HC Deb 20 November 1967 vol 754 cc905-8
1. Mr. Barnes

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the latest exchanges he has had with the United States Government regarding the war in Vietnam.

Mr. George Brown

We are in dose and constant contact with the American Government on a wide range of subjects, including Vietnam. But these are confidential exchanges and it would be wrong to reveal details.

Mr. Barnes

Could my right hon. Friend say how the events of the weekend will affect our position in this matter? Shall we go on being subservient to American policy in Vietnam, or shall we be able to break out of the straitjacket the Americans seem to have us in?

Mr. Brown

I do not accept the last part of the question, and I do not think the former part really applies. We shall continue the policy we have been following so far as Vietnam is concerned and have the contacts we have with the American Government, but as I have a number of Questions coming up later, starting at No. 11, on Vietnam, I think perhaps the whole of that area might be left till then.

11. Dr. John Dunwoody

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what proposals he is now able to make towards achieving a negotiated settlement of the conflict in Vietnam.

23. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will take further steps to bring about a negotiated settlement in Vietnam.

28. Mr. Winnick

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what further steps are being taken by Her Majesty's Government to end the war in Vietnam.

43. Mr. Blaker

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on Government policy on the war in Vietnam.

52. Mr. Leadbitter

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what proposals he will now make as co-chairman of the Geneva Convention to promote peace in Vietnam, in view of the fact that the intensification of American bombing has not forced Hanoi to the conference table nor achieved the conditions for a peaceful settlement in Vietnam.

Mr. George Brown

I have nothing to add to the reply which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave to the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) on 16th November.—[Vol. 754, c. 626–8.]

Dr. Dunwoody

Has my right hon. Friend seen reports that the Americans may use Polaris weapons with conventional warheads? Have representations been made to the American Government on the subject? Can my right hon. Friend say what Her Majesty's Government's policy will be if these reports prove to be true?

Mr. Brown

I do not think that I can answer a hypothetical question like that. I do not think I have seen the reports to which my hon. Friend refers. I should be glad to look at anything he sends me.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Will the right hon. Gentleman use whatever influence he may have with the American Government to bring about a bombing pause and a Christmas truce, which perhaps would give a chance for the bombing to be suspended indefinitely?

Mr. Brown

As I have said repeatedly, I want to see the bombing stop. I want to see other warlike acts stopped and an early approach to the negotiating table—at any rate, the talking table. No doubt the hon. Gentleman will have seen the speech made by the American President at San Antonio recently in which he made clear that he would be willing to stop the bombing only so long as it would lead to prompt and productive discussion. I only hope that Hanoi will respond.

Mr. Winnick

Since reports have appeared here in papers like The Guardian that the Americans have been using antipersonnel bombs in North Vietnam, does not that show that President Johnson has lied when he says that the Americans are only concerned with bombing military installations? Will the British Government at long last dissociate Britain from the terror raids launched by the Americans on North Vietnam?

Mr. Brown

We are not associated with the terror in the North or in the South. We are concerned with bringing the whole bloody war to an early end so that talks can take place. As to the first part of my hon. Friends Question, I do not think that what he said is at all true—

Mr. Winnick


Mr. Brown

I believe that the President of the United States is trying very hard indeed to get a situation in which he can bring this to a halt.

Mr. Blaker

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in recent answers to the House his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, no doubt unintentionally, has tended to give the impression that the Government are equally critical of American action as they are of North Vietnamese? Would the Foreign Secretary now take an opportunity to correct that impression?

Mr. Brown

I have made it quite plain that we are critical in the sense that we dislike acts of warfare from wherever they come. It is not for us to apportion blame. It is for us to use what offices we have to try to enable the thing to come to a halt. I have no doubt that the Americans wish that to happen. They have in fact tried every single kind of way. I am equally in no doubt that so far the North Vietnamese and their friends have been unwilling to respond.

Mr. Michael Foot

Is it not a fact that the British Government, a year or so ago, specifically dissociated themselves from the bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong? What does the Foreign Secretary have to say about recent reports in many newspapers showing that there have been persistent growing attacks on Hanoi and Haiphong, including severe civilian casualties?

Mr. Brown

So long as the war goes on, as I said to the House some time ago and have repeated many times, this is the great risk. I am doing the best I can to try to bring it to a halt. When we keep reminding ourselves about what happens in the North, I repeat what I said once before to my hon. Friend: let us remember that there are many other things; for example, Saigon waters are regularly mined by the Vietcong, and nobody ever seems to protest about that.

Mr. Ridsdale

Could the Foreign Secretary, in view of the remarks of many of his hon. Friends, stress that if they wish to get a political settlement it is far better to give some of the advice which they have been giving to North Vietnam and not to the Americans?

Mr. Brown

As I said at the Labour Party Conference at Scarborough, there are two co-Chairmen of the Geneva Agreements. I happen to be one temporarily, and I am in favour of reconvening the conference, but the other one is not. Perhaps the advice might be directed to the quarter which is unwilling to move and not to the quarter that is.

Mr. Hooley

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the United States has now unanimously expressed the view that this is a matter which ought to be raised by the Security Council? Would he support American initiative there, if taken?

Mr. Brown

I would wait to see whether there was an American initiative.

Mr. Winnick

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, due to the unsatisfactory answer to the question, I shall try and raise it on the Adjournment as soon as possible.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

On a point of order. Mr. Speaker, could I, through you, ask whether the charge that the President of the United States had lied is admissible under the normal rules of order which we apply in this House?

Mr. Winnick

I am not going to withdraw.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is not being very helpful. I thought that discourteous references to leaders of foreign countries was something to be deprecated. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."]