HC Deb 07 February 1967 vol 740 cc1348-50
Q3. Mr. Winnick

asked the Prime Minister what consultations he has had recently with President Johnson about trying to end the war in Vietnam.

The Prime Minister

I have nothing to add to the Answer given to Questions on this subject by my right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State on 24th January.—[Vol. 739. c. 1263.]

Mr. Winnick

Has my right hon. Friend seen some tentative Press reports that Hanoi was willing to start negotiations but called them off when the Americans started bombing again last December? Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are many people in Europe who believe that President Johnson is far more interested in trying to win this war than in negotiating?

The Prime Minister

I do not think that during this week it would be helpful to comment on a number of important points about Vietnam, but, as my hon. Friend has referred to the discussions in December, of which I have all the details, perhaps I might tell him it is my view that what happened then was based on a very considerable two-way misunderstanding, and that is why I think certain events in December occurred. If my hon. Friend is referring to the Polish discussions in anything that has happened since then, I do not think that it would be very helpful for me to offer comments this afternoon.

Mr. Blaker

Is the Prime Minister aware of reports that his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary told a Labour Party meeting last week that after the Prime Minister dissociated Britain last summer from the American bombing of oil installations near Hanoi we had great difficulty in regaining our influence with the American Government? If that is so, should not the House be told?

The Prime Minister

I am not responsible for reports of party meetings, which I usually find highly inaccurate, certainly in so far as they relate to anything that I have said there. But, on this question, there were many who felt at the time, between 29th June or 30th June and my visit to America, that it would sour relations. When I was there on 28th and 29th July there was no sign of that, and the hon. Gentleman will realise what a close relationship was established on that occasion.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether, in view of the ambiguous statements made last week by Mr. Dean Rusk and President Johnson, he will suggest to President Johnson that he should now make an unequivocal declaration that the United States Government are willing to sit down and negotiate with the N.L.F., the people against whom they are really fighting, as the French negotiated with the Vietminh in 1954?

The Prime Minister

I have said that I do not think it would be helpful to go into detailed questions on the problems which have to be settled before negotiations can start, but my impression was that in that broadcast Mr. Dean Rusk suggested that this would not be a difficulty when the time came.