§ 12.7 p.m.
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE)
My Lords, I gave your Lordships an assurance last Tuesday that an account of the latest position on Laos would be given before we rose for the Recess. A statement in identical terms is also being made in another place. The general military situation remains unchanged and there have been no reports of renewed fighting in the past few days. No reply has yet been received to the proposals which we put to the Soviet Government on March 23.
Noble Lords will have seen the text of the S.E.A.T.O. resolution on Laos, and the final Communiqué of the S.E.A.T.O. Ministerial meeting has, I am informed, just now come through on the tape. I think the House will agree that, whilst emphasising the firm determination of the S.E.A.T.O. Powers to safeguard the independence and neutrality of Laos, this resolution reflects their desire for a peaceful solution of the Laotian problem.
§ LORD LATHAM
My Lords, your Lordships will, I am sure, be grateful to the noble Marquess for having informed us as to the latest position before we depart for the Recess, and, I suppose, for some modest encouragement from the statement that:the general military situation remains unchanged and there have been no reports of renewed fighting in the past few days.222 However modest that encouragement may be, it is, unhappily, somewhat offset by the fact that no reply has yet been received to the proposals which were put to the Soviet Government by the British Government on March 23.
Nevertheless, the situation is improved, I think we shall all agree, from the point of view of those who seek to preserve peace and understanding in this part of the world, by the fact that the S.E.A.T.O. has expressed a determination to safeguard the independence and the neutrality—and that word is important—of Laos. We can only hope, with others throughout the world, certainly the Western World, that the delicate issues which exist in Laos may be resolved in the interests of peace.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, while thanking the noble Marquess for the statement, which is, so far as can be seen, short but satisfactory, may I ask him whether his attention has been drawn to the report that Prince Phouma, a former Prime Minister of that country, has expressed the very strong opinion that, before the cease-fire is arranged, as we hope it will be, the Commission should be reconstituted and be in operation; or, if it is not possible to reconstitute and to have the Commission on the spot before the cease-fire is arranged, that it should be contemporary with the cease-fire? Because the noble Marquess will, no doubt, have seen that Prince Phouma says that without the Commission there it would be quite impossible, in fact, to arrange and control a cease-fire.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I am aware of such reports. But I would remind your Lordships that we have put forward our proposals, which have received substantial backing, and we must now await the reply of the Russians.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
My Lords, could the noble Marquess say whether advantage is going to be taken of the short visit being paid to London by Prince Souvanna Phouma today and tomorrow in order to have talks with him and clear up the situation?
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, the answer is, Yes. Prince Souvanna Phouma is coming to this country in a private capacity, and arrangements have been made for him 224 to be received and to discuss these matters.
§ House adjourned at twelve minutes after twelve noon, until Tuesday, 11th April, 1961.