HL Deb 14 December 1965 vol 271 cc673-90

6.31 p.m.

LORD BROCKWAY rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make a statement on the initiatives they have taken to bring about a negotiated cease-fire in Vietnam as a preliminary to a renewed Geneva Conference, or other international conference, to conclude a peace settlement. The noble Lord said, my Lords, I think it is appropriate that we should discuss this matter to-night. During this week the Prime Minister will be meeting the President of the United States of America. I am quite sure that he will pay attention to expressions of opinion in another place, both yesterday and to-day; and I am hoping that he may also pay some attention to expressions of opinion in this House.

But there is a much more important reason why this issue is urgent. I believe that we are now at the moment of decision in Vietnam: the moment of decision whether, in these coming days, steps will be taken towards securing a peace by negotiation, or whether the war will be intensified and extended. The American Government has announced that the large force of 200,000 already there may be increased to 300,000. Sometimes, with memories of the Spanish Civil War, I have the great apprehension that it may be a rehearsal of a world war. It is conducting a war which, short of atomic and hydrogen bombs, is making use of every type of destructive weapon, however cruel those weapons may be. Whilst America is increasing its military strength in those ways, there is now evidence that North Vietnam also is extending its use of troops. The war may last for years. At the end of it, Vietnam will he burned to death.

But there is not only the tragedy of what is happening in Vietnam itself: it is now clearer than it has been before that there is a great danger of this war extending in South-East Asia. There is the danger, because North Vietnamese troops are passing through Laos and Cambodia, that military action may be extended to those territories. There has been the allegation that at one of the ports of Cambodia ammunition is being imported to assist the North Vietnam troops and the troops of the National Liberation Front, dubbed by the Americans "Viet Cong", in South Vietnam. My first suggestion to the Government, therefore, is that they should support the proposition made by the Cambodian Government, that the International Control Commission, consisting of Canada, India and Poland, should be asked to supervise the introduction of arms into Cambodia so that it may not become involved in the war.

My Lords, no one could have read the responsible reports which have been appearing in the Press this week without apprehension that the war in Vietnam may spread in South-East Asia, not only to Laos and Cambodia but even to Thailand. There are reports now of guerrilla action in that territory. There is a report this week that the Americans have decided on a complex military base of vast proportions, covering not only the Air Force but the Army, supplies and a deep harbour for naval vessels.

One is most disturbed by the references which are now being more frequently made in America about the possibility of the war's extending to China. The Secretary of State, Mr. Dean Rusk, has remarked that: The confrontation problem is one which Peking has to face; we are going to meet our commitments. and Mr. Alistair Cooke, in the Guardian, in a dispatch dated December 11, says that the President is on the verge of a grave decision, either to move towards peace by negotiation or—and I quote: to face the fact of a long war, possibly with China". The Press references to the new and elaborate base in Thailand clearly indicate that it is directed not only to the present war in Vietnam, and the danger of war in South-East Asia, but also to China.

I do not think it is possible to exaggerate the danger of the expansion of the war and of the need for some negotiated settlement, if that danger is to be met. The official view at present, both in this country and in America, is that the United States of America is prepared to begin peace negotiations and that North Vietnam and the National Liberation Front are refusing. This view demands objective consideration. I think we can put it like this: that North Vietnam and the National Liberation Front have asked for the acceptance of the terms of the Geneva Agreement as the basis of any negotiations; the United States of America have offered unconditional negotiations, but have indicated that they will accept a settlement only on the conditions which they lay down. I submit to your Lordships that, in effect, there is little difference between those two approaches. If the United States of America does not accept the terms of the Geneva Agreement, there is no prospect of successful talks. On the other hand, if North Vietnam and the National Liberation Front do not accept America's minimum conditions, there is also no prospect of successful negotiations. The question I wish to ask to-night is how this problem can be resolved.

The Geneva Agreement, on which North Vietnam and the National Liberation Front are insisting, laid down four principles: first, the recognition of the independence, the integrity and the unity of Vietnam; second, the opportunity for North and South Vietnam to unite within two years by free elections; third, the withdrawal from Vietnam. North and South—later on from the united country —of all foreign troops and bases; fourth, the neutrality of both South and North, while they remain divided, and, of the whole of Vietnam when it becomes united —their neutrality from all foreign military alliances. These would include, of course, any Communist alliances with China and with Russia.

