HC Deb 04 April 1967 vol 744 cc27-9
Q3. Mr. Winnick

asked the Prime Minister what further consultations he has had with President Johnson over the Vietnam war.

The Prime Minister

I have nothing to add to the Answer I gave to a similar Question by my hon. Friend on 23rd March.—[Vol. 743, c. 1909.]

Mr. Winnick

Will my right hon. Friend agree that the advertisement in The Times last week and the Archbishop of Canterbury's statement indicate the very grave concern in Britain at continued American bombing of North Vietnam, and could the Prime Minister tell the President or the Vice-President of the deep concern that there is in this country over what the Americans are doing and the lack of any enthusiasm in Britain for this American war?

The Prime Minister

I do not think I require to see the advertisement in The Times last week or any other statements to confirm what I already know from my hon. Friend's Question and from other statements—that there is in this country deep concern over Vietnam, and it is our deeper concern that we should get a lasting and just peace there. That has been the Government's policy from the start. I have made clear on a number of occasions that the action recommended by my hon. Friend is not the best way to secure peace.

Mr. Grimond

Did the Prime Minister discuss with the Vice-President of the United States the ultimate aims of American policy in the Far East? If so, will he tell us what they are? Did he explain to the Vice-President that if America is to gain the support of the British people for her policies in the Far East there must be a better understanding of what the ultimate aims may be?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. Of course, I have had discussions with the Vice-President about Vietnam, and continuing discussions over the last two years with the President of the United States. So far as their aims are concerned, these have been very fully set out in the 14-point statement made by the President of the United States, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is familiar with that. The problem of getting an immediate and early peace was discussed very fully after the visit of Mr. Kosygin here, and, of course, U Thant's proposals were accepted immediately by the British Government and the American Government, but, unfortunately, not by Hanoi.

Mr. Mendelson

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that whilst U Thant, the British Government, the Soviet Government and other Governments are continuing their efforts to find a basis for negotiations, there should be no further military escalation of the war? Is it not very disturbing to see the pressure put upon the United States Government by certain circles in the United States to mine the harbour of Haiphong? Would he express the opinion of the Government, which he has expressed previously, that any such escalation would be highly dangerous and against the advice of Her Majesty's Government?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend recognises the very great pressures on the President of the United States, internally and to some extent externally, of various proposals of that kind. We have made clear all along, not only in Washington but in other areas, too, the grave dangers of any further escalation. That was a point which I discussed with Mr. Kosygin last July in Moscow, when there was a real danger of escalation. If we must use this piece of jargon, all the efforts of Her Majesty's Government, especially during Mr. Kosygin's visit and since, have been aimed at de-escalation as well as the prevention of an extension of the war either in area or in quality.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Is the Prime Minister aware that the President of the United States and the American people are just as anxious to end this terrible war as he and his right hon. and hon. Friends? Will he also make it clear that Her Majesty's Government support their American allies in their attempts to maintain the independence of South Vietnam, and also that Her Majesty's Government will not undertake any further initiatives without preparation and without the closest consultation with the United States Government?

The Prime Minister

On the first point, I made clear in the last series of Questions before the Recess my firm belief—and I have said it many times—in the utter determination of the United States Government to secure a genuine peace and independence. I have also said that I believe that it is the wish of the Government of Hanoi to secure a satisfactory peace. But there is still the tremendous problem of building up trust both ways, and that is why reciprocal acts are necessary to avoid the danger of a resumption of fighting.

On the last point, as to what we have been doing, some of which has become public and much of which has not, this has always been planned in a thorough manner not only with our co-Chairman and partner, the Soviet Union, but in the closest consultation with the United States. In the last series of talks, which went over many days in February, we were in constant discussion with the United States, which was essential for the objective which we were trying to reach.