Before calling the Foreign Secretary, perhaps I may announce to the House that I have selected the Amendment standing in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Could you give further information on your failure to select the other Amendment, which stands in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Newens) and the names of many other hon. Members?[Line 6, leave out from "bases" to end and add "condemns the decision of the United States Government to bomb installations in Hanoi and Haiphong, with the inevitable heavy loss of life involved; recognises that this grave extension of the war is the direct consequence of the misguided policies pursued by the United States Government throughout this conflict; and calls on Her Majesty's Government to dissociate itself completely from these policies so that Great Britain can play a positive and effective part in bringing about a peaceful settlement".] Are there not precedents whereby such an Amendment, which represents obviously a substantial body of opinion in the House, should have an opportunity of being discussed and voted upon in the House? Is it not also the case that it would be possible for the Chair to select not only the Amendment which the Official Opposition has proposed, but also the Amendment which stands in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Epping so that a vote could take place on both these questions? Our Amendment represents a substantial body of opinion in the House which will not be represented if it is not selected.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for putting the point so succinctly. As he and his hon. Friends will know, he came to me last night and made representations very carefully on the lines that have been made to me now. I have given very careful consideration to all the points which were raised last night and I thought that I would make an observation or two.First, I recognise the intensity of the political feeling which today's debate may involve. The Speaker shares with every right hon. and hon. Member a knowledge of the gravity of this day's debate, but as Speaker I cannot allow my knowledge of Members' political feelings to influence me in applying the rules of the House to selecting Amendments. I thought that it might help new hon. Members and refresh the memories of older hon. Members if I explain what will happen today. The business today is decided not by myself, but by the Government, who have tabled a Motion. The Official Opposition have both a right and a duty to express a view on any proposal put before the House by the Government and in pursuance of that duty have tabled their Amendment, which I am selecting. The course of the debate will run as follows: after the Government mover has sat down, the Question on the Motion will be proposed to the House. The Official Opposition Amendment will then be moved, to leave out certain words in order to add certain other words. I shall then propose a second Question from the Chair, that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question. If that Question is decided in the affirmative, it is impossible, under the rules of the House, to move any other Amendment. The only remaining issue to be decided will be the main Question, on which, if necessary, a vote will be taken. The Chair cannot, of course, foresee events, but I have to have regard to the balance of probabilities. Assuming that the Official Opposition Amendment was eventually disagreed to and we come then to vote on the main Question, hon. Members will still have had the opportunity tonight of voting in four different ways: first, for the Opposition Amendment or against it; secondly, for the Government Motion or against it. Hon. Members who have supported the other Amendment on the Order Paper which I have not selected should be able by their votes in one or other of these four directions sufficiently to indicate their views—[Laughter.] Order. These are serious matters. As I was saying, they should be able to make their views known and their position clear both to the House and to the country generally.
Order. I express the hope that, with a long and important debate before us, we do not spend much time on points of order on a decision which: he Chair has made and which the Chair is entrusted to make.
I have no intention of submitting an argument to you, or interfering with the prerogative that Standing Orders lay upon you to apply according to your own decision. But I want to point out that the questions which are to be discussed today are, I suppose, the most important questions which have arisen in the House for many years. In the result, when one pays the closest possible attention to everything that you have said, we have the rather fantastic situation that, at the end of the day, there will be no opportunity whatever for a single hon. Member to vote for the Amendment standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Newens) although a very large number of hon. Members would like to vote for it.Is it not a little peculiar that the House of Commons, at this time of day, should be stultified by its own procedural rules into not being able to discuss and vote upon the things which it wishes to decide?
I am afraid that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) has done just what he said that he would not do—he has questioned the selection. It is a matter of cold fact that when an Amendment is not selected, nobody can vote for it. The position is that the selection must be as I have said.
Further to that point of order—[HON. MEMBERS: "It was not a point of order."] Further to that question, then. There is a more important general question which arises from your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, and I wonder whether you would be pre-pr red to elucidate it a little further. In any case where the Government table a Motion and the Official Opposition put down an Amendment to it, within our rules of order it is impossible for any minority within the House to express its own point of view by means of a vote. Is that the effect of what you have just told the House?
I would not rule that generally. There are all kinds of situations in which Motions appear on Order Papers. To take a simple example, the debate on the Queen's Speech lasts over a number of days. I am simply saying that in this case my duty is quite clear. It is to select the Amendment put down by the Official Opposition. That does not debar hon. Members from expressing the views—and I suspect that they will be expressed—which lie in the Amendment which I have not selected. I hope that we can now proceed.
I beg to move,That this House, deeply anxious to see an end to the cruel war in Vietnam and recalling Her Majesty's Government's repeated urgings that all parties concerned in the dispute should enter into negotiations to stop the fighting and achieve a settlement which would enable the peoples of North and South Vietnam to determine their own future and which would ensure that the whole country became neutral without foreign troops or bases, approves Her Majesty's Government's determination to pursue their efforts to promote the unconditional negotiations already accepted by the United States but so far rejected by North Vietnam; and endorses Her Majesty's Government's announcement on 29th June of its decision to dissociate itself from the bombing of oil installations in the Hanoi and Haiphong areas. The Motion is entitled "Vietnam", but we are all aware that other and wider issues are involved, that this is not a question only of a war between countries, but that we have also, for example, to consider questions of social organisation and social justice in Vietnam itself and to place the struggle in Vietnam in its position in South-East Asia and in its position in world politics as a whole. With these matters, without delaying the House unduly, I shall endeavour to deal. It is apparent from the Amendments, and from things which have been said elsewhere, that those who criticise or oppose the Government's views expressed in the Motion do so from many different standpoints. There are some who attack the Government because of their recent statement dissociating the Government and the country from a particular act by the United States. There are those who demand the complete dissociation of the country from the policy of the United States. I shall ask the House to consider what merit and what weight of argument there is in those criticisms, and I hope to justify the position which the Government set out in the Motion. But, certainly, the opening words of the Motion will command everyone's assent, for we are all anxious to end the cruel war in Vietnam. I want, first, to say certain words about this cruelty. The cruelties which follow inescapably from aerial bombardment have received widespread publicity. In a world where there are opportunities for communication of facts and of knowledge, it is inevitable and right that that should be so, and the cruelties which follow inevitably from aerial bombardment have a terrible and spectacular nature about them which particularly commands the attention. Citizens of countries which experienced aerial bombardment during the war react to them in a manner which is natural and inevitable. But it is of great importance, if we are to take a proper view and form a proper judgment of this matter, that we should realise that the cruelties which have occured in this war are not confined to those which follow inevitably from aerial bombardment, that there is a long story of the most merciless cruelty carried out by the Vietcong over a long period of years. I mention this partly because, as I say, so much publicity has been given to the effects of aerial bombardment that we must bear these facts in mind if we are to have a balanced view. I would certainly not suggest that anyone among the Government's critics who demands complete dissociation from the United States, or anyone who expresses sympathy for the Vietcong, is, therefore, to be regarded as approving or rejoicing in this sickening sort of Vietcong cruelty; and I therefore trust that it will not be suggested that those who believe, as we do, that the general line of United States policy has been right are to be regarded as enjoying the cruelties which spring from aerial bombardment. We ought to remove this kind of consideration from the argument altogether. The cruelties are there, some inevitable if war is waged at all, some deliberately and mercilessly inflicted apart from the ordinary operations of war. But the more we think of these cruelties, the more we should be determined to get the war stopped. I am not speaking here merely in general terms. As far back as 1960, the number of persons, quite apart from operations of battle, being murdered or abducted by the Vietcong was running at 6,000 a year. By 1965, it was 9,000. In the first half of this year, it was more than 5,000. It is important to notice who these victims were. Not only were they civilian and unarmed, but they were particularly people who held any kind of governmental position, or position of authority in their villages. The aim of the campaign was to disrupt the machinery of government by filling everyone with so much dread that he dare not take on a responsible position, and so perished village headmen, agriculturists sent by the Government in South Vietnam to advise farmers on their crops, administrators of the land reform scheme. This is the kind of situation in which the Government of South Vietnam have been operating for at least the last six years. We must bear this in mind when criticisms are made—and criticisms can certainly be made—of the Government in South Vietnam. We have heard it argued, for example, that it was a justification for the flaming up of hostilities again in 1960 that the Government of South Vietnam had not proceeded with proper social reforms and was not establishing social justice, but is the process of murdering everyone who is engaged in the business of government a way to end social injustice? These are the considerations which one must have in mind.
I have no doubt at all that these terrible things happen, but, just to attempt to judge how much weight to attach to these detailed charges, can my right hon. Friend say what are the sources of this information?
It comes from people who have observed these things on the spot and have reported them. It comes from sources available to the British Government. I do not think that my hon. Friend, if he studied this matter at all will really doubt that this kind of thing is happening. It is happening not only in South Vietnam, but in some of the neighbouring countries as well.
If my hon. Friend is not questioning this, then I do not think that we ought to consume the time of.he House further.
I only wanted to know the source.
I must mention these matters further, because this kind of situation throughout Vietnam is one of the events that makes it impossible, at present, for the Geneva Agreements to be fulfilled. Another matter which will command wide general agreement is that we should, if it is at all possible, seek a settlement on the basis of the Geneva Agreements.But the Geneva Agreements require, for example, that there should be no foreign Powers in Vietnam. They also require that North and South should refrain from attacks upon each other. Here again, if we are to keep the balance we must remember that there are 14 full regiments of North Vietnamese forces now operating south of the 17th Parallel. Further, the Geneva Agreements required that the people of Vietnam should be able to express a free choice as to their form of Government for the future. This, also, is impossible while the fighting continues. Whichever way we look at this matter, the more anxious we are to stop the cruelties on either side, the more anxious we are to see the Geneva Agreements honoured, the more we are driven to the conclusion that the first thing we must try to do is to get the conflict stopped. On what basis, or looking towards what solution, could it be stopped? I have answered this question on several occasions in the House, and to summarise the earlier replies that I have given, I would say that we want to see the conflict stopped so that a situation can emerge in which the people of Vietnam, North and South, with their country freed from foreign troops and bases, can, by their own free choice, determine their future. Again, I hope that this will be something which will command general agreement in the House. I am sure that it is the result that we all hope and desire will emerge.
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether a Vietnamese regiment is what we would call a battalion or a brigade?
I think that it is more comparable with what we would call a battalion.The basis of settlement should be that the people of Vietnam, in North and South, with their country free from foreign troops and bases, should be able to determine their own future. If that is the basis which we want, we must notice. first, that that result could not be achieved by outright Communist victory, because the Communists in North Vietnam have made it clear that in their view the future of the country must be settled in accordance with the wishes of what is called the Fatherland Front in the North and the National Liberation Front in the South. In their view, the Communists alone are to determine the future of the country. If a victory of that kind occurred one could not have the solution which I believe all of us desire. It seems that those who say that Her Majesty's Government should completely dissociate themselves from the whole of American policy should ask themselves this question: is it their desire that here and now all American forces should leave the country?
It is not my desire, or that of other hon. Members who take my view, that that should happen at all. We have never said so. At the end of a process of peace-making when the Geneva Agreements are implemented, then all foreign troops should withdraw—but not before the peace conference.
I am glad to hear my hon. Friend say so. I am entitled to say that it has not been stated quite so clearly before.
I think that I am entitled to say that, and if that is my hon. Friend's position it does not differ from that of the United States Government. If there are any who demand immediate United States withdrawal, they must recognise that the result of outright Communist victory is not consistent with demanding the fulfilment of the Geneva Agreements.
I cannot give way. [HON. MEMBERS: "Give way."] My hon. Friend must remember that this is a complex story and one must try to see the whole argument set out. The House will agree that I am generally very ready to give way. I have done so several times already in a very short space of time, but it is necessary to continue.The basis which I have set forth is the one on which we could get, and, I believe, ought to get, a settlement which cannot be achieved by immediate American withdrawal or by outright Communist victory. This is the settlement which the President and the Government of the United States have made clear repeatedly they are willing to accept. If anyone doubts that—
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is quite impossible for some of us to hear the speech of the right hon. Gentleman.
Order. I was about to intervene myself. I hope that we are going to debate this profound and moving issue by debate and not by noise.
I was saying that this basis of settlement, which all believe to be right, and which the Government have repeatedly put forward, is one which has for long been accepted by the Government of the United States. That was made clear in a speech made in April last year by President Johnson, and which has been made clear on at least eight occasions since then. I have not counted the full record.I have considered the attitude of the United States towards fulfilling the Geneva Agreements, and their attitude and ours has always been that we should seek a settlement on the lines of those agreements. What about the position of the Government of South Vietnam? I know that criticism both of American action and of the view and policy of the British Government has too often been concentrated upon the defects of the Gov- ernment of South Vietnam. At present, one has in that country a number of groups who have been expressing their dissidence, difference, criticism and hostility towards the Government of South Vietnam. It is significant that they have been able to do so on a scale that would not be open to dissidents in North Vietnam. It is important to notice, also, that recently 10 civilians have been added to the military directorate and that the plans for holding elections in September are now going ahead. Here again, it may be asked, what degree of freedom will there be in these elections? We know for certain that differing groups strongly critical of each other are able to express, and have been expressing, their criticisms and have now come together on the basis of preparing for elections. I stress this because it is sometimes suggested that we are dealing in South Vietnam with a purely Fascist Government. It seems to me that people who describe as Fascist a Government. whatever its many defects, in a country in which it is possible for dissident groups to express their views, to parade, to march, to argue with the Government, to be invited to participate with the Government and to join with the Government in preparing elections, must have forgotten what Fascism was really like. We cannot, therefore, try to deal with this matter by pointing out the defects of the Government of South Vietnam. If we are to accept the proposition that because a Government is not a democracy it is, therefore, a legitimate object of aggression, it will be extremely difficult to preserve the peace of the world. But if there are any people in South Vietnam or elsewhere who are hardening against the idea of a negotiated settlement, there is one thing which the Government in North Vietnam could do which might help to persuade them away from that course, and that is to set an example to that when a negotiated settlement is reached it is kept. I believe that one thing which has caused anxiety both in South Vietnam and in the United States about the problems which would arise when one got to the conference table is the sight of what has happened in Laos, where a negotiated settlement was reached and where today North Vietnamese forces are using Laotian territory to help the invasion of South Vietnam contrary to the Laotian agreement; where the International Control Commission is prevented from operating in the Communist-held areas of Laos contrary to the agreement; and where the authority of the Laotian Government is set at nought in the Communist-held areas of Laos, again contrary to the agreement. If we could have, with the help of the Government of North Vietnam, an example set in Laos that agreements of that kind, once made, are kept, it would, I believe, help to remove any danger that opinion might harden on the other side against a negotiated settlement. But, here again, we cannot make progress towards a negotiated settlement until the fighting is stopped. That is why the Motion refers to the efforts of the British Government to get a conference and a cease-fire. I think it right to remind the House briefly and summarily of those efforts. On at least four occasions I have suggested to Mr. Gromyko, my fellow co-chairman of the Geneva Conference, that that conference be recalled. I would draw this particularly to the attention of the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home), because he said in one of our earlier debates on this subject that he believed that it would be through the mechanism of the Geneva conference that this matter would ultimately be settled. He may be right, although I do not think that we should rely on that method alone. But we have certainly not neglected that method. There was the Commonwealth Mission. There were the repeated efforts, on various visits, by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and by my noble Friend, Lord Chalfont, who approached both Russians and North Vietnamese. There were many efforts through several diplomatic channels. There was the occasion when my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance went to Hanoi. I mention these things because I am answering some of the other critics of the Government who, at times, have been very vocal in criticising us for making any attempts to get a negotiated settlement. I think that the House, when it gives its judgment tonight, should bear that in mind. I noticed particularly certain remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition during the election, I think, about the mission of my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance
as the right hon. Gentleman called him, inadequate to end a big war." I noticed a similar sneer from the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) in a newspaper the other day. Let me ask the Leader of the Opposition this: if there were in his party somebody who had held junior Ministerial office and who, for any reasons, was able to get to Hanoi and talk to Communist leaders there, and if there were any chance—[Interruption] No. The hon. Member is quite wrong. I deliberately used the phrase "Communist leaders" because, as is known, my hon. Friend spoke not to members of the Government, but to leading figures in the Communist Party. If there were among hon. Members opposite somebody who had held junior Ministerial rank and who, for any reason, could reach that degree of contact with Hanoi, and if there were the least chance of peace coming from it, would the Leader of the Opposition have told him not to go? The House should know the answer to that type of question. I wonder what line the Opposition, or those of them who have sneered—it is not all of them, because the Opposition have by no means spoken with one voice in this matter throughout the argument—will take about the invitation to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to go to Moscow in the near future? He will, when there, again impress on the Soviet Government our view that negotiations are urgently needed and that the Geneva Co-Chairmen, Mr. Gromyko and myself, have a heavy obligation to South-East Asia and the world to promote negotiations. The moment that there is any sign of Russian willingness to act, I am ready, as I have always been, to discharge this obligation. One of my right hon. Friend's objects in Moscow will be to see whether there is any readiness to give such a sign."A little man".
