Leave having been given on Thursday, 11th May, under Standing Order No. 9 to discuss:
the serious potential danger to world peace involved in the present situation in Indo-China and on the high seas surrounding Vietnam.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
I beg to move, That this House do now adjourn.
This Adjournment debate takes place against the background of grave dangers to international peace in South-East Asia. Ever since the end of the Second World War South-East Asia has been one of the most dangerous areas for international peace and one which all countries and all statesmen must treat with the greatest possible care. It is for those reasons of international danger that this discussion must take place.
I do not want to begin with that point. I want instead to begin with a point that has to do with individual human beings, that has to do with the people of Vietnam. We are becoming far too accustomed to reading calmly about the bombing operations of the biggest military power in the world against population centres such as Hanoi and Haiphong and other parts of Vietnam. We are becoming far too accustomed to the general idea that there can be any possible moral right whatever—I will come to the legal position later—on the part of a major power to engage in such bombing.
It has always been the view of people in the Labour Party, whatever other views we might have had on detailed diplomatic matters, that we must strongly oppose the bombing of population centres by the United States Air Force in Vietnam. We have affirmed this at many party conferences and on other occasions.
The legal position is equally important. First, the United States had no right to impose a blockade on the independent Republic of North Vietnam, nor did it ever have any title or right, and it does not have it now, to bomb the Republic of North Vietnam.
It is a singular fact that at no time during the years in which this tragic conflict has been going on have the United 40 States Government gone to the United Nations and asked for a mandate. At no time have they made the attempt to get international peace-keeping organisations behind them. The reason is obvious: it is more than doubtful that the Security Council would at any time have given its support to them.
I come to recent events. In particular, there is an urgent need to contradict the propaganda of our Foreign Office and the Foreign Secretary's complete identification, in his inadequate statements, with Mr. Nixon's policy. I wish to establish first that this complete identification misrepresents the opinions of many people in this country.
§ Mr. Mendelson
There is no such identification in the land. Even those who may not wish to join in complete condemnation of these acts have no wish to be identified with Mr. Nixon's policy. The Foreign Secretary has completely misrepresented opinion in this country.
The second point I wish to establish concerns the justification of my submission about the dangers involved. American opinion is more alarmed perhaps than any other opinion outside the United States. The New York Times, in a leading article on Wednesday, 10th May, said:The mining of the harbours of North Vietnam poses a direct challenge to the Soviet Union and other arms suppliers to Hanoi that could quite possibly escalate into a confrontation between the world's two great superpowers. Only the gravest threat to the security of the United States could justify such a challenge, as was indeed the case in the Cuban missile crisis, but Vietnam is not Cuba; and there is no conceivable American interest at stake in Indochina today as there was in Cuba to warrant the risk—and the escalation—the President has so clearly undertaken.This is the view of the New York Times, and it was echoed in the United States Senate where a clear majority of members are completely opposed to the President's policy, and, as is known, the Senate is taking steps, through its majority, to curtail the supply of finance to the President.
It is argued in legal circles in the United States that, in view of past resolutions, the President is already acting illegally and unconstitutionally. This is all the more reason for condemning the 41 Foreign Secretary for so hastily ranging himself behind the President in a situation in which it is unclear whether the law is against Mr. Nixon.
I come to the situation which has brought about the blockade. We have been treated to a propaganda barrage. The President, in his speech which some of us heard at two o'clock the other morning, made an appeal to the conscience of mankind. At the same time, he kept talking about "the enemy". He has never declared war on Vietnam. He has never taken legal steps to declare Vietnam an enemy and himself the enemy of the other side. Nor have the American institutions, as the only people entitled to make a declaration of war, ever been asked for such a declaration. It is well known that, without Congressional authority, no American President has the right to be at war, and Mr. Nixon has never submitted the necessary resolution to the United States Congress.
It is equally important to establish the facts on the possibilities of negotiation. The Foreign Secretary again and again, at the Dispatch Box and outside the House, has engaged in propaganda statements instead of giving the House and the country the facts, as it is his duty to do as the principal officer in the Government concerned with foreign affairs. I pray in aid not just my opinion but the opinion of a man who is well known to statesmen and people in this country; namely, Mr. Averell Harriman, who was the United States official negotiator at the Paris conference for several years. He was first the negotiator for President Johnson and then, in a short carry-over period, for the United States Government after the election defeat of the Democrats.
Mr. Harriman commented this week in consequence of the latest escalation. It is urgent that hon. Members, before making their decision tonight, should know what Mr. Harriman says, speaking from the inside and with the authority of a past official spokesman in the negotiations for the United States Government. I quote from an article published this week under the headline "Time to negotiate":President Thieu sabotaged the talksin Parisfrom the very outset. Although he had agreed in October, 1968, to join the negotiations after the bombing stopped, he first reneged on his commitment and then created the undignified 42 dispute over the shape of the table in order to break up or at least delay talks until the new Nixon administration took office.Mr. Harriman further says:Thieu saw his primary goal as maintaining his personal position. This meant opposing a negotiated solution since any compromise would inevitably have eliminated his power.I do not want to weary the House with too much quotation, but Mr. Harriman went on to put on record his considered inside opinion that there had been several opportunities to negotiate a political solution since 1968 which were sabotaged by the military dictator in Saigon. We have heard nothing of this from the Foreign Office. We have heard none of this evidence from the Foreign Secretary. We have had a wholly one-sided, deliberately biased account of recent events at the negotiating table. Only through the opportunity of this debate will the House be able to establish the facts. There are not only many hon. Members on this side of the House but, to my certain knowledge, hon. Members opposite, who have spoken to me privately, who are seriously worried about the situation. [Interruption.] Members who make sneering interruptions are wholly unrepresentative of opinion even among right hon. and hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. Rost rose—
§ Mr. Mendelson
I am deliberately putting this point on record because we all know that if this policy were to go seriously wrong this country, as a major ally of the United States, would have to consider its position. This is therefore a matter of equal importance to all sides.
I turn to the possibilities for negotiation which, in my opinion, exist today and which have existed throughout. I would not have imposed on the time of the House if I had merely intended to make a declaration or a denunciation because there are other ways and means of doing it. What we have to do is to 43 get our Government out of their one-sided position. We have a duty to make proposals to them as to what might still be done. In my submission, the key to the situation has always been in Saigon, and the key to the dangers which surround the position now is the reluctance and the refusal of the United States Government to allow for a solution in Saigon which would make doubtful the political future of M. Thieu. That is the key to the failure of the negotiations which we have not often heard details about.
What is possible, what ought to be possible still now, is this. There are, to the certain knowledge of many hon. Members of this House, people in Saigon today and throughout South Vietnam who want an agreed peaceful solution. It is untrue to say that in South Vietnam today they are either pro-Communists or supporters of the military régime. There are many people in between. I have myself had contacts, and so have other Members of this House, with representatives of the Buddhist movement, some of their official representatives in Western Europe. The Government must have some of these contacts, though we have never heard from the Government that there might be another opinion which could be consulted and worked with out there.
There have been possibilities of some of these people coming forward, but they have not come forward because of the repressive character of the régime in Saigon and the danger to such people if they were to come forward. I pray in aid a cardinal case as an example of this kind. In the last presidential election in which there was a contested election the most notable candidate running against the President was Mr. Dzu, a lawyer in Saigon and a member of Parliament. That candidate said during his election campaign, which was fraught with difficulties and dangers for him, that if he were elected he would open talks with the Government in Hanoi to see whether there could be an emerging consensus of opinion which would discuss with the Americans the end of the American military presence there and some solution of the all-Vietnam problem. He also said that if he were elected president he would want Vietnam to be militarily non-aligned and would want to 44 discuss with the leaders in Hanoi such a policy that South Vietnam should be militarily non-aligned.
That candidate got 28 per cent. of the total vote, and, indeed, that was a very considerable achievement, considering that the President in office at the time had all the propaganda machinery and the police and powers of repression at his disposal.
What happened to that candidate? The day after he received 28 per cent. of the votes he was put in prison, and he is in prison today. So what did other people do? In the last election some of those who had contemplated running for the presidency, one a very prominent leader of the Buddhist community and a man of considerable experience, did not dare to run because they knew that if they ran a campaign and declared what they might want to do if they were elected in the democratic process they would only go into prison, just as happened to Mr. Dzu. That was why there was only one candidate in the last election and he was elected unopposed.
These are the facts which have prevented any movement towards peace in Vietnam.
§ Mr. Mendelson
What has prevented any move towards negotiations is all the repression in the South of any of those people who might wish to come forward to take part in serious negotiations in Saigon. This is the key to the position today. Mr. Harriman affirms, and urged this week, that the President should now start negotiations in Paris and allow the National Liberation Front to take part, and that in those negotiations it should be arranged that there should be a form of new Government in Saigon and that in that Government those who take different views should all be included. This the President of the United States has never agreed to. This is why there has been stalemate in the negotiations in Paris. In spite of all the blustering in the President's speech the other night, he gave a completely misleading account of what had happened at the Paris negotiations, and from our own Foreign Secretary we have never had at any time a proper account of what went on there.
§ Mr. Mendelson
There may be many possibilities now. I do not believe it is too late to start serious negotiations going. I therefore want to make these proposals to the Foreign Secretary.
§ Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)
I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving way. Before he comes to his next point, would he, on the last matter he was dealing with, care to say whether in his view there are in North Vietnam large numbers of people who are in favour of the immediate cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal of their own army from the South?
§ Mr. Mendelson
The point about the attitude of North Vietnam is that most of the people there believe that they ate one country. [Interruption.] We must not be upset by anybody laughing on the other side of the House. This is a serious question and I want to give a serious answer. At the Geneva Conference, in which the British Government and M. Mendès-France, as the hon. Member will know, at the time played a leading part, a decision was made which involved agreeing to a unified Vietnam and that that should be brought about by democratic elections held in South Vietnam. That was the agreement.
§ Mr. Mendelson
That was the agreement. Our then Foreign Secretary, now Lord Avon, and M. Mendès-France signed this agreement. President Eisenhower said he did not want these elections to be held because he did not believe that his side, by which he meant those who supported United States foreign policy, would win the election. Therefore, he prevented that. That is the answer to the hon. Gentleman. I ask my hon. Friends not to be disturbed by hon. Members opposite. We are going to have this debate and we are going to bring it to a vote at the end, no matter what sneers there may be from the other side of the House.
I was reaching the point where I wanted to make a number of suggestions and urge a certain course of action upon the Foreign Secretary. What I want to urge upon him is to make representations in Washington against the bombing of population centres in Vietnam. I ask 46 him to do that—he has never done it—immediately and to tell the House of Commons what the response of the President of the United States would be.
Secondly, I would urge the Foreign Secretary to get together with the Governments of France, Canada, Norway and Denmark, all allies of the United Kingdom, all friends and allies of the United States of America, and make joint representations in Washington for the end of the blockade which the President has just imposed, and to get rid of the dangers to international peace which are involved in this blockade. The Governments of the countries I have mentioned—this is why I have selected them—have already made statements pointing in the same direction, and so the Foreign Secretary would find open ears in the Cabinets of those countries if he were to follow this suggestion.
Having made this joint approach in Washington, the Government should then, jointly with the same five countries, make an approach to the Government of the Soviet Union. So far the Foreign Secretary has made only propaganda approaches to Mr. Gromyko. He has made no serious approach, nor any serious effort which would show that he really feels that the Government do not want to adopt a one-sided position.
Having undertaken the two steps I have suggested, the Government should then, with the Governments of the five other countries I have mentioned, make a joint approach to Moscow to see whether—not necessarily by reviving the formal functioning of the Geneva Conference by acting as residual powers for the Geneva Conference which technically is still in existence—with the United States and the Soviet Union they can start new and more serious negotiations in Paris.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Cannock)
Does the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) think that anything like this could possibly happen while the invading forces of North Vietnam are rampaging through the South?
§ Mr. Mendelson
All I am saying is that I take my counsel from Mr. Harriman and the majority of the United States Senate, rather than from the hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack) on what is still possible for the United States 47 and other countries in this situation. I am happy in the thought that in the end it will not be the hon. Member for Cannock who will decide what is or is not possible.
Fourthly, the Government should consult the United Nations to see whether, in view of the general danger to peace, the United Nations can be brought into play. I know that the difficulty in the past, which I have accepted, is that the people most directly concerned when they have been privately consulted by the past Secretary-General of the United Nations—and some of us have talked to U Thant about it and know this to be true—have told U Thant that they do not wish the matter to be brought before the United Nations. The point has now been reached where that attitude is not a sufficient justification for allowing the United Nations to remain completely outside this dangerous conflict. The time has come when it is legitimate for the British Foreign Secretary to make such an approach to the Secretary-General, with the knowledge of the powers involved.
