HC Deb 30 January 1969 vol 776 cc1522-5
Q5. Mr. Judd

asked the Prime Minister when he plans to meet the President of the United States of America.

Q6. Mr. Molloy

asked the Prime Minister when he proposes to meet President Nixon to discuss the Vietnam issue and other problems threatening world peace.

The Prime Minister

I have nothing at present to add to what I said in reply to Questions by the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) on 21st January, and the hon. Members for Banbury (Mr. Marten) and mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) on 23rd January.—[Vol. 776; c. 633.]

Mr. Judd

In view of the sober remarks by the President of the United States about the significance of the Middle East crisis for world peace, can my right hon. Friend assure us that Britain stands by her position, as declared in the November, 1967, resolution, and that we will argue to the United States that, to find a solution, it is absolutely essential to understand the position of both sides?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. It is certainly the case that we stand fully behind, and have always stood fully behind, the resolution which we moved in the Security Council in November, 1967. All the efforts of my right hon. Friend and, indeed, of the whole Government, have been directed to securing that the resolution is accepted by all concerned and that, through the leadership of the Jarring Mission, it becomes a reality on the lines which we have always indicated. There is no need to wait for any Ministerial or any other Government meeting on this, because we have our continuing contacts with the United Nations generally on this question.

Mr. Molloy

Is the Prime Minister aware that, at his very first Press conference, the President of the United States inferred that there might be a possibility of arriving at a cease-fire and ending this ridiculous and unseemly war on the basis of the 1954 Agreements? If my right hon. Friend should be visiting the President, will he convey to him the desirability of getting back to this stage so that ballots can take the place of bullets?

The Prime Minister

The whole House will agree, and I am sure that my hon. Friend will, that the most helpful means of achieving a cease-fire and a permanent, honourable and lasting settlement, must rest on the negotiations which have now actively begun in Paris, and the wishes for success of everyone in this House will go to those conducting negotiations.

Sir R. Cary

May I ask the Prime Minister, arising out of Question No. 5, whether he is free to ask the President if he would care to visit us here?

The Prime Minister

Certainly, in any communication between two friendly countries, this could be proposed. One must, in all these matters, consult the convenience of a President who has just taken office, who has a great deal of work to do and a great deal of machinery to establish in his conduct of Government business, before putting on a President the difficulties of such an invitation, the difficulties of leaving his own country. He must be free to decide about it. He knows, as his predecessor knew, that a visit by the President of the United States—himself or his predecessor—would always be very welcome in this country.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Does the right hon. Gentleman really think that it is a matter of urgency for him to visit the United States? Is this not becoming rather a matter of form, that British Prime Ministers must always be going over to Washington? Having regard to the last question from this side of the House, and bearing in mind the successive visits by the Head of the State here, and the Heads of Government here, would it not be very nice if we could welcome President Nixon to this country?

The Prime Minister

It would be very nice, indeed. The practice which has been followed, by myself and my two predecessors, and, indeed, earlier than that, has been for regular and frequent visits and discussions. On a number of occasions, these meetings take place outside either Britain or the United States. Of my last four discussions with President Johnson, two took place outside the United States or Britain, one in Australia and one in Germany. The convenience of all concerned must be sought in making the appropriate arrangements.

Mr. Walden

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that many of us think it is urgent that he sees the President of the United States? Is he aware that, although we understand that he must discuss the very important matters of Vietnam and the Middle East, there is also the urgent matter of monetary reform, on which the American Administration appear now to be formulating policy? Will he be sure to stress how important it is for us and for them that this period of calm that we have should not be taken to be a solution to the problem?

The Prime Minister

The matters for discussion between the British Government and the new American Government are not one or two or three, but very many. This will be done at the proper time. As to the monetary question. I am satisfied that there are adequate arrangements, adequate machinery, for discussions between Britain and the United States and, indeed, between Britain and all our partners in trying to get whatever improvements may be needed into the world monetary situation. Of course, I should be happy to discuss that, among other things, with President Nixon, but I have no reason to think that the Americans are not fully aware of the views of Her Majesty's Government, and the House as a whole, on these matters.

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