HC Deb 27 February 1968 vol 759 cc1223-5
Q2. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister if he will take further steps to initiate talks about a peaceful settlement in Vietnam.

Q9 Mr. Heffer

asked the Prime Minister (1) whether, since his visits to Moscow and Washington, Her Majesty's Government have taken any further steps to try to arrange talks between the parties concerned in the war in Vietnam; and if he will make a statement;

(2) whether he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's policy over Vietnam following his visit to Washington.

The Prime Minister

I have nothing to add to the Answers I gave to Ques- tions on 13th February and to the Answers given yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.—[Vol. 758, c. 1146; Vol. 759, c. 916.]

Mr. Marten

Does the Prime Minister hold to the view that there is still only a very narrow bridge to be crossed to achieve peace in Vietnam? If so, could he say what is the North Vietnamese attitude to the San Antonio proposals?

The Prime Minister

This has been made clear by me. My right hon. Friend made it very clear yesterday when he said that what was needed was a move from Hanoi to make it clear that they would come to the conference table if certain action was taken by the United States. The conditions of this have been set out a number of times, not only in the San Antonio speech but subsequently, and they have been given further clarification. It requires their willingness to go to the conference table and engage in meaningful productive talks. That is what is needed for the Americans to take the action that they have said they would take, given that sign.

Mr. Heffer

In view of the fact that U Thant has said again in the last few days that, if the bombing of North Vietnam ceased, negotiations would start, will my right hon. Friend now support the Secretary-General of the United Nations in his stand and make representations to Washington accordingly?

The Prime Minister

We were in the closest touch with the Secretary-General when he came to this country. We had long discussions with him and hoped to facilitate some of the contacts which had to be made. He has not produced any evidence vet. apart from what has been said, and he knows, as we all do, that the Americans will stop the bombing given that clear sign which is still awaited from Hanoi.

Mr. Richard

Will my right hon. Friend say whether, following his direct talks with President Johnson, it is still Her Majesty's Government's assessment of the position that the Americans genuinely want a negotiated settlement and that the prospects of such a settlement would be retarded rather than advanced by our dissociation from the United States?

The Prime Minister

In my speech in the White House, I made clear why Her Majesty's Government were not dissociating themselves. It would not help the position forward. As regards the first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary Question, the answer is "Yes, Sir".

Mr. Molloy

Will my right hon. Friend now consider, in view of the increased horror, death and suffering that has taken place in that country in the past month, that he ought to cut across all protocol and try to initiate a meeting between himself, the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of the Soviet Union in a final bid to end this horrible war?

The Prime Minister

This is exactly what we have been trying to propose for a very long time in our capacity as co-Chairman. My hon. Friend will be aware that I discussed this at great leangth with the Prime Minister of the Soviet Union and with President Johnson, and, as my right hon. Friend made clear yesterday, we are in touch with all parties concerned. However, I stated in answer to an earlier supplementary question what is now needed from Hanoi. I do not believe it is much that is being asked.