because of that, this would, of course, preclude our entering, in a military sense, into that war.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Will the Prime Minister confirm that, in the fortunate event of confrontation between Malaysia and Indonesia coming to an end, the British Government have full freedom of action to do what they like with the troops there and to bring them back if necessary?

The Prime Minister

I missed the last few words of what the hon. Gentleman said.

Sir A. V. Harvey

In the fortunate event of confrontation between Malaysia and Indonesia coming to an end, would the Government retain full freedom of action, if necessary, to bring some of the British troops back?

The Prime Minister

Yes, we retain full freedom of action. This matter is fully dealt with in the Defence Review. The three Questions which I answered related to Vietnam, not Indonesia.

Mr. Doughty

Is the Prime Minister aware that there is a large number of Australian troops in Vietnam and that it is our duty to support the Australians there as they supported us in our military difficulties?

The Prime Minister

Australia, which is a completely sovereign and self-governing country, is entitled to make its own decision in these matters. It does not mean that, because Australia sent troops we, as co-Chairman under the Geneva Agreement, must necessarily follow suit.

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