One of the main purposes for which the United Nations was created was to deal with situations that might lead to a breach of international peace. It is clear from the debates that led to its foundation that it was never assumed that the United Nations must be precluded from looking at a matter merely because the powers most directly concerned were opposed to such action or thought that it would not be useful. That is completely outside the spirit of the United Nations. This is a matter of judgment, and the time has come for the Government to judge that such an approach should be made.
This is very much a matter for the House of Commons. Many hon. Members have firm opinions, and it is important that those opinions should be expressed. I therefore move to my conclusion by saying that there are internationally a number of hopeful moves ahead for the preservation of world peace and that they are in danger. We have no reason to believe the sunshine stories that come from some circles in Washington telling us that this makes no difference or suggesting a secret deal. There can be no deal acceptable to hon. Members 48 that leads to the destruction of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese lives. I should not be the least impressed if there had been a nod or a wink between Dr. Kissinger and Mr. Brezhnev. We are here concerned not only with great power politics; we are concerned with the lives of individual human beings in small nations.
The House of Commons tonight has an opportunity to side with those in the United States Senate and the House of Representatives who say that this war is destroying American influence abroad and tearing America apart at home. That is the witness of many distinguished Americans. The House of Commons by its vote tonight, can show that the Foreign Secretary's identification with President Nixon is not the only voice in Britain. The House of Commons can stand with Senator McGovern, Senator Fulbright and many others on the side of the traditions of the American people.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Sir Gilbert Longden (Hertfordshire, South-West)
In my short speech in this short debate I have no time to do more than underline what I believe to be some essential dates, statements and facts which have to do with this tragic situation. In the process I shall refer to some of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson).
I first remind the House that our American allies and their allies, who are also ours—the Australians and New Zealanders—are in danger of defeat and humiliation in South-East Asia. How, if they are defeated, which is by no means certain, that will benefit any of us here is quite beyond my comprehension. Unlike the hon. Member for Penistone, I believe that they are fighting our battlies and that they are entitled to our moral support in their hour of trial. I say "moral" support because we bore our fair share of the burden of South-East Asia in Malaya and then in Malaysia.
The "escalation" of which we hear so much has resulted from the North Vietnamese invasion of South Vietnam. There has never been any condemnation of the Soviet Union and China pouring arms and armaments into North Vietnam; the only "military dictator" of whom we ever hear tell is President Thieu—never the ruler of North Vietnam. How 49 many elections have been held there? The hon. Member talks about the rights of individual human beings in small nations and forgets altogether, or is careless of, the rights of individual human beings in South Vietnam.
In 1954 the then Mr. Eden played a distinguished part in negotiating a de facto settlement at Geneva whereby Vietnam was divided into two at the 17th Parallel between the Communists and those Vietnamese who did not wish to live under a Communist regime. It may be noted that over one million Vietnamese moved south over that line—as seems to be the habit of the subjects of Communist Governments who are not prevented from doing so by minefields and walls.
There followed a period of comparative peace. Then, in 1959, when there were only 700 Americans in South Vietnam, the North Vietnamese Government incited the Viet Cong to attack the South Vietnamese Government, and aided the Viet Cong with arms and men. That was confirmed by the International Control Commission of India, Canada and Poland in 1962. Since then, not only the demarcation line which was agreed at Geneva, but also the international frontiers of Laos and Cambodia have been consistently violated from the north, and that is why I asked my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary a few days ago to remind us—and especially to remind some hon. Gentlemen opposite below the Gangway—who is invading whom.
In August, 1964, the United States Congress, with only two dissentient votes, authorised United States participation in the collective defence of South Vietnam.
Let the Americans give their reasons:…the United States has solemn commitments to aid South Vietnam; we will keep our pledge to assist South Vietnam as we would assist other nations with whom we have similar commitments…we believe that nations, large and small, have the right to chart their own destinies without the threat of external force and interference.One of the most important provisions of SEATO—the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation—states that 'each party recognises that aggression by means of armed attack in the Treaty area would endanger its own peace and safety', and in that event would 'act to meet the common danger'.And let us all remember that a Protocol, signed and approved with the Treaty, 50 expressly extended this provision to the non-Communist States of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
The American apologia continues:We seek only to help the South Vietnamese people to control their own destiny, determine their own future, lead their own lives as they choose and not as imposed by Hanoi. We do not seek to overthrow or destroy the Government of North Vietnam"—or acquire any territory whatever.We are determined to prevent its aggression from succeeding.That was from the document, "Vietnam in Perspective", published in 1968, explaining and expanding America's "14 Points" of January, 1966.
On 30th April, 1970, President Nixon's Address on the situation in South-East Asia contained these words:Whether my party gains in November is nothing to the lives of 400,000 Americans fighting for our country and the cause of peace and freedom in South Vietnam. Whether I may be a one-term President is insignificant compared to whether by our failure to act in this crisis, the United States proved itself to be unworthy to lead the forces of freedom in this critical period. I would rather be a one-term President than to be a two-term President at the cost of seeing America become a second-rate Power and this nation accept the first defeat in its proud 190-year history.One cannot but agree with what was said by Professor Headlam-Morley in her letter to The Times on Saturday, that it is "malicious and ignorant nonsense" of The Times correspondent in Washington to…attribute to 'presidential vanity' the American belief that they had a mission and a duty to defend free countries against totalitarian domination and aggression…And, like her, I am…thankful to The Times for enlisting the good sense of Bernard Levin…in the immediately adjacent column.
On 14th February, 1967, the present Leader of the Opposition, then Prime Minister, told the House:Trust has got to be built up. For my part, if this needs saying, I accept 100 per cent. American sincerity to negotiate for peace.…Those of us who have a role to play in this matter have a duty…to remember above all that our objective is not to strike allegedly moral postures or to make unhelpful denunciatory declarations-our objective is to secure peace."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th February, 1967; Vol. 741, c. 347.]I believe that that needs saying again, and by the right hon. Gentleman.
51 If South Vietnam falls it will not be long before Laos and Cambodia go the same way; and who is to say that Thailand, Burma or Malaysia will long remain in freedom? Do we care?
But the future of the war in Vietnam will not be decided by anything we say in this House unless and until we can get Mr. Gromyko to play his part in reconvening the Geneva Conference, and why my right hon. Friend should be accused of not having taken every possible step, and with the utmost sincerity, to get Mr. Gromyko's agreement I just cannot understand.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
If the Burmese believe in the domino theory, why is it that they criticise the Americans and have increasingly good relations with the Chinese?
§ Sir Gilbert Longden
I cannot speak for the Burmese Government. All I asked was, who is to say that Thailand, Burma and Malaysia may not go the same way? I certainly cannot say: for all I know, the Burmese Government may want to go that way.
If the Americans are in the event defeated, which God forbid, it will be largely due to their mass media, to such newspapers as the New York Times and to their quisling senators—
§ Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for an hon. Member to describe members of the American Senate, some of whom are running for presidential nomination, as quislings? Is that a statement to be allowed in this House?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
There is nothing expressly about it in the rules of order but remarks of this kind should be governed by what is good taste. I do not think that the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Sir Gilbert Longden) meant anything to which one could take violent exception—not so far, at any rate.
§ Sir Gilbert Longden
Then, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I will quote the word "quisling".
These enemies within their gates think nothing of stabbing their own country in the back at a time when their own troops 52 are engaged in mortal combat in a foreign field; and of giving what must be immense aid and comfort to their country's other enemies. What possible hope can there be of success at the Paris peace talks when all the North Vietnamese hope to gain is being gained for them by their friends within the citadel itself?
Although I said that nothing we can say here is likely to affect the outcome of the war, I most certainly believe that we should wish our American allies Godspeed, and express the hope that their good intentions may soon succeed. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will do just that.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)
I will be fairly brief. The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) is to be congratulated on initiating the debate, although I am by no means convinced that it will justify a vote at the end. [Interruption] If the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) is so anxious to make a contribution I will give way, and perhaps he will allow other people to interrupt him.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
The hon. Gentleman's remarks are typical of the wishy-washy attitude of the Liberals. I personally am a bit fed up with the Liberals. They never declare where they stand on anything, and what the hon. Gentleman says is a typical waste of time.
§ Mr. Johnston
Perhaps I may say that if it is the hon. Gentleman's intention merely to use simple abuse instead of argument he might at least wait until I have said more because, unlike him, I find, as a Liberal, that it is very difficult in situations of this kind to make the sort of quick, instant moral judgments that many people are very fond of making. Nor does the fact that one hears categoric judgments one way or the other from one side or the other make it any easier to make these instant decisions. I do not find it easy in any event.
I understood the hon. Gentleman to say that the Liberal view on Vietnam had been wishy-washy. He might care to look 53 at what we have said about it, and have said for a very long time. He might even look at my last speech on the subject. He will find that, very far from being wishy-washy, we have taken the position for a very long time now that the Americans in their initial action in 1954, to which reference has already been made by the hon. Member for Penistone, were wrong, and that much of the horror which has followed stemmed from that wrong decision.
The question we must ask ourselves, however, is: what precisely is the position now? The Americans clearly intend to leave Vietnam if they can. They want to get out if they can. In my speech in the debate on the intervention in Cambodia in 1970 I said:The basic issue we face is…whether America stays in Vietnam or not. We in the Liberal Party believe that she is wrong to stay there, and that she must, as quickly as she can, seek to extricate herself."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th May, 1970; Vol. 801, c 229.]That was the view we took then, and it is the view we take now.
However, one must ask certain questions relevant to this debate and the way in which the hon. Member for Penistone raised it. If the objective is that the Americans shall leave Vietnam, in simple terms why did the North Vietnamese launch their offensive? It is an apt question to ask, and it was put clearly in The Guardian editorial of 3rd May. It said:The most tragic victims of this offensive are the Vietnamese themselves.…The North Vietnamese bear much of the blame for this because of their invasion. Apparently the temptation to humiliate the Americans before they were out of the way was too great. The American reaction was predictable. The timing of the invasion has increased the number of civilian casualties.That is a factor to which I do not know the answer. The hon. Member for Penistone did not provide it. The negotiations were proceeding in Paris, admittedly in an off-on way, but they were proceeding, and the Americans were undoubtedly withdrawing and the North was not being threatened.
§ Mr. Mendelson
The answer is provided by Mr. Averell Harriman, who has written:Today, it is more obvious than ever that there is no alternative to the negotiation of a compromise settlement, although we must 54 recognise that we are now dealing from our weakest position. While negotiations have been going on, this administration has never accepted the concept of a neutral nonaligned South nor has it given up its futile attempt to maintain a pro-American government in Saigon.That is the reason for continuation of military activities.
§ Mr. Johnston
I do not think that it is an adequate reason. I accept that the American record in Vietnam is to maintain the sort of situation the hon. Gentleman has referred to, but I also argue, with justification, that American policy was clearly being directed away from such a position and that the objective of the Americans was to extricate themselves. Nevertheless, they must inevitably have some regard for the position of South Vietnam.
Something has been said about South Vietnam being a dictatorship. I would be the last to defend the situation in Vietnam. I would not particularly like to live under South Vietnam or under North Vietnam very much. But let us not start being "holier than thou" about this. The situation in neither country is particularly admirable. While it may be true that Mr. Dzu is in prison after obtaining 28 per cent. of the votes, he did at least obtain 28 per cent. The situation in North Vietnam has not been such that any opposing candidate could take any percentage of the votes at all.
§ Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that if anyone even tried to intimate that he wanted to set up against the Government of North Vietnam, instead of waiting until the votes were counted before putting him into prison the North Vietnamese Government would put him into prison immediately the thought of any opposition to them became known?
§ Mr. Johnston
I do not want to give way again because I have only a few more comments to make and I know that many hon. Members wish to speak. We all have our knowledge about the different systems in the world with which we are dealing, and I do not think that comment on them would be particularly useful here.
One of the main arguments I heard adduced by hon. Members behind me 55 during the reception given to some remarks by the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Sir Gilbert Longden) was that this was not an offensive by North Vietnam because Vietnam is one country. That may be exactly right, but it is also not exactly right at the same time. One can equally say that Germany is one country, East and West, but the position that Herr Brandt is taking is to seek recognition of the Oder-Neisse line and the reality of the two Germanys. Since there is a situation where, on the one hand, there is a Communist Government in North Vietnam and, on the other hand, an attempt, though not a very good attempt, at democratic government in South Vietnam, I do not really see that the position of permanent division of the country is other than realistic at present.
