HC Deb 30 April 1968 vol 763 cc996-9
Q4. Mr. Whitaker

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on the latest results of his efforts for peace in Vietnam and on what help Great Britain will be prepared to offer for peaceful reconstruction there.

The Prime Minister

On the first part of the Question, I have at present nothing to add to the Answers I gave on 4th and 9th April to Questions by my hon. Friend and by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. John Fraser). On the second part, we shall of course be prepared to participate as best we can in any international campaign to help repair the ravages of war in Vietnam which may be mounted once peace has been restored.—[Vol. 762, c. 605 and c. 1075.]

Mr. Whitaker

As the majority of the people in this country are less concerned with politics in Vietnam than with human suffering there, and since if the money spent on the war in Vietnam had been spent on peaceful developments Vietnam would, per capita, be the sixth richest country in the world, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he will will take the initiative at the United Nations peacefully to reconstruct both sides of Vietnam as soon as there is a cease-fire?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend will be aware that we gave full support to the proposals of the President of the United States in his Baltimore speech in April, 1965, three years ago, for massive resources for the Mekong Delta area and for Vietnam in general. We fully support that initiative, and any other which may be proposed. The problem is to get the parties to agree on the site for a conference table. I would certainly be prepared, and so would my right hon. Friend, to follow the suggestion of my hon. Friend to try to get international co-operation to repair the ravages of war there.

Mr. Gwynfor Evans

Has the Prime Minister reminded President Johnson of his frequent expressions of readiness to enter into peace talks with Hanoi at any time, anywhere, and if so, is he satisfied with the response?

The Prime Minister

It would not be appropriate to inform the House at this moment of the consultations which my right hon. Friend and I have had with all those concerned in this matter, including our fellow co-Chairman. It is our view, and this we urge on both sides, that they should reach rapid agreement on a site at which these talks can begin with a view to ending the war.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

May I press my right hon. Friend further? Will he represent to President Johnson the dismay felt among friends of America by his apparent hesitation to honour his pledge to go anywhere at any time, and the apparent attempt by the powerful United States to gain an advantage even in preliminary talks about talks?

The Prime Minister

There is no question of advantage. It is a question, and both sides are concerned, of deciding where the appropriate site is which will be most likely to lead to agreement to leave the battlefield for the conference room. My right hon. Friend and I urge all parties, the two principal parties as well as our fellow co-Chairman, to reach rapid agreement on an appropriate site. We would be ready at any time, with our fellow co-Chairman, to take an initiative in this matter to help if that were desired by the two sides.

Mr. Bessell

Is the Prime Minister aware that some of us who have given unqualified support to the Government's policy for Vietnam are nevertheless deeply disturbed by the failure of the President of the United States to agree on site, in view of the pledge that he gave, and this is doing great damage to Anglo-American relations? Will he press the President personally to fulfil his obligations in this matter?

The Prime Minister

I am aware of the concern, but so far it has been a failure by both sides to agree on an appropriate site. A large number of sites have been suggested by the United States Government. I know the impatience of the House in this matter. We as a Government share that impatience, and we shall do everything in our power to get the two parties to come together and get the talks started as soon as possible.

Mrs. Anne Kerr

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that one modest contribution which Britain could make at the moment to clearing the air over the whole question of Vietnam, as who is to blame and not to blame. who is more to blame and who is less to blame, would be to admit Madame Bui Thi Cam and Madame Ha Giang, who for the last three or four weeks have been waiting in Paris for visas to enter Britain?

The Prime Minister

I was not aware of the position of those two ladies. No doubt my right hon. Friend is aware of the matter. I think that my hon. Friend knows the Government's general policy about visitors from Vietnam. Anyone who is prepared to come here and make a positive contribution to peace, and by peace I mean peace, and not either propaganda or "Victory for Vietcong", will be encouraged.