I want to emphasise to-night that the British Government are committed to those four principles. I have already paid tribute in this House to Sir Anthony Eden, who was one of the Co-Chairmen with Mr. Gromyko, of Russia, at the Geneva Conference, for the contribution he made to these decisions. Not only did the British Government—and a Conservative Government—endorse the principles of the Geneva Conference, but France, Russia, China also were among the Governments which accepted. Of the Powers outside Indo-China, the subject of those discussions, only the United States declined to accept those decisions. I emphasise as strongly as I can that this country is committed to the principles of the Geneva Agreement as a settlement of the war in Vietnam.

It is true that the North Vietnamese Government has not only said that those principles of the Geneva Agreement must be the basis of a settlement, but has stated conditions in a rather different way. They have stated them in four points. I heard them when I met the representatives of North Vietnam on my first visit to Soviet Russia in August of this year. But in order to be completely fair, I will repeat them in the terms used by Senator Mike Mansfield, the leader of the Democratic Party in the American Senate. He put these four conditions under which North Vietnam is prepared to enter a peace conference in this way: one, recognition of the rights of the Vietnamese people arising from the Geneva Agreement; two, that the division of Vietnam shall continue pending peaceful reunification, but that all foreign forces and bases shall be withdrawn; three, that the internal affairs of South Vietnam shall be decided by the South Vietnamese people alone, in accordance with the National Liberation Front programme and without foreign interference; and, four, the peaceful reunification of Vietnam to be eventually settled by the Vietnamese people in North and South without foreign interference.

Those four points are not inconsistent with the Geneva Agreement. I find it very significant that Senator Mansfield, the spokesman for President Johnson's Party in the American Senate, accepted three of the points—points one, two and four. He interpreted point three as meaning that the United States must agree that the future pattern of South Vietnam must reflect the programme of the National Liberation Front. In fact, the wording of point three can be interpreted in one of two ways. It could mean that in accordance with the National Liberation Front programme the South Vietnamese people should have the right in principle to decide their future, or it could mean that that future should be in accordance with the National Liberation Front's programme. I should like to see this point clarified.

However, if in fact one looks at the programme of the National Liberation Front one sees that it is not inconsistent with any progressive democratic country. I have that programme here in my hand. Its terminology sometimes would be offensive to America, and perhaps not acceptable to many in this country. But I quote from its first two clauses. The first clause is to form a national democratic Coalition Administration. The second clause is to bring into being a broad and progressive democracy; promulgate freedom of expression, the Press, belief, assembly, association, movement and other democratic freedoms; and to grant general amnesty to all political detainees. I will not detain the House to read the whole of that programme. I hope it may he in our Library, and I would ask Members of this House to read it. I repeat that, while its terminology may not he acceptable, if one analyses the actual proposals made one sees they are not inconsistent with a democratic and free society.

One prevalent misunderstanding is that North Vietnam and the National Liberation Front are insisting on the application of these proposals before any conversations take place. When I met the representatives of North Vietnam and of the National Liberation Front in Moscow in August, the North Vietnamese cate- gorically said that they had never asked for the withdrawal of all American troops before discussions take place. They ask for it in the final peace settlement; they do not insist upon it before talks take place. While the National Liberation Front were not so categoric as North Vietnam, they also intimated that they were not demanding, before conversations for a cease-fire and a peace settlement took place, the withdrawal of all American troops.

While difficulties remain for any negotions, I want to emphasise as strongly as I can that the overwhelming impression which I had from my talks with representatives of North Vietnam, the National Liberation Front and the Russian Foreign Office, was that if the American Government would specifically say they would accept, one by one, the principles of the Geneva Agreement which I have quoted this evening, negotiations for a cease-fire and negotiations for a peace settlement could take place.

