Oral Answers to Questions — Vietnam

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th April 1967.

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Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford 12:00 am, 17th April 1967

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will take a further initiative to bring an end to the war in Vietnam.

Photo of Mr James Dickens Mr James Dickens , Lewisham West

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will now take a further initiative to end the war in Vietnam.

Photo of Mr George Brown Mr George Brown , Belper

I have nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister told the House on 23rd March.

Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford

It is not my day, Mr. Speaker. Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether he agrees with the suggestion made by Mr. Kosygin that the Geneva Conference is, perhaps, too unwieldy a body to negotiate a separate peace and that it would be better to set up an ad hoc body of smaller character, including France and China?

Photo of Mr George Brown Mr George Brown , Belper

There are a variety of ways, as I have said to the House quite a number of times before, in which we might get the exercise to end this war started, and the number of ways in which we might reach a conference table and final solution of the problems at the Geneva Conference could easily at some stage form part of the machinery, but at what stage is a different question.

Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne

Is my right hon. Friend yet ready to accept the view that there is no hope whatever of bringing North Vietnam, or any other country, into a conference discussion while it is being bombed?

Photo of Mr George Brown Mr George Brown , Belper

I think there is a Question on that subject later.

Photo of Mr Frank Judd Mr Frank Judd , Portsmouth West

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs under what conditions the British Government will now support the cessation of bombing by the United States of North Vietnam as one of the three points of the peace initiative for Vietnam proposed by U Thant, Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Photo of Mr Michael Barnes Mr Michael Barnes , Brentford and Chiswick

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has made any further representations to the United States Government regarding the bombing of North Vietnam, in view of the latest peace initiatives being undertaken by U Thant, Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Photo of Mr George Brown Mr George Brown , Belper

As the House knows, we, warmly welcomed U Thant's proposals made on 14th March, which included a total military standstill. This would, of course, have applied to United States bombing. Since the proposals were also promptly accepted by the American Government, the need for representations to them did not arise.

Photo of Mr Frank Judd Mr Frank Judd , Portsmouth West

While I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply, and want at all costs to avoid over-simplified condemnation of the United States because of the complexities of the situation, would not my right hon. Friend agree that U Thant's initiative, particularly on the question of degree and difference between support for either side within South Vietnam and expansion of the conflict beyond the frontiers of South Vietnam, gives an oportunity for stressing positive policies and thereby encouraging liberal forces within the United States?

Photo of Mr George Brown Mr George Brown , Belper

I think that we can claim that we have been stressing positive policies ever since the party Conference last October, and when I went to the U.N. a month after. I regard U Thant's proposals as fitting in very well with our own ideas, and I therefore warmly welcome them.

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds

Will the right hon. Gentleman be very careful about encouraging liberal forces in the United States and confine his dealings to the President and the Secretary of State?

Photo of Mr George Brown Mr George Brown , Belper

I am exceedingly careful about encouraging liberal forces anywhere.

Photo of Mr Michael Barnes Mr Michael Barnes , Brentford and Chiswick

Would my right hon. Friend not agree with what U Thant also said, that the cessation of the bombing of North Vietnam is a prerequisite of further peace moves taking place?

Photo of Mr George Brown Mr George Brown , Belper

As I have said many times in the House, I do not regard that suggestion as realistic.

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire

Has my right hon. Friend information of any favourable response to U Thant from the North Vietnamese Government?

Photo of Mr George Brown Mr George Brown , Belper

On the contrary, there has been none.

Photo of Mr Hugh Jenkins Mr Hugh Jenkins , Wandsworth Putney

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of recent evidence that action by United States forces in Vietnam has killed, wounded or burned many children, he will dissociate Her Majesty's Government from napalm and phosphorus bombing in Vietnam.

Photo of Mr Edward Leadbitter Mr Edward Leadbitter , Hartlepools, The

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what recent steps he has taken to dissociate the United Kingdom from the United States of America's official proposal to continue bombing North Vietnam.

Photo of Mr George Brown Mr George Brown , Belper

I have nothing to add to the Answer given by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) on 16th March. [Vol. 743, c. 143.]

Photo of Mr Hugh Jenkins Mr Hugh Jenkins , Wandsworth Putney

But is not my right hon. Friend aware that the weight of the weaponry deployed by the United States in Vietnam is now so great as to make the genocide of the civilian population almost an accepted and inevitable part of their activity? Is he not condoning policies which result in the killing and burning of women and children, and is he not himself in danger of becoming an accessory to the crime if he continues to condone it?

Photo of Mr George Brown Mr George Brown , Belper

I would not even bother to reply to the accusation at the end of that supplementary question. On the first part of it, I repeat what I have said to my hon. Friend and others many times. All of us deplore all the murder and suffering which is going on in Vietnam today, and should be doing, as I trust I am doing, what we can to bring it all to a halt.

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that over the weekend there was yet another incident in which innocent civilians were killed by the actions of the United States in bombing their village? Is not this repugnant to the whole of the civilised world? Will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to represent to the United States Government the disgust of the British people at action taken against civilians in South Vietnam?

Photo of Mr George Brown Mr George Brown , Belper

One cannot have wars without killing taking place, some of it deliberately and some of it accidentally. I am in favour of not having wars, and I address this view to North Vietnam, to South Vietnam, and to everybody else concerned.

Photo of Mr Edward Leadbitter Mr Edward Leadbitter , Hartlepools, The

Would my right hon. Friend understand that there is a great deal of anxiety in this country and throughout the world about the kind of war which is going on in Vietnam? Whereas both sides of the House understand the complexities, it is important that the opinion of Her Majesty's Government should be impressed on Mr. Johnson, the President of the United States, that there is a point beyond which there can be no return. We must impress on him that the suffering and loss of life must be controlled.

Photo of Mr George Brown Mr George Brown , Belper

There is a great deal of anxiety, which I share to the full. I do not believe that addressing that kind of remark to one of the parties will help to bring the suffering and our anxieties to an end.

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Woolwich East

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, whatever may be felt about the actions of the United States leading to the present tragedy in Vietnam, the recent publication of correspondence between President Johnson and Ho Chi Minh goes a good way to vindicating the attitude of Her Majesty's Government to American bombing?

Photo of Mr George Brown Mr George Brown , Belper

I am very much obliged to my hon. Friend.