It is because, as I have said, I believe that the Americans, in seeking to withdraw, have been forced to take what many would regard rightly as quite excessive action, that I am not really in a position utterly to condemn them. Nor, for that matter, am I in a position to condemn the British Government, for they have not yet spoken. One needs to hear what they have to say. I agree with the point made by the hon. Member for Penistone. I believe that it would be better for the Government to take this to the United Nations. I believe also that, while Russia apparently is determined to prevent the reconvening of the Geneva Conference, there should be possibilities in doing something with the International Commission in co-operation with Canada, India and Poland. But certainly I think that for us to take an over-righteous view at this juncture in an immensely difficult situation—particularly when I still believe President Nixon to be going to Moscow with the hope of reaching some accord—would not be helpful.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
It is almost exactly two years, as the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston) has just reminded us, since we were—also on a Motion for the Adjournment—discussing the affairs of Vietnam in the context of the American initiative in Cambodia, an initiative which, at the time, so we were 56 told, was designed to facilitate the disengagement of the American forces. That was two years ago. It is four years ago since the United States Administration recognised the necessity of extricating their forces from South-East Asia and announced as their national policy that it was their intention at all reasonable speed to withdraw the American forces from South Vietnam. It is six years at least—indeed, more than six years—since it was widely predicted that that was bound to be the outcome of the American operations in South Vietnam.
I recall myself in a speech in the General Election of 1966 referring to the fact that the American forces were grinding deeper and deeper into the morass of South Vietnam; and that was by no means the earliest date at which quite publicly the futility of the American military attempt had been recognised. Now we are again, in 1972, debating yet another major military operation attempted by the American forces, including a blockade of North Vietnam and renewed attack upon the major cities of North Vietnam.
It is the predictability of this struggle which in some ways has added over the years to its horrors—the unchanging nature of the basic realities of the struggle in Vietnam and of the American involvement in it.
In the debate two years ago the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart), who was then Foreign Secretary, stated:Throughout that conflict it has been the view of Her Majesty's Government…that neither side could achieve, or should seek to achieve, an outright military victory or a 100 per cent. military solution.…both sides…should work for…an agreed and negotiated solution…we have said time and again that a search for a 100 per cent. military victory or solution by either side would fail".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th May, 1970; Vol. 801, c. 215.]The right hon. Gentleman was dead wrong. There is a 100 per cent. military solution. The overhanging reality in South-East Asia is that a military solution is not within reach for the United States, but that it is within reach, is available, and will be reached by the opponents of the United States. Precisely when, and precisely how, is not capable of prediction; but the certainty now, as it was 57 two, four, six and more years ago, is that the military power and the military success lie on one side and not on the other. It was in the light of that fact—disagreeable enough not only for the United States but, I should have thought, for those on both sides of this House, broadly speaking—that we are duty-bound to conduct these debates and to offer the best counsel we can.
The United States Administration no longer make any secret about their military objective. Their objective today, as it has been for the last four years, is a successful disengagement from their military involvement in South-East Asia. It is explicitly in the interest of that objective that they have engaged upon the operations which are the occasion of this emergency debate.
The same statement has to be made about those military operations as has been made about the previous operations and has in each case proved to be well founded; that they will turn out to be futile. Nothing which is being done by the United States forces, either in the attempted blockade of North Vietnam or in the air attack upon the cities of North Vietnam, will in any way assist the United States in disengaging their forces. If anything, it will make it more difficult for them to do so and will make the concluding stages of their opposed embarkation more difficult and more tragic.
§ Sir Gilbert Longden
My right hon. Friend has been a distinguished soldier. He knows that the President of the United States is also Commander-in-Chief of the United States Forces. Would he not condemn any commander-in-chief who did not attempt to stop reinforcements of men and munitions reaching his enemy?
§ Mr. Powell
The question is whether one can do it and what methods one chooses. Over the years, in council with my right hon. and hon. Friends, I have explained, and been proved to be right, that the methods by which the United States sought to interfere with the maintenance by North Vietnam of the Vietcong's and its own operations in South Vietnam would prove to be futile; and futile they have turned out to be. As my hon. Friend mentioned, it is upon the basis of one's experience in the 58 Second World War—it was a costly experience in human lives—that one is entitled to predict in a context of this sort the futility of the attempted interdiction at such long range of base installations and supply routes.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
Is there not another military maxim: never reinforce failure?
§ Mr. Powell
We can go through all the principles of war in the Field Service Manual; but we shall still be left with the overshadowing fact, demonstrated over and over again by the war in South-East Asia, the fact which officially and as a matter of national policy the United States has recognised, that they are obliged to disengage as best they can from their military involvement in South-East Asia. That is the reason why the so-called peace negotiations are so futile—it is because, given time, one side holds all the cards and the other side holds none.
Though I thought the House was in the debt of the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) for ensuring that we had this debate—it was right that we should have it—I dissented from his, in my view, altogether optimistic and unrealistic notion that any combination of negotiators would bring about in South-East Asia the kind of compromise under cover of which the United States would be able to disengage. It is crude military reality which, in the last resort, will decide the time and the circumstances in which the last American forces will be obliged to quit South-East Asia.
However, we do not hold these debates for the sake of debating. It is a principle of this House that we debate only those things in which Her Majesty's Government have some degree of responsibility. We are holding this debate this afternoon only because there are actions and attitudes which Her Majesty's Government can take or refrain from; and the practical advice we have to try to offer is what those attitudes and actions should be.
59 Against the background of these last six or eight years, I venture to offer two points of counsel. First, this House, and in particular Her Majesty's Government, should not say anything and should not strike any attitudes inconsistent with the underlying reality of military defeat which the United States has incurred and which involves it in the necessity of military extrication. In particular, I hope we shall not constantly attempt to resurrect the ghost of the co-chairman-ship. That is the extreme of unrealism. In 1954 Britain was still one of the powers, though a diminishing power, in South-East Asia. The reason we were co-chairman with the Soviet Union was that we had some real power and presence in South-East Asia. Today we have none. We have not even the pretence of such a power. To continue to invoke the shadow of the events of 18 years ago is a constant invitation to unrealism.
Unrealism in South-East Asia has been one of the causes of the prolongation of the tragedy. If the underlying facts had been recognised sooner there would have been less loss of human life and the horrors of South-East Asia would have been shorter in their duration. So the first thing is that Her Majesty's Government has a duty to recognise in their attitudes and words both Britain's own impotence in this matter and the military reality which the United States is facing.
The second thing is what advice we are to give the United States. Very often the best advice between friends is given privately. Advice publicly given is liable to be embarrassing; and the better the advice, the more embarrassing it is liable to be, and the less the chance of its acceptance.
Therefore, I should not call for any specific response from my right hon. Friend to what I am about to say; but I express the hope that Her Majesty's Government in their dealings with the United States Administration will do everything in their power to assist them to recognise that by their present methods they are not facilitating what must be the eventual end of American policy in South-East Asia but are, indeed, acting against it; that militarily as well as politically—to say nothing of morally—American action, and the current American action, 60 is utterly counter-productive from their own point of view.
Let them say that to our American friends, not publicly, but let them say it privately; and let them offer on behalf of the Government, on behalf of this House and, I believe, on behalf of this country, all the assistance we can give in the healing of the deep blow to American pride and the immense damage to America's power and prestige for good which can only be the result, however speedily extrication is achieved, of the last eight years in South-East Asia.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Latham (Paddington, North)
I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) for introducing two important strands of reality into the debate—first, in facing the military facts of life which so many of his hon. Friends seem unable to accept or understand. Secondly, in relation to the Co-Chairman of the Geneva Conference, I think we ought to recognise that this is now a dead duck, not only in terms of a British role but in terms of the Geneva Agreement itself which has been breached in so many respects.
I was appalled at the reaction on the benches opposite both at Question Time today and when my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) was opening the debate this afternoon. I can only assume that the attitudes revealed are based much more on prejudice than on any knowledge of the facts. Most hon. Gentlemen opposite would choose to condemn anyone on this side of the House who appeared, from any remarks that he made, to be pro-Soviet. It is equally wrong to adopt an anti-Soviet posture on all occasions, and on this issue it seems that so many hon. Gentlemen opposite, with their catcalls at Question Time on this issue, are not only pro-United States but are more pro-Nixon than the United States people themselves and, sadly, more in favour of military escalation in Indo-China than even the United States Administration itself.
I was shocked not only by the visit of some Members of the Monday Club to the American Embassy on Friday, but by the terms of the Early Day Motion on this matter which some hon. Gentlemen 61 opposite had put down, in which they declare that Great Britain would always side in international affairs with the English-speaking peoples. One has often heard the Tory approach, "My country right or wrong" but it now says that is extended to "My allies, right or wrong", and hon. Gentlemen opposite seem incapable of discussing objectively the merits of policies pursued by those whom they regard as their allies.
I apologise if the few facts which I want to place on record are already only too well known by my hon. Friends and perhaps by just one or two on the benches opposite, including the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West. They are not facts which, it seems, are known by most hon. Gentlemen opposite or, one supposes from some of the answers given at Question Time, even by the Foreign Secretary.
In their approach to this matter hon. Gentlemen opposite talk as though there is a long-established, well-established separate nation State both in North Vietnam and in South Vietnam. They speak as though there are long traditions of, or even recently-established, democratic institutions in the southern part of Vietnam. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Sir Gilbert Longden) went further than Grosvenor Square for his hand-out of President Nixon's view. If he were to take his research a little further he might find many instances which would indicate the nature of the so-called freedom which he proclaims to be defending in Southern Vietnam. Perhaps one of the instances which he might find in the course of his researches is the ruthless persecution of the Buddhists in 1963. I do not know whether he is aware of that, or whether he regards it as evidence of even the embryo of a future democracy.
If there were more time for the debate it would be interesting to dwell on the reference again to this so-called freedom which it is alleged would need to be defended in Thailand, in Burma, in Laos and in Cambodia.
§ Mr. Cormack
Has the hon. Gentleman been to South Vietnam? Is he aware that 500,000 people are fleeing from the armies of the North because they believe that they have a vestige of freedom in South Vietnam, where some of us have been?
§ Mr. Latham
I regret that the hon. Gentleman did not gain more enlightenment from his visit. I should not have thought that it required much imagination to know why civilians flee from bombs, whoever may be dropping them—bombardment by North Vietnamese divisions or by American ships off the Vietnamese coast. There is no sensible, political conclusion to be drawn from that.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the countries in which he wants to defend freedom, but he seems strangely unwilling to allow the New York Times to exercise the very freedom which he claims to be defending in these other parts of Asia. I should like, in passing, to place on record some facts for the sake of those on the other side of the House who seem never to have been aware of them. Indo-China has a history of centuries of Chinese domination until the 16th century. It has a history of French domination from the 16th century. It has a history of Japanese invasion and conquest during the 1939–45 period. It may also be said that the Japanese declared the independence of Indo-China in 1945, and at that time allowed the Vietminh to take control. Subsequently the French sought to reconquer Indo-China, and the struggle has been going on ever since in a war of national liberation and unification.
Reference is made constantly to the Geneva Agreement and our role as Co-Chairman. There are four aspects of the Geneva Agreement of which I should like to remind the House. First—and this was made clear in an intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heifer), though it may not have been recorded, during the comments of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, West—that the military demarcation line should not in any way be interpreted as constituting a political or territorial boundary.Those words were expressly included in the Geneva Agreement which, as my hon. Friend said, was simply a line of military demarcation.
Secondly, in that Geneva Agreement it was recognised that there would be temporary authorities functioning in what were described not as separate States, but asnorthern and southern zones63 respectively north and south of that line of demarcation. Thirdly, there was an obligation not toestablish bases on Cambodian or Laotian territory for the military forces of foreign Powers.Fourthly, it was intended after the 1954 Agreement thatgeneral elections shall be held in July 1956.At Question Time today the Foreign Office spokesman seemed vague about the reasons why the elections had not proceeded in 1956, and he suggested that there were different interpretations of why that part of the Agreement had never been honoured. It is clearly on the record that although elections were due to take place in July, 1956, it was in January, 1956, that an alleged State was set up in South Vietnam.
Elections were held in March of that year, but they were not elections in the sense that any hon. Member in this House would understand elections. There was censorship and opposition parties were banned. Many people boycotted them. The breach of the Agreement—the part of it which said that there would be elections in a unified Vietnam—occurred in January and March, 1956.
I commend hon. Gentlemen opposite who speak from prejudice rather than facts—[Interruption.]—or who certainly seem to do that—to refer to the "Documents Relating to British Involvement in the Indo-China Conflict 1945–1965," Cmnd. 2834. This makes interesting reading and I regret that time does not permit me to give many examples from these papers. Of particular interest is an account of a note submitted by the Moscow Embassy claiming:The South Viet-Nam authorities also are openly breaching the military articles of the Geneva Agreement on Viet-Nam. In particular, as is pointed out in the Note…of…14th of February, 1956, new armaments, ammunition and foreign military personnel are being imported into South Viet-Nam, foreign military bases are being set up, attempts are being made to include South Viet-Nam in a military bloc."I quote from this document because, first, it underlines what I have been saying about a contravention of the Geneva Agreement, and, second, because it makes somewhat sick and ironic reading after this lapse of time the declaration by Her 64 Majesty's Government in April 1956, that theydo not accept the statement in the Note".They went on to say that no particulars were given of the charges or the claims made in the note about the breach of the Geneva Agreement. The British Government of the day said that they were unable to accept what has since become palpably self-evident. Indeed, nobody any longer seeks to deny that those breaches of the Geneva Agreement occurred on the part of the South Vietnam authorities with the backing of the United States.
