Foreign Affairs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th July 1965.

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Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook 12:00 am, 19th July 1965

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Taverne) made some criticisms of the way in which the House organises its foreign affairs debates. I agree with him in general, but I am glad that we are able to discuss a wide range of foreign policy today because, at the beginning of my speech, I want to essay the back bencher's most difficult and sometimes unpopular task, that is, to give unreserved support—"unqualified" would be an unfortunate word—for one aspect of Government policy. I hope that the rules of debate will allow me to be a little more acceptable by striking a rather more discordant note at the end of my speech, when I refer to Europe.

I have listened to virtually every speech made in the House today—certainly every one dealing with the problems of Vietnam, and each speech, in almost exactly the same way and in exactly the same terms, demonstrated and epitomised the dilemmas and difficulties that the Government and the House are facing. There was in every speech a great deal of similarity in terms of basic principle. Practically everybody agreed that this was a nasty little war; that this was a war which must be solved by a negotiated settlement; that in this context winning had no meaning.

The right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) was careful to say to the Russian Foreign Secretary and to the House that the Americans would not lose—specifically refraining from saying that the Americans would win. All of us agree with those principles. All of us agree with those basic assumptions. I suspect that everyone in the House agrees with the eight suggested criteria laid down by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) about the way in which we should approach the problem of bringing about the right sort of settlement and agreement.

But the task which faces the Government, and the Government alone, is not agreeing to a set of principles but getting that set of principles carried out. The argument that we are really carrying on this afternoon is one not about aims but about the judgment exercised in the execution of those aims—how those aims should have been executed and how they have been. This point was made clear by one example from the growing body of dissent to American foreign policy in America itself. My hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) overestimates and overstates the amount of criticism in the United States of that Administration's policy. My hon. Friend should know that when the American Legislature considered the latest appropriation for the Vietnam war only three members of the Senate and seven members of the House of Representatives voted in opposition. Nevertheless, there is a body of dissent.