HC Deb 23 May 1966 vol 729 cc11-5
13. Dr. David Kerr

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the anti-democratic views expressed by the Prime Minister of South Vietnam, he will now withdraw British diplomatic personnel from that country.

19. Mr. Zilliacus

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will now withdraw recognition from the Saigon regime, on the grounds that it is unstable, not in control of most of South Vietnam, unrepresentative of the Vietnamese people and entirely dependent on money, arms and military, naval and air forces supplied by a foreign Power.

Mr. M. Stewart

No, Sir.

Dr. Kerr

Would my right hon. Friend consider the proposition that, leaving aside any material resources, the moral and spiritual resources of Britain could be better devoted than to serving the cause of this squalid cardboard oriental Hitler?

Mr. Stewart

I do not accept my hon. Friend's last words. The Question which he asked me was whether we would withdraw diplomatic personnel, that is to say, break off diplomatic relations with a country, because of anti-democratic views expressed by its Prime Minister. If we took the view that we should break off diplomatic relations with a country because the members of its Government expressed what we regarded as anti-democratic views, it might reduce international relations, but it would not improve them.

Mr. Zilliacus

But if the reasons adduced in Question No. 19 are not sufficient to withdraw recognition, is not the fact that this gentleman has now upset even his American patriots by starting war on the Buddhists, burning their sacred temples and slaughtering their priests, a reason for withdrawing recognition; or is there no limit to the Government's supine iniquity?

Mr. Stewart

My hon. Friend urges withdrawal of recognition on the different ground of what he claims is the instability of the Government and their lack of control of their country. We have to notice, however, that this Government is the only body claiming to be a Government in South Vietnam. I should have thought that the improved stability of this regime and the conduct of elections, as is now proposed, was the objective for which those of us who want peace in this country should work. I do not think that it would be helped by the suggestion made by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Would the Foreign Secretary affirm that we should strengthen rather than weaken our missions in the difficult circumstances in this country?

Mr. Stewart

We certainly want to he as well informed as possible of developments there. But I think that we are.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

Will the Foreign Secretary consider taking the views of the Law Officers on the many points of international law which arise out of the Vietnam war?

Mr. Stewart

I will consider that.

17. Mr. Luard

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, as co-chairman of the Geneva Conference, he will seek to secure international supervision of the proposed elections in South Vietnam.

Mr. M. Stewart

We would, I am sure, all welcome internationally supervised elections throughout both North and South Vietnam. At present, however, they are impossible in the North and the elections in the South are part of a programme agreed by the various political and religious groupings in South Vietnam. I hope this process will lead to the first steps towards constitutional rule.

Mr. Luard

Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the Government are doing and will continue to do everything in their power to ensure that these elections do take place as has been promised?

Mr. Stewart

Yes, so far as we can influence the course of events there, our wish would certainly be that those elections should take place.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Could the Foreign Secretary, looking at the turmoil in South Vietnam, give the House some idea how he visualises the ultimate future of that country? Is it to be unified? Is it to be independent? Can we know what is in his mind?

Mr. Stewart

I do not think I can really do that in answer to a supplementary question, but if the hon. Member would will the statements I made in April and the latter part of last year he will see generally how I hope and believe the future of that country should be developed.

18. Mr. Zilliacus

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the failure of the policy of privately working for peace while publicly supporting the war in Vietnam to prevent the continuation and aggravation of that war, he will now abandon that policy and oppose United States military intervention in Vietnam as a violation of the United Nations Charter.

Mr. M. Stewart

I do not contemplate any change in our policy, which is based not on supporting the war but on bringing it to an end by negotiations.

Mr. Zilliacus

In view of the long-continued failure of these alleged attempts to bring about peace while publicly supporting the war, does not my right hon. Friend recognise that this policy has failed and is proving morally ruinous to this country? Will he not change it?

Mr. Stewart

I am surprised that my hon. Friend should use the words "alleged attempts" at negotiations. The efforts which the British Government have made to get negotiations on this matter are well known. It is true that they have so far failed, and it is perfectly clear where the responsibility for that failure lies——

Mr. Manuel

In Washington.

Mr. Stewart

—but I do not believe that is a reason for giving up attempts to bring this war to an end by negotiation.

Mr. Michael Foot

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the Government still support the bombing of North Vietnam by the American Air Force and whether they have sought to impose any limits on that bombing in the last few weeks apart from the earlier limitation the Government sought to the bombing about Hanoi and Haiphong?

Mr. Stewart

The position there is as it has been, and what we want to see is the, end of all military activity by both sides in this war, but I do not believe that it is right, while one side refuses negotiations, to tell the other side that they should refrain from certain military measures. As to the extent of the bombing, we have been informed and are still informed by the United States that if there were any change in their policy in that respect we should be consulted first.

Lord Balniel

As our long-term line of policy in this part of the world must be to establish independent, neutral, nonaligned countries, does not the right hon. Gentleman think it would be a contribution to the holding of peace talks if the United States Government were to declare that this was their long-term objective?

Mr. Stewart

Yes, I think that is a reasonable suggestion.

32. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what cooperation exists between the British Advisory Police Mission in Saigon and the United States Military Police.

Mr. M. Stewart

None, Sir. I have previously made clear to my hon. Friend that the mission is concerned with the advice and training of the Vietnamese civil police.

Mr. Hughes

To what authority in Saigon is this British Mission responsible? Is it not a fact that the police who are now breaking up the Buddhist demonstrations in Saigon have been trained by British officers who are paid with money that comes from the British taxpayer?

Mr. Stewart

This mission is responsible to our Government. Its task is the advice and training of Vietnamese civil police. It is a small mission. Its advice is not always followed, but I believe that its influence is valuable.

35. Mr. Mikardo

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many British subjects were killed or wounded in the shooting affray in the streets of Saigon on 10th May.

Mr. M. Stewart

None, Sir.

Mr. Mikardo

I am sure that the House will be relieved to hear that Answer, but may I ask my right hon. Friend whether this incident in which soldiers machine-gunned women and children after having, as their own officers said, panicked, makes him more than ever proud of the unfailing support which he gives at least publicly to the American military effort in Vietnam?

Mr. Stewart

I think that my hon. Friend's words misrepresent the Government's policy. Our policy throughout has been to preserve peace—[Interruption.]—and, I would remind my hon. Friend, to reach peace by negotiation, and what started this incident was the explosion of a land mine which killed a large number of innocent civilians. I do not think that anyone would wish to defend that.

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