I want to turn now from the attitude of North Vietnam and the National Liberation Front to that of America. The claim is made that they have offered unconditional negotiations for a cease-fire and for a settlement. I quote from the Washington correspondent of The Times in its issue of November 18: … it has now emerged that President Johnson's offer of unconditional discussions to bring the war to an end is not so unconditional as he said in his Baltimore speech. There are at least two conditions. The first is that political recognition of the National Liberation Front as part of a final settlement is unacceptable. The second is that it cannot be permitted to retain a territorial base similar to that given to Pathet Lao in Laos. These conditions, it was learned to-day, are not open to negotiation; the Administration is not prepared to negotiate without their prior acceptance. The reason given is that political recognition is the first objective of the National Liberation Front, and indeed is what the war is all about. A possible future situation in which the N.L.F. could take part in a coalition with non-Communist parties is not permissible. Moreover, overall American strategy demands that the line between the Communist and non-Communist worlds in Asia must he held as in Europe and Berlin. There can be no compromise. All this makes nonsense of the public position of the United States. That report is from the Washington correspondent of The Times. Only yesterday Mr. Rusk, the Secretary of State of the United States, said in Paris: The United States still wants peace talks on Vietnam but only if South Vietnam independence and territorial integrity are guaranteed.

This is the real dividing issue. America wishes to contain Communism by a permanent military wall on the Seventeenth Parallel. I think it is a political mistake. Ideas will leap military walls; the issue between opposing ideologies will be decided finally by the judgment of the world's peoples on which pattern of society provides the greatest freedom and the greatest justice. But to-night I emphasise specially to a British Government, which is committed to the Geneva Agreement, the fact that American policy is a repudiation of the Agreement which was blessed by Sir Anthony Eden (as he then was) on behalf of the Government of which he was Foreign Secretary, and also—I would ask the Minister who is to reply to note this fact—that it is a repudiation of the terms for a peace settlement which has been announced by our Foreign Secretary, Mr. Michael Stewart. The American Government, if it says it will not go into negotiations unless the Seventeenth Parallel is made a continuous political division between North and South Vietnam, is challenging both the Geneva Agreement, to which we are committed, and the policy which our own Government have urged.

Often it is said that North Vietnam will occupy South Vietnam and impose upon it Communism, and its reunification with North Vietnam as a Communist State. I discussed this matter with the representatives of North Vietnam. They surprised me a little by saying that they were prepared to accept two separate Governments, in South Vietnam and North Vietnam, for a longer period than is laid down in the Geneva Agreement. That period is two years. They are prepared for a longer period of separate Governments. Incidentally—and this interested me greatly—they said that one of their reasons for that is that, while North Vietnam is a Communist State, the programme of the National Liberation Front is not Communist. In North Vietnam they have collectivised agriculture. The programme of the National Liberation Front in South Vietnam stands by the policy of peasant proprietorships. The North Vietnam representative said, "We are prepared to accept a longer period of different government in South Vietnam, and are prepared that there should be reunion only by the free choice of the peoples of South Vietnam."

The Prime Minister is going to the White House this week. I urge him to ask the President of America to announce in clear terms the acceptance specifically of the point of the Geneva Agreement to which this country, to which the past Government and to which this Government, are committed.

I repeat those terms: the independence, the territorial integrity, and the unity of Vietnam; the right of South and North Vietnam to unite by their free choice in the Geneva Agreement after two years; and as part of the settlement—but again I emphasise they are not insisting on this before negotiations—the withdrawal of all foreign troops and bases from Vietnamese territory; and, lastly, agreement by Vietnam that it shall be militarily neutral from all foreign military alliances, which would mean that it could not unite in either an alliance with China or an alliance with Russia. If our Prime Minister succeeded in getting President Johnson specifically to accept all those four points, I have no doubt whatsoever that talks for a cease-fire and a peace settlement could begin. The tragedy of the 25 years' state of war in Vietnam could he ended. The danger of an extended Asian war, and even of world war, could be avoided.