It is nonsense to claim that there is no longer a question of there being civil war inside Vietnam. I recall some hon. Members claiming that because there were now regular North Vietnamese divisions involved in military action, that meant that any claim about a civil uprising in the South was no longer meaningful. But this is talking in terms of there being two properly established modern nation States, when one must accept that Vietnam is one country.
When the spokesman for the Liberal Party, the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston), asked whether the same criteria would be applied in the case of East and West Germany, my answer is that whatever my view may be about that division, at least there was some sort of international agreement establishing the division, wrong though many of us may regard it as having been. In respect of North and South Vietnam, however, there has been no such agreement to establish separate political artificial institutions North and South of the military demarcation line.
It is not unusual for civil war to have been the prelude to the establishment of the independence and unification of territories which were previously occupied by foreign powers. This may be a sad fact of life, but it is part of the process of emancipation of a fully-fledged nation State. No one doubts that had it not been for the United States foreign intervention, this civil war would long ago have ended.
We have all the horrors of technologically advanced weaponry, weapons which seem to be judged more by their degree of vileness than by their military effectiveness. Whatever condemnation 65 there may be by some hon. Members of those who have supplied arms to Hanoi, there is, I submit, no comparison in human or moral terms between those weapons and the kinds of weapon that are now being used by the Americans, and not simply against military targets and personnel but against cities and the civil population.
§ Mr. Wilkinson
Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that the burying alive of innocent civilians, which took place in Hue in 1968, can hardly be surpassed for bestiality?
§ Mr. Latham
I would not like to enter a competition for bestiality, though I would simply quote the events in My Lai.
Hon. Members who have convinced themselves that there are 17 million people to be saved in the name of a democracy which they do not enjoy should ask themselves why the whole might of the most powerful and wealthy nation on earth has been unable to defeat a neighbouring aggressor, if that is what the conflict is all about. It must have occurred to them that the simple explanation is that the majority of the Vietnamese people, both North and South of the line of military demarcation, want to see foreigners off their soil, whether they be Chinese, Japanese, French or American.
It is in this situation—in which so many of the people in the South are civilians by day and Viet Cong by night—that no foreign army can succeed in suppressing that movement or pressing a natural aspiration for a people to be united and to determine their own destiny.
The extraordinary thing is that the President of the United States appears at times to have accepted the military analysis of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West that he cannot expect to succeed militarily in Indo-China. Yet there is an extraordinary ambivalence about his attitude, for he seems at the same time to be expecting the Vietnamese people to concede in peace that which he could not win in war. We must, therefore, accept along with the military reality, the political reality that Vietnam is one country and should be allowed to be in that position.
The hon. Member for Inverness wondered why the North Vietnamese had taken action now. Is it not true also 66 that there has been this same ambivalence in the withdrawal of ground troops, while still building up and maintaining air and naval forces, with the process of "Vietnamisation" and the provision of American advisers in the field? The American President seems to be understanding on the one hand that he cannot win militarily though refusing to accept on the other the consequences, military and political, of accepting that inevitable fact.
The Americans regard themselves, maybe rightly in many respects, as the greatest nation in the world. On this issue, they have the opportunity either to show themselves to be the greatest and the meanest nation or the greatest and the most magnanimous.
It ought not to matter that this is claimed to be a first defeat in so many decades of history. The greatest moral example that the Americans could give to the world at present is to recognise the reality of the situation in Vietnam, and not to continue slaughtering military and civilian personnel on both sides, not to run the risk of world war and nuclear annihilation to save an American President's face. The longer the war, the more lives will be lost. No solution will thereby be achieved. What saddens me is that we do not have a British Government urging upon the Americans that course of action and helping them to be magnanimous and helping in proving them to be the greatest nation in the world.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill (Stretford)
The situation in Indo-China has changed out of all recognition in recent months. On 1st January, 1971, 340,000 United States ground troops were in South Vietnam. On 1st May this year, two weeks ago, 69,000 United States ground troops were there. Today United States forces stand barely at one tenth of the level of two years ago. Despite that fact and the firm commitment of the United States Government and the United States President to end their commitment of ground forces in South East Asia, Hanoi, with very strong material backing from the Soviet Union, has decided to embark on a course of naked aggression across the boundaries of two other countries, Laos and Cambodia, and across the demarcation line laid down by the Geneva Agreements.
67 South Vietnam is today facing the biggest assault ever mounted by the North Vietnamese, bigger even than the one mounted at the time of the Tet offensive in February, 1968. Hon. Members from all sides of the House have to recognise that South Vietnam is facing this very largely on its own. A great myth is being put around that the war is not, from the point of view of South Vietnam, a Vietnamese war, and that it is just an American war. We have had contributions to that effect from more than one hon. Member on the Opposition benches today, who have argued that South Vietnam is not a country at all. But it is a fact that in every single month there have been more South Vietnamese military casualties than United States military casualties throughout the entire operation. It has been very much a South Vietnamese war. It is more so today than ever before.
The arguments deployed by the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Latham) would be very good for use by the neo-Nazis, for instance, in West Germany. Should they wish to reconquer what is today East Germany, they could perfectly well argue that Germany is one country and that it could not be held to be aggression if they were to cross eastwards in great strength into East Germany and occupy those parts of Germany that have been occupied previously by the Soviet Union and remain occupied.
But the South Vietnamese are today bearing the brunt very largely alone. It is significant that although there may be a lot of fuss in certain sections of the Press, and in certain parts of the House, about the mining of Haiphong, in reality the argument is about the naked aggression of the North against the South. I pay tribute to the South Vietnamese people and to the South Vietnamese forces, because if they stand firm on this occasion it will be their victory. It will not be an American victory or anyone else's. It will be, above all, theirs because the mining of Haiphong does not help them in any way in countering the present offensive.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
Will the hon. Gentleman say whose air power is at present being used in support of the South Vietnamese?
§ Mr. Churchill
In support of the South Vietnamese, South Vietnamese air power 68 and United States air power is being used. On the other hand, perhaps the hon. Gentleman has not notice that an increasing number of MiG jet fighters are involved.
The most alarming part of the situation we face today is that while the United States commitment is being drastically reduced, we are seeing an increasing commitment by the Soviet Union. There are today some 600 or 700 Soviet-made tanks deployed inside the frontiers of South Vietnam. It is easy for the hon. Member for Paddington, North to argue that South Vietnam is not a country. From his lack of reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack) I understand that he has, perhaps, never been there, unlike some of my hon. Friends and certain of his hon. Friends. I hope that we shall also hear from them shortly.
More than a million people fled North Vietnam when the Communists took control there. I have had the opportunity, as have many of my hon. Friends, of seeing some of these people who fled from the Communists under whom they did not wish to live. I have seen them in the field, on their own, facing the Vietcong and North Vietnamese main force units with no American support to hand. This is their battle and they have a perfect right to fight it.
§ Mr. Latham
It has been equally argued by some American propagandists that the refugees were infiltrators and that this apparently explained away completely the Vietcong activities in the South. That is not my nonsense; it is theirs. The hon. Gentleman talks of a reducing American commitment and an increasing Russian commitment. Would not he be a little fairer to the situation and distinguish between active involvement of troops and supply of weapons? There are no Russian or foreign forces involved in North Vietnam; but American forces have been involved in the South. Is there any evidence to suggest that any increase in supplies by the Soviet Union has not been more than matched by increases in supplies from the United States? The United States has not lowered its commitments in terms of military supplies to South Vietnam.
§ Mr. Churchill
Certainly the United States commitment to South Vietnam is 69 being drastically reduced today. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Chinese, for their part, have no illusions as to the growing Soviet commitment and, indeed, political position with Hanoi today, nor about Soviet ambitions and future intentions in South-East Asia and the Indian sub-Continent as a whole.
§ Mr. Churchill
The hon. Gentleman will have his chance to intervene in the debate.
We are being asked by the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) to dissociate Britain from what the Americans have done. Only last Tuesday the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition asked whether my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary would pursue such a course. We have seen over the years the right hon. Gentleman's past dissociations from the United States. He did it in 1965. He repeated it in 1966. It is going a long way out of one's way to dissociate oneself from something with which one is not associated. This is what the Leader of the Opposition did on at least two occasions, but not significantly in 1968 when he needed to turn to the American President for cash. Addressing the then hon. Member for Croydon, South—Mr. David Winnick—the Leader of the Opposition, then Prime Minister, said this:…as far as dissociation is concerned, my hon. Friend could not be more wrong than to imagine that this will help."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th March, 1968; Vol. 760, c. 1180.]That was Mr. Johnson's poodle speaking. But today the Leader of the Opposition asks that we dissociate ourselves from the United States.
Why do those voices which are so loud to condemn Britain's greatest friend and ally have no word of condemnation for those who are invading South Vietnam? Are they so careless of the future, the lives, and the happiness of 17 million people?
I pay tribute to those who actually go there, to those who are there today reporting this war as war correspondents 70 so that we can see what is happening. Their courage and understanding presents a very vivid contrast to those who preach and pontificate from a position of smug security about peoples for whom they have little concern.
§ Mr. Churchill
No. I have given way already three times. The hon. Gentleman will have his chance shortly.
The present situation has been brought about by Hanoi's aggression and has been made possible, above all, by Soviet support. What we are witnessing is a new struggle for power in Asia, with the United States on its way out and the Soviet Union vying with China for a future position in South-East Asia and the Indian sub-continent. What is at issue is not World War III, as some of the sillier sections of the Press and even sillier politicians, both here and elsewhere, are trying to assert with their scaremongering—but the future and independence of the small nations not only of Asia but of the whole world.
We are being asked to condemn the United States and Australia for supporting the South Vietnamese in the face of the aggression with which they are faced. We are seeing from certain hon. Members opposite a very unlovely but none the less usual orgy of anti-Americanism. What would even hon. Members opposite say when and if there were to be several divisions of North Vietnamese troops threatening Laos and Cambodia, as indeed they already do today, or Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore? Would they still range themselves against the countries which were being invaded?
It is a great sadness to many of my hon. Friends, and certainly to myself, that today the United Nations takes less notice of the invasion of South Vietnam than even the League of Nations in the 1930s in the face of Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia. At least the League had the decency to condemn it, even if it did not have the power to do anything about it. Today, aggression goes unchallenged and uncontested.
It is of the utmost urgency that the small nations should get together and try to form a system of collective security. For the important fact is not the mining 71 of Haiphong which is at worst an irrelevancy—it is the threat to the future of free and independent nations all over the world.
If anyone is to be condemned in the House today, it should be the aggressor. I hope that hon. Members in all quarters of the House will stand four-square in supporting the rights and the freedoms of all independent nations, particularly the smaller ones.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Fletcher (Ilkeston)
I trust that it will be accepted in the House that I have a little experience of South-East Asia and can speak about military matters with a certain degree of knowledge.
I state at the outset my own terms of reference and my reason for taking part in the debate. I do not regard this debate as being one in which to discuss the relative merits of North Vietnamese Communism as against South Vietnamese corruption. I do not think that it is a debate about past history, about the declaration of 1954 which in Article 6 clearly stated that the Seventeenth Parallel was only a truce line and was not to be regarded as a permanent boundary. I am not concerned with such matters except in so far as they lead us to a decision which has been made recently and the consequences of which are reverberating through the House.
I take as my starting point the fact that the American intervention in the Vietnamese conflict has produced absolutely nothing either for the South Vietnamese or for the people of any other small country anywhere in South-East Asia. I do not rely on my own ingenious thinking to make that claim. I quote from an article published in a recent issue of the Christian Science Monitor, which has perhaps the finest staff of overseas correspondents available at the moment. The article was written by Charles W. Yost who for 40 years was a diplomat serving the United States of America. Among many other things Mr. Yost said this:The United States has already been in Indo-China for too long. Let us not, because Hanoi has inconveniently but predictably chosen this moment for an offensive, allow ourselves to be sucked in all over again. This is not February, 1965. 72 Let us at long last 'Vietnamise' 100 per cent., stop bombing, arrange the release of our prisoners, and get out completely. It is in the interest of all Americans.That point of view, as the presidential primaries indicate, is shared by a growing number of Americans. One is in no sense anti-American in bringing these facts to the attention of the House.
Therefore, the problem is not whether the north consists of angels and the south of devils. It is how the United States can extricate itself without too much loss of face—because I do not hate the Americans—from a totally impossible military situation. If the Americans were to double the forces which they have available in and around North Vietnam, if they were to triple the forces they have available, they would not be able to affect the result of the struggle on the ground which in all wars is the decisive struggle.
The theorists of air power have had their ideas literally blown to pieces in the last 25 years; and, I regret to say, the proponents of naval power alone have also sunk in a watery grave. It is land conflict which matters in the battle now taking place. The intervention of America, whether by long-range artillery or by B52 bombers, can have no effect whatever.