What reason have we to expect that the Prime Minister will be any more successful than President de Gaulle?
The House has heard me setting out the Government's case. It has now heard some of the quality of the criticism offered. It will be able to judge at the end of the evening. We know perfectly well that every one of the attempts we have made was more likely to fail than to succeed. But that has never been a reason, and it will not be a reason in future, for not trying.There was a letter in the Press the other day from one of my hon. Friends urging that we should use the machinery of the United Nations. We have endeavoured to do so. It is partly through us that the item is inscribed on the agenda of the Security Council. But the reply of North Vietnam has been that this is inappropriate. The reply of the Chinese has been that this is plotting to serve imperialist interests. We notice that all through this process it is the refusal of Hanoi which has made it impossible to come to a conference table. There are some who find this hard to accept. There is, I know, a strong tendency in the human mind to suppose that if a fact is sufficiently unpleasant it cannot be true. In this context, we must avoid that error. Looking through the whole record, there have been over and over again refusals, underlined by the fact that on one occasion, when it was argued that there was clear evidence of Hanoi having made a move forward, it was Hanoi itself which denied that in the most emphatic terms. In particular, what no one can dispute is the tragic error of Hanoi in throwing away the great opportunity of the five-week bombing pause at the end of last year. When every criticism has been made of the South Vietnamese Government, or of American policy, that could be made, it still remains true that the bombing stopped for five weeks and that for a shorter time the ground fighting stopped, and it was not the South Vietnamese and American forces which restarted the ground fighting. During those five weeks, approaches were made from every quarter of the globe to Hanoi and to Peking to seize the opportunity. They may come to regret terribly, as everyone else must do, that they did not seize that opportunity. Mention of the bombing pause brings me to answer the point that is often made, that these attempts to get peace were not successful because the Americans would not stop the bombing. Perhaps up to last December it was possible to believe that. Since then, it has been quite impossible to believe it.
On that very point, is it not a fact that during the period of the bombing pause with which my right hon. Friend is dealing now the American military build-up continued at an increasing rate?
Yes, but my hon. Friend must remember that North Vietnamese forces continued to pour down into South Vietnam all the more easily because the bombing pause was in operation.The original argument was, "If only you will stop the bombing, they will come to a conference." Is it now to be said, "If you will stop the bombing and not send in reinforcements, they will come to a conference"? All the time, it is never Hanoi that says that. It is only the apologists for Hanoi. If Hanoi itself would say it—and I trust that the day will come when it will—then we should be nearer a solution to the problem.
When some of us asked that there should be a stop to the bombing, we meant a stop and not a pause.
If that is what some people meant, I think that that is really what they should have said; otherwise, they run the risk of being misunderstood.If the proposition is—
We did say so.
If the proposition—
We did say so, at the Labour Party conference.
Order. The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) must contain himself.
There was, further, the suggestion that our efforts would have been more successful if they had been accompanied by a complete dissociation from American policy.Let us look for a moment at what has happened to the efforts of those who have dissociated themselves from American policy. There was the appeal made jointly by President Tito and the late Mr. Shastri. It is not suggested here, I hope, that they are the tools of American imperialism. But North Vietnam said that their bad motive was undeniable, and China said that they were the servants of United States imperialism. There was the appeal from the 17 nonaligned nations. They were told that they were catering to the interests of United States imperialism. There was the initiative of His Holiness the Pope, who was told that this was part of a gigantic peace talks fraud. There was an initiative by the Indian Government, who were told that this was a new plot to serve United States imperialism. But I am glad to say that India has not been discouraged by that. I understand that the Indian Prime Minister is at this moment announcing a new Indian initiative, and I undertake to study it at once with every sympathy and hope. From the advance report that I have had, I can say that it is an initiative that Her Majesty's Government will welcome. In the light of those considerations, the Government hold to the view that our task is both to go on seeking a peaceful solution and to give our general support to those who are willing to negotiate. We believe that it is important to do that, because of the dangers involved. I said at the outset that I would refer to the world aspects of the problem. We believe that military action taken in Vietnam ought not to be assessed merely by possible military results, but, among other things, by virtue of certain dangers to the world situation that it may contain. It was because of that, in part, though only in part, that we thought that we must dissociate ourselves from the American action in Hanoi and Haiphong.
No, I will not give way. I shall be concluding shortly.
I wish to make only a brief point, and it is relevant to what my right hon. Friend is now saying. Does he suggest that he would regret one-tenth of the dirty American war in Vietnam, while supporting the other nine-tenths? That is really the position that he is stating.
I ask my hon. Friend to cast his mind back to what I said at the beginning of my speech. I do not believe that it helps the argument at all to say that someone who disagrees with my hon. Friend on Vietnam is supporting a dirty war. I could say that to anyone who disagrees with me, as readily as anyone could say it to me. As I pointed out, the war is a dirty and horrible business, but it is not right to suppose that one side ought to abandon its position completely to the other. I have really argued that already.When we speak of dangers, I want to draw the attention of the House to this. As the House knows, I have recently come back from the other side of the world, where people sec things in a slightly different proportion. To take that whole immense range of countries, India, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and our Commonwealth partners, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand, they are countries which vary very greatly in their politics and in their social and economic structures. But all of them watch the situation with anxiety. Some of them fear that in the future they may be subjected to aggression. Some of them fear that they may be subjected to civil disorder instigated from without. Some of them fear both. However, their fears and anxieties are not directed towards the United States. They are turned in a very different direction. We have to remind ourselves, therefore, that if we were to pursue a line of policy which meant the abandonment of Vietnam, it would mean a success for Communist aggression, and it would mean a very dangerous lesson for the whole of South-East Asia and perhaps for the affairs of mankind. I want now to pursue a point which I made a little earlier. Great as are the issues which hang on this, even so, when one considers particular military actions, one has to take into account both the need to prevent the success of aggression and the need to keep the door open for peace. When we considered the American action in Hanoi and Haiphong and weighed up such military advantage as there might be in it, the possible effects on the lives of innocent people and the possible effects in hardening opinion among those who, it may be, we shall need to help us promote a settlement in the future, everyone felt it right to make this expression of dissociation. It may be argued that we are saying to the United States, "Please wage war with moderation", but before anyone dismisses that as an absurdity must we not recognise that in the world in which we now live this must sometimes be done, and has been done? The conflict in Indonesia, mercifully, never approached the Vietnam war in scale or horror. But there is one important lesson to be drawn from it. I believe that one reason why events are now progressing well there is that, while we kept up the necessary resistance, we were careful not to inflame the situation. Even in the far more terrible and serious conflict of Korea it was well understood that there were certain actions which, on a strictly military basis, if one had been concerned only with military victory, one might have said that it was right to carry out, but from which there was pm-dent restraint because of wider considerations. Hon. Members must weigh whether our judgment was right upon this matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "It was wrong".] For those who say that it was wrong particularly those like the Leader of the Opposition, who has seen fit to say it in rather offensive terms, this question arises: is it the position of the party opposite that it will support whatever the United States Government choose to do? The right hon. Gentleman was asked that question in the Press, and he said that he would not answer a hypothetical question. If the right hon. Gentleman will use, as he did, words like "ratting" about people who disagree with him on this, he should get his own mind a little clearer as to what he would and would not support. Is there any point at which he would withhold support? [An HON. MEMBER: "No point at all."] If he says that there is none at all, I shall be interested to see how many will agree with him. If he says that in certain circumstances there is a point, he might at least have the courtesy to admit that the difference between us is a difference of judgment as to whether that point has been reached. But we still await clarification from the party opposite as to whether or not it is saying that it would support any and every American action. On that, I would say that never has any Government given to another such an assurance, nor could it give a blanket assurance of that kind. And I ask those who criticise us on the other side, who want complete dissociation from the United States, to consider what would be the consequences—I have suggested how this is seen on the other side of the world—of permitting this successful aggression. It is because we believe that both these critical attitudes are wrong that the Government have put down the Motion today. I know that as a matter of argument it is much easier to take an extreme position, to say, "We shall support so-and-so in every possible thing, right or wrong." One does not then have to argue the finnicky details. It is much easier also to say, "We shall condemn the United States root and branch." But that kind of stance, easy as it is to defend by facile argument, is quite useless in the dangerous, delicately-balanced world in which we live today, a world in which we have repeatedly to combine acceptance of the need to resist with the importance of seeking conciliation. That is what the Government have sought to do, and, in my judgment, have done throughout this whole story, and what they will continue to do.
Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down—
Order. I think that the right hon. Gentleman has sat down.
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:
It is true, as the Foreign Secretary said, that this is a solemn debate of major importance. The House expressed its view very clearly last week that it wanted to have a debate, and I believe that the House is right. It is essential that in our procedure we should be able to have these debates at the time when the events happen. We are now so restricted under Standing Order No. 9 that, unless the Government are prepared to arrange a debate, the House is unable to deal with the subject at all. It is farcical to discuss the question of Parliamentary reform, the creation of more and more committees on the home departments, if the House itself is unable to debate on the Floor major matters of foreign affairs and defence at the time the events happen. Here was a case which it was important to debate, because it involved a change of Government policy. The debate today is made more important by the announcement of the Prime Minister's forthcoming visit to Moscow. I listened with great interest to the Foreign Secretary's remarks, and I agree with a large number of them. In particular, the whole House will accept his view that we all share an abhorrence of bombing and modern methods of warfare, and of the acts of cruelty which we know take place on both sides of the frontier in this war. We are united in at least one thing in the House. That is that we want to bring the war to an end in an honourable way at the earliest opportunity. I agree with the Foreign Secretary, also, on what he said about the work which the present South Vietnam Government are attempting to carry through in moving towards elections. Even we never had them in time of war. When I met civilian members of the Government in Saigon, it was apparent that they were trying as hard as they could to carry on the tasks of improving the conditions of the people in almost impossible conditions. The Foreign Secretary remarked on the situation in Indonesia, and gave the reason why events were going well. I do not disagree with him on that, but it is worth asking ourselves whether they would have gone so well if the Communists had already succeeded in overwhelming South Vietnam. I very much doubt it. I do not believe that we should see the situation of stability which is now beginning to develop in Indonesia if that had happened. The Foreign Secretary asked me how far we would support United States policy. Of course, I shall discuss that in my speech, but this debate is on the specific action about which the Prime Minister made his statement at the beginning of last week, the bombing of the fuel tanks. If the Foreign Secretary puts forward a hypothetical case of an action of a quality, degree and scale entirely different from what is going on in Vietnam, it is possible, again in hypothetical fashion, to see that the Government or the Opposition might wish to disagree with American policy. But the important point is that we are dealing with a specific action from which the Government dissociated themselves in an immediate statement last week. The criticism I shall develop is that this was not an action different in quality or degree from the policy which the Government have been supporting and, therefore, to say that they support American policy and at the same time to dissociate themselves in this way from that specific action is not a logical or, I believe, honourable course to follow."recognising the sacrifices which the Governments and peoples of the United States of America, Australia, and New Zealand are making in resisting aggression in Vietnam and deeply regretting the sufferings endured by the Vietnamese people in this cruel war, supports the United States Government in the military measures that they have taken to convince the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong that they cannot win the war, and welcomes President Johnson's unconditional offer to negotiate a peace settlement".
Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?
The hon. Gentleman's row is not with me but with his right hon. Friends.
It is with the right hon. Gentleman this time.