We are approaching the season of peace and good will to all men. The National Liberation Front of South Vietnam has proposed a Christmas truce. The Americans in their response have, unhappily, been lukewarm. One of the most remarkable events of the World War was the Christmas truce, which the soldiers themselves observed irrespective of their high commands. This time let it be the decision of the higher human commands to accept the highest Divine Command which has been given to the human race. Let it be accepted as a truce, not only over Christmas, but over a period in which both sides could get together to begin negotiations, so that they may end the tragedy which is Vietnam, and so that they may give not only hope of peace, but hope of freedom and justice for its people.

7.3 p.m.


My Lords, it is late, and I do not propose to detain your Lordships for more than a few minutes, but I should like to make a few comments which might be regarded as supplemental to the Question by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway. I find myself in substantial agreement with the noble Lord's observations in some respects, notably his proposal, if I understood it aright, that there should be some kind of supervision or control of arms imports into Cambodia, and also, in general, as to the desirability, if possible, of getting back to the principles of the Geneva Agreement. I agree with him on both those points, but I should like to make some further reflections on this terrible problem.

Nobody can dismiss this dismal subject without a deepening sense of horror and frustration. We learn from our newspapers that the war is being conducted with the utmost brutality. Prisoners are often tortured and killed; booby traps abound; and everybody suspects everybody else. The front is everywhere. From time to time harmless civilians are blown up or massacred. The idea that there is now any valid indigenous Government in South Vietnam has been largely abandoned. The South Vietnam Army, if what we hear is right, now hardly functions, and the Americans, rightly or wrongly, seem to be out to impose their will, even if that means putting in half a million men and spending 10 to 20 billion dollars. They have the means to do this if they will.

But for the time being, at any rate, as we all know, the Viet Cong seem to be maintaining themselves in the swamps. The Americans crash around in the jungle with their steam hammers, but the mosquitoes are not obliterated. No doubt if our Allies pursue this policy and go on long enough they will succeed, but the danger is that the operation may be successful and the patient die. People who, like myself, have not been to Vietnam and know nothing about the war except from newspaper accounts have nevertheless little right, I suppose, to criticise their tactics. The Americans say that it is the Viet Cong who began this mode of warfare and that they have only responded. Nor is anything we say in this place very likely to have much effect, I regret to say, on the actual course of events. Even the Government, for quite obvious reasons, may find it difficult to advance any criticism, even if they would like to do so. It certainly looks as if British advice on the actual conduct of the war would become increasingly unwelcome.

But it must also be said, and it has often been quite rightly said, that our Allies have a bear by the tail and that they simply cannot let go. It is also said that they would never allow South Vietnam to join a Communist North Vietnam, even if the South Vietnamese, as a result of free elections, decided that this was what they wanted to do. This was one of the points made by Lord Brockway. This seems to me a much more dubious proposition. In the long run the Vietnamese, like the Germans, will no doubt come together somehow, and the inhabitants of South East Asia will probably not in the long run come under the domination of any outside Power, whether it be America, China, or even perhaps in the dim and distant future India. Neutralisation of the whole area is indeed something which we should always aim at and I hope we always shall. On the other hand, it remains true that if the Americans were forced to abandon South Vietnam there would be likely to be highly unfavourable results in neighbouring countries and all concerned would make haste to come to terms with the great new emergent Power which is China. In their efforts to avoid such a situation we must certainly back our Allies up.

How, then, is it conceivable that things will work out? Naturally we must do all we can to encourage any reasonable attempt to get the two parties round the Conference table. It may be that the suggestions made by Lord Brockway are the right ones—I do not know. There may be others. But we certainly must do all we can to get negotiations going. Unfortunately, things have come to such a pass that in this respect, whatever we may desire, our hopes may be dupes. It seems to me that there are now two broad possibilities: either the Americans take the decision to crush the resistance of the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong by all possible means, including, if necessary, the obliteration of Haiphong and Hanoi and, if necessary, the bombing of the Chinese supply bases in Yunnan, involving an obvious risk of Chinese participation in the war; or they concentrate on building up their position in South Vietnam by pouring in men and materials, cutting out the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos and organising South Vietnam for the time being on the lines of an old fashion colonial dependency.