§ Mr. Wilkinson
To take up the hon. Gentleman's point about the relative merits of air and naval power, in the two world wars naval power had a decisive effect on the outcome. In the Second World War air power gravely damaged the ability of the Germans to wage war. Since then, in 1967, air power was decisive. It had a very important influence in the Korean war and also in the Indian-Pakistan conflict. The hon. Gentleman is being very rash.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I could go off at a tangent and engage in a conversation with the hon. Gentleman about his interpretation of certain military facts. As to the Second World War and 1967, I certainly do not accept the hon. Gentleman's general conclusions. In any case, they are not relevant to this argument.
I argue that here and now in 1972 America's growing presence in the Vietnam area cannot influence the course of the war one way or the other. In effect, 73 in spite of the fact that weather conditions are turning against them, the North Vietnamese have virtually won the war—there is no question about that. The end can be delayed one year or perhaps two years, but, in so far as this is a war, the North Vietnamese have won it. They have won it without 600 or 700 Soviet tanks. The highest figure I have seen quoted, although I use it subject to correction, is 300.
Another point we have to bear in mind about the supplies necessary to sustain this offensive is that it is extremely doubtful whether more than one third of the supplies that are coming from the Soviet Union and China actually pass through the port of Haiphong, or are in any way affected by American action against that port, either by bombing or by the sowing of mines in the sea.
The thing that alarms me is whether America, in seeking rather clumsily to extricate herself from one situation, is actually plunging herself into another. To say this is not to present the Americans as horned devils, it is to speak candidly, as the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), said we always should.
The plain facts are these: in spite of the very well-publicised reduction in American ground forces to about 65,000, none of whom are engaged in combat of any kind, there has been an addition to the American presence in the actual area, if in this area we include the seas around Vietnam and the neighbouring territories.
There are, for instance, an extra 41,000 aboard the ships of the Seventh Fleet. There are 37,000 upwards now in Thailand. There are between 6,000 and 10,000—we cannot get the exact figures—serving the bombers that fly out of Guam to attack targets in North Vietnam. The general total of American forces involved in what is supposed to be an extrication operation is actually nearer 150,000 than the 60-odd thousand figure that is usually quoted. The military hardware which is being sent to this area includes ten squadrons of aircraft and these naturally include the Phantom. I think the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) would agree that the Phantom is one of the finest aircraft now flying, if one must fly in an aircraft.
Quite apart from the quality of the hardware, quite apart from the fact that 74 the South Vietnamese army, which has sustained so many ignominious defeats in recent days, was probably the best-equipped army in the whole of Asia, quite apart from the fact that the Americans have between four and six carriers in Vietnamese waters, in spite of the fact that the American military presence in terms of war vessels is now up to 60, which is quite a formidable force, none of these can possibly affect the land battles around An Loc or the future battle which is coming for the town of Hue.
But this can involve the United States of America in conflicts which will expand into Thailand, which will expand, as they aready have to some degree, into Cambodia and may finally bring the very thing that President Nixon went to Peking to try to avoid, a direct confrontation between China and the United States. It is rather doubtful, in view of the Chinese lack of naval strength, but certainly political confrontation, now that the Chinese are in the United Nations, could be potentially dangerous for everyone. If the American presence is allowed to widen—and I deliberately use the word "widen" rather than the frequently misused term "escalate"—what effect will this have on the discussions now contemplated with the Soviet Union on the reduction of arms in Europe and the reduction of tension everywhere else? It will have a disastrous effect.
§ Mr. Burden
Would not the hon. Member agree that a reduction in tension can come only if both sides are prepared to compromise? Inevitably, if one side is determined on conquest confrontation must ultimately come, just as there was confrontation between Hitler and Europe, and this country in particular. It was impossible to compromise with him. He was intent upon conquest and if the Russians are intent upon the same thing then, alas, confrontation is inevitable.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I cannot speak for the Russians and nor would I wish to. But if the Russians were intent on that type of conquest then the nature and quantity of material they have sent to North Vietnam would be considerably different. There would also be considerably more of it.
I believe that the Soviet Union is getting rather nervous. What confirms me in this impression is the fact that the 75 Soviet Press, both Pravda and Izvestia, have not become very excited about the mining of Haiphong. They have not demanded an ending of the preparations for talks between President Nixon and the Soviet leaders. Because whatever the Soviet leaders may say in terms of their supposed ideology, in actual practical politics they behave more like Nicholas the First than Nikolai Lenin or Karl Marx. They are concerned with material interest and the conservation of their gains. I still believe, without saying "Glory, Hallelujah" every time I see Prime Minister Kosygin's picture, that one can do deals with the Soviet Union, and that such realistic, cold-blooded deals, which are the only deals possible, are undoubtedly what President Nixon had in mind when he planned to visit Moscow.
These could be threatened and destroyed by the totally unnecessary American action in the waters around Vietnam. It is terrible that they should engage in bombing at this time, because it cannot affect the military outcome of the struggle. The bombing of itself is bad enough, but for the Americans to widen their presence in the area by this expanding naval-cum-air presence is absolute lunacy which makes neither military nor political sense, as some hon. Members on the Government side have sometimes recognised. It is dangerous because it upsets all those movements towards some kind of détente, not including the West German Ostpolitik, on which we have based so many of our hopes. It is an absolutely unnecessary spasm reaction which cannot have been taken cold-bloodedly and certainly it cannot have been taken by people who think with icy brains.
The only people fit to be entrusted with the peace of the world are not those who think with their blood and who get rushes of blood to the head, but those who remain, in all circumstances and at all times, ice-cold in their calculations. We are beginning to see the emergence of such people in the Soviet Union. It is time we started to produce our own in the Western Alliance. I thought at one time that we had one such person in President Nixon, but I was grievously mistaken. I hope we have one in Senator McGovern.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)
We have heard a lot, mainly from the other side of the House, about the inevitability of the American defeat, about the essential immorality of their position, how awful is their future in Vietnam and how ineluctable will be their humiliating departure. I want to put the alternative view, not because of any old-fashioned sense of espousing those always-arguedabout verities stemming from 1954 and the original history of this tragic conflict but because I believe there has been sufficient defeatism spoken already, not only in the United States about this conflict but also in the United Kingdom.
I believe this again not in the old-fashioned sense of saying that continuing this programme of the Americans in Vietnam which is both the continuation of a phased withdrawal and, quite rightly, a refusal to acknowledge the surrender of the South Vietnamese to Communist invasion, but in defending what I regard as a modern and realistic position. I do not do so in the old-fashioned "Communist bashing" sense. We can all argue about the origins, who was right, who was wrong, whether it causes more devastation and damage to innocent noncombatant civilians to continue the bombing and ruination, or reducing to rubble one South Vietnamese village after another by North Vietnam's armed forces.
We can all argue about these things, but the central feature of this conflict which I should prefer to argue and enunciate is that South Vietnam has a basic right in international law and in the reality of everything that the West has always stood for and still does stand for, not to be a Communist-dominated society and a Communist-run country if it does not wish to be so.
Why is the debate in this country, the United States and throughout Europe, most of all in France, so one-sided about the future of South Vietnam? Why does the searchlight always play so enthusiastically upon the shortcomings of Saigon, upon the failures of Arvin to gain any victories, upon the immorality—and one acknowledges it often—of the Americans, upon the incompetence—one acknowledges that sometimes—of the Americans?
77 Why is the searchlight never played upon what goes on in Hanoi? Is this the benevolent social democracy that some hon. Members opposite purport to see or is it the régime, which I believe it is, which is repressive, totalitarian, ugly, grisly and criminal which has existed since 1954—a regime that does not send dissidents to island prisons—and in the South there are some dissidents who are in prison and that is regrettable—but executes them on the spot without any case being heard? The evidence is not sufficient in this country and that is the great psychological propaganda advantage of the North Vietnamese.
There is no discussion about what I believe exists now in Hanoi, namely a considerable amount of evidence to back up the theory that there is a serious debate between the hawks and the doves there, the hawks not wishing to give in on the military conflict and reduce the pace of what they call that critical moment of last victory for which they have been fighting for so long. "Let us not give up now comrades", they say. The doves say that this war, despite the fact that they agree it is a just cause from the Communist standpoint, has already caused sufficient misery, terror, violence and brutality and a breakdown of family life in North Vietnam, and it should be ended now, say the doves.
There is evidence in Hanoi's own newspapers, which one can clearly read although it is necessary to read carefully between the lines in the controlled Press, that this debate is not only raging now and is one of the root causes of this latest offensive in the South but that it has been raging for many years. The greatest gift to those who are arguing the hard Hanoi line, and there are plenty of them in the Politburo as well, is to say, as the hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Raymond Fletcher) did, that the Americans must leave, that their defeat is inevitable, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) said.
It is attractive, it is easy to argue this. It seems often incontrovertible in view of what has so far happened in South Vietnam. The continuing failures, the repeated mistakes and the saga—I hesitate to say it because they are our allies and friends—of incompetence manifested repeatedly by the Americans has not 78 helped their own case. It is true that massive naval power will have only a marginal impact on the state of the conflict, it is true that B52 strikes are almost ludicrous in many of their results on the ground, but despite all this we have the plus signs of South Vietnam, the encouraging political developments in the South and the encouraging military developments too. It would be catastrophic folly for this, the most venerable Parliament of all in the Western world, if at the end of this debate we enunciated the defeatist and depressing, lugubrious message of the hon. Member for Ilkeston.
This is not only because I attach some importance—and it is a matter of degree, hon. Members vary in their views about it—to saying that South Vietnam is, with all its shortcomings, with the highly unattractive nature of the present Saigon regime—and I admit this—with the fact that elections have been manipulated, the fact that dissidents are in prison, a place where progress is being made; but it is also because this can be demolished quickly if the Communists are allowed to take over. There would be a spurious political settlement, with the inevitable outcome that we can all imagine. We have only to look at other examples of what has happened when Communists get into a formal situation. The position can also be demolished if the disaster now facing the Americans and the South Vietnamese military forces were to occur with our encouragement and connivance.
We can adopt a more positive attitude as the ensemble of this Parliament with different political views on both sides and say, not for the sake of our amour proper at a vast distance from this tragic territory, that we believe it is right that South Vietnam should remain a self-determining territory outside the ambit of what I regard as one of the more grisly regimes in Communist history and that is saying a great deal.
I have been to Vietnam—although I do not go along that dangerous road of saying that if one has not been to a country one should not talk about it. I have visited South Vietnam several times. I have had sufficient evidence put to me in rural and urban areas to show that there is no overwhelming feeling in the South for the Communist movement, that there is no overwhelming support for the 79 so-called National Liberation Front and that there is detestation, despite the fact that many families are divided North and South, for the Hanoi régime.
This may not be a figure of 90 or 95 per cent. but it is sufficient in proportional terms for me to believe sincerely that it is totally unacceptable that Hanoi should be allowed to exert its dominance over the South against the will of the population there as a whole. There are many political opinions in the South and there is much more of a free discussion in Saigon and some of the big cities too than some hon. Members opposite would care to suggest or admit.
The overwhelming view in the South is that, despite their uneasy acceptance of an American presence which has been gauche, often hilarious, often ludicrous, often a failure of one kind or another, they have the right to continue as a free society, I hope with a different régime in future but certainly not a Communist one. It is therefore vitally important that in this debate today, although it is one in which repetition will inevitably occur, and old opinions will be re-expressed, in the full knowledge of the awesome situation that has been created with the latest military developments, we should not fall for the seemingly attractive doctrine that it is always the fault of the Americans, that the South Vietnamese régime has nothing to its credit and nothing good to be said about it, that the Communists are right and that it is civil war—which is the greatest piece of nonsense and heresy that has been perpetrated over here—and that the people who represent the villages and the self-defence corps, the headmen and the responsible and uncorrupt officials in South Vietnam, of whom there are many, that the families and the ordinary mothers of Vietnam should have no say in what is for them, even though it is remote from us, the great debate.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
I have given an assurance that I shall speak for only six minutes, and I will do my best to keep to it.
The hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) should look at what he said, because the logic of his argument is that, in order to preserve the freedom which is supposed to exist in South Vietnam, not 80 only should there be American intervention but we should be demanding British intervention. That is a very dangerous argument for any hon. Member to put forward. We should take note of the fact that the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) did not argue that. In fact, he argued the opposite, that we had to face the reality of the situation, namely, that the Americans have virtually lost the war in Vietnam, and the only thing which should be concerning us is the best way in which we can assist the Americans to get out without the loss of too much face.
It was a very important argument which the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West developed, and it sprang very much from the nature and character of the war which has been developing and taking place in Vietnam for many years. Ever since I have been a Member of the House, which is since 1964, we have discussed the Vietnam situation, but the Vietnam problem was on the world agenda long before that and it arose Precisely because the people in Vietnam, at the end of the Second World War in 1945, wanted, like everybody else, their freedom and independence from colonial occupation and colonial power.
