HC Deb 03 July 1972 vol 840 cc25-7
25. Mr. Hugh Jenkins

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what communication he has hadwith the United States Government concerning the bombing of dykes in North Vietnam; and if, in his capacity as co-Chairman of the Geneva Conference, he will seek an assurance that such bombing will cease.

Mr. Anthony Royle

I have nothing to add to the answers which I gave the House on 12th June.—[Vol. 838, c. 981–6.]

Mr. Jenkins

Is the Minister aware that since then Western Germans have visited the dykes area and have seen the damage done by the bombing? Does he not agree that this is an attack on the environment, and in these circumstances will he not make representations to the United States Government?

Mr. Royle

President Nixon has made it clear that it is not United States policy to bomb dykes. He repeated that in his Press Conference on 29th June. We have no indications that dykes are being bombed. On the same occasion, President Nixon, referring to reports that dykes were being bomber, said: We have checked these reports. They have proved to be inaccurate.

Mr. Blaker

Would it not be useful if the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) were to find a way of conveying to the North Vietnamese that the simple method by which any damage which may have occurred to the dykes could be prevented in future is by terminating their aggression against South Vietnam?

Mr. Royle

I agree with my hon. Friend that the recent events in Vietnam have been caused by an invasion by North Vietnam of the South. The British Government, as I have said, remain ready to help to promote a peaceful settlement in Vietnam in any way open to us, but, to be effective, any initiative by the British Government would have to be acceptable to all the parties involved in the conflict.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Has the Minister noted that in the last few days there has been an extension of the bombing to destroy civilian centres, power stations and the country's steel industry? Does he not think that he should make representations to the United States Government supporting the proposal for a coalition Government in Saigon, which should satisfy both sides and bring about a cease-fire?

Mr. Royle

I am afraid that I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman. All weapons of war have terrible effects. For example, heavy artillery used by the North Vietnamese has caused serious civilian casualties in the South. I do not think that any useful purpose would be served by singling out particular weapons for condemnation. Our concern, as I said earlier, is to see a negotiated settlement which will put an end to all the destruction of life and property and an end to this beastly war.

Mr. Wilkinson

Does my hon. Friend agree that the great accuracy of the American air offensive has stabilised the situation on the ground in favour of South Vietnam, which is something which the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) a few months ago, in what was virtually his maiden speech on foreign affairs, described as an almost total impossibility?

Mr. Royle

There is no doubt that the American action in the North in support of the South Vietnamese, following the invasion of the South by the North, has had a considerable effect on the position in North Vietnam.

Mr. Jenkins

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek leave to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible date.

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