Having listened to the Foreign Secretary and compared what he said with the Government's Motion, one sees that the right hon. Gentleman's speech was infinitely stronger in its content than the terms of the Motion. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to know that the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) and his hon. Friends agree with me. In the Motion there is no mention whatever of supporting United States policy, but the Foreign Secretary went to considerable lengths to support United States policy, and I am glad that he has done so. But the House ought to note the difference between the strength of the language in the Motion and the strength of the Foreign Secretary's speech.I have said that this debate is about a change in the Government's policy in which they now dissociate themselves from the bombing of the fuel tanks at Hanoi and Haiphong by American forces. Their previous position was set out quite clearly in the statement issued from the Foreign Office on 31st January, after the bombing pause. They then said:
That was a clear statement of clear policy and, of course, it was criticised from below the Gangway. At various times since then, the Prime Minister has said that the Government could not support the bombing of centres of population. He will recall that I specifically asked him a question in the House: would he distinguish between the bombing of centres of population and the bombing of fuel tanks at Hanoi and Haiphong? He refused to answer the question or to make a difference between the two. The whole House objects to the bombing of centres of civilian population. But these are—it has not been challenged by the Foreign Secretary—specific military targets. They are, as the Prime Minister knows, two or three miles away from the actual civilian population. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not very far, is it?"] That is agreed. The Prime Minister has seen the maps. He asked for time in the House to refresh his mind on them, and I hope he has now been able to do so. It seemed a strange request to make at the moment of issuing the statement, but he is perfectly entitled to refresh his memory, remarkable though it sometimes is. Does the Prime Minister now agree that these are specific military targets which the United States Forces were entitled to say they were attacking and attacking alone, with the risk of only very small casualties? These tanks—the Foreign Secretary has not said very much about this—were being used to provide fuel for transport taking reinforcements down the Ho Chi Minh trail. Those who have followed this war know perfectly well that one of the major developments of the last few months has been the use of motorised transport down the Ho Chi Minh trail. I understand that the last report of the Control Commission refers specifically to this. We have not been able to see it, of course, so perhaps the Foreign Secretary might advise the Prime Minister so that he can tell the House whether it is, in fact, the view of the Control Commission that there has been a recent and very considerable build-up. I turn for a moment to the specific case of the confrontation between Malaysia and Indonesia. Supposing that British forces had found themselves in the same position in Sabah or Sarawak, supposing that major attacks had developed across the border, and we knew that large reinforcements were being brought up and they had aircraft or vehicles fuelled from supply depots close by, in a similar situation, how long would the Prime Minister have been able to hold out against advice from military chiefs of staff and, indeed, the views of the British public that their forces ought not to be subject to loss of life and attack by opposing forces refuelled and reinforced in that way? I do not believe that any British Government would be able to withstand advice of that kind in a similar situation. In fact, this is not an action of the American Government against the civilian population. I believe that the Prime Minister will acknowledge that. But in dissociating themselves from it, the Government have changed their policy without warning the House or consulting the Commonwealth. Here, I wish to say how greatly we regret that this action was taken without consulting Australia and New Zealand, whose forces are there. As the Prime Minister probably knows, the Prime Minister of New Zealand has made a public statement saying that"Consequently, Her Majesty's Government understand and support the decision of the United States Government to resume the bombing which they had suspended in the hope of reaching a peaceful settlement."
Mr. Holt, the Prime Minister of Australia, now in London, has made his views very clear as well. When a matter of this kind had been publicly discussed for weeks beforehand in the Press, and the Prime Minister must have been able to discuss it with the American Administration, we cannot understand why there was, apparently, no consultation with the Commonwealth on the matter. The Prime Minister has said that, of course, the position of Australia and New Zealand is very different from ours. It is indeed. They have forces actually fighting there, forces which, if I may say so, have been fighting magnificently and have earned the admiration not only of the American forces but of the others in South Vietnam. The Canadians, too, have refused to condemn the bombing of these fuel tanks. So in this matter we are separated from three major countries of the Commonwealth, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. As Australian and New Zealand forces are involved in the battle, is there not all the more reason for consultation with those countries and for considering their interests as well as those of the United States? The Prime Minister said that there was no time to consult them after the actual bombing. Why was it not possible to delay the announcement? As our own Commonwealth forces were involved and there were consequences to them as a result of the opposition which they would meet, would it not have been better if such a statement were never issued at all? We believe this to be a lamentable failure of consultation with the Commonwealth, and it also disregards the position of the Commonwealth forces themselves. It is a matter for the deepest regret."We had no advice from Great Britain on this matter, and one can only presume that Mr. Wilson intended that we should have been informed of this because of the statement he made in the House of Commons".
May we know whether the Commonwealth countries were informed at the time of Suez?
The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that they were. Consultation was carried out with them then, but the Prime Minister has not carried out consultation now. He said so himself, and the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand have both said so. Perhaps we might treat this matter seriously.Let us now consider the reasons which the Prime Minister has given for the Government's dissociation from this particular episode. He admitted that it was difficult to make an assessment, though the Foreign Secretary was much firmer and said that it was possible to make a clear assessment and stated what his was in his speech. First, the Prime Minister said that the reason was the civilian casualties. As this is one of the two reasons he gave for his change of policy, one is entitled to ask what indication the Government had that they would be large, and why this was different from the United States calculation which must have been put before him and the Government. Why did he dissociate himself, if there were these differences, before knowing what the consequences of the action were? What is the evidence of the heavy casualties which has made him dissociate himself from this action? I understand that the Americans claim that the casualties were small. Does the Prime Minister refute this? The House would like to have the information, because it is an essential element in the assessment which both he and the Foreign Secretary must have made. Whatever anxiety they may have expressed beforehand about the dangers of such an action, would it not have been wise at least to wait and see what happened before they dissociated themselves from it on these grounds? The second reason was that it was likely to make an early move to a political solution more difficult. This would be a very important reason to take into account. What justification has the Prime Minister for saying that this is the case? What evidence is there for saying that this action is going to make it more difficult to get a political situation? I was hoping that the Foreign Secretary would deal with this in some detail. I am disappointed that he said nothing about it. He said that he had weighed up the possibility of casualties and the difficulty of a political settlement against the military effects of the action, and decided to dissociate himself from it, but he gave no reason, no indication of his thinking, why this action should make it more difficult to achieve a political settlement. I will give the House my view, which I gave in our debate at the beginning of February. I have always believed that only when the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese are convinced that they cannot win, and are convinced that a conference round the table is sincerely desired and is possible, shall we be able to get a settlement. The first of these, the need to convince them that they cannot win, can only be achieved by military means. To convince them of the sincerity of the President of the United States, and of the possibility of getting a conference round the table, is a matter for diplomatic action, and both these things therefore must be done together. The first need, to convince them that they cannot win, presents both a military and a political problem. The first thing is that the Americans themselves must demonstrate that they are prepared to see this through to the end. [An HON. MEMBER: "What end?"] Until they can convince the Vietcong that they are not going to win.
No. Until the Americans are able to do that, I do not believe that the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese will be prepared to go to the conference table.
I am sorry, but I want to develop this argument. [HON. MEMBERS: "Give way."] No. This is a difficult matter, and I want to mention some of the political problems which arise in this situation, because they are very relevant.First, the Chinese and the North Vietnamese take a long-term view of human events and of human policies. They know full well that the United States is a great nation, a great power with immense resources, and that she is accustomed to quick results. One sees endless examples of this in all her domestic affairs. The Chinese believe that with these two different approaches time may be on their side, and that the Americans, confronted with this task, and confronted, moreover, with Congressional elections in 1966, with the Presidential election in 1968, and with the activities of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, may begin to wilt. The Chinese and the North Vietnamese may well hope that the Americans will weaken in their purpose. Above all, they hope that America's allies will desert. her. This is what they want to happen, and this is why, at this point, I believe that the action of the Government in dissociating themselves from this episode was damaging. It is of vital importance that the Chinese and North Vietnamese should realise that this is going to be seen through. In that connection I want to take the Prime Minister up on his offer at Question Time the other day to state simply and clearly what is the Government's policy about arms for the United States and for the Commonwealth countries which have forces fighting in Vietnam. The whole House believes that there are many contradictions in the Government's policy. The Government support the fighting, and were doing so up to the point of bombing the fuel tanks, but apparently they are not prepared to provide the means for this. I do not believe that the argument about the co-Chairmanship is valid, because it is well known that the other co-Chairman, Russia, is supplying arms to the opposing forces. The second contradiction, as we heard it from the Secretary of State for Defence, is that the Government will not ban arms to the United States, but they will not sell arms to them if they can be used in Vietnam. Therefore, the United States presumably cannot know what the Government are and are not prepared to sell them. In a critical situation like this, how can the Government hope to carry through their policy of offsetting the costs of the F111 with arms sales when it is difficult for the United States to know what they can use if they cannot use them as the war goes on in Vietnam. I therefore ask the Prime Minister to clarify this and to deal with it specifically, not in terms of general policy, but recognising that at the moment, as the answers stand on the record, they are riddled with contradictions and need clarification urgently. I should like to deal with the constructive side of this—what the Government ought to do. I believe that the Government must not weaken the position of the Commonwealth and of the United States in Vietnam. They must do everything possible to ensure that America will see it through. This means being prepared to deal with them on the question of equipment which is required for the purpose. Nor do I believe that it is a logical position to take up that they will supply defensive equipment, radar, radio, arid so on, but no other form of equipment, because in modern warfare it is almost impossible to distinguish between the two. Secondly, the Government must show that an unconditional conference to obtain a peace settlement is immediately possible, and demonstrate that the United States President is sincere in his declaration, as I believe he is. This brings us to the question of a political solution and the Prime Minister's visit to Moscow. I understand from the Press, which is very reliable in these matters, that the House knows of this visit by courtesy of the first edition of the Morning Star which announced:
The full story of what happened is related in The Guardian today, which said:"In today's Parliamentary debate on Vietnam, Mr. Wilson plans to announce his Intention of visiting Moscow shortly to talk to the Soviet Prime Minister, Mr. Kosygin."
He was headed off by the Communist news paper the 'Morning Star' (better known by its old name the 'Daily Worker') which carried a story in its early edition this morning declaring that Mr. Wilson was planning to announce a visit to Moscow during the Vietnam debate. There followed a period of gobbling confusion in Whitehall which was only resolved by the publication of the Downing Street announcement. In spite of this modest setback, the trick remains Mr. Wilson's. Though played prematurely, his trump card is likely to have an electrifying effect on today's debate. Mr. Wilson is not a man to eschew a move simply because it is clever." We all know that. This trump card is to have an electrifying effect on the debate, according to the Press, but not quite so electrifying as if it had been produced during the last five minutes of the Prime Minister's winding-up speech, which is the technique to which we have become well accustomed. Then he could have got his vote, and winged his way to Moscow, the whole Left-wing being bemused, and the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale and his friends mentally flapping along with the Prime Minister like a group of old crows. The young eagles are the supporters—we must be quite clear about this—and the old crows are below the Gangway. [Interruption.] I want to deal with this aspect, because it is serious. I must ask the Prime Minister whether he realises what the international effect of such tactics is with an important visit of this kind. It was known yesterday—not announced yesterday, but held up for his own winding-up speech at the end of the debate, and then forced out of him by a leak in the Morning Star late at night. Does he believe that this is the way to make an announcement of a presumably serious visit to Moscow to deal with this situation? Surely he must realise that this at least raises cynical doubts in the minds of observers overseas about what his real intentions are. Secondly, how does his visit fit in with his action in dissociating himself from the American bombing of the fuel tanks? The Prime Minister's second reason for dissociating himself was that it would make it more difficult to get peace talks going. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is true.") If that is true, why does the Prime Minister immediately—as he must have done the day after—put in motion the machinery for starting peace talks again? Either he believes that this is going to make it more possible to get the co-Chairman to work with him or, if he believes that his reason for dissociating himself was that it would make it more difficult, he cannot have very great hopes from his visit to Moscow."All the signs are that he intended to announce his impending visit in the course of his speech today in the Common's debate on Vietnam.
If the right hon. Gentleman is concerned about the really grave issues of peace and the dangers of war here, and not with silly niggling points of the kind he has been making for the last 10 minutes, does he not agree that sometimes, instead of being so clever-clever about this visit to Moscow, there may be a situation when the very urgency—whatever the expectations—requires action? Perhaps he has experience only of starting activities of this kind, and not ending them.
I had experience in ending the Laotian negotiations, which led to a settlement at Geneva. I was at the Foreign Office with my right hon. Friend when this was brought about. If the Prime Minister says that this situation is brought about by the very urgency of the matter, the only thing which could create the urgency is the bombing by the Americans of Hanoi and Haiphong. This is the one hope that he has of persuading the Soviet Union that it should use more pressure to get Hanoi round the conference table. If he succeeds in this it will be because the Americans were prepared to take this action, and not because he dissociated himself from it.Perhaps the Prime Minister should also tell the House whether the invitation to go to Moscow came from Mr. Kosygin, as the Foreign Secretary said, or, as the first reports suggested, the invitation was at the suggestion of the Prime Minister. It is important to know whether the Soviet Union started a peace move or, whether the Prime Minister suggested talks in Moscow. The plain fact about the situation is that we are dealing with what I suppose are the toughest people in the world—the Russians and the Chinese—and with a very tough war indeed. It is a horrible war, and a tough war. What is required in this situation—and what the Foreign Secretary has said that he has been trying to do, and to do assiduously—is to sustain diplomacy continuously and extensively, using every means possible to get the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong round the conference table. I believe the Vietcong should be included. I do not believe that there should be any problem over them. This requires constant action with others, such as the Poles, the Indians and the Canadians—and I know that the Foreign Secretary has been taking action in this respect—in order that the pressure can be continuous upon those concerned in the war to come round the table, having persuaded them that the Americans are serious about the military action which they are taking. I do not believe that it is possible, by individual visits which are bound to be for only a short time, to achieve a settlement of a problem of this kind. It is just not possible; indeed, it may be damaging. It may be dangerous to raise hopes, and it may persuade those with whom we are dealing that we are playing from weakness and not from strength. All these factors require the utmost consideration in diplomatic activity, and that is why I ask the Prime Minister to take these fully into account.
Is the right hon. Gentleman against the visit?
I am not against the visit; I am pointing out that if the Prime Minister is to achieve anything it will be because of the action which has been taken and not because of his dissociation from it.What I suspect is more likely to happen is that Mr. Kosygin will say, "You have dissociated yourself from this action. Very well, dissociate yourself from the whole thing". In that respect, the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale and his hon. Friends are right. That is likely to be the response which the Prime Minister will receive.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that if Britain were to dissociate herself entirely she would then be free to negotiate and help bring about a peace conference?
The Foreign Secretary has dealt with that point fully, and I agree with him. I am afraid that I do not agree with the hon. Member.It is worth noting that in the Laotian negotiations the Soviet Union were able to act as Co-Chairmen because they maintained their influence over the Vietminh, and if they are able to help on this occasion it will be because they have maintained some influence over Hanoi, even if at the moment it is small. With the greatest respect to the Prime Minister and his Administration, I do not believe that they will maintain more influence over the Americans by dissociating themselves from American policy. Nor will the Soviet Union believe that they can maintain more influence. The purpose of diplomacy must be—and I am not satisfied that it is happening—to work out the conditions for the conference itself. I had a long discussion about this in Stockholm with Mr. Rapacki, who was there on a visit, and believe that some other countries are well aware of this fact. It may well be that before the conference can be achieved the bombing will have to cease again. I would be quite prepared to see that requirement. But if that is so there must be safeguards for both sides—which there were not last time—about reinforcements. It was said in an intervention that the Americans were reinforcing. So were the Vietnamese, all the time. They were rebuilding bridges and military installations. It is not enough to say that there should he a conference at Geneva work must be done now on the conditions in which a cease-fire can be achieved, with safeguards for both sides and everybody involved so that they can have confidence in getting round the conference table. There must be provision for verification, and for a continuing cease-fire while the conference goes on. In this I would not exclude the United Nations. I believe that it would be worth while for the Foreign Secretary to study what happened in the Korean War, and the processes which finally moved towards the ceasefire and the negotiations that took place in that war. They went through many of the same sort of experiences which the Foreign Secretary has had recently, but there finally came a point when, at the right time, resolutions were passed at the United Nations. It is noteworthy that the United States has inscribed this item on the agenda. At the right time the resolutions were passed and then, in a broadcast from Mr. Malik at the United Nations, the final proposals were made for the ceasefire and the peace conference. It took a long time—I agree with the Prime Minister about that—and here one hopes that it will not take so long. But it is worth studying the processes that we went through at the United Nations at that time, which finally led to the broadcast and to the proposal—which was accepted—the cease-fire and then the conference. Then it is necessary to work out the form of settlement which is possible. I am not certain that much has been done on this. As the Foreign Secretary said, it is customary to say, "Very well—back to Geneva and 1954." I am not certain that this is the answer, nor does the Government's own Motion carry very much conviction when it calls for
It is impossible to reconcile people determining their own future and prejudging it by saying that they must be neutral. If they are to be neutral, they cannot —[Interruption.]—if neutrality is to be imposed on them, they cannot be determining their own future—[An hon. Member: "What about Austria?"] This was done with Austria because Austria willingly accepted it. The real question at issue now is, after this conflict and the expenditure of life and money, are South Vietnam and North Vietnam prepared just to go back to 1954 at Geneva on a basis of neutrality? This is a major problem which requires grave consideration—"a settlement which would enable the peoples of North and South Vietnam to determine their own future and which would ensure that the whole country became neutral …".