This choice seems to be not very dissimilar to one which confronted that wise man President Truman in 1950. If he had followed General MacArthur's advice and, indeed, the advice, I think, of quite a number of important people in the Senate and elsewhere in America at that time—and had gone all out to unite Korea under Western influence, he would have run an acute risk of an all-out war with China, and even possibly with Russia. If he did not accept that advice —and he did not—then he knew that he would be accused of defeatism, of a "no-win" policy, of the so-called appeasement of Communism. Nevertheless, his choice was right. A truce was eventually negotiated. Korea remained divided, but Asia, and indeed the world, remained at peace.


My Lords, does the noble Lord remember that it was by the intervention of a Labour Peer?


I am coming to that, my Lords. If there had been a war with China, no doubt the Chinese would have been defeated. But how exactly could the Americans have coped with the ensuing mess? That was the problem. Would the Americans really have attempted to restore Chiang Kai-shek; and if they had done so, what would have been the effect in Asia generally?

The same sort of situation, I suggest, presents itself at the present time. The analogue to the bombing of Manchuria is, as it seems to me, the bombing of the Haiphong dykes and the factories in Hanoi, and if even that does not work, then the bombing of the Yunnan bases. When it was a question of the bombing of the Manchurian factories and the Yalu bridge, Mr. Attlee (here I think I am saying what the noble Lord was about to say) went out to America and gave his advice to President Truman. I remember that very well, because Mr. Attlee stayed with me in my house in New York on his way out at the end of November of that year.

It so happens that at this critical moment in our destiny Mr. Wilson is going out to see President Johnson. Will he give the same advice; and will the President take it, if he does? Quite possibly not. But in that event we should at least have done our best. So far as this House is concerned, I hope that there will be few, if any, dissentient voices as regards the broad advice, however unpopular, which I have endeavoured to sketch out, and which should now be given.

7.13 p.m.


My Lords, I am somewhat at a loss to know how to reply to this debate. I certainly do not want to stand here, nor have I any right to stand here, as the defender of United States' policy in Vietnam. I have no greater desire to appear here as being in any way callous about the suffering which is taking place in Vietnam, nor oblivious of the very great dangers to many other people, as well as to world peace, in what is going on there. There are many things that my noble friend Lord Brockway has said with which I am in complete agreement, and yet, for some reason, our basic conclusions are very different. There is much of what the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, has said with which I am also in agreement. There, too, I would not say that I am in disagreement with his final conclusions at all. But he has not, if I may say so, tackled what I think is the really essential problem with which we are faced.

This struggle has now been going on for many years. It has become increasingly violent, and there has been an increasing degree of suffering, not only on the part of the people who are actually engaged in the fighting, but also on the part of innocent people, whether they are the people who are bombed by mistake by American bombers, who are mutilated by Viet Cong explosives in the middle of Saigon, or who are simply in the way of one or other mass of military movement and suffer accordingly. That is increasing as the years go by, and with it, of course, goes all the civilian suffering—the suffering which comes from a shortage of food; inability to cultivate the soil; inability to bring up one's children in a normal decent life, to send them to school, to teach them how to become useful, good, constructive citizens. All that is escalating It is not what is normally meant by escalation, but in my view it is perhaps even more important and more frightening than the more readily accepted forms of escalation.

How can this be stopped? We believe — and here we are in complete agreement with the Americans, and my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has said this on many occasions—that this fighting can be brought to an end eventually only by talking, and the sooner people get down to talking, the sooner there will be an end to this suffering. I am quite sure that my noble friend agrees with those sentiments. So the problem is a painfully simple one: how can we get people together to talk? I could go through a long list of attempts that have been made by ourselves, by other countries, uncommitted countries, the Commonwealth and the United States, in order to bring this about.

My noble friend knows well the White Paper published in August, Recent Exchanges Concerning Attempts to Promote a Negotiated Settlement of the Conflict in Viet-Nam. He may not yet have had a chance of seeing a further White Paper published only to-day, a copy of which I believe is in the Library, entitled Documents relating to British Involvement in the Indo-China Conflict, 1945–1965. From these two documents there is a mass of evidence indicating the efforts that have been made by Her Majesty's Government, by other countries and by other leaders, in an attempt to bring this war to an end.

