HC Deb 24 May 1966 vol 729 cc278-9
Q4. Sir C. Osborne

asked the Prime Minister if he will give details of the consultations he has had with the Australian Government with regard to an agreement about the number of British and Australian troops in the Vietnam war; what limits have been agreed as to the number of troops that will be so engaged; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister

No such consultations have taken place.

Sir C. Osborne

Is not this a shockingly bad example of Commonwealth cooperation? If more Australian troops are to be engaged in the Vietnam war and they appeal to us for help, would it not be difficult for us to say no to them? Would the Prime Minister say what he can do through political means to get this war ended?

The Prime Minister

Commonwealth co-operation does not mean that we all do the same things. The essence of the modern Commonwealth is that Australia is sovereign and, in the exercise of that sovereignty, it has troops in Vietnam. We are equally sovereign and, in the exercise of our sovereignty, we do not have troops in Vietnam. I do not see that as a problem between us and Australia. In regard to attempts to get a political solution, I have many times expressed in this House what our policy is, and I have quite often had the support of hon. Members opposite.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

Has not my right hon. Friend underlined his support for and approval of this war by advising Her Majesty The Queen to issue a medal for award to Commonwealth Australian and New Zealand troops? Is this not a recommendation against the wishes of the Australian Labour Party?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend seems to be living in the pre-Statute of Westminster age. The advice given to Her Majesty about medals for troops is uniquely a matter for the Australian and New Zealand Governments. We have no power to intervene, and it would be an odd concept of the Commonwealth if we did.