After all, in 1954 Geneva was not signed by the United States or by Vietnam and it was not binding on them—
The right hon. Gentleman may have some other view, but at least it raises doubts about a solution which merely went back to Geneva, 1954.Therefore, I would suggest that, if the Foreign Secretary and the Government are thinking in terms of neutrality, they will have to conceive far more satisfactory arrangements for securing it than we were able to get over Laos. As the right hon. Gentleman rightly said, Laos is not today maintaining its neutrality. That neutrality is being breached by the North Vietnamese reinforcements coming down the Ho Chi Minh trail. If there is to be a solution on this basis, the work must be done to find a more satisfactory way of ensuring neutrality. I believe that much better arrangements must be found than we found in Laos for the withdrawal of the armed participants in this conflict. I say this because I do not believe that, after a war of this length and this cruelty, either the Americans or the South Vietnamese will be satisfied simply to go back to Geneva and the arrangements of 1954. If the countries choose something other than neutrality—some form of independence—there must be some means of guaranteeing it which is satisfactory to both sides. There could, of course, be provision for unification later, but the work ought to be done with the other powers as to how this will be achieved—
This is an interesting point and we are coming to the nub of the problem. Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that what he is saying is, of course, very important, but what began in 1954 and led to 1956 was wholly and utterly destroyed by the attitude of the South Vietnamese in not responding to the appeals to have free elections?
This is a point which has always been argued very strongly and with which the Foreign Secretary dealt, but I do not wish to use my time on either side of this position. What I am trying to deal with is the problems which face us now.The points which I have been raising, I believe, are important. If it is possible, in order to secure a conference, not only to say that it would be unconditional but also to give an indication, as far as possible, of what sort of settlement would be acceptable, this could have an influence on the process of the war and help to bring it to an end at an earlier stage. That is why I am urging the Foreign Secretary, with his allies, to do this work now. I hope that these have been constructive points on the whole question of how to reach a political settlement once it is clear that this is the will of those at the moment taking part in this cruel war. I have indicated, therefore, that we regret the decision of the Prime Minister to dissociate himself and the Government from the recent United States measures, and particularly without consultation with the Commonwealth. I believe that it was not justifiable on the events themselves. I do not believe that the reasons put forward by the Government gave them a justifiable basis for doing it. In fact, I believe that it made nonsense of the Government's previous policy and I believe that their arms policy is riddled with contradictions which must, in fairness to the House and to our allies, be cleared up as early as possible. I believe that, in dissociating themselves as they have done, the Government have affronted our friends and allies. It yet remains to be seen whether they have gained anything from those who are op- posed to us, whether in Moscow, in Peking or in Hanoi. Of course, we hope that the Prime Minister's visit to Moscow will at least give him the opportunity of explaining his Government's view clearly there and of getting the co-Chairmanship into action again. We have constantly urged that, and of course we want to see it in action, because we believe that it is one means, but a very important one, of preparing for a conference when it is possible. We believe that our allies in the United States and the Commonwealth should be supported in the interests of the Vietnamese, of the Commonwealth and of the West as a whole. Also, from my own experiences in January, I believe that all the Asian countries do not want to see an American withdrawal. They do not want to see subversion triumph in South Vietnam. What they do want to see is the war brought to an end and an honourable settlement which will prevent subversion. Every one of them in his heart of hearts knows that this is what he wants. This is a horrible war. We all know this. Those of us who have been in Vietnam have seen the poverty of the people and the squalor in which so many of them still live—
And the American prostitutes.
That one would not have expected to hear. Refugees are trying to rebuild their homes and are helped by young Americans who are prepared to give up their own careers and go there to do it—
Has the right hon. Gentleman read yesterday's Times?
Order. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) must not persist if the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) does not give way.
People flying over the country have seen the villages in which they know that the Vietcong have assassinated the headmen and are tyrannising the villagers—
Prostitution in Saigon.
Outside Saigon, I have seen the training—
—of the South Vietnamese to carry on in the villages some form of government organisation and some form of civilian activity. I have seen them going out after their training to stand firmly against all the challenges they find, at great risk to their own lives.Anyone who has seen that wants to see the war brought to an end as early as possible, but I do not believe that that is enough. We must face the fact that these unpleasant military actions have to be taken and, of course, each one must be considered on its merits. Our argument with the Government is that we do not believe that this was an action which justified the dissociation which they have now made. We believe that we should continue to support the present action of the United States and the Commonwealth in Vietnam, because their policies have not deserved condemnation—
—and that they merit our support in the interests of the Vietnamese—
—and of the Commonwealth and of this country itself—
Order. The hon. Lady and the hon. Gentleman must not persist in interrupting if the right hon. Gentleman does not give way.
I am sorry that the hon. Lady and the hon. Gentleman do not agree with me, but I am entitled to put the view that the policies at present being carried on in Vietnam deserve our support. It is for the support of the Vietnamese and the Commonwealth countries which are geographically so close to Vietnam as well as in the interests of this country as a whole.
I am grateful to the Government for having yielded to the wishes of the House and for having given us this debate. I agree with what the Leader of the Opposition said about Standing Order No. 9 and I hope that early changes will be made. I also agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said about the use of the United Nations and what happened in Korea in 1953. What was done then should, as he proposed, be studied.I disagree very strongly with the Leader of the Opposition about the Geneva settlement of 1954. If there has been a hope of peace in recent years, it is because all the major parties concerned have been making the Geneva Agreements the basis of what they have been proposing for a settlement now. I therefore believe that if these Agreements were now torn up and thrown away, the task of making peace would be incomparably more difficult than it otherwise will be. I will not rehearse again the Government's long record of efforts to bring peace to war-torn Vietnam If they had been in office two years sooner, the course of history might perhaps have changed. They have clung to the essential proposition—which, if I understand them, some hon. Gentlemen opposite still deny—that military force cannot settle the Vietnam question and that only a political solution, freely accepted, is any good. On the basis of long and sad experience in international affairs, I have had the deep conviction these last 10 days that the present crisis is very dangerous indeed, more genuinely dangerous than the Cuba missile crisis of 1962. War is reducing Vietnam to an ugly desert. Its economy and its Government administration are breaking down. Its ancient culture and morality are being submerged. Did hon. Members read the article in The Times yesterday, to which my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) referred, in which it was stated that under the steeply rising pressure of inflation, even the most respectable families in Saigon were being compelled to put their daughters out to prostitution? Could there be a more squalid index of the chaos and degradation that prevails? And now, with the latest form of bombing, we face a true confrontation of the major Powers, with possible disasters at any moment that no one can foresee. How have we reached this crisis? How has the United States, with the highest motives, become involved in this ghastly enterprise? I argued in our last debate that the official State Department history of Vietnamese events in recent years was open to doubt. According to that version, the Geneva Conference of 1954 set up two sovereign States, in North and South, with the 17th Parallel as the international frontier between them. All went well under the South Vietnamese Prime Minister, Diem. The South prospered and was at peace, until the Government of Hanoi started their aggressive war, sending troops, supplies and general staff to destroy the democratic Government of the South and to impose their own tyrannical form of Communism on the unwilling people there. But the history has not been like that. I will not repeat the arguments I used in our last debate. I urged that the real cause of the Vietcong revolt in 1960, of the bitter struggle which has gone on since then, of the stubborn hostility and suspicion of the Government of Hanoi, lay in Diem's repudiation of the elections which the Geneva Conference had ordained for 1956, and in his failure to honour the amnesty promised to the millions of people in South Vietnam who had fought for or who had supported the Vietminh against the French. By those acts, Diem destroyed the whole system on which the Geneva Conference had agreed. When the Internation Commission of Control protested, Diem set a gang of ruffians to burn down their hotel. Having denounced the amnesty, he proceeded to the systematic persecution of those whom he regarded as his opponents—prison, torture, shooting and repression of every form. It was to protect themselves against this savage tyranny that the Vietcong took up arms in self-defence—and the movement was strong and active before Hanoi came in. That view of how the war began, which is vital to our argument today, has been powerfully supported by two different sources since our last debate. A special correspondent of The Times was recently in Vietnam. He wrote on 24th March:
"When the former Vietminh sympathisers again took up arms, spurred on by Diem's campaign of repression, they were fighting an indigenous Government."
The case is strengthened by other evidence. Early this year a group of eminent Americans, lawyers and historians, among them Quincy Wright, presented a memorandum to President Johnson. The memorandum was prepared by professors of law, of international law and of history at the Universities of Yale, Princeton, Cornell, Columbia, Texas and others. They had made the most meticulous researches into the history of events in Vietnam since 1954. Their collective authority was great. They reached the following conclusion:"Spurred on by Diem's campaign of repression"—that is the case I made.
If I insist on this view of what has happened in the last 12 years in South Vietnam, it is because this is the basic explanation of the present difficulty in getting the Government of Hanoi to come to the conference table. That Government are bitterly suspicious because they believe that, with American connivance, they were cheated and deceived in 1954. There is another aspect of this history which is dealt with in great detail in this American lawyers' memorandum. It is the legal rights and wrongs in international law of American policy in the last 12 years. I say at once that I have never doubted that this policy has sprung from a national conviction that American strength should be used to uphold world law against aggression and so to establish a firm basis for permanent world peace. I have never doubted that it is for that high purpose that American soldiers are dying in Vietnam and that the American President, with bitter reluctance and misgiving, is allowing them to die. But these American lawyers raise the question of whether their Government's policy has not gravely undermined the binding force of international law and of the treaties in which so much of it is enshrined. Their covering letter to the President stated:"It is an historical fact that the refusal to hold the elections prescribed by the Geneva Accords, coupled with the reign of terror and suppression instituted by the Diem regime, precipitated the Civil War".
Here is the answer to the Leader of the Opposition on whether the Americans should recognise and feel themselves to be bound by the Geneva Agreements. These lawyers quote the pledge given to the Geneva Conference by the U.S. delegate, General Bedell Smith. In his statement he"For the reasons documented in our Memorandum, the Committee has reached the regrettable but inescapable conclusion that the actions of the United States in Vietnam contravene the essential provisions of the United Nations Charter, to which we are bound by Treaty; violate the Geneva Accords, which we pledged to observe; and are not sanctioned by the Treaty creating the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation."
The memorandum goes on to show that, by General Bedell Smith's declaration, the U.S. Government"… took note of the Geneva Agreements and declared that the United States would refrain from the threat or use of force to disturb them in accordance with Article 2(4) of the Charter of the United Nations."
and that therefore the conflict in Vietnam is a civil war, and not an agression by a foreign sovereign state upon its neighbour. Let me elaborate the point about the Charter by quoting from another American lawyer, once at Harvard and one of the United Nations delegates sent by President Truman. Speaking of Vietnam, Mr. Cohen said:"… recognised that Vietnam was a single nation"
"In recent years there has been an attempt to justify the evisceration of the law of the Charter on the ground that the Charter does not forbid the use of force by one State at the request of the recognised Government of another State to quell a rebellion. Such a libertarian construction of the Charter does violence to the spirit and the letter of the Charter. The armed intervention of one State in the civil war in another State, whether at the request of the established Government or its rival Government, is in fact the use of force by the intervening State in its international relations…. If we continue to accept this abandonment of the basic law of the Charter, requiring all nations, large and small, to seek in good faith peaceful settlement through the processes of the United Nations before resorting to war, we shall have allowed the very heart to be torn from the Charter."
Since my right hon. Friend is an expert on the United Nations Organisation, would he agree that the Secretary-General, on behalf of the United Nations, should now have some part in resolving this dreadful and worsening conflict in Vietnam? Further, would he accept that it might now be better if small Powers rather than great Powers were Co-Chairmen of the Geneva Conference? Could he give the House his view on that proposal?
On the second point, say at once that I have always had grave doubts about this new system of joint great Power chairmanship. It has not worked very well in these Geneva Conferences, in my opinion, and it has worked extremely badly in the Committee of 18, where it has been a formula for deadlock. On the use of the United Nations, I agree with my hon. Friend that the services of the Secretary-General might be of supreme importance. I wish I had the time to elaborate how I think it could be done.I was talking about the legal aspects of the policy of the United States. I have insisted on these legal issues which these eminent American lawyers have raised, because the rule of law in international affairs is, as we all know, humanity's last hope. In view of the supreme importance of the Issues I have raised, I hope that the Government will refer them to the Law Officers of the Crown for their advice. I turn to the bombing. There are legal questions that could be asked about the United States bombing, both of North and South Vietnam; but it is the political and military results of the bombing in North Vietnam that are of urgent significance today—
Before the right hon. Gentleman gets on to this extremely important point, which is the main part of the debate, is he not somewhat surprised not to see a Foreign Office spokesman on his own Front Bench listening to this important debate?
