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Volume 721: debated on Monday 22 November 1965

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will seek fresh consultations with the United States Government in an attempt to secure a peaceful settlement in Vietnam, following their rejection of the offers of the Hanoi Government to meet them at Rangoon for negotiations.

We are in constant consultation with the United States Government about the prospects of negotiations on Vietnam, but the obstacle to these comes from North Vietnam and not from the United States.

Could my right hon. Friend confirm that the Hanoi Government have made several offers to negotiate during the past year or so, all of them rejected by the United States Government, for whatever reason, on my right hon. Friend's own admission? Secondly, will my right hon. Friend, in the light of this, explain to the House how he was misled into telling the S.E.A.T.O. Council in May that so far Peking and North Vietnam had contemptuously spurned all ideas of negotiations and why he subsequently said the same thing to this House?

It has been made clear now by the explicit statements of the United States Government that they are prepared to enter into unconditional discussions. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That was made clear some time ago and has been reiterated very recently indeed. That is still the position of the Government of the United States. It is still unhappily the position of the Government in Hanoi that they are not prepared to enter into discussions.

Was the right hon. Gentleman aware of this reputed offer from the Hanoi Government and of the conditions imposed by the Hanoi Government before Her Majesty's Government established the Commonwealth Peace Mission?

Is my right hon. Friend saying that the United States Government failed to inform Her Majesty's Government of these peace negotiations by North Vietnam? Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the initiatives taken by Roumania and view these favourably in the coming months?

The episode referred to occurred before Her Majesty's present Government were in power. As to the moves from Roumania and elsewhere, I am constantly looking out for any method from any quarter that will enable us to get negotiations going, and whether it comes from Roumania or elsewhere if it can lead to negotiations we shall be glad of it.

Is it a fact that North Vietnam stated the conditions for negotiations to the French Government in May of this year and Her Majesty's Government were informed by the French Government or the United States Government of this approach?

All these statements on negotiations have required as a condition the withdrawal of United States troops and that is an impossible thing as a precondition to negotiation.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the Foreign Secretary's reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek other ways of raising the matter in the House.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what discussions he had with U Thant on his recent visit to New York about fresh overtures to end the war in Vietnam.

None, Sir. The Secretary-General is already well aware of Her Majesty's Government's views and I regret that there have been no new developments which would have made it useful to hold fresh talks.

Does not my right hon. Friend think that the revelations made about United States policy in the last week or so constitute a very important new development? In view of his apparent admission, in reply to an earlier Question, that the British Government were never informed about the previous approach by the North Vietnam Government, which was passed on by U Thant to the American Government, does not my right hon. Friend think that that also raises a new situation? Does not he appreciate the very deep concern felt about this, in particular because of the apparent refusal of the Americans to offer unconditional negotiations as they had purported to offer?

It is clear that the last part of my hon. Friend's remarks will not stand up to examination. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] The United States is prepared to enter into unconditional discussions on this matter. As for widespread concern, we have all been feeling that for some time, but Her Majesty's Government position is well known. I am willing at any time to join with Mr. Gromyko in recalling the Geneva Conference, and the Commonwealth Mission is ready at any time to go to Hanoi. If anyone can help us in realising either of these two objectives I shall be extremely glad.

In view of recent reports from Washington that there is pressure upon the President to extend the bombing operations to Haiphong and Hanoi and the dam which supplies necessary water to a wide area, will my right hon. Friend now look into the future in his negotiations with Mr. Gromyko and make precise proposals that the bombing operations should stop and that the President should now agree, whatever he did in the past, to negotiate with the National Liberation Front in South Vietnam and with Hanoi in order to bring this grievous and cruel war to an end?

I have repeatedly urged on Mr. Gromyko the steps which we could take as representing the two co-Chairmen to bring this war to an end. My hon. Friend will realise that I cannot very well make proposals to Mr. Gromyko on what action the United States Government might take——

—but we are in constant touch with those who are concerned about this matter. It is quite clear that the British Government have taken a great many steps to try to get negotiations going, and this we shall always be ready to do.