Specifically, I would mention the talks which my right honourable friend had in March, when Mr. Gromyko was over in this country, to try to get him, as one of the two Co-Chairmen of the Geneva Conference, to help in an initiative. That was followed up in Vienna in May, when the Foreign Secretary met Mr. Gromyko; and it was followed up on the third occasion this month, when my right honourable friend was in Moscow and was talking to him. Those are but three instances of the attempts made by Her Majesty's Government to get talks going so as to bring this fighting to an end. Unfortunately, in so far as our Soviet Co-Chairman is concerned, we have had no success, and there has been no effective follow-up of any of those three initiatives—any more than there has been any follow-up of the proposed Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Mission or—rather earlier than that—the attempt by Mr. Gordon Walker, when he was undertaking his tour for the Government, to get to Hanoi, or of the visit of my honourable friend Mr. Harold Davies to Hanoi during the summer.


My Lords, I am appreciative or what the Government have attempted to do, but would the Minister not agree that it is very difficult for a Government which is supporting one side in this conflict to be an effective mediator for peace between two sides? Is it not rather like a football match in which the referee has got all his bets on one side to win?


It may be difficult —in fact, it is difficult—but I do not think it is impossible, given good will. But I would remind my noble friend that we are not the only people who have made these efforts. There was the notable effort by the President of India, who has not taken sides. The leaders of seventeen unaligned countries, including President Nasser, President Tito, Dr. Nyerere and other prominent and completely unaligned leaders also made this effort. So, while I freely admit that we have failed and that our task may have been made more difficult because we are known to be allies of the Americans—we make no bones about that, and we do not hide it in any way (although being an ally does not necessarily mean blind support for everything that is done) I would point out that, even when people not tarred with that brush make an attempt, their attempts meet with equal failure.

But, my Lords, I do not really think that we can get very far by producing evidence, on one side or the other, of who said what, or by producing quotations. I have here many quotations of what President Johnson actually said in his Baltimore speech setting out his peace aims. I also have here what he said very recently indeed, in a statement to the Convention of American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organisations in San Francisco. I will just briefly quote from that statement, because it is the most recent of them. President Johnson said: At the same time, we are equally determined that every prospect for peace be exhausted before other hard steps are taken. Only this week we reviewed our efforts for peace in detail. Our efforts to communicate our desire to talk about peace were met with silence from some, shrill propaganda from others. On the crucial question of readiness to meet without conditions, the response in Hanoi—and still more Peking—remains completely negative. Let us hope, however, that even at this hour reason might prevail in the minds of other men who hold the key to peace. All over the world, in every capital where we are represented, our Ambassadors are waiting for some word that those men, too, want peace and are willing to talk about it. I have given the Secretary of State special instructions to make sure that no one is uncertain about our purpose. My noble friend laid stress, and properly so, on whether these talks, of which we have heard so much, which were offered by the President of the United States were in fact with or without preconditions. He quoted the Washington correspondent in The Times of November 15, who throws doubt upon it. I do not know whether they are in fact without pre-conditions or not, but I am prepared to accept that if the President of the United States says he is willing to have talks without pre-conditions, that is what he means. But, even if one were to have doubts about it, surely the right thing to do if one wanted talks would be to call his bluff, to take up the challenge, and to say, "All right. You say you will have talks without pre-conditions. We shall come along". If the President then starts to make conditions and says, "Oh, but no; we will not talk with you", or, "We will not talk about this", or, "We will talk only after that", then the world will see that there are in fact conditions attached. But that challenge has not been taken up by Hanoi. My Lords, I only wish it had been. Instead, they have refused to have any talks whatsoever with him, with no pre-conditions. They have laid down certain conditions which, to my mind, cannot be met because they prejudge the case.