It is interesting to note that on 2nd September, 1945, in Hanoi, President Ho Chi Minh read out the Declaration of Independence of the Vietnamese people, and it began with a quote—the one which we all know—from the American Declaration of Independence. That was what the Vietnamese people were fighting for.
There are refugees in every war situation. There were refugees in America during the Civil War. In any war situation one section of the community will never be reconciled with the majority who have taken over control of the country.
§ Mr. Cormack rose—
§ Mr. Heffer
I promised to take six minutes. The hon. Gentleman has probably made his speech. If he has not, he will perhaps be able to make his point later.
There are those who argue that we on this side of the House are concerned only with opposing the United States. That is not true. We regard freedom as being indivisible. It was we in this House who 81 more strongly than anyone else condemned the Soviet Union in its invasion of Czechoslovakia. We said that the Russians were wrong in trying to stop the Czechoslovakian people from solving their problems in their own way and from creating socialism with a human face. We do not say one thing to the Russians and something else to the Americans. We say that the Russian occupation and control of Czechoslovakia is wrong, and so is American aggression in relation to the Vietnamese people.
There should be no question of having, as many hon. Members opposite have, antagonism towards one nation, the Soviet Union, but saying absolutely nothing in condemnation of the United States. We are as opposed to the Soviet Union's policy in Czechoslovakia or anywhere else as we are to America's policy in Vietnam.
Let us be clear about the question of aggression in Vietnam. The Geneva accords arose out of the defeat of the French in Vietnam. The Geneva Agreement resulted from Dien Bien Phu where the French thought that they could do what the Americans think they can do now, namely, defeat and hold back the Vietnamese people in their struggle for independence and freedom. That is not possible. It can be done for a period. It can be done for one or two or perhaps 20 years. But we cannot stop people from having their freedom in the ultimate. No Tory could stop the American people from having their independence in 1776. But people tried. George III thought that he could turn back history. He could not.
§ Mr. Dykes rose—
§ Mr. Heffer
I shall not have the hon. Gentleman telling me to sit down. I did not say that the hon. Gentleman should sit down when he was making his speech. He should be courteous, as I was when he was speaking.
When the mines were put in the sea outside Haiphong and other ports it was not just the Americans who were in- 82 volved; it was the whole world. I say to the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) that I was attached to the American Eighth Army Corps during the Second World War, so I have some right to talk to the Americans. As their allies and friends, if they take action which is liable to involve the whole world in a holocaust and possible destruction, we have a right to say to them, "This far and no further." To stop the world from roasting, I believe that this House should, by its vote, say to the Americans, "We dissociate ourselves from the policy in Vietnam which you are pursuing and which you have pursued for too long".
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Iain Sproat (Aberdeen, South)
I shall try to be brief. I am glad of the chance to intervene at this late stage of the debate because I have made a couple of visits to South Vietnam over the last 12 months or so. I therefore speak from some knowledge, and certainly with a very deep sympathy for the situation.
Inside and outside the House there is much concentration, perhaps understandably, on the American part in the war, but surely the background against which we debate this subject is the tragedy of the people of Vietnam—their unparalleled suffering and the unparalleled devastation of their land. For over 25 years these poor people have had the French, Americans, Vietminh, Vietcong and the North Vietnamese Army devastating their land. I praise the courage and spirit with which the South Vietnamese have borne their many sufferings.
However, obviously the most important thing is not to spend too much time on recrimination at this stage in the long war in Vietnam but to look to the future. To get the future right we have to make certain that we have got the present right, and it is not easy, as we have seen in the present climate in this House, in the present climate in this country, in the present climate in the whole of Western Europe, because of so much ignorance masquerading as knowledge and so much prejudice masquerading as fact and so many lies masquerading as truth, and when so many people are too ready to believe the worst and anxious to believe the worst because it is easier to believe lies, which are simple, rather than the truth, which is complex. Nevertheless, there are certain simple truths which I 83 should like to place on record, and, after all the smoke of this debate has blown away, certain things which should be done.
The first is that South Vietnam is a democracy. It is not a perfect democracy. It has made many mistakes, it has made many blunders, and it is not a Westminster democracy and it is not a Washington democracy. None the less, there are opposition parties in Saigon. There is none in Hanoi. There are opposition papers in Saigon. There is none in Hanoi. President Thieu is not a dictator. He does not push through the Senate in Saigon everything he says. Therefore, it is important to remember that, for all its failures, Saigon is a democracy and is, therefore, deserving of our support.
A second fact which seems to me clear is that the present circumstances of this war have been brought about—I emphasise the word "present"—by one fact, and that fact has been the invasion by regular armed forces of North Vietnam upon the people of South Vietnam and against internationally agreed treaties. This is a flagrant violation of international law, and that cannot be gainsaid. It is a significant fact that the Vietcong have played no significant part in this phase. It is a measure of the success of pacification that the Vietcong have up to now in this phase not been significantly active. The whole burden of this new attack against South Vietnam has had to be borne by regular armed troops of North Vietnam, armed in the main by the Soviet Union.
The third point which I would make very briefly is that we must not forget that South Vietnam does not covet and has never attempted to seize one square inch of North Vietnam—not one. It is North Vietnam which covets, and which is attempting now to seize, the whole of South Vietnam. Let us remember exactly what the facts are.
The last thing that I wish to say in the few moments I have is that if North Vietnam were to stop firing its weapons tomorrow, the war would be over. If the Americans were to stop firing their weapons tomorrow, if the South Vietnamese were to stop firing their weapons tomorrow, the North Vietnamese would 84 simply march on and try to conquer the South. The onus for continuing this terrible war lies fairly and squarely on North Vietnam and the people who supply North Vietnam with arms.
As I said, it is most important to look constructively to the future. I certainly wholeheartedly welcome the attempts of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to reconvene the Geneva Conference. I deeply regret that the Soviet Union has made no willing or helpful response to these attempts. I would make this very simple point. What I should like to see, or to see some version of, are attempts at these things. When a peace conference is convened, as I hope it will be soon, we must have a cease fire which respects the territorial integrity of both North Vietnam and South Vietnam, both absolutely equally. I would suggest the territorial situation as it existed on 31st March, 1972. I would be totally against an "in place" agreement because that would simply encourage the Communists to say, "Today we hold Quang Tri, may be tomorrow we take Hue", to negotiate a peace, and then nibble away and take a wee bit more of South Vietnam, and so it would go on. It must he a cease fire which respects the territorial integrity of both countries equally.
My next suggestion is that the cease fire should be followed by free elections in South Vietnam and under international supervision. What could be fairer than that? In the free elections we would have Communists standing as candidates if they want to do so. Let them put their views to the test of a freely elected assembly and see whether they can get them accepted by votes, instead of attempting to force their opinions by guns.
The election would then be fought. Whoever wins it, whichever side gets in as having won the election, the people of South Vietnam having been the instrument of their own self-determination, not imposed by any conference—we do not want a coalition government imposed by the Americans or the Russians—there should be cast-iron international guarantees to keep that solution, whatever it may be. Surely that is just and fair? I should be very glad to hear my right hon. Friend's comments on that.
85 I very much hope that the Government will be able to support something on these lines to bring, at last, peace to the tragic country of South Vietnam.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
I labour under two disadvantages. First of all, I have never been to Vietnam. I have listened with great attention to those who know far more about it than I, and I hope to profit by what they said. My second disadvantage is that I am not a regular participant in foreign affairs debates. Indeed, the last speech I made in this House on foreign affairs was on the question of what would happen in South-East Asia when the Japanese invasion rolled back—and I made that speech in 1945. There has been a certain amount of time for reflection in the ensuing 26 years. All I can do is to offer the House my view as I have listened to the debate and heard what hon. Members have said, and having talked to those who have studied these matters very considerably and read their writings on the subject.
I should like to begin by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) upon securing this debate. I must confess that at the outset I, too, was a little dubious, as, Mr. Speaker, you said you were dubious, whether it should be held, but on reflection it is quite clear that I was wrong and that my hon. Friend was right to press for it, and I think that the level of the debate has been such that the debate has been very valuable.
Having said that, I am left with certain doubts in my mind, and one is whether anybody outside this House is listening to us. We, obviously, have very little power to influence the President of the United States, who hardly seems to be influenced by some of his own advisers, and I shall indicate that a little later by a quotation. The USSR clearly takes very little notice of us. It is not willing to go to the conference table as cochairman of the Geneva Conference Powers. As for North Vietnam, I read in The Times newspaper on Saturday that Mr. Le Duc Tho, leading the North Vietnamese at the talks in Paris, clearly found it amusing that the British should claim to play any rôle. Despite the fact, therefore, that it is right for us to express our anxieties, on the basis of which I 86 shall go into the Division Lobby tonight, nevertheless I think that it is possible to overwrite at this time the influence which a debate in this House has.
Yet, as my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone said, when he asked for the debate, there is no doubt that the situation represents a most serious potential danger to world peace. A week ago President Nixon took a gamble that threatened war on a huge scale, and might involve the USSR. The fact that it has not had that effect so far is not due to President Nixon but to the cool, cautious response of the USSR, and I shall come to why I think the USSR has made that response. President Nixon having taken this decision, one is bound to ask, why did he do it? What was the purpose of it? No one this afternoon has claimed that it will win the war. The most that has been said is that it might perhaps effect a breathing space. It has escalated the conflict. No one has claimed that it will secure peace and no one has denied that it could endanger President Nixon's attempt to move closer to China and the USSR.
I cannot find a satisfying answer to the question except this—which I am told—that President Nixon needs a short-term success in the immediate future to off-set the long-term inevitable withdrawal from Vietnam. That is a heavy risk to take. If, as he says, he does it only to safeguard American lives and honour, I suggest that American lives can best be safeguarded not by this step but by continuing the process of withdrawal, which has been carried on at such a rate that, whereas there were half a million United States troops in South Vietnam, there are now no more than 60.000. As to American honour, by which I think President Nixon means his obligations to protect the South Vietnamese who support United States policy, that is not so easily safeguarded, especially if the United States is moving towards the inevitable withdrawal. But only meaningful discussions around the conference table can begin to avert the wrath that falls on the vanquished at the end of an unsuccessful war, especially one as fierce, bloody and fratricidal as this one.
President Nixon is right to be concerned about the fate of those who have fought alongside him and have supported his regime of course he must be, and 87 none of us in this House should be indifferent to that. But, if he is to secure their future, he must be equally ready to withhold support from the regime of President Thieu in order to secure settlement.
I come back to the question of what the President has done and how he has done it. He was given due warning of the consequences of his action when he first came into office. To anyone who argues—as I have heard some Conservative back benchers argue this afternoon—that this action has some military advantage, I can only reply in the terms of the statement in The Guardian, which has not been denied:In January, 1969, Mr. Nixon was given similar advice…".That is to say, advice similar to the advice which had been given to President Johnson:…in the national security study of Vietnam commissioned by Henry Kissinger on the eve of the President's inauguration. Extracts from the document were recently published in the American Press. In the study the CIA reported that:'…all the war-essential imports could be brought into North Vietnam over rail lines or roads from China in the event that imports by sea were successfully denied.'The disruption to imports, it said, would be 'widespread but temporary', and within two or three months North Vietnam and its allies would be able to set up alternative channels. The total capacity of rail, road, and water connections with China was said to be about 16,000 tons a day, more than two and a half times the highest volume ever reached by all routes combined including that by sea.That is the view of the American Press, not simply my view or that of my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone.
Why has this action been taken? The only expert I have heard to disagree with this view is the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles) when he appeared on television last week. With respect, although I am sure he has made a close study of this—and he told us that he had served in the area—I feel that the American CIA has perhaps slightly closer contact than he has in making an assessment of the situation. That advice was offered to President Johnson, and to President Nixon, who accepted it and then rejected it.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles (Winchester) rose—
§ Mr. Callaghan
I shall be glad to give way provided I am not asked to justify the advice, because the hon. and gallant Member is a military expert and I am not.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles
Surely the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) is quoting advice which was given in 1969 before this flagrant, vast, military aggression on the South by the North. Things are altogether different now.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I am not aware that things are altogether different, but I do not wish to argue the point with the hon. and gallant Gentleman. My understanding is that, although the study was prepared in 1969, the advice was reinforced when President Nixon was making up his mind whether to take this decision. The hon. and gallant Gentleman clearly knows much more about what was contained in the advice to President Nixon than I do and I therefore defer to him on this point, but I am still entitled to quote from what was said on that matter and to express my own conclusion that I think that the advice is right. Time after time we have heard these dreary continuing accounts of the "last thrust" that will make all the difference to the war. The hon. and gallant Gentleman lent himself to it on television only a week ago. I just do not believe it. It is against all credibility.