I know that the Prime Minister has been here for some time, and I know the other engagements he has today. I hope, perhaps, that one of his hon. Friends will call some of my remarks to his attention. Incidentally, I may say that I am answering the Leader of the Opposition, and I am very sorry that he has not been in his place for a single moment—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"]—he was not even here for my preliminary remarks, which were addressed specifically to him. Why did the bombing ever start? The Leader of the Opposition told us that it was to stop the infiltration of recruits and arms and ammunition along the Ho Chi Minh trail. There were lots of U.S. generals who told us quickly that it was futile, that it did not check the traffic by a single man or by a single gun. It soon developed into general interdiction bombing—the smashing of bridges, railways, road junctions, and the rest. The other day, Mr. David English of the Daily Express told us something of this interdiction bombing. He had talked last month with the U.S. pilots in Vietnam who were doing the job. One of them said, "We're using planes that cost millions of dollars—the most complex war machines ever developed—to bomb wooden bridges, which by next week will be rebuilt." Another said, "We lose planes, for nothing." They have lost about 1,000 up to date. Other pilots said, "We've got to hit North Vietnam in the heartland to make any impact." That sentence, coming from the American Air Force, should surely give us pause. Who was it who first hit nations in their heartland as a means of making war? President Johnson has not yet hit North Vietnam in its heartland, but he has gone, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Raymond Fletcher) said the other day, from interdiction to strategic bombing. Interdiction bombing, as the pilots told Mr. English has been a total failure. It not only failed to stop the traffic in men and arms, but it induced Hanoi—perhaps compelled Hanoi—to increase the traffic by many times. Mr. McNamara tells us that the trail is now a paved road, constantly enlarged by bulldozers and coolie labour, and that 1,500 lorries pass up and down it every night. New recruits have increased in number by 150 per cent. since last year. The Vietcong have more efficient small arms and they are now getting heavy weapons sent to them by the Chinese. All that is the direct result of the bombing of North Vietnam. The bombing of the trail and the interdiction bombing were a failure, so the President turned to strategic bombing of the oil. And there are hints that, if bombing oil should also fail, other measures will be taken: the bombing of the port of Haiphong, the mining of its approaches, a close blockade of all of North Vietnam by the American Navy. What happens if, when the port is bombed, a Russian ship is sunk—a Russian ship, engaged in legal trading under international law, sunk by the forces of a Government that have not even made a declaration of war? Just a year ago the Prime Minister told the House that
It may be that we are on the eve of that escalation. Let hon. Members read and ponder the statements issued from the Kremlin and Peking, the speeches of Marshal Malinovski and Chou En-lai. Let them remember that General MacArthur scoffed at the warnings given by China in Korea in 1950. He said that they could do nothing they were too weak. His ill-judged blunder cost us three more years of war.
"… this is a war which carries with it the gravest danger of escalation; of extension to the point where we might within a very short period of time, see it extended to become a major land war on the Asian mainland."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th July, 1965; Vol. 716, c. 1134.]
There is another doubt about the latest developments of U.S. policy. In December, 1963, President Johnson, fresh from witnessing the murder at his side of his President in Dallas, said to the United Nations General Assembly:"Doesn't America understand that, regardless of our personal sympathies, Asia is never again going to permit a white man to win a war on our continent."
But now in every speech Mr. McNamara evokes the picture of an arms race which will never end. He exhorts us all to go on building up our armaments against the danger that China will present 20 years from now. He does not ask why China is beginning—by Western standards, very slowly—to prepare for war. He simply evokes the Kaiser's "Yellow Peril" of the past. Are we really to let the arms race run for 20 years, with the certain knowledge that China will be militarised as thoroughly and dangerously as Japan was militarised before the last world war, but with China having seven times the manpower and resources which Japan possessed? There is a cloud of witnesses, many on the Right, who attest that China has no plan for territorial expansion. For many years the Kremlin has been preaching that revolution cannot be exported, and that peaceful coexistence is imposed on every nation by the facts of modern life. True, China is now inciting the Government of Hanoi to stand out against a conference and a negotiated peace, and Hanoi listens. We all regret it. I personally believe that another three weeks of bombing pause would have brought a conference in January last. I wish that Hanoi would now come to the conference table. But we must understand Hanoi's position. As I have tried to put it this afternoon, they feel that they were cheated by the scrapping of the Geneva plans of 1954. They remember their tentative consent to talk in 1963; again in 1964; again in 1965; and how they were rebuffed. Every time the President repeats an offer of unconditional discussions, someone—Mr. McNamara, Mr. Rusk, Mr. Bundy or it may be Air Vice-Marshal Ky—puts forward some condition that Hanoi cannot accept—some condition about the status of the N.L.F. at the conference table, about the ultimate unity of Vietnam, about the neutrality of the country, or about some other vital point. And of course Hanoi will not negotiate while the bombing goes on. They are deeply suspicious, bitterly resentful—as resentful as we were when Hitler was bombing Britain in 1940 and 1941."The United States want to see the cold war end once and for all … The United States wants to co-operate with all the members of this Organisation to conquer everywhere the ancient enemies of man—hunger, disease and ignorance."
Is it not also true that Hanoi would not negotiate when the bombing ceased, and it ceased for over 40 days?
I know something of what happened in the five weeks of the bombing pause. I received some new information from interested countries in the course of the last week-end. I say I believe Hanoi would have negotiated if the bombing pause had been prolonged for another two or three weeks. It is only by opinion—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]—because negotiations were going on which were broken off when the bombing started.
Who was negotiating?
I will tell the hon. Member the source of my information afterwards. I am under pledge not to reveal it here.
Will my right hon. Friend allow me to say that those on this side of the House respect his integrity enough to accept his word?
I am much obliged to my hon. Friend. That is my information.
Can the right hon. Member at least give us the assurance that if he has this important information he is divulging it to the Foreign Secretary?
Yes of course I have given it to the Foreign Secretary and I hope it may be useful. But I add my conviction that, if, after the Baltimore speech made by President Johnson on 7th April last year, after his talk with the Foreign Secretary, when he first proposed unconditional discussions, if then the bombing had ceased even for 10 days, a negotiation might well have happened. The bombing is, and has been, a vital factor in the hardening of the will of the Hanoi Government to carry on the fight.As the long months of war have inflamed the hatreds and the passions, the task of the Prime Minister in acting as a mediator has become more difficult with both sides. But I believe his present moves are wise and right. He has sounded the world alarm about the strategic bombing close to Haiphong and Hanoi. He has said in finally decisive terms: "No British troops for Vietnam". He has declared, now and always: "Victory can never be the answer for either side." He has seen the Prime Ministers of France and Australia. He is going now to see the Kremlin. All that is wise and right. I hope that a few days later he will take to Washington a message from Britain, from the Commonwealth, and from the common people of every land—the message that we cannot go on living in this seething turmoil of competing military preparation, vituperative propaganda, constantly repeated confrontations, escalating war. Mankind must call a halt and turn back quickly 'to the law and to the policies of the Charter, which, as its Preamble declares, enshrines the hopes of those who died in two world wars. This is the Prime Minister's date with history, and the House and the nation will wish him well.
The Foreign Secretary made an unusual speech today. He addressed almost all his remarks to his own back benchers. He spent most of his time justifying support of American policy; and with that I fully agree. The House must have been struck by the fact that the Foreign Secretary said hardly anything to justify the reversal of the Government's policy and their decision to dissociate themselves from recent American action. I gained the impression that the Foreign Secretary had very little sympathy with that decision. It was, I believe, dictated, not by any principle of foreign policy, but by domestic party considerations.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it has been the stated policy of the Government over a long period of time that they would dissociate themselves from any action which would involve the bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong?
I will try to deal with those points as I go along. I must not take up too much of the time of the House.We on this side utterly deplore the Government's decision to censure the United States, for that is what they have done, for delivering a counter-attack upon a perfectly legitimate military target. We consider that Britain should continue to give the Americans full moral support in their resistance against aggression.
I said "moral support". Nobody is suggesting military intervention. That is not the argument.There are many good reasons for backing the Americans. The principal reason is that we cannot afford to allow any further extension of Communist military power anywhere in the world, whether it be Russian or Chinese. That is why Britain is a member of a chain of defensive alliances which stretch around the globe—N.A.T.O., LENTO, and S.E.A.T.O. We and other Commonwealth countries joined those alliances, not because of any ideological prejudice, but solely for the purpose of creating a system of collective security against a common danger. The question is sometimes asked: what interest has Britain in South Vietnam? What do we know or care about that far-off land? Some of us remember that Neville Chamberlain adopted much the same attitude in regard to Czechoslovakia at the time of Munich.
Who backed him? You.
The hon. Gentleman has, I think, aimed at the wrong target. Those of us who opposed Neville Chamberlain at that time—there are still quite a few of us left in the House—emphasised that the issue was a much bigger one than the fate of one small country. Nothing less than the freedom of the whole of Europe was at stake. I maintain that the same is true today in Vietnam. This is not just a battle for South Vietnam. It is a struggle for the freedom of the whole of Asia.If South Vienam is to be considered expendable, why should not Laos, Cambodia and Siam be abandoned in the same way? Are we to allow Communist China, directly or by proxy, to absorb one by one all the countries in this area? And why should it end there? Once South-East Asia has been over-run, what chance is there for Malaysia or for Singapore? What hope is there for Burma? What would be the effect upon India if she became threatened by China, not only from the North, as she already is, but from the East as well? How long would it take the Chinese to subvert or subjugate Indonesia, whose chain of island territories reaches right to the doorstep of Australia? We must draw he line somewhere. At some point or another we must say, "So far and no Further."
I would like to develop my argument. Many hon. Members wish o speak. The Americans decided to make a stand in Vietnam. I am sure they were right, because, if you decide to resist, the sooner you do it the better. If Vietnam had been allowed to fall without a fight, the task of defending the other countries would have been incomparably more difficult, both militarily and psychologically.We should also bear in mind that Vietnam's neighbours, who would be next on the list, are members or associate members of S.E.A.T.O. If they were attacked, the British Government could not just sit back and criticise the Americans. Britain and her fellow allies would have to go to the defence of those countries—then it would be a question of military support—or, alternatively, justify the Chinese jibe that S.E.A.T.O. is nothing but a paper tiger.
The right hon. Gentleman now says that he agrees with military support. Would he agree that this country should send military support, and is he prepared to advocate conscription for this purpose?
That is the biggest red herring I have seen for a very long time. All I had said was that we were members of an alliance and that our obligations under that alliance would be invoked if a series of other countries were attacked—not Vietnam. Vietnam does not come within the scope of the alliance.Then there is the Commonwealth side of this problem. The present Government have shown themselves ever ready to trim their policies to keep in line with African and Asian thoughts and emo- tions. I am not criticising them for that. But when it comes to Australia and New Zealand, whose troops are fighting side by side with the Americans, the British Government do not hesitate to condemn the conduct of operations which the Australian and New Zealand Governments have unequivocally supported. The Foreign Secretary said that in deciding to reverse their policy the Government had had to weigh two matters. The first was casualties. The second was the effect upon the prospects of a political solution. The Prime Minister in his statement the other day said that the bombing of the oil installations might result in heavy loss of civilian life. Like my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, I want to ask why the Prime Minister did not wait to see whether his fears were justified before reversing his policy. [Interruption.] What did you say?
Order. The right hon. Gentleman must not incite another hon. Member to make an intervention that he was not proposing to make.
The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) said something that I did not quite hear and he usually speaks with great wisdom.Why did not the Prime Minister wait and see whether there were heavy casualties before reversing his policy? His action did not affect the bombing. He could easily have waited. So far as I know, there is as yet no evidence that there have been heavy casualties. Moreover, it is now reported that Hanoi is to be completely evacuated. In that case, the danger of casualties will be reduced to the absolute minimum. If it is confirmed that Hanoi is to be evacuated, will the Prime Minister change his mind? Will he reconsider his hasty decision? That is the test of his sincerity. It will show whether he is motivated by humanitarian or political considerations. Frankly—and this is the occasion for speaking frankly on both sides—I do not believe that the Prime Minister is so much worried by the casualties in Hanoi as by the danger of casualties in the ranks of his own party here in the House of Commons.
The right hon. Gentleman is trying to crawl his way back
I have very little doubt that, but for the attitude adopted by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) and his friends, the Prime Minister would have gone "all the way with L.B.J.". The right hon. Gentleman, in his efforts to excuse his decision, told us that he had warned President Johnson of what he was going to do. I suppose it is nice to be told beforehand by one's friend that he is going to stab one in the back, but it hurts no less when he does it. Nor is it any more excusable.The second argument which has been advanced is that the intensification of the bombing is likely to prejudice the prospects of a political settlement. To a large extent I think that the Foreign Secretary answered his own argument. He told us at considerable length—no doubt in order to impress his hon. Friends—that the Americans had done everything humanly possible to encourage the other side to open talks, that they had shown almost incredible patience and restraint, that for a long time they had restricted their bombing attacks and had twice stopped bombing altogether, and that they had offered to sit down and negotiate without pre-conditions of any kind. He said that there was no helpful response from Hanoi and that if talks had not taken place it was not the fault of the United States. It is, therefore, no good suggesting that, but for the bombing last week, a peace settlement was just around the corner. In my opinion, the stepping up of military activity is more likely to bring negotiations nearer than the reverse. The Foreign Secretary rightly placed importance on the Geneva Agreement and I understand that the purpose of the Prime Minister's visit to Moscow is to try to persuade Russia, as co-Chairman, to agree to reconvening the Geneva Conference. If that is the purpose of his visit, I wish him every success. But, like my right hon. Friend, I ask why the Prime Minister thinks this is a propitious moment for this new initiative. Why does the right hon. Gentleman think the Russians will now be prepared to consider reconvening the conference after they have persistently refused to do so for so long? What new develop- ment has there been which has changed their minds? The only new development has been the intensification of the American bombing in Vietnam. If the Prime Minister thinks that this has made Moscow more favourable to negotiations, may it not perhaps have the same effect on Hanoi? Is it not possible that, when the authorities in North Vietnam realise that they are not going to win by force, they may become more disposed to sit down at the conference table? I cannot foretell what will happen. But it may well be that, before long, the world will be thankful that the Americans have brought things to a head in this way and that the Prime Minister will be deeply regretting his foolish and unworthy decision.
The right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) has made a typically squalid speech. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wandsworth, Central (Dr. David Kerr) remarked, he should work his way back to the Opposition Front Bench instead of trying to crawl back by the kind of remarks he made today about the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. To talk about the Prime Minister as being less concerned with casualties in Vietnam than with casualties on this side of the House is unworthy of any hon. Member and the right hon. Gentleman should be ashamed of himself for making that kind of speech in a very delicate and very serious world situation.My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary defended and justified the position that the Government took up last week. The right hon. Gentleman may not have agreed with the argument, but it is foolish and dishonest of him to say that the Foreign Secretary made no attempt to do so. My right hon. Friend pointed out that it was a matter of judgment as to whether the advantage gained from this escalation of the war would be more than outweighed by the disadvantages resulting from possibly an extension of the war and the intrusion into it of China, with the resulting prospects of a world war. On balance, the Government, rightly or wrongly, came down on the side of limiting the escalation. The logic of the position taken up by the right hon. Member for Streatham and of the rest of the Opposition is that they are prepared to go all the way with the Americans even to the extent of sending British troops.
Who said so?
That is the logic of their position. The Opposition would go all the way, even to the use of nuclear weapons and poison gas. I remind the House that the Second World War was limited in its escalation. Both sides refused to use poison gas. In every war there comes a point when someone has to say, "We shall not use this weapon". Last week I asked the right hon. Member for Streatham whether he was prepared to accept the logic of the situation and the Leader of the Opposition has been asked today if he is prepared to do so. He has steadfastly refused to do so.
In the Second World War we used the atom bomb, and certainly, had Fascist Germany had the bomb, there is every reason to suppose that escalation might not have been prevented.
That may be so, but no side used gas and the important point here is that, even when the war started in 1939, both sides were in possession of extremely lethal gases but neither side used them.
