HC Deb 12 June 1972 vol 838 cc981-5
9. Mr. Deakins

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the European Economic Community Foreign Ministers about the United States of America's blockade of North Vietnam, in the context of his policy of co-ordinating British foreign policies with those of the Six.

Mr. Anthony Royle

Discussions with Ministers from European Economic Com- munity countries must remain confidential.

Mr. Deakins

Can the hon. Gentleman tell us at least whether any of the Six support the United States action in Vietnam, and if so—which one suspects is the case—is not this a poor look-out for the development of a joint foreign policy in the enlarged Community which, on the basis of fact, is likely to be as reactionary as that of the present British Government?

Mr. Royle

The attitude of other countries to events in other parts of the world is the responsibility of the Governments of those countries and not ours.

14. Mr. Orme

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what consultation he has had with the United States Government following the mining of the Vietnamese waters in South-East Asia.

17. Mr. Loveridge

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent communications he has had with the United States Government concerning events in Vietnam

53. Mr. Good hart

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what consultation he has had with the Government of the United States of America and South Vietnam about events in Vietnam.

Mr. Anthony Royle

We are in regular contact with the United States Government and the Government of the Republic of Vietnam on the situation in Indo-China, though these exchanges are confidential.

Mr. Orme

During those exchanges did the Minister express, for instance, the deep concern in this country about the continuation of this war, and in particular the decision taken by the British Labour Party completely opposing the mining of Vietnamese waters? Many of us have recently seen on the television pictures of the children covered with napalm. Surely something should be done to end this war. In this regard, what response are the British Government making?

Mr. Royle

We have not made any protest to the American Government about the mining of North Vietnamese ports, given the state of hostilities in the area. This response by the American Government is a measured response, in our view, to North Vietnam's invasion of the South. The Americans want a negotiated settlement, and President Nixon put forward fresh proposals for this when he announced his proposals to close the ports of North Vietnam. While the North Vietnamese refuse to negotiate, however, it is understandable that the Americans should take military action in support of their ally, to counter that taken by the other side.

Mr. Loveridge

Despite the concern which many people in this country continue to feel about the tragedies of the war in Vietnam, will my hon. Friend do all he can to reassure the Government and people of the United States that the bulk of people in this country appreciate their efforts to help a small nation to defend itself from aggression?

Mr. Russell Kerr


Mr. Royle

I have indicated the Government's view. As my right hon. Friend the Minister of State told the House on 15th May we regard the proposals put forward by President Nixon as positive and constructive. We hope that the North Vietnamese will show their desire for peace by a suitable response. If these proposals were accepted, there could be a rapid withdrawal of United States troops from Vietnam.

Mr. Good hart

While thanking my hon. Friend for that robust reply may I ask him whether he can tell the House what we are doing to assist the refugees who have been turned out of their homes by the Communist offensive? Surely the £10,000 extra which we have so far offered to those trying to cope with this disaster is really inadequate. Cannot we get medical teams out there?

Mr. Royle

The £10,000 which we gave was well received by the South Vietnamese Government. That really was intended only to meet immediate and urgent needs. As such it was gratefully received. In addition, private United Kingdom charitable organisations are playing a considerable rôlein aid to refugees. The Save the Children Fund has so far given £40,000 and Oxfam £33,000 since the current offensive began.

Mr. Dalyell

if this is the posture of the British Government can they be exactly surprised that the Russians will have nothing to do with them as Co-Chairman of the Geneva Conference?

Mr. Royle

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman, although he knows me well, has misunderstood my posture and that of the Government.

Mr. Dalyell

It is only too clear.

Mr. Royle

The Government remain ready to help promote a peaceful settlement in Vietnam in any way that may be open to us But to be effective any initiative by this Government would have to be acceptable to all the parties involved in the conflict. Unfortunately the recent North Vietnamese invasion makes it clear that they still wish to try to impose their will on the South Vietnamese by force. That is the difficulty we face.

Mr. Wilkinson

Would my hon. Friend agree that the difference between the Co-Chairmen is that one supplies 75 per cent, of the offensive armaments of a country which is hell-bent on aggression against its neighbour whereas we use all our good offices for peace?

Mr. Royle

I do not disagree with that remark.

Mr. Richard

Is it not totally clear that any possibility of reconvening the Geneva Conference has long since gone? Is it not also quite clear that the United States Government is bent on a process of extraction from Vietnam and is it not rather squalid that the best warriors in Vietnam at the moment seem to be, not from the United States of America, but on the back benches opposite?

Mr. Royle

I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman in his comments about the American troop withdrawals from Vietnam. The British Government's aim is to encourage some peace machinery to be set up. We do not mind what the peace machinery is and that is why we have been pursuing and trying to find out whether it is possible to set up the Geneva Conference or a Geneva-type conference. If that is not possible, we will help and we will pursue in consultation with other countries any other possible methods of bringing this dreadful war to an end.

25. Mr. Pavitt

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the dates since June, 1970, on which an official request has been sent to the Russian Government to reconvene the Geneva Conference.

Mr. Anthony Royle

Since June, 1970, there have been five occasions on which we have asked the Russians to consider reconvening the Geneva Conference. I will, with permission, circulate details in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

In addition my right hon. Friend discussed the question with Mr. Gromyko in Berlin on 3rd June.

Mr. Pavitt

Will the Foreign Office seize the opportunity to take advantage of the slight pause in the situation to take further initiatives beyond those which have already been taken? Is the Minister aware that people in this country feel that we are on a kind of Foreign Office bureaucratic treadmill which takes the form of one step forward and one step backward, just like dancing the quadrille? We want to see no let-up on any possible new initiative of any kind, together with the Russian Co-Chairman, to stop this tragedy.

Mr. Royle

I share very much the tone of the hon. Gentleman's question and we are certainly trying as hard as we can in all areas to try to bring the sides together. We are in a position to do this since, as the hon. Gentleman has indicated, we are Co-Chairmen of the Geneva Conference and, as I have indicated in my reply, we have been taking up this matter on many occasions in the past few weeks. I was in Peking last week, as the House knows, and so far the Chinese have not been receptive to the idea of reconvening the Geneva Conference. We have made no proposals to the North Vietnamese with whom we have no diplomatic relations.

Following is the information:

Occasions on which Her Majesty's Government have asked the Soviet Government to consider reconvening the Geneva Conference.

  1. 1. The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to Mr. Gromyko on 28th October, 1970.
  2. 2. The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to the Soviet Ambassador on 4th February, 1971.
  3. 3. The Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the Soviet Ambassador on 7th April, 1972.
  4. 986
  5. 4. The British Ambassador in Moscow to Mr. Gromyko on 20th April, 1972.
  6. 5. The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to the Soviet Ambassador on 10th May, 1972.