HC Deb 20 November 1969 vol 791 cc1509-12
Q8. Mr. Arthur Lewis

asked the Prime Minister when he next expects to visit the United States of America for discussions with the President.

The Prime Minister

It was announced simultaneously from 10 Downing Street and the White House last night that I have accepted President Nixon's invitation to visit Washington on 27th and 28th January for a further personal exchange of views on the international situation.

Mr. Lewis

I thank my right hon. Friend for letting me know that it was announced last night, as I heard, and for his courtesy in dropping me a note to that effect. Has my right hon. Friend seen the Press reports that one of the subjects which will be discussed is, putting it in the Press report language, a "sellout" of Israel? May I be assured that my right hon. Friend will not in any way take part in any discussions which might have as their basis a sell-out of Israel?

The Prime Minister

No agenda has yet been settled. I should be very surprised if the Middle East was not one of the questions discussed, but a sell-out of Israel is the policy neither of the United States Government nor of Her Majesty's Government.

Sir R. Cary

In his discussions in January, would the Prime Minister tell the President that we should welcome a second visit from him to this country, perhaps next year?

The Prime Minister

If the President felt able to get away for such a visit, it would he his third since he took office.

Mr. John Mendelson

When my right hon. Friend meets the President, will he point out to him the very strong and deep feeling in this country about the wholesale assassination of ordinary village people in South Vietnam by members of the United States forces, which has been revealed, in the first place, to their great credit, in the American Press, which has upheld the tradition of the American Press in this matter? Would my right hon. Friend arrange for a debate in this House on Vietnam so that he may be fortified with the opinion of this House before he meets the President and discusses Vietnam with him?

The Prime Minister

I have another Question to answer on Vietnam—the next one, indeed—and I am to answer Questions about Vietnam next week. The House has read the Press report of a number of very grave alleged incidents in Vietnam. Even if they proved to be only a quarter true, they would be regarded as very grave atrocities. In fact, there have been atrocities on both sides in this horrible and tragic war—

Mr. Mendelson

Not on this scale.

The Prime Minister

Even on this scale. I remember verified reports of 1,000 people being massacred by the Communists during their short period of occupation. But that does not excuse either of these kinds of atrocities. So far as the American alleged atrocities are concerned, these are a matter for very thorough investigation by the American Service authorities, and it would be for them to take any action. It is for us to express our horror, if these stories prove to be true. In America, free Senate, Congressional and Press discussion on these matters can lead to them being unearthed and brought into the light of day, which is not always the case in Communist countries.

Dame Joan Vickers

When the right hon. Gentleman goes to see the President, will he have time to meet Mr. Dean Acheson to discuss his recently-expressed views on Rhodesia?

The Prime Minister

I have read Press reports of Mr. Dean Acheson's statements, with which I totally disagree. Indeed, I would be surprised to think that many hon. Members here agreed with them. I recall, when on the benches opposite, expressing disagreement with other statements made by Mr. Acheson, and I also recall certain right hon. Gentlemen opposite, when speaking from this Dispatch Box, expressing their continued disagreement with some of his statements —statements of a distinguished figure who has lost a State Department and has not yet found himself a role.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

Since President Nixon intends to keep his air force in Vietnam and since he intends to withdraw only ground troops as Marshal Theu's troops can take over, does my right hon. Friend agree that it appears to be his policy to keep a corrupt military dictatorship indefinitely in power; and will my right hon. Friend explain to President Nixon that that policy is not acceptable to the British people?

The Prime Minister

Before answering my right hon. Friend's supplementary question, I hope that I will not be out of order in mentioning that the whole House will have read with regret his statement that he will not be seeking re-election to this House at the next General Election.

To answer his basic question, my right hon. Friend will, of course, be aware of the clear proposals put forward by President Nixon about a solution in Vietnam, including the withdrawal—the phased and then total withdrawal—of all ground troops, if, of course, there is a settlement—and a settlement requires two sides to agree.

We have had several statements and assertions by the American Government that they are prepared to withdraw totally from any commitment inside Vietnam. I know that my right hon. Friend will continue to urge on both sides the need for a permanent and democratic settlement.

Mr. Sandys

When he meets President Nixon, will the right hon. Gentleman explain that very large numbers of people in this country appreciate the efforts which the United States are making to prevent the spread of Communism throughout South-East Asia?

The Prime Minister

I have already answered questions about the American role in Asia. What I believe all of us appreciate above all is the fact that President Nixon has made a very clear offer to withdraw his ground combat troops from Vietnam and to play his full part in ending the fighting there, if there can be a settlement. No hon. Member, whatever views he may hold about the present South Vietnamese Government, would wish to have a political solution imposed on Vietnam from anywhere which was contrary to the wishes of the people of that area.