I have a lot to say.The problem which we are discussing.s the most intractable international problem which the world faces, and nobody can be quite sure whether the position which he is taking up is right and whether he has the solution to it. But I hope that there is no difference in the aim of every hon. Member and of everyone in the country—to stop the lighting and to provide a political framework in which the Vietnamese people can work out their own problems in their own way, even if they want a Communist Government. It is their problem, and if that is their solution they have a right to it. There are differences on this side of he House, and I hope that there are differences among hon. Members opposite, because anybody who feels and thinks deeply about these things must put different emphasis on different aspects of the problem and the solutions to it. The first method of dealing with it is the United States method of unremitting escalation of the war, and there is support for that policy by the Tory Party. The Tories have condemned the Labour Party and the Government for "ratting" on the United States last week. At the moment the Leader of the Tory Party is cutting a very sorry and despicable figure these dog days. He is being led by the right hon. Member for Streatham on Rhodesia and other matters. For the Leader of the Opposition no issue is too trivial or too serious for him to resist the temptation to seek to make a bit of party political capital. He is rapidly becoming punch-drunk. His days at the head of his party must be seriously numbered. I return to asking the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home), who is to wind up on behalf of the Opposition, to answer the question: "At what point are the Opposition prepared to say 'No further'?" Are they prepared to go all the way, as I have indicated? I leave that proposition and now turn to the opposition to the Government's policy within our own party, and it is as well to face it. There are the advocates of a United Kingdom policy of outright and unconditional condemnation of the United States. Indeed, when the relevant Motion appeared on Thursday night, or early Friday morning, it came to me in the Library about 3 o'clock in the morning and I read it and refused to sign it on the ground that it was much too one-sided. We get the Trafalgar Square demonstrations, the Hyde Park demonstrations, the marches to Downing Street, the marches to the United States Embassy, telegrams, letters and visits to the United States and elsewhere, all very well organised. I admire the tenacity and vigour with which these campaigns are conducted. But I wish that they would be much more objective than they have been up to now. They are a little one-sided. If there had been a bit more objectivity in apportioning the blame and a more positive approach and the putting of positive alternative proposals, I would have been rather more sympathetic to what the people with these views were trying to do.
I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman.Simply to condemn the Americans and to condemn the United Kingdom Government for not condemning the Americans is not enough. These people might argue—I believe that they do argue, and I hope that I am not being unfair—that if bombing stopped negotiations could begin. Hanoi has never said that; Peking has never said that; but they have said that. The bombing stopped—and negotiations never got off the ground. My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) said that he had evidence that if the cessation in bombing had gone on for another three weeks negotiations would have started. We are entitled to have that evidence. I hope that it is right—[Interruption.]—because if it is it might have some considerable effect on future American policy. It might have an effect if there is sound and irrefutable evidence that that is the case. I do not believe it. If my right hon. Friend has the evidence, he should lay it before the House so that we can see it.
Is my hon. Friend saying that my right hon. Friend is a liar?
No. I profoundly hope that he is right, but if he says on the Floor of the House that he has evidence, we are entitled to know the secret.The second argument which is used is that if United States troops withdrew now from Vietnam negotiations could then start. My hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) interjected in the Foreign Secretary's speech to say that this was not their position. I am glad that it is not, because it would be completely unrealistic. The Americans would never and could never accept it.
I never said that.
I think Hanoi said it.
I think that Hanoi said it.
Order. We cannot argue by running commentary.
On a point of order. The hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) is making provocative statements to Members on this side of the House and doing so in such a way that he is trying to put a case about which he knows nothing himself and is trying to put our case.
Parliament is a place where provocative statements are made.
They are not unknown, Mr. Speaker.A further argument which is put is that the association of the British Government with United States policies prevents or makes less likely the reconvening of the Geneva Conference, that it somehow increases the intransigence of Hanoi and Peking. I do not think that there is any evidence whatever to suggest that that is so. The two things which prevent the reconvening of the Geneva Conference are that the Chinese do not want it—I think that they want America bogged in a land war in Asia, and we in this country have somehow to get the Americans off that particular hook—and, secondly, the Russians dare not suggest reconvening the Geneva Conference lest they be charged by China with playing up to the imperialists of the West. The fact that the United Kingdom is associated with the Americans has no influence whatever on whether the Geneva Conference is reconvened. Another argument is that rejection by the British Government of United States policies would improve our moral stature, that at least we would be able to stick out our chests and hold up our heads and strike a posture of moral propriety. I take the view that the Pontius Pilates of this world make no great contribution to the solution of its manifold problems. We just cannot and should not contract out of them, and nor have we tried to do so. I believe that our Government of all Governments in the world have done more in the last two years to try to solve this problem. But they have received rebuffs from Hanoi and from Moscow and possibly from Washington when the Prime Minister has gone there. They have certainly received them in the House of Commons from the Tory Party, and the Prime Minister has been accused of gimmickry and of gamesmanship and of ratting, in this inelegant phrase of the right hon. Member for Streatham, who has followed the Leader of the Tory Party, and he has been accused of double-talk and all the rest. I hope and pray and I believe that the Government must and will persist in getting the opposing parties round the conference table. None of us can be happy with the senseless bloodshed that is going on in Vietnam at this moment. Let no one in the House doubt the sincerity of any other hon. Member because we disagree with the points they are putting forward. We are all seeking the same objective, and I hope to God that we succeed before long.
As the Foreign Secretary said, I think we can take it for granted that everyone in this House wants peace in Vietnam. I had some difficulty in following the arguments of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) and in making out just where he is working his passage to. But I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he wants peace as does everyone else. But there is a difference. While some of us want peace offering certain guarantees and safeguards for the future, others want to see the war ended by the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of our American allies from Vietnam, with all that that would imply for South-East Asia and for the world.Now I think it is probably possible, according to one's idealogical and political standpoint, to make out a roughly logical case for either of these attitudes. What is much harder to justify, logically or otherwise, is an attitude which stands somewhere between the two, an attitude which might be summed up as, "Half the way with L.B.J.", an attitude which consists of sitting on the sidelines, not to say the fence, at a safe distance from the contest, doing nothing to help, but from time to time yelling unwanted criticism or slinging the occasional half-brick at the side one is supposed to be supporting. This is what the attitude of Her Majesty's Government amounts to. The Prime Minister is very fond of talking about the Dunkirk spirit. I am fortunate enough only to have visited Dunkirk as a tourist on a cross-Channel steamer, and I would hesitate to pontificate about the spirit shown there. What I do know from such fighting as I have been involved in, directly or indirectly, is that it is, for a number of reasons, extremely important to know which side you are on. It is also very important to have what used once to be called "the will to win".
For the simple reason that if you do not have the will to win you are all too likely to lose.
Most hon. Members will acknowledge that there are many people who are at the receiving end of American bullets and bombs who were our allies when North Vietnam was occupied by the Japanese.
They may have been our allies then, but they are not our allies now. The hon. Gentleman is more than 20 years out of date. It also seems to me very questionable whether their motives in being our allies then were really as disinterested as he seems to think.To do them justice, and I am doing my best in this respect, a lot of hon. Gentlemen opposite are quite clear—and the last intervention left no doubt about it—which side they are on. Frankly, and I would say logically knowing their background, they are on the side of the Vietcong and Hanoi and are against the Americans and the Government of South Vietnam. But the attitude of Her Majesty's Government is less clear and less logical. Until recently the main foundations of the Prime Minister's foreign policy—and it is very much his personal foreign policy, although I do not want to detract from any of the achievements of the hon. Lady the Minister of State—were friendship and solidarity with America. But now that this friendship is proving politically more and more embarrassing, the right hon. Gentleman, with that speed of movement upon which The Times commented this morning, is shifting his ground and qualifying and limiting his support. He lives, as the Foreign Secretary said so rightly, in a delicately, dangerously balanced world, and it is coming more delicately and more dangerously balanced all the time. Of course, for the powerful and talented group of hon. Members who sit below the Gangway, this is a most gratifying result. It is what they have been working for, and they are quite naturally following up their advantage by trying to push their Leader into what must seem to them to be a more logical position for a man whom they picked under the impression that they were picking a man of the Left. But what we on this side are concerned with is to get the Government to pursue a policy which is not only logical ideologically, but which also makes sense in present circumstances. And I believe that the Prime Minister's decision to withhold British support for American bombing of key oil storage installations—straightforward key military targets—and, even crazier if anything could be crazier, to ban arms sales to America, makes no sense at all. As The Times suggested this morning, and The Times seems to be unusually sound at the moment, the fact that he has given way to political pressure at home will tend to lessen the weight of his views in Washington. So that, if the Prime Minister wanted in future circumstances to exercise a restraining influence he would be much less likely to be able to do so. What he has done has undoubtedly lessened his influence in Washington. It will certainly not give his views any more weight either in Peking or Moscow, or Hanoi. I was struck by some things said last weekend at Ipswich by the Solicitor-General, and I hope that his remarks will commend themselves as much to hon. Members opposite, both above and below the Gangway, as they did to me. He said:
He went on to say:"No nation has done as much as the United States to defend freedom and relieve poverty."
And I was glad to hear the Foreign Secretary elaborate this. And again:"The question of attacking these targets would never have arisen if North Vietnam had not rejected every effort at mediation."
The Solicitor-General also said, and this, too, struck me as interesting, that the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation was now ending thanks to the presence of British troops in Sarawak and a British base in Singapore. He called this,"The responsibility for the war lies with Hanoi and Peking."
The Hon. Member for Fife, West talks about a policy of unrestrained escalation. It is nothing of the kind. Now I strongly subscribe to all those propositions, and I draw from them two main conclusions: first, that there will be no peace in Vietnam until the Vietcong and the Vietnamese Government have been convinced, as the Indonesians have become convinced in the long run, that aggression does not pay; and, secondly, that we should give our American allies wholehearted support and not carping criticism when they take steps to achieve this end by attacking key military targets. I hope that the Prime Minister's visit to Moscow will be useful. It has certainly served one quite useful purpose already: it has taken the heat off him a bit at home. And in one way he must have been relieved to hear that everything was all right when he opened his early edition of his Morning Star. But I am not convinced that it will do very much to hasten the end of hostilities in Vietnam. However, at least he will be able to compare notes with his hosts on the excesses of the Chinese official Press. After all, it must be almost as galling for them to be told by their Chinese comrades that they are"… an outstanding example of collective security in South-East Asia."
as it is for the right hon. Gentleman to be told that"working hand in glove with the Americans in bombing Hanoi and Haiphong"
This is much worse than anything my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) said about him. And if it does not do anything else it may at least teach both the Russians and the right hon. Gentleman that appeasement does not pay where the Chinese are concerned. A great deal has been made of the dangers of escalation and of bringing China into the war by bombing certain targets. But the Chinese, who are realists, have made it absolutely clear that they have no intention of intervening in this or any other war unless China herself is attacked. The Prime Minister of China himself has said that in an interview with the Press. But to my mind we are threatened with a much more serious danger. Nowadays "to win a victory" has become almost a dirty word—almost as dirty as "to show a profit". But it is only if the Americans do win some decisive victories in Vietnam that we can possibly hope for peace; I think that the speech of the Foreign Secretary proved this as well as anything. To my mind, a far greater and more real danger than that of possible escalation is that if the Americans find they are not getting the support which they deserve from their Allies they may in the long run lose heart and pull out, together with our Commonwealth allies, and stop bearing the burden and heat of the day. And that is something which, for the reasons which my right hon. Friend elaborated, would have incalculable consequences not only in South-East Asia but throughout the world."his hypocritical expression of regret is nothing but a device to deceive British and world opinion."
Before I deal with the speech of the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean), let me apologise to the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), because, unlike his colleague the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home), he came off the pro-Hitler appeasement bandwagon about a year or two before Munich. But, together with the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire, he urged unlimited and unconditional support for the American war in Vietnam.I remind the House that if those in ale Tory Party who thought like the right hon. Member for Streatham and the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire had been in charge in 1954, we should have had a nuclear war. Fortunately, it was the representatives of the minority in the pro-Fascist appeasement days—Sir Winston Churchill and Lord Avon—who were then in charge. Lord Avon tells the story in his memoirs of how Mr. Dulles put atom-bomb-carrying bombers on aircraft carriers, sent them off to Vietnam, and announced to Lord Avon just before they got there that he was going to atom bomb the besiegers of Dien Bien Phu, feeling sure that he could count on his British ally to support him if this brought China into the war. Lord Avon said, "Nothing of the sort. I shall riot support you. I will not back a bad policy in order to preserve an alliance". I wish that that sentiment was not wholly foreign to the thought of the members of both Front Benches in the present situation. The implication—it is a terrifying implication—is that the United States Administration can do no wrong. I would remind right hon. and hon. Members opposite who take that line—they include the Leader of the Opposition—that according to Senator Fulbright power has gone to the President's head and he has stepped into Hitler's shoes. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Those are not my words; they are Senator Fulbright's words. If hon. Members look up The Times of 22nd November last, they will find an analysis of the new unlimited Monroe Doctrine, which is a claim to the right of unlimited intervention to overthrow Governments or impose regimes anywhere in the world where the United States thinks that the old order is being threatened by Communism. That doctrine is eagerly, though vicariously, embraced by right hon. and hon. Members opposite. Just as they landed us in the wholly unnecessary Second World War by appeasing Hitler, so they will back the worst policies of the worst elements of the United States until they have landed us in a nuclear war. Compared with them, my own side is a great deal better. I think that dissociation from the bombing of the Hanoi and Haiphong oil depots is dissociation from a new phase in the war. Up to then, the struggle between the hawks and doves in the Administration had imposed some restraints. The President was not taking the side of either, and he was somewhat confusedly—because there was a lot of confusion and muddle in this policy—working for a stalemate in which some kind of settlement could be negotiated bearing some resemblance to the Geneva Agreements. But, unfortunately, largely, I fear, because of the pusillanimity of our own Government and because of the feebleness of the opposition in the United States, which, however, is growing rapidly, I am glad to say, he has now become, to use a somewhat mixed zoological metaphor, a rogue elephant led by the nose by the hawks. The thing most needed today is emphatic opposition to and dissociation from his war in Vietnam in order, among other things, to strengthen the opposition in the United States to the point where, in the seesaw fight between the hawks and the doves, the doves get the upper hand. Then there might be a reasonable settlement. But the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire was all for a military victory and, I suppose, a dictated peace. It was precisely the policy of anti-Communist containment by backing totally lawless violence and shutting one's eyes to the kinds of regimes and atrocities which were involved in that policy which landed us in the last world war. I approach this matter from the point of view of one who has passionately believed in and, during most of his adult life, fought for the rule of law in international relations as against brute force and lawless violence. That, to me, is the touchstone of this war—which side we are on in the contest between those two things. Looked at from that point of view, the crucial fact is that the war is still going on because Mr. Dulles violated his undertaking to respect the Geneva Agreements. He put up a puppet dictator whose abuses of power and denial of a free election provoked a revolt in the South Vietnamese people. The Americans then started intervening quite illegally, in violation of the Charter which prohibits interference in the internal affairs of countries and in violation of the undertaking of the United States Administration not to resort to force or threats of force to disturb the carrying out of the Geneva Agreements. The object of it all was quite plain, and it was stated at the time. President Eisenhower put it in his memoirs. It was known that if there were free elections under international supervision, they would result in an 80 per cent. victory for the Vietminh, and that was to be prevented at all costs, even at the cost of armed intervention. That armed intervention has grown in scale and in savagery ever since. When it became clear that the South Vietnam régime was on the point of collapse and that there was a real danger of a neutralist Government emerging which would start negotiating for a settlement with the N.L.F., the United States extended their bombing to North Vietnam on the pretext that the war had now become a war of international aggression for which North Vietnam was responsible. I have quoted the evidence before from Senator Wayne Morse and other members of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Senate, which had all the evidence available and cross-examined witnesses. At that time the trickle of aid from North Vietnam was insignificant. But, in terms of international law, there can be no such thing as international aggression, when Vietnamese in the north go to the aid of their fellow countrymen in the south who are victims of American aggression. According to the Geneva Agreement, to which we are a party, Vietnam is one country, the unity and sovereignty of which we are pledged to respect.
