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Se Asia (Defence)

Volume 527: debated on Tuesday 11 May 1954

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51.

asked the Prime Minister what progress has been made towards forming an alliance of, and with. South-East Asian countries.

I have nothing to add to the reply given yesterday by my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State to Questions on this subject.

Surely the Prime Minister can do something to clear up the confusion which now exists? Does he not know that in Washington they think that considerable progress has been made and that in London they think that none whatever has been made? Can he not say something about this?

No, Sir. I was not aware of any confusion on the subject. If that is my impression, I might only do harm by entering into the discussion.

Yesterday the Minister of State said in the House that discussions were not taking place on this matter, but he said that conversations were taking place. This morning "The Times" reports that discussions have taken place with the New Zealand, Australian, British and Siam ambassadors in Washington. Will the right hon. Gentleman issue a glossary of international diplomatic terms to enable us to decide what is the difference between conversations, discussions, negotiations and talks?

After all, a Government lasts only for the period of a quinquennial Parliament, and the glossary of diplomatic terms has grown up by usage and practice, and Parliamentary practice, over a very long period. We should think very carefully before we attempt to tie our hands in a rigid fashion in these matters.

Is the Prime Minister aware that on 28th April the acting Minister of External Affairs in New Zealand said that, in addition, 10 countries, including the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand, had agreed to take part in talks aimed at establishing an effective defence of that region, namely, South-East Asia? Will the Prime Minister tell the House whether what the acting Minister of External Affairs in Australia said was true or untrue?

Was it the acting Minister of External Affairs of New Zealand or Australia?