What we in this country want, what I believe the Americans want, and what I am quite sure my noble friend wants, is that, in the first place, peace should be restored to both South Vietnam and North Vietnam, and that those two countries, separated for the moment, should be allowed, after a suitable period for the restoration of peaceful conditions (which takes a long time after a war of this kind), perhaps under some international supervision, preferably the United Nations, to have free elections—elections which will not be influenced either by the National Liberation Front or by Generals who exercise completely undemocratic power in South Vietnam. We want supervision to prevent both those forms of influence and, very possibly, intimidation.

When there is sufficient stability and peace-time conditions have been sufficiently restored, there should be these free elections so that the people of each country can choose the form of Government they wish to have. If, having chosen their own freely-elected Government, they then decide they will unite together with each other, so well and good—nothing would please us more. But we do not want one side to be swamped, absorbed or intimidated by the other; and that is what we are guarding against. That is what the fight is about, and that is what the Americans, I believe, are fighting for —in order to preserve or re-create (to create for the first time would perhaps be a more accurate way to put it) in South Vietnam the conditions where people can freely and without fear choose their own Government.

Now the actual words of President Johnson in his Baltimore speech on this point—and I think it is worth quoting them—were: Such peace demands an independent South Vietnam—security guaranteed and able to shape its own relationships to all others—free from outside interference—tied to no alliance —a military base for no other country". My own interpretation of the words, able to shape its own relationships to all others is that they undoubtedly give it the right, if it so wishes, to have a closer relationship—in other words, to join—with a neighbouring country, which could well be North Vietnam. President Johnson went on: These are the essentials of any final settlement. We will never be second in the search for such a peaceful settlement in South Vietnam… We have stated this position over and over again fifty times—and more—to friend and foe alike. And we remain ready—with this purpose—for unconditional discussions. My Lords, as I say, that seems to me a statement with which, if you believe what it says, we can all of us agree; and it is a challenge which I believe any of the protagonists or people concerned in this fight should be prepared to take up. I am sorry they have not taken it up. As I say, I could quote your Lordships extracts from some of the Chinese newspapers, or from speeches by some of the North Vietnamese leaders, which might suggest reasons why they have not taken it up—that in fact they are not interested in this form of peace. They are interested solely in humiliating the United States and in ensuring that the people of South Vietnam do not have free elections and do not choose their own Government, but are swamped by North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front.

My noble friend shakes his head to that. As I say, I could quote your Lordships examples which suggest that. I am not stating categorically that that is what they wish, but there is some evidence that some of them are motivated in that way. But they can only prove their good intentions; they can only prove the good things they said to my noble friend during his visit—and I am delighted that he went there and spoke to them; I think he may have some slight influence on them—by accepting this challenge of the Americans to talk, and to see, in fact, if there are conditions or not.

The actual wording of this question was: To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make a statement on the initiatives they have taken to bring about a negotiated cease-fire in Vietnam as a preliminary to a renewed Geneva Conference, or other international conference, to conclude a peace settlement. My Lords, the answer to that is that we have made this statement. I have made it to some extent to-night, but it has already been made, in far more detail, in the two White Papers to which I have referred. I believe that they produce evidence, which it is very hard to disregard, that throughout all these negotiations Her Majesty's Government have at all times been ready to take the initiative; on many occasions, have, in fact, taken the initiative; have invariably encouraged the initiatives of others who have taken them; but that none of these initiatives have met with any positive response either from the Government of North Vietnam or, I am sorry to say, by our Co-Chairman, the Soviet Foreign Minister. But, in spite of that, we shall continue to exert, sometimes in public, sometimes in private, all the pressure it is in our power to exert. Undoubtedly, in the talks that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister will be having with the President at the end of this week the matter will be discussed, and the President will have no doubt at all (not that I think he has any doubts at the present time) as to the views of Her Majesty's Government on this matter.

My Lords, we want peace there as sincerely as anybody does. That peace can come only through discussions. If at any time, either as Co-Chairman of the Geneva Conference or in any other way, we can be of assistance in bringing about those talks, we are ready to do all we can. If at any time it appears that a further initiative will be profitable, we shall undoubtedly take it. But all I can say, in conclusion, is that at the moment the evidence before us suggests that the unwillingness to talk lies more on the North Vietnamese side than on the American side, and it is therefore there that the greatest pressure, I believe, should be brought.