Would my hon. Friend call it aggression if the West Germans were to invade East Germany?
If East Germany was attacked I would not regard it as aggression. But, as no one is attacking East Germany the situation does not arise. The real argument is that if there were an armed incursion by West Germany into East Germany, it would touch off a world war.To return to the subject with which I was dealing, the moment the United States started bombing North Vietnam, under international law they were fully entitled to retaliate. They had been attacked. They became a belligerent. Yet the Foreign Secretary told us with horror in his voice that, according to his information, there are now 14 regiments of battalion strength from North Vietnam assisting the National Liberation Front. He seems to regard that as aggression. But once they have been attacked, of course they are entitled to defend themselves, and the attacking was done by the United States bombing. In any case, after giving us a horrific picture of this massive invasion by huge North Vietnamese forces, he talks about 14 regiments of battalion strength. They represent 14,000 men, and the N.L.F. forces are estimated at somewhere round 200,000, which makes seven North Vietnamese to 100 Vietcong. On those figures, it does not sound as though this is a war by North Vietnam. It is an American intervention trying to suppress the revolt of the majority of the people in South Vietnam. The people who would have won an 80 per cent. vote in 1954 or 1956 have not just disappeared off the face of the earth, and certainly what has been happening to the people of South Vietnam has not endeared either the Americans or the puppets of the Americans to them. That is why they still hold nearly 75 per cent. of the country, in spite of the overwhelming American forces against them. This has become a war of intervention by the United States against the people of Vietnam, and the object is becoming more and more clearly to partition the country and turn South Vietnam into a second South Korea. It has been said in the United States that that is the intention. I might remind the House that, after 15 years, there are still 50,000 American troops in South Korea, and the régime there is a byword for tyranny and corruption even among the somewhat dubious flock of regimes in the free world made in the U.S.A. Moreover, the methods by which the United States are waging the war are savage and barbaric. I asked the Prime Minister today whether he would dissociate himself from the saturation bombing of open towns and villages in South Vietnam, which has resulted in heavy casualties among civilians, including women and children. In effect, he first fobbed me off with the argument that there are atrocities on the other side. Secondly, he challenged the accuracy of my statement. I am not going to hold up the House by reading the evidence, but, if the Prime Minister doubts my word, I would refer him to a report in the Sun of 25th March, 1965. Its correspondent in South Vietnam gave an eye witness account of what he saw. I would refer him, too, to an account by another eye witness in the Daily Mail of 8th April, 1965. Both of them gave horrifying descriptions of the coastal cities crammed with refugees. They said that there were 200,000 of them at the time. They spoke of hospitals overflowing with burned and horribly mutilated civilians, including women and children. Since then, B52 bombers have been used for saturation bombing on a huge scale, which it was admitted in Washington before it started would increase greatly the already high rate of civilian casualties. The number of refugees is over one million, including burned, mutilated and terribly disfigured children, of whom we have had a slight overspill in this country. In fact, we have sent out a mission to deal with a few of those unhappy children. According to a recent "Panorama" programme which some of us may have seen, American officers on the spot reckoned that there were eight or ten civilian casualties for every Vietcong casualty. That kind of thing is not civilised warfare. It cannot be justified by atrocities committed by guerillas and irregulars. I suggest that the two things cannot be equated. For one thing, what I call the do-it-yourself hand-made atrocities of the guerillas are on a much smaller scale and more selective than the wholesale indiscriminate slaughter by the latest methods of scientific barbarism of the United States Air Force. Apart from that, one cannot justify that kind of thing by the regular forces of a civilised power on the ground that war is war and war is horrible and so on. There is no excuse for that as reprisals or anything else. To say that there is is to use the kind of arguments that were unsuccessfully used on behalf of the defendants at Nuremberg.
Could the hon. Gentleman explain exactly what civilised war is?
It is not the torture of prisoners, and it is not the burning and the cutting to pieces wholesale of women and children in undefended towns and villages.
What is it?
It is not those things. Let that satisfy the hon. Gentleman for the moment. If he is trying to claim that anything is legitimate in war, then he comes down to the Nuremberg level. Perhaps it is a pity that certain gentlemen there were hanged, because on the doctrines which are now being advocated they were really martyrs and ahead of their time.In this situation, although I am grateful for small mercies and therefore for the Government's dissociation from the bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong, I am deeply disappointed and distressed that the Government coupled with their declaration to this effect on 29th June the statement that they remained convinced:
The first part of that proposition implied that the Americans were entitled to carry out a policy of armed intervention in Vietnam in disregard of the Charter and their own pledges under the Geneva Agreements, in order to defend the 20 per cent. minority in Vietnam against the 80 per cent. majority. It would have been just as wrong for the Russians or the Chinese to have carried out a policy of armed intervention to uphold the rights of the majority against the minority. Interference, let alone armed intervention, in the internal affairs of a state is forbidden by the Charter, and we should accept that. Then we come to the Government's proposals for settlement. The nub of the whole thing is the oft-repeated statement, which the Opposition have taken up, that the Hanoi Government are responsible for the continuation of the war and that therefore all the acts of horror and atrocity against the Vietnamese people, are justified, because they refuse to enter into unconditional negotiations while a huge United States force is still in South Vietnam. The Prime Minister showed that he understood what that would mean, because when my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) asked him on 29th June whether he was informed of the authoritative statements in Washington to the effect that the President had now abandoned any idea of the neutralisation of Vietnam and was out for its partition and for turning South Vietnam into a second South Korea, the Prime Minister replied that the important point was the Americans' readiness to enter into unconditional negotiations and that:"… that the United States are right to continue to assist the millions of South Vietnamese, who have no wish to live under Communist domination, until such time as the North Vietnamese Government abandon their attempt to gain control of South Vietnam by force…."
do not know what to admire most in that statement, the delicacy of the way the Prime Minister put what he said or the reticence with which he significantly did not say something more. Let us envisage the situation. The North Vietnamese have been bombed into coming to the conference table for unconditional negotiations. The Americans then say, "What we would like to see come out of the conference is the partition of Vietnam, the destruction of the N.L.F. in South Vietnam, and our perpetual occupation, Korea-style, of South Vietnam". The North Vietnamese would say, "We cannot agree to that. We would like the Geneva Agreements applied". The Americans presumably then say, "Sorry. We did not know that you felt like that about it. We had better start dismantling our bases and withdrawing our forces". I cannot believe that my right hon. Friends have such virginal, innocent minds on these matters that they cannot see that the whole point of the United States' pressing for so-called unconditional negotiations, with a huge force still in occupation of South Vietnam, is that they intend, when they have successfully bombed the North Vietnamese into coming to the conference table for those unconditional negotiations, to present them with demands such as the partition of Vietnam, and will threaten more bombing if the demands are rejected. That is what power politics mean. I was a League of Nations official in all the years between the wars. I hate power politics and I have fought all my life against them and for the rule of law, but I understand what the power game is about. I cannot believe that my right hon. Friends, when they go on peddling the nostrum of unconditional negotiations, do not realise that it is an attempt to force the North Vietnamese into unconditional surrender to the American demands for partition of Vietnam."They are perfectly entitled to say what they would like to see come out of these talks."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th June, 1966; Vol. 730, c. 1796–1800.]
Does the hon. Gentleman agree with Mao Tse-tung that power grows out of the barrel of a gun?
Of course. Military power grows out of the barrel of a gun and out of atom bombs. That is a truism.All that I am saying—and this is the point—is that this is an attempt to settle the issue by brute force, in disregard of the Geneva Agreements to which we are a party and of the Charter of the United Nations, to which we are also a party. We are condoning and supporting this policy. Whether we know it or not—I hope that the Government do not know—that is what we are doing. In that connection, I welcome the visit of the Prime Minister to Moscow and reject with indignation any suggestion that his sudden interest in the Trade Fair or the timing of it, has anything to do with internal politics. That is a most unworthy suggestion. But I beseech him not to go to Moscow and try to sell the proposition to Mr. Kosygin, who was not born yesterday, that the North Vietnamese are responsible for the continuation of the war and that it is right for the Americans to try to bomb them into unconditional negotiations, because he will get a very dusty answer if he does that. We must face the fact that as long as we continue to support the United States' war we have no international standing and nobody will take our peace emissaries seriously. This is a harsh and sensorious world, and they will be regarded rather as stool-pigeons of the American eagle than as doves of peace. If we want to exert a real influence for peace we must stop supporting the American war. The very act of doing so will incalculably increase the opposition which is already becoming strong in the United States, and it will increase the opposition throughout world opinion. At the same time, we should put forward constructive proposals. We should demand, and work with the French and Soviet Governments and the Secretary-General of the United Nations for, a conference with conditions, conditions such as the participation of the N.L.F., and the necessity for implementing the Geneva Agreements, which, I am glad to say, are summarised in the first part of the Government's Resolution. It outlines a peace settlement which is consistent with the Geneva Agreements. But unfortunately it bears no relation to the American policy which the Government support. We must also tackle the crucial question of the presence of foreign forces in Vietnam. It is quite unreason- able to ask that they be withdrawn before negotiations start. It is equally unreasonable that the Vietnamese should go into negotiations with the Americans still free to use their huge military forces to impose their demands in unconditional negotiations. The way to follow is, I think, one which was once put forward by the Council of the League of Nations when Japan had invaded Manchuria and demanded negotiations with China and the Chinese refused to negotiate until the Japanese had withdrawn into the railway (treaty) zone. The League of Nations Council then came forward with the compromise, "Yes, start negotiations, but make the first object of negotiations an agreed and phased withdrawal of forces." In this case, it would be the withdrawal of all extraneous forces from South Vietnam, the American, Korean, Australian and New Zealand forces plus the 14,000 North Vietnamese regulars. Only where that process had reached the stage when it was militarily difficult and politically and psychologically impossible to renew hostilities in order to impose conditions inconsistent with the Geneva Agreements should negotiations start on the implemention of the Agreements and a peace settlement such as that for which the Government speak in their Motion. Of course, this will not come quickly, We shall have to fight hard to get that kind of settlement. But the first step is to part company with the United States, because only then shall we acquire authority in the councils of the world and authority in the eyes of public opinion, including American public opinion. This being the situation, I, and, I imagine, every one of my hon. Friends will vote with the Government against the Conservative Amendment, which would go one step further along the road of madness on which we have travelled too far already. But I have searched my conscience and, as a man who has believed in and fought for the rule of law all his life, I cannot condone or support a policy which, to me, is supporting lawless violence by the United States in defiance of the Charter and in defiance of the whole principle of the rule of law. I cannot, therefore, vote for the Government Motion. I shall abstain on it tonight.
In one respect at least I shall not follow the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus), that is, in the length of my speech. I know, Mr. Speaker, that you have a great many hon. Members on your list and I shall try to say what I have to say very briefly.I know the hon. Gentleman too well to think for a moment that he is trying to deceive the House, but he is one of the biggest self-deceivers I have ever known. Where he gets his facts from I do not know. If they do not tally with what he likes, they are twisted or ignored. I wish to put a few matters on the record in order to get it straight. The hon. Gentleman accused my party of appeasing Hitler before the war.
So they did.
We were egged on by the people then sitting over there to oppose Hitler, as I think everyone on these benches would then have wished to do, but at the same time, and in the same breath, they deprived us of any tools wherewith to do it. But today the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends below the Gangway are appeasing China in exactly the same way. Why? Because the ideology is different.The truth is that the hon. Member for Gorton and his hon. Friends below the Gangway who oppose the Government on this issue want the Communists to win. That is the truth and we might as well face it. I do not accuse them of being yellow-bellied or lily-livered. I accuse them of being red or bloody-minded.
When Mr. Dulles sabotaged the Geneva Agreements and refused to allow the free elections under international supervision promised by the Geneva Agreements, our Government disagreeing with him on it, was he right to prevent the Communists winning? Clearly, if there had been elections, they would have won. Would the hon. Gentleman have supported Mr. Dulles then, or would he have supported Lord Avon.
The hon. Gentleman is as long in his interventions as he is in his speeches. I do not intend to be deflected or to give way again. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."]My mind goes back to the days of October, 1962, when the Cuba crisis hit the world. I can remember all the faint hearts and the lily-livered people grousing and grumbling at President Kennedy's action. I am glad to say that I happened to find myself in a position to speak for Britain, at the Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference in Brasilia, at a time when we really did not know what was happening except that President Kennedy had told the Communists to get out of Cuba and stay out. I then said:
The position is the same today. But, as Lord Robbins warned us yesterday, we must not be blind to the fact that there are many among us who do not love freedom. I turn now to the situation in Vietnam. No one can deny that Hanoi aggressed by training guerillas and infiltrating into South Vietnam. In 1960, President Ho Chi Minh, addressing the Communist Party conference there, said:"President Kennedy believes that the time has now come to call a halt to the Soviet itch to convert the rest of the world to their ideology by preventing further arms and armaments from reaching Cuba. I believe that all of us here who love freedom should support him."
In 1962, the Legal Committee of the International Control Commission issued a report concluding that it was the aim of the North Vietnamese Communist Party"It is necessary to step up the national democratic people's revolution in the South."
It further concluded that North Vietnam had"to bring about the overthrow of the Administration in the South".
That was the conclusion of the Legal Committee of the International Control Commission. The majority report—admittedly the majority report—of the International Control Commission later that year found that armed and unarmed personnel, arms, munitions and other supplies had been sent from North to South Vietnam. Hon. Members will recall that in 1954 the South-East Asia Treaty Collective Defence Treaty was signed by the United States, Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand and Pakistan, who pledged themselves to resist agression in the treaty area. Because, under the Geneva Agreement, South Vietnam could not join S.E.A.T.O., it was designated a country under the protection of S.E.A.T.O. which would be aided against aggression if its Government required help. As everyone knows, its Government did require help, and the Americans went to its aid. If the Communists get away with it, the word of the Americans will not be believed anywhere else in the world, and neither will the word of the West. What the Americans, Australians and New Zealanders are now doing in South Vietnam is fighting our battles, just as we fought theirs, first in Malaya, and then in Malaysia. What are the United States' aims? The Liberal Party has put down a Motion] have not got it before me to quote the exact words—which ends by asking, I think, what those aims are. What an extraordinary thing to ask. What a pity that the Woolsack has recently been restuffed with wool. Liberal Motions would have provided very good fodder for stuffing it. These are the United States' aims. There can be no doubt whatever about what they are because they have been clearly expressed by President Johnson on many occasions. He has said:"allowed the zone in the North to be used as a base for the organisation of hostile activities in the zone in the South, including armed attacks, aimed at the overthrow of the Administration in the South in violation of its obligations under the Geneva Agreement."