The two assessments that to me came nearest to the reality of the situation were those of my hon. Friend the Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Raymond Fletcher) and the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell)—although Conservative back benchers are very selective of those from whom they accept teachings of this sort. They are prepared to accept in silence the teachings of some more than others. Perhaps one of the most revealing aspects of the debate has been the pathology of some Conservative back benchers—
§ Mr. Wilkinson
Surely the whole point is that in 1969 there was a guerilla insurrection in the South. Now we have a conventional attack requiring vast logistic support. What the Americans are engaged in is not just a naval blockade but an air interdiction right along the trail before 89 the monsoon breaks which will enable the South Vietnamese to hold their positions and to build up their strength in the months ahead?
§ Mr. Callaghan
I have heard and read it all before many times, and something always seems to go wrong.
I regret to say this to the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Sir Gilbert Longden), but he should remember that when he refers to senators in the United States as quislings, he may be referring to the next American President. What will be the attitude of the Conservative Party if, in six months' time, Senator McGovern or Senator Humphrey becomes President of the United States?
§ Sir Gilbert Longden
Whatever these gentlemen become, they are behaving in very much the same way as Quisling behaved in the war.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The hon. Gentleman has now compounded his offence. Reticence on the part of those who are not actively engaged in this battle would be more becoming than saying that they are willing to fight to the last American and the last Vietnamese peasant.
I have said that President Nixon is right to be concerned with the fate of the people of South Vietnam. One difficulty is that the people of South Vietnam are not greeting the invading armies as liberators, but nor, alternatively, do they seem to rely on the support of an independent South Vietnamese Government. But is that surprising when one considers the history?
I suspect that, after 30 years of continuous conflict, battle, destruction, carnage and instability, what the ordinary man in Vietnam wants more than anything is to sow crops in the expectation of being able to gather them in peace. He may well be so numbed by the continuation of this near-30-years war that he will welcome whoever brings peace. Those of us who pontificate from outside might remember that, and it is not unique to Vietnam. It is not for the great Powers to deny that to the Vietnamese peasant.
I come to the question of what separates the parties on the face of it. First, take President Nixon's position. He says that he wants the return of all United States prisoners, he wants an 90 internationally-supervised ceasefire and, following that, the complete withdrawal of all American forces within four months. That is to be coupled with what he said on an earlier occasion: an internationally supervised election in which North Vietnam will participate in both the elections and the supervising body; and President Thieu to resign at least one month before the elections—that is absolutely essential, and preferably earlier, I should have thought. That is President Nixon's public position.
What is Hanoi's response? According to Mr. Le Due Tho, the United States must stop all attacks on the North. They must fix a date for the withdrawal of forces. They must agree to a coalition Government, excluding President Thieu. When this is done, the North Vietnamese will discuss a ceasefire and the release of prisoners of war. Despite the mirth displayed by some Government supporters I suggest that there are many elements that are common to both of those statements, and if we want peace it is upon those that the Government should be focusing attention at the present time.
What on the face of it seems to be at stake is in which order—and each side has placed the issues in different order, and this is a fundamental difference—those conditions are to be carried out. Does the release of prisoners of war come before or after attacks on the North have stopped? Should a coalition Government excluding President Thieu proceed or follow internationally supervised elections? Clearly, given just a pinch of good will it would be possible to get down to discussions on a matter of this sort and also to reach an accommodation.
What is equally clear is that any desire to reach an accommodation is tragically absent. No one can say whether President Nixon's action in resuming the bombing of the North in January prompted the new offensive launched by Hanoi at Easter, but it cannot be denied that the Executive Committee of the Labour Party was certainly right in January when it forecast in its statement that the resumed bombing would…only increase the suffering and prolong the war.That has happened, but it is clear that neither the bombing nor the mining nor the process of Vietnamisation can win the war for the United States.
91 It is Hanoi which is in the ascendant. Whatever hon. Members on the Government side may say, it is Hanoi which is making the military gains. President Nixon is making his latest offers coupled with increased bombing and mining of Haiphong, from a very weak hand, and we should recognise it as such: an unpopular war at home, a corrupt Government in Saigon and an apathetic and fearful peasantry in the countryside. If Hanoi would listen, they could learn something from a quotation by a distinguished relative of the hon. Member for Stretford:In defeat, defiance; in victory, magnanimity.Voice was given to that quotation, as we all know, by Sir Winston Churchill.
Mr. Le Duc Tho said last week that he was perfectly prepared to have new private talks with Doctor Kissinger but doubted the sincerity of the Americans. Who will the Hanoi Government trust? Obviously it is not the British Government. They have made that clear. There was laughter in Mr. Le Duc Tho's voice when he said that we had no standing in the matter. What is to be done? I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone. Can we not make some approach, because there is in this country a genuine concern among all people who agree about peace in any part of the world. This country has a tradition, and people still look to us. However small our influence may be in these matters, could not the British Government take some initiative with some of the other countries which are non-participants?
I do not know how the two sides can be brought together—if indeed, Hanoi wish it. Or is Hanoi's present intransigence such that they just wish to continue their advance so as to control as much territory as possible before the internationally supervised ceasefire takes place and elections are held? We do not know but this seems to be the most hopeful rôle that the Government could pursue—not with the principal contestants but by influence and in other ways to get other countries not active participants to take up the matter. Could we not get the non-involved States to take the lead and give an initiative? We do not know what China's reaction would be now that she has returned to the United 92 Nations. I may be told that this is naïve in any case, but are we to sit by and do nothing, and witness this carnage and desolation continue? I do not think that anyone would want that.
I therefore agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone that it has given an air of unreality to the whole proceedings to hear that the summit meeting between Mr. Brezhnev and President Nixon is still to go ahead as planned. We are all relieved, and hope that it will and that it will be fruitful. It shows, I think, that the Russians hope to get more out of some economic agreement with the United States, and hope to achieve some new concessions in the SALT talks when the President is in Moscow. The only thing in my judgment that could call off the summit would be if the West German treaties with Moscow on the future of the Ostpolitik failed to be ratified. I believe that that is the only thing that would mean that the Russians would call off the summit.
We have not time in this debate—we need another debate for that—to delve into the longer-term consequences of the tragedy that is being played out; the effect on the American attitude in Europe, the position of Cambodia and Laos, relations between China and the United States. All these are important issues which we should thrash out on a future occasion.
Most of us want to register a view and a vote tonight in order to show people that we feel that it is essential that more should be done to bring this conflict to an end, and I should like to tell the House on what basis I shall vote. Others may vote for different reasons, but it is important to register a vote. I shall vote to express my disagreement with President Nixon's policy of escalating the bombing and the mining—[Interruption.] I do not suppose that I shall get wholehearted cheering or booing for everything I say. I shall vote also to express my disagreement with the intransigent attitude of Hanoi at the present time when they have stepped up their offensive. And all of us can vote to express our detestation—
§ Mr. Callaghan
In the same Lobby, because for the reasons I shall give to the hon. Member he can join me, if he is 93 sincere. I shall vote to express our detestation of the 30 years of war which have resulted in the corruption of the Vietnamese people and in the death and maiming of thousands of men, women and children there. And I say to the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Good-hart) that I shall vote as an indication to everyone concerned, whether he is in Moscow, or Hanoi, or in Saigon or in Washington, that the world demands that this slaughter be brought to an end. This is the basis on which we shall vote. We shall vote in order to show that whatever limited power and influence this country may have it will in this matter be cast on the side of a lasting and just peace.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Joseph Godber)
The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) started by reminding us that this was his first intervention in foreign affairs since 1945. We are glad to welcome him back to these debates and wish him many happy years taking part in them from that Front Bench.
In this debate we have heard much criticism, first from the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) and then from other Opposition Members, of the recent action of the United States and, in particular, of the mining of the North Vietnamese ports. On the other hand, we have had very different views expressed by a number of my hon. Friends including my hon. Friends the Members for Hertfordshire, South-West (Sir Gilbert Longden) and for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) and, if I may say so, a striking contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes).
I first want to take the House back a short distance in time to events before this latest United States action, because I want to bring home the essence, as I see it, of the problem at the moment. Whatever criticism Opposition Members may make about the American involvement—and I do not agree with their criticism—they cannot deny that the present American Administration have removed half a million troops from South Vietnam, and have repeatedly endeavoured, both publicly and, as we have been informed, in private discussions with North Vietnamese representatives in Paris, to engage in serious attempts to arrive at a nego- 94 tiated settlement. They have shown genuine and repeated attempts to bring this conflict to an end, and had the North Vietnamese not launched a new and unprovoked attack on South Vietnam, it is abundantly clear that the American involvement would have become minimal by the end of this year.
The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East referred to the escalation of the war by President Nixon. I would say to him that the real escalation began on 31st March, when the North Vietnamese launched their flagrant and massive invasion. The first thrust came across the demilitarised zone, the buffer region created by the 1954 Agreement and in which both Hanoi and Saigon undertook not to conduct military operations.
The hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Latham) tried in particular to claim that we were dealing with one country in relation to Vietnam. Strictly in legal terms, that is true, I suppose, but we are dealing with the position created by the 1954 Agreement; the demilitarised zone was part of that agreement, just as the different organisations of North Vietnam and South Vietnam are part of it as well.
Apart from the North Vietnamese aggression across the demilitarised zone, there have been assaults across the Vietnamese frontiers with Laos and the Khmer Republic, countries whose territories the North Vietnamese have used illegally for many years in pursuit of their policy of aggression against South Vietnam.
This invasion was launched not by guerillas but by highly trained regular troops. Today the major part of North Vietnam's military force are deployed on South Vietnamese territory. Reliable reports indicate that North Vietnam has thrown all its 14 combat divisions, plus supporting units, into the fighting—a total of some 200,000 men—and this massive army has brought with it nearly 500 tanks, eight regiments of artillery, some equipped with the latest Russian weapons, including the latest 130 millimetre guns, and a large number of vehicles of all kinds needed to support an army of these formidable proportions. This is not a guerilla force. Nor is it being received as a liberation army. There have been precious few signs of welcome for the invaders among the South Vietnamese.
95 Indeed, another vast army, one of refugees this time, has fled before the North Vietnamese advance. The latest estimate of this army of refugees is that it totals nearly 750,000 people.
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. It was an essential feature of the Vietnamisation programme that the United States should continue to provide support in the air and at sea, and she has always made that plain. On the ground, American forces no longer have a combat role. After the withdrawal of 500,000 troops, there are only about 60,000 men left in a supporting and advisory role, with combat troops sufficient only for their own defence. Under a programme which President Nixon announced after the present aggression took place from the north, this force is due to be reduced still further and we are told that it will be under 50,000 by the end of June.
Alongside the criticism of the United States, from hon. Members opposite, we have heard very little criticism of North Vietnam's actions. Such damage and loss of life as has been caused by the Americans in Vietnam has to be seen in comparison with the massive destruction, loss of life and the endless columns of refugees in South Vietnam at this moment.
In the face of all this, America has decided to resume the bombing of military targets in North Vietnam and has mined the entrances to North Vietnamese ports. All war is hideous, and all escalation of war carries dangers to others—that has been made clear in the debate, and I know that it is in the minds of many hon. Members—but the American response on this occasion has been proportionate and directly related to the North Vietnamese invasion of the south.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
Has the right hon. Gentleman investigated the report that the Americans are using bombs with plastic pieces in them which cannot be detected by X-ray? If he has investigated, has he made any protest against this brutality by a so-called civilised nation?
§ Mr. Godber
We have seen reports of various types of weapons being used by both sides. It is not appropriate for us 96 to comment in relation to these matters, on which we cannot have accurate information.
The attacks have been on military installations, supply depots, supply routes and ports through which pass materials of war which will enable North Vietnam to sustain its offensive, and the mining of the ports has the same purpose, we are told. It is a fact—and this has to be faced—that this is potentially the least destructive of human life of all the military options open to President Nixon, apart from abandoning the South Vietnamese to their fate. The latter may be what hon. Members opposite are suggesting. If it is, those who advocate that course should face up squarely to what it would mean to all our friends in other countries in South-East Asia and say where they stand in relation to that.
But even in the face of Hanoi's intensification of the war, President Nixon has put forward new proposals for a settlement, and if Hanoi responds positively to this offer, which I earnestly appeal to it to do, this long and terrible war could still be brought quickly to a close. In this connection, we welcome that passage in the Soviet Government's statement of 11th May, which declared that the only real way to settle the Vietnamese problem was to respect the Vietnamese people's rights to decide their own destiny without interference or pressure from outside. We have sympathy with that sentiment, with the qualification that this right to self-determination should be exercised peacefully and not under threat of force of arms and that it should apply equally to the peoples of Laos and the Khmer Republic as well.
Having restated, as I see them, the reasons for the present crisis, I make clear Her Majesty's Government's deep concern at the present position. As we all know, the Vietnam war is not just a local problem of South-East Anglia. Because it embodies the risk of direct confrontation between the major Powers it is a global problem. Its continuation is a threat to humanity as a whole. But as a nation we, the British, have deliberately not involved ourselves militarily in the war—and that applies to Governments of both parties over the years.
