Vietnam

Oral Answers to Questions — Germany – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th December 1964.

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Photo of Mr Derek Page Mr Derek Page , King's Lynn 12:00 am, 14th December 1964

asked the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs if, in view of the torture of prisoners in Vietnam, he will seek the co-operation of the other co-chairman of the Geneva Conference in order to make joint representations to the Control Commission to investigate the circumstances.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

No, Sir. If the International Commission considers these deplorable incidents to fall within its terms of reference, it has the power to investigate them without any prompting on our part.

Photo of Mr Derek Page Mr Derek Page , King's Lynn

Does not my hon. Friend agree that the pictures of torture which appeared recently in the newspapers could at least be accompanied by some expression of distaste, since the struggle against Communism is primarily moral rather than military?

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

Incidents of the kind to which my hon. Friend refers are to be deplored, whoever commits them. Unfortunately, in conditions of civil war in Vietnam, this kind of thing is happening on both sides. The main thing is to give the legitimate Government of South Vietnam the necessary assistance to bring the bloodshed to an end.

Photo of Mr William Warbey Mr William Warbey , Ashfield

Would my hon. Friend consider the fact that this civil war has now been going on for several years and that it is highly desirable that we should be informed about further developments in the war and the further activities of both sides, whether in the form of torture or of bombing or of any other actions of this kind? Should not my hon. Friend therefore call for a report from the Special Commission to supplement the report it presented as long ago as 1962?

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

Reports have been called for from the Commission over recent years, particularly in response to previous reports exposing North Vietnamese violations of the agreement, but the results do not encourage me to believe that any further report would have much practical result.

Photo of Sir Godfrey Nicholson Sir Godfrey Nicholson , Farnham

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is increasing prevalence of torture under all sorts of regimes in all parts of the world and that this is a most devastating commentary on the present stage which civilisation has reached? Has not the time arrived when some great nation, particularly this great nation, should call attention to the universal horror and disgust and grief caused to all civilised men by these disgusting and out-of-date practices?

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

Yes, Sir. I did say that everyone deplores these acts of cruelty arising from civil war, whichever side commits them. There is the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Her Majesty's Government give the strongest possible support. Unfortunately, it is not legally binding on its member States.

Photo of Sir Godfrey Nicholson Sir Godfrey Nicholson , Farnham

But I am asking for more. I am asking for a definite statement.

Photo of Mr Julian Ridsdale Mr Julian Ridsdale , Harwich

asked the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs if, in the light of his responsibilities as co-chairman of the Geneva Conference, he will make a statement about the Government's policy towards South Vietnam.

Photo of Mr William Warbey Mr William Warbey , Ashfield

asked the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, if, in the light of his responsibilities as co-chairman of the 1954 Geneva Conference, he will make a statement about the Government's policy towards Vietnam.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

The policy of Her Majesty's Government remains to support the Government of the Republic of Vietnam in their efforts to put an end to the Communist insurrection which, aided and directed from Hanoi in constant violation of the Geneva Agreements, threatens the independence of the South Vietnamese people.

Photo of Mr Julian Ridsdale Mr Julian Ridsdale , Harwich

As the dangers of a much wider conflict are always present in what is happening in South Vietnam, would not the hon. Gentleman agree that it would be better that as soon as possible we invite to the conference table all the Powers concerned with interests in South-East Asia? Is not this the best way to bring home to public opinion our interest in the vital importance of the independence of South Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia?

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

To have successful peace negotiations, a reasonable basis for those negotiations is required. It is very difficult for the Government of South Vietnam to negotiate under the duress of the kind of insurrection which they face at the moment.

Photo of Mr William Warbey Mr William Warbey , Ashfield

Will my hon. Friend recall the advice given by U Thant several months ago that a political settlement of the Indo-Chinese and Vietnamese problems should be sought rather than a military settlement and that it should be sought by the recall of the 1954 Geneva Conference on the basis of that conference, which was the unity, independence and non-alignment of Vietnam? When will the new British Government take an initiative in this direction since, as co-chairman, they have the power to join with the Soviet co-chairman in doing this right away?

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

I appreciate what my hon. Friend is saying. We find, however, no reason to suppose that at the present stage another conference would persuade the Communists in South Vietnam and the forces who are supporting them from outside South Vietnam to honour their existing obligations under the 1954 Geneva Agreements, of which there have been many breaches.

Photo of Sir Peter Emery Sir Peter Emery , Reading

Will the Minister state whether any assurances have been given by his Government to the United States of America of further military assistance to support America if that became necessary and the situation deteriorated?

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

No assurances were asked for or given. As the communiqué issued after the Washington talks made clear, Her Majesty's Government recognise the particular importance of the military effort which the United States Government are making in support of the Vietnamese Government.

Photo of Mr Konni Zilliacus Mr Konni Zilliacus , Manchester, Gorton

Does not my hon. Friend recognise that the American policy in Southern Vietnam is in violation of the 1954 Treaties, to which we are a party, that the Government which they are supporting is a puppet Government which they themselves have imposed, that public opinion will be shocked at the revelation that we are following the policy of the Tories in this matter and that, apart from being a crime, this policy is a blunder because it will make our name stink throughout the Far East, and that the policy is bound to fail anyway?

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

No, Sir, I accept none of those things. Her Majesty's Government are merely seeking to bring about a position in South Vietnam whereby that country has the right to determine its own future in independence. We seek as a long-term aim the neutralisation of that area, but for neutralisation one needs a basis for successful negotiation.

Photo of Mr Arthur Newens Mr Arthur Newens , Epping

asked the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs what has been the annual expenditure for each of the last three years on the British contribution to counter-guerilla and counter-subversive activities in South Vietnam; and what is the total number of British civilian and military personnel, respectively, who have been involved.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

The cost of maintaining the British Advisory Mission in Saigon and providing certain training facilities in Malaysia was approximately £83,000 in the financial year 1962–63 and £78,000 in 1963–64. The estimated cost in 1964–65 will be £98,000. Except for the Service Attachés at the British Embassy, there are no British military personnel in South Vietnam. The total staff of the British Advisory Mission has never exceeded ten, all of them civilians.

Photo of Mr William Warbey Mr William Warbey , Ashfield

What exactly is the function of these advisers? As they are headed by Brigadier Thompson, who had experience in counter-guerrilla activities in Malaysia, can my hon. Friend say whether they are advising on counter-guerrilla activities in South Vietnam and have been doing so and whether their job has been mainly to assist in propping up probably the most loathsome régimes that have yet been produced in South-East Asia?

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

The British mission is staffed entirely by civilians and its advice is given only to civilian organs of the Vietnamese Government.

Photo of Sir Godfrey Nicholson Sir Godfrey Nicholson , Farnham

A few moments ago, the hon. Gentleman joined me in expressing horror at the atrocities and torture which were alleged to have taken place on both sides. Will he use the services of this mission to secure a report on these alleged happenings with a view to taking action?

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

I have informed the House that this mission is a civilian one in contact with civilian organs in Vietnam. It would not be a suitable body to undertake the task which the hon. Member suggests.

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Govan

Is my hon. Friend aware that, in the early stages, the American missions were called civilian missions, too, until their civilian clothes disappeared and they became military missions? Will he firmly assure the House that this British civilian mission is, in fact, a civilian mission?

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

Yes, Sir, this is a civilian mission, in contact with civilian organs of the Vietnamese Government, although, unfortunately, in the present conditions of rebellion in Vietnam, the borderline between police operations and military guerrilla operations is somewhat narrow.