HC Deb 13 June 1972 vol 838 cc1251-3
Q1. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Prime Minister what communication he has had with President Nixon about the Vietnam war since the Summit talks in Moscow.

Q2. Mr. Leslie Huckfield

asked the Prime Minister what discussions he has now held with President Nixon about the mining of Haiphong harbour and the escalation of United States bombing of North Vietnam.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)

I have nothing to add to the answer I gave on the 23rd May to a Question from the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead).—[Vol. 837, c. 1218–19.]

Mr. Allaun

Will the Prime Minister tell President Nixon that Britain welcomes Mr. Porter's return to Paris yesterday and Mr. Porter's statement that Hanoi was determined to make a fresh attempt at serious negotiations? Will he also welcome Mr. Thuy's announcement yesterday that he was prepared to return to Paris from Hanoi with new directives? Does the Prime Minister recognise that he can have no influence on peace in the world if he maintains his stance of being more American than millions of Americans, including Senator McGovern, and that the best thing—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."]—for the Prime Minister is to adopt the stance of the candid friend and ask America now to stop the bombing of civilians?

The Prime Minister

President Nixon has constantly emphasised his desire to negotiate and has set out terms which I should have thought everyone in the House would have considered reasonable. The action he found himself forced to take was brought about because of a massive attack by North Vietnam on South Vietnam.

Mr. Huckfield

Is the Prime Minister aware that in the debate on Vietnam on 15th May this year, the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs said: South Vietnam is defending herself against this ruthless assault as best she can, and in doing so has looked to her ally, the United States, for help."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th May, 1972; Vol. 837, c. 95.] As no democratic elections have been held in South Vietnam since 1954 [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—how can the policy of the American Government be possibly based on claiming to know what the people of South Vietnam want?

The Prime Minister

What is plain is that the people of South Vietnam have just had a massive attack made on them by North Vietnam. They are resisting, and quite rightly so.

Mr. Churchill

Is it not a matter of concern that, when the United States is going back on its commitments of alliance and protection of countries around the world, the Soviet Union should be taking up these burdens by forming colonial-type treaties with countries such as Egypt, Iraq and India, and would the Prime Minister comment on this?

The Prime Minister

That is a different question from those with which I was dealing. Some aspects of the treaty with Iraq, to which my hon. Friend refers, give us cause for concern.

Mr. Edward Short

Does not the Prime Minister agree that the mining of Haiphong harbour and the escalation of the bombing are a major threat to world peace and are therefore matters of concern to us all? Will the Prime Minister therefore use all the influence he has on the Americans to secure some restraint in their reaction to the Communist offensive?

The Prime Minister

I would have thought that President Nixon had shown unparalleled restraint in a situation in which American prisoners of war are held by the North Vietnamese, who will not even reveal the names of the prisoners they are holding. We heard at the time of the mining of Haiphong that this was a great threat to peace and that it was to be the beginning of a third world war. We also heard that President Nixon's visit to Moscow was to be cancelled. None of these things happened.