In these circumstances, surely the only sensible thing to do is to seek in whatever way we can to organise peace 97 making. In this we did involve ourselves, both in 1954 and 1962. We are ready to do so again. Various people have said that it is not so appropriate for us now, but we must make the effort, and we are doing so. We continuously support all the possible opportunities for progress. I want to refer to a few of them now.
First, there are the Paris talks. These are at present at a standstill, and hon. Members will know that, in addition to the public sessions, Dr. Kissinger met Mr. Le Duc Tho, a member of the North Vietnamese Politburo, secretly on 4th May, and the United States participants were unable to discern then any readiness at all on the part of Hanoi to put aside propaganda and to resume negotiations. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is in Paris now and his talks with M. Schumann tomorrow will no doubt cover this and any other aspect we can work out together with our French colleagues. Of course, we should like to see progress, but the fact is that at the moment there is deadlock in Paris.
Secondly, some hon. Members, including the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, have suggested that we should take the matter to the United Nations. At the United Nations the British representative has been in close and continuous touch with his colleagues on the Security Council in the last few weeks, and the Secretary-General has been consulting members of the Security Council and has placed his good offices at the disposal of the parties. But in frankness I have to tell the House that we have no evidence to suggest that the North Vietnamese have changed their view that this is not a matter for the United Nations. In addition, hon. Members may have seen that the Chinese representative at the United Nations, in a letter to the President of the Security Council and the Secretary-General, dated 11th May, has said that the Vietnam question has nothing to do with the United Nations. A copy of his letter is available in the Library of the House. With that, plus the attitude of Hanoi, there would seem little prospect of making progress.
As for our own position, my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary told the House on 8th May that our status in this matter derives from our position as Geneva co-chairman. Here is an international framework, 98 already used by the parties concerned, and it includes China, Laos and Cambodia. All those are there as members, if we can reactivate the conference, to deal with the problems of the area.
We have therefore very carefully considered what action we may take in this context. First, there is the possibility of using the International Control Commissions. The Geneva Conference has standing machinery in the form of these commissions, which still exist both in Laos and Vietnam. These commissions have limited terms of reference of supervision and investigation. They have been largely ineffective in practice and, regrettably, I see no real function for them at present. This view is shared by other Governments concerned. The Indian Minister of External Affairs told the Indian Upper House on 11th May that the ICC had no effective part to play at present, since it had been set up to supervise peace and not war. Nevertheless, there could conceivably be a peacemaking role for the commissions to play at a later stage, as my right hon. Friend has said before, and as I believe the Leader of the Opposition suggested in the House last week.
The Geneva Convention can be recalled only if the two co-chairmen are willing to act together. I can assure the House that this Government, like their predecessors, have spared no effort in their sincere attempts to persuade the Russians to join us in bringing about a peaceful settlement. I was sorry that the hon. Member for Penistone seemed to imply that my right hon. Friend had not been sincere in his efforts in this and other matters. I tell him and the House that there can be no question of that. He is genuinely involved in this and he has worked very hard at it. It is the problems that confront us that are the real difficulty, and not the attitude of my right hon. Friend.
Since the Geneva Conference of 1962 successive British Governments have made ten approaches to the Russian cochairman on the subject of reconvening the Geneva Conference on Vietnam. No fewer than three have been made by the present Government since the beginning of the present Communist offensive. So far, the Russians have replied saying that the time was not appropriate, or that it was not practicable, or they have failed to reply at all. Our most recent approach 99 to the Russians was made five days ago, when my right hon. Friend summoned the Soviet Ambassador and proposed once again the reconvening of the Geneva Conference. The Soviet Ambassador undertook to convey my right hon. Friend's proposal to Mr. Gromyko, and we now await his reply.
We are also in touch with other Governments on this matter, including—as the Prime Minister told the House on 11th May—the Chinese Government. In the present delicate and rapidly changing situation, hon. Members will not expect me to provide full details of the diplomatic exchanges in which we are now engaged; nor is there time for me to do so. I can assure the House, however, that we are leaving no stone unturned in our attempts to find a peaceful settlement to this terrible war.
As for President Nixon's latest proposals, our attitude, in all our discussions with other Governments about the situation, is quite clear. President Nixon's new proposals for ending the war are positive and constructive, and could lead
§ to an immediate end to the fighting and the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Vietnam before the end of September. The American offer now lies on the table. I suggest that it is for the North Vietnamese to show their desire for peace by a suitable response. Self-interest, common sense and common humanity all point to the conference table. It is the constant endeavour of Her Majesty's Government to assist this process.
§ The right hon. Gentleman has explained his vote, but I find it difficult to follow his logic. I believe that it would be better if there were no vote at present. This country is in the position of cochairman. We want to do all that we can in this regard, and if there is a vote I feel that it can only confuse matters. But if there is a vote, and if a challenge is to be made, I know where my right hon. Friend and I will vote on this occasion.
§ Question put, That this House do now adjourn:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 237, Noes 260.103
|Division No. 179.]||AYES||(6.45 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.)||Grant, George (Morpeth)|
|Albu, Austen||Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven)||Grant, John D. (Islington, E.)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Dalyell, Tam||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)|
|Allen, Scholefield||Davies, Denzil (Llanelly)||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)|
|Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)||Hamling, William|
|Ashley, Jack||Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)||Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)|
|Ashton, Joe||Deakins, Eric||Harper, Joseph|
|Atkinson, Norman||de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith|
|Barnes, Michael||Dempsey, James||Hattersley, Roy|
|Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton)||Doig, Peter||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis|
|Baxter, William||Dormand, J. D.||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)||Horam, John|
|Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Duffy, A. E. P.||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Dunn, James A.||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Dunnett, Jack||Huckfield, Leslie|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Eadie, Alex||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Edelman, Maurice||Hughes, Mark (Durham)|
|Booth, Albert||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Ellis, Tom||Hunter, Adam|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||English Michael||Irvine Rt. Hn Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)|
|Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Evans, Fred||Janner, Grevllle|
|Buchan, Norman||Ewing, Henry||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Faulds Andrew||Jeger, Mrs. Lena|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)|
|Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||John, Brynmor|
|Cant, R. B||Foley, Maurice||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)|
|Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles)||Foot, Michael||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Forrester, John||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Fraser, John (Norwood)||Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)|
|Concannon, J. D.||Freeson, Reginald||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Galpern, Sir Myer||Kaufman, Gerald|
|Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)||Garrett, W. E.||Kelley, Richard|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Gilbert, Dr. John||Kerr, Russell|
|Cronin, John||Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury)||Kinnock, Neil|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Golding, John||Lambie, David|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Gourlay, Harry||Lamborn, Harry|
|Lamond, James||Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)||Silverman, Julius|
|Latham, Arthur||Moyle, Roland||Skinner, Dennis|
|Lawson, George||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Murray, Ronald King||Spearing, Nigel|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Oakes, Gordon||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Leonard, Dick||Ogden, Eric||Stallard, A. W.|
|Lestor, Miss Joan||O'Halloran, Michael||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)|
|Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold||Orbach, Maurice||Stoddart, David (Swindon)|
|Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Orme, Stanley||Strang, Gavin|
|Lipton, Marcus||Oswald, Thomas||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Lomas, Kenneth||Padley, Walter||Swain, Thomas|
|Loughlin, Charles||Paget, R. T.||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Palmer, Arthur||Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Pavitt, Laurie||Tinn, James|
|Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Pentland, Norman||Torney, Tom|
|McBride, Neil||Perry, Ernest G.||Tuck, Raphael|
|McCartney, Hugh||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.||Varley, Eric G.|
|McElhone, Frank||Prescott, John||Wainwright, Edwin|
|McGuire, Michael||Price J. T. (Westhoughton)||Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)|
|Mackenzie, Gregor||Price, William (Rugby)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Mackie, John||Probert, Arthur||Wallace, George|
|Maclennan, Robert||Rankln, John||Watkins, David|
|McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Reed, D. (Sedgefield)||Weitzman, David|
|McNamara, J. Kevin||Rees Merlyn (Leeds, S.)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Rhodes, Geoffrey||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Richard Ivor||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|Marks, Kenneth||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Marsden, F.||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Whitlock, William|
|Marshall, Dr. Edmund||Roper, John||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Rose, Paul B.||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Mayhew, Christopher||Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Meacher, Michael||Rowlands, Ted||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Sandelson, Neville||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Mendelson, John||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Mikardo, Ian||Shore, Rt. Hn. peter (Stepney)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Millan, Bruce||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)||Woof, Robert|
|Miller, Dr. M. S.||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Milne, Edward||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)||Mr. James Hamilton and|
|Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwtch)||Mr. Tom Pendry.|
|Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Sillars, James|
|Adley, Robert||Clark, William (Surrey, E.)||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Clegg, Walter||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Cooke, Robert||Goodhart, Philip|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||Coombs, Derek||Goodhew, Victor|
|Astor, John||Cooper, A. E.||Gorst, John|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Cordle, John||Gower, Raymond|
|Awdry, Daniel||Corfield, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)|
|Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)||Cormack, Patrick||Gray, Hamish|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Costain, A. P.||Green, Alan|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Crouch, David||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Crowder, F. P.||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J|
|Bell, Ronald||Dalkeith, Earl of||Grylls, Michael|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford)||Gummer, J. Selwyn|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Dean, Paul||Gurden, Harold|
|Blaker, Peter||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Hall Miss Joan (Keighley)|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Dixon, Piers||Hall, John (Wycombe)|
|Body, Richard||Drayson, G. B.||Hall-Davis, A G F|
|Boscawen, Robert||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Hamilton Michael (Salisbury)|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Dykes, Hugh||Hannam, John (Exetre)|
|Bowden, Andrew||Eden, Sir John||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Bray, Ronald||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Hastings, Stephen|
|Brewis, John||Elliott, R. W. (N'C'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Havers, Michael|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Emery, Peter||Hawkins, Paul|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Eyre, Reginald||Hay, John|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Farr, John||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Fell, Anthony||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward|
|Bryan, Paul||Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Heseltine, Michael|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M)|
|Buck, Antony||Fidler, Michael||Hicks, Robert|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)||Higgins, Terence L.|
|Burden, F. A.||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Hiley, Joseph|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Fookes, Miss Janet||Hill, James (Southampton, Test)|
|Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray&Nairn)||Fortescue, Tim||Holland, Philip|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Foster, Sir John||Hordern, Peter|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Fowler, Norman||Hornby, Richard|
|Channon, Paul||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia|
|Chapman, Sydney||Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)|
|Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher||Gardner, Edward||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)|
|Churchill, W. S.||Gibson-Watt, David||Hunt. John|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||More, Jasper||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Morrison, Charles||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)|
|Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Mudd, David||Soref, Harold|
|Jessel, Toby||Murton, Oscar||Speed, Keith|
|Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Spence, John|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Neave, Airey||Sproat, Iain|
|Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Stainton, Keith|
|Kershaw, Anthony||Normanton, Tom||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Nott, John||Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)|
|Kinsey, J. R.||Onslow, Cranley||Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)|
|Kirk, Peter||Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Kitson, Timothy||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Stokes, John|
|Knight, Mrs. Jill||Osborn, John||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom|
|Knox, David||Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)||Sutcliffe, John|
|Lambton, Lord||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Lamont, Norman||Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Lane, David||Parkinson, Cecil||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Langford-Hoit, Sir John||Percival, Ian||Tebbit, Norman|
|Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Peyton, Rt. Hn. John||Temple, John M.|
|Le Marchant, Spencer||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Pink, R. Bonner||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)|
|Longden, Sir Gilbert||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)|
|Loveridge, John||Powell, Rt. Hn. J Enoch||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Luce, R. N.||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Trafford, Dr. Anthony|
|McAdden, Sir Stephen||Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.||Trew, Peter|
|MacArthur, Ian||Proudfoot, Wilfred||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|McCrindle, R. A.||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis||Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin|
|McLaren, Martin||Quennell, Miss J. M.||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Raison, Timothy||Vaughan, Dr. Gerard|
|Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Maurice (Farnham)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Waddington, David|
|McNair-Wilson, Michael||Redmond, Robert||Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)|
|McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)||Walker Smith Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Maddan, Martin||Rees, Peter (Dover)||Warren, Kenneth|
|Madel, David||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Marten, Neil||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Mather, Carol||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Wilkinson, John|
|Maude, Angus||Ridsdale, Julian||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Mawby, Ray||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Rost, Peter||Worsley, Marcus|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Russell, Sir Ronald||Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.|
|Mills, Peter (Torrington)||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Younger, Hn. George|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Scott, Nicholas|
|Mitchell, Lt.-Col. C. (Aberdeenshire,W)||Sharples, Richard||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)||Mr. Bernard Weatherill and|
|Moate, Roger||Shelton, William (Clapham)||Mr. Michael Jopling.|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Simeons, Charles|
§ Question accordingly negatived