Then again, as recently as last January, the Americans issued their 14 points. I shall not read them all, but here are some:"We do not seek the destruction of any Government, nor do we covet a foot of any territory. But we insist, and we will always insist, that the people of South Vietnam shall have the right of choice, the right to shape their own destiny in free elections in the South, or throughout all Vietnam, under international supervision."
"We would welcome 'negotiations without pre-conditions'.
"We would welcome 'unconditional discussions'.
"We want no U.S. bases in South-East Asia.
"We do not desire to retain U.S. troops in South Vietnam after peace is assured.
"We would much prefer to use our resources for the economic reconstruction of South-East Asia than in war. If there is peace, North Vietnam could participate in a regional effort to which we would be prepared to contribute at least one billion dollars."
The hon. Gentleman said that he did not have a copy of the Liberal Motion, yet he had the temerity to purport to quote it. It says quite clearly that we seek clarification of the political aims of the United States, that is to say, what form of Government they would wish to see established.
There is no reason to doubt the political aims of the United States. They are all set out in the 14 points enumerated in January. Those are the aims of the United States in Vietnam. I believe that they coincide with our aims in that area, and until now the Prime Minister has supported them. He says that he still does so. As a matter of fact, not for the first time, the Foreign Secretary this afternoon explained the Government's case as clearly as anybody could express it—and we agreed with it until he tried to defend the Government dissociating themselves from the bombing of the oil tanks. It was at this stage that the right hon. Gentleman fell down on his case, because he knows as well as I do that he has no case. What is the good of supporting ends if not at the same time the legitimate means?On 29th June Mr. McNamara said:
More than 60 per cent. of North Vietnam's remaining oil storage capacity was attacked, and rightly attacked. As was said by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, this afternoon, would any British Government not have done the same? Is it not a perfectly legitimate operation of war to attack essential supply lines and essential supplies?"The strikes against these petroleum facilities were initiated to counter a mounting reliance by North Vietnam on the use of trucks and powered junks to facilitate the infiltration of men and equipment from North Vietnam to South Vietnam. As a matter of fact enemy truck movement to South Vietnam has doubled during the first five months of 1966 compared to the first five months of 1965."
I am sorry. I cannot give way.Yet it was at this juncture that the Prime Minister panicked even before he or anybody else could possibly know the extent of the damage which, as a matter of fact, was very mild as far as civilians were concerned, as we now know. What I deeply regret is that the Government's dissociation can have no effect, except perhaps a bad one on Washington, but it may have a very bad effect on Hanoi by stiffening its resistance.
I join in thanking those hon. Members who have made it possible to have this debate. It enhances the standing of the House that at a time of international crisis like this we should be able to debate as fully as we are doing the situation in Vietnam, and I hope that the change of programme which we saw this week will be a precedent for similar situations in the future.I want to take up, first, the continual allegation from the benches opposite that this is a reversal of Government policy, that there has been a change in the Government's position. To me this seems an incredible distortion of the facts as they really are. There has been no reversal, no change in the Government's position. We have said for a long time that we were not prepared to associate ourselves with the American bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong. We have been consistent. The bombs have fallen, and we have therefore dissociated ourselves from this action. To me, this is consistency of policy. If there has been a change, it has occurred in American military policy, because they have now bombed Hanoi and Haiphong. This is the latest chapter in a catalogue of escalations in this quite terrifying war which has been going on for far too long in Vietnam. We must look at the situation not only from the military standpoint but from the political point of view, and I am a little frightened when I read some of the reports from America, and listen to some of the radio programmes, and see some of the television broadcasts, and realise that political considerations are taking a back seat and that more and more the trend is to consider the war in Vietnam entirely from a military point of view. This war and the battle against Communism will be won and lost in the minds and hearts of the people. It will not be won or lost with bullets and bombs, from whichever country they come. We therefore welcome the Gov- ernment's initiative, because it is initiative in the political field. Our response was twofold. On Wednesday of last week we dissociated ourselves from the American bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong. On Wednesday of this week the Prime Minister decided to go to Moscow in ten days' time. I welcome these actions, first, because they are political actions. The dissociation of the British Government from the bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong is a political action which I think is appropriate to the situation.
The hon. Gentleman keeps on repeating the phrase, "the bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong". These towns were not bombed. The oil installations outside them were attacked. Those words make all the difference in the world, and the hon. Gentleman should be careful how he uses them.
We need not go into the niceties of this. The oil reserves of the capital city of North Vietnam and of Haiphong have been bombed. These installations are within a few miles of the centres of the cities. These are large cities, and anyone who lived through the bombing of London remembers that it is not always possible to be as accurate as one would like when dropping bombs.The second reason why I support the Government is that we have drawn the line. No longer are we just threatening the Americans, "If you go further than a certain point we will dissociate ourselves from your action." No longer is this threat being issued to the Americans. We have drawn the line. We have said that we are not prepared to support this action. Thirdly, I welcome the fact that my right hon. Friend has accepted the invitation which has come from Moscow. He is to go there in a few days' time. To me this is a logical follow-up of the actions which were taken last week. I think that it would be naive to imagine that the invitation to visit Moscow is not directly related to the Government's dissociation from the American bombing in Vietnam one week previously. We should have no false hopes about what we can achieve in Moscow. This war has been going on in Vietnam for many years. There was a war in Vietnam long before the Americans went there. It has been going on since the last World War. Considerable efforts have been made—more by British Governments than many others—to achieve peace, but they have all failed. We must not opt out. We cannot sit supinely by. We have a duty and a right, which the Government are fulfilling, to play a part in trying to achieve peace. Many of my hon. Friends, and indeed many supporters of the Labour Party in the country, are saying that the action that we have taken is not enough and that we should go further. We have had the call for a complete and immediate dissociation of the British Government from the United States with regard to their Vietnam policy. This is understandable, and to a certain extent I am sympathetic to this point of view, but I think we should remind ourselves that there is perhaps the risk of forming an intellectual prison for one's emotions. I think that we can and should, and I hope we will, reserve our position about more extensive dissociation, or complete dissociation, but I do not believe that the situation today demands this sort of action from a responsible British Government. The future is unknown, and it would perhaps be foolish to attempt to forecast what is to come in the days ahead. Further dissociation from the United States is a very powerful weapon. It is not a weapon that we should use lightly, or one that we should throw away. I believe that we should not use it lightly now or throw it away now. We have a limited dissociation from the American policy, and our Prime Minister is flying to Moscow in an attempt to achieve some sort of political breakthrough. That is the position. I sympathise with and understand those of my hon. Friends who do not entirely agree with Government policy.
Does my hon. Friend really believe that the Prime Minister's very sincere and constructive efforts to bring about a really unconditional conference have any chance whatever of success while we continue to swallow, hook, line and sinker, the American diagnosis of the origin of the war, which was so thoroughly demolished by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) this afternoon?
I believe that if the Russian Government—our fellow coChairman—have seen fit to invite the Prime Minister of Britain to visit Russia we must regard it as a sign that these negotiations have at least some hope of success. Surely there is nobody in the House who does not want them to succeed.I can sympathise with and understand the argument of some of my hon. Friends, but I can neither understand nor sympathise with the attitude of the Opposition, who appear to reject out of hand everything constructive that the Government are attempting to do. I cannot understand whether hon. Members opposite are seriously prepared to support the United States, right or wrong, irrespective of what they do. In the Press, two or three days ago, when the Leader of the Opposition was asked whether he was prepared to support the Americans if they began nuclear warfare in Vietnam he said that this was a hypothetical question, and he used this argument as a reason for not answering. The strength of the British Government's position today is that they did answer a hypothetical question. They answered the question, "What are you going to do if the Americans bomb Hanoi", by saying that they would dissociate themselves from the Americans. They have now done this, and I believe that this action has given us a real chance of a breakthrough. In this debate we have a right to demand from the Opposition whether, in terms of supporting the American Government, they draw a line and, if so, where? The Opposition appear to have become so overwhelmed by the situation that they have withdrawn into their shell. They seem to suggest opting out of this vitally important issue. This is frightening to me, because I believe that we are now faced with probably the most serious international crisis of the last 20 years. In ten days' time our Prime Minister is going to Moscow. Just over a week after that he will be going to Washington. I want him to go knowing that he has—and is seen to have—the overwhelming support of our people. I am certain that the people of Britain would want him to go with the overwhelming support of both sides of the House.
I want to devote my short speech to an analysis of the question why the Government have taken the line they have about the bombing of military objectives, and have dissociated themselves from the bombing of the oil storage tanks. First, however, I want to take up the point made by the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton), who said that the Labour Party was very persistent in its efforts to get Hanoi round the conference table. That may be so. The criticism made by my hon. Friends and myself is that while they have been persistent they have seemed to try to pluck too many things out of the air too quickly, without sufficient preparation. That is what we feel about the proposed visit of the Prime Minister to Moscow. Good luck to him. I hope that he achieves something. But we feel that this, too, has been plucked out of the air too quickly, and without the necessary preparation.I also want to pick up a remark made by the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker), who gave us some extraordinary information, namely, that if the bombing pause of the Americans had gone on for another 10 days or three weeks—I believe that is what he said—North Vietnam would have come to the conference table. He said that he had information to prove this. I expect he does have information to prove it, from his point of view, but the essential thing is that we, as a sensible and reasonable House, must know the source of that information, so that we can evaluate the meaning of what was said.
In fairness to my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) the hon. Member must recognise—and the House should accept—that he fully explained that he had received the information in confidence. When he was pressed he indicated clearly that he had confided the information fully to the Foreign Secretary. That should suffice.
My point is that if we are to judge we should be told the source. Only then can we evaluate the strength of the information.The other extraordinary point that he made, and which the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) also made, concerned the question of prostitution, which he kept remarking upon in the middle of my right hon. Friend's speech. The right hon. Member for Derby, South said that there was such poverty in Vietnam that families had to send their daughters out as prostitutes. That was an extraordinary thing to say. Nobody is forced to send his daughter out as a prostitute.
If the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) were poor would he send his daughter out as a prostitute? If so, I have little respect left for him.
The passage that I quoted from was in an article on the leader page of The Times yesterday, in which a distinguished correspondent with long experience in Saigon said that economic conditions in the city had worsened to such an extent in the last three months that even the most respectable people were selling their daughters to be prostitutes.
In that case I would not call those people very respectable. We are now discussing the question of the moral approach. It seems that hon. Members opposite feel differently about it than I do. Perhaps we may leave that question; it has little to do with Vietnam.I want to concentrate upon analysing the reasons which caused the Prime Minister to dissociate himself from the bombing of the oil storage tanks in North Vietnam. To many of us the reason is quite clear. The Government have stated categorically, time and time again, that the Americans are fighting to defend freedom. We all agree that they have no territorial ambitions in South Vietnam and that surely they, above all, want to end the war as quickly as possible and get packing, when they have done the job which they set out to do properly and completely. I believe that the reason for the bombing of the oil storage tanks was to get the war over as quickly as possible. As many hon. Members on both sides of the House know, in wartime a commander in battle has a very grave responsibility towards his men; he must see that his military tactics are such that the men fighting under his command are not put at a disadvantage. If the American commander, with all the intelligence reports coming in from various sources—the reliability of which only he can judge—and all the air reconnaissance photographs, makes a quite fair military assessment that oil is prolonging the ability of the North Vietnamese to continue the war, he surely has every justification in carrying out precision bombing of the oil storage tanks. I would point out to the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Dr. John Dunwoody) that the oil storage tanks are about three miles outside Hanoi and Haiphong. I believe that the Americans were absolutely justified in this action; indeed, I go further and say that they had a duty to carry out this precision bombing if it would bring the war to an end more quickly.
Is not this precisely the very dangerous situation that we might be moving into? I am speaking for mankind now. Might not the North Vietnamese generals do the same thing? They have a responsibility to get someone to help them to bomb. They might get the Chinese or the Russians to do this. Is not this what the argument is all about? Nobody can argue that when the South Vietnamese generals and the American generals bomb in this way they are right, but when the North Vietnamese do it they are wrong.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will examine and expand that argument if he is called to speak. It is certainly a view which he might take, but it is the argument of capitulation, that if one is to be hit back, one does not hit. We disagree: let us leave it at that.If the North Vietnamese are allowed to win this war, that will be a clear victory for subversive aggression and insurgency. If they win, they and other countries will be encouraged to go on and do the same thing. Then, I believe, peace in a wide part of the world will be in great jeopardy. If the Americans do not win, the price that the West will have to pay later will be far greater than any price which it is paying at the moment. Therefore, I was very disappointed when the Prime Minister announced that he dissociated the Government from the bombing of the oil storage tanks. He has, I believe, weakly abandoned the strong stand which he has taken hitherto. He knew that if he did not dissociate himself from this bombing immediately, he would have been in great trouble from the hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway in his own party. Perhaps he is still in trouble, but we in this Chamber are not concerned with what goes on in the "upstairs parliament" which the Labour Party holds behind closed doors and which leaks, either officially or unofficially, into the evening papers. We are not concerned with the majorities there, but surely are concerned with what is said here or what appears on the Order Paper. I would remind the House that Motion No. 111 on the Order Paper is signed by 111 Members of the Labour Party—
Yes. It is so—
There is a Liberal.
I am sorry. There may be one or two Liberals.The Motion says that United States Government policy is misguided and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to dissociate themselves completely from those policies. That means about one-third of the Labour Party—
If the hon. Gentleman considers that the American war in Vietnam is some kind of holy sacred struggle against Communism, would he give the Americans a blank cheque? Is there any stage of the American escalation of the war at which the hon. Gentleman would say, "So far and no further"?
I gave way to the hon. Gentleman hoping that he would intervene on a point about which I was speaking. His intervention has no relation at all to the point that one-third of the Labour Party wish to dissociate themselves from the American policy—
I am sorry, I cannot give way—
It is on this point.
I have given way about five times and I will not give way again.With one-third of the Labour Party feeling this way about it, this is what caused the Prime Minister to dissociate himself from the bombing—straight away, before he consulted the Americans, the Australians or the New Zealanders who are fighting in Vietnam. He had to anticipate the reactions of the Left and try to buy them off by throwing them this bone. The Prime Minister knows, with all the military experience which he must have gained in the Defence Committee of the Cabinet, that this view is absolute nonsense. In the same way, I am afraid, his visit to Moscow looks to us as though it was ill-prepared and another gimmick. In a debate last year, in which I moved a Private Member's Motion, I sought to say that the Left wing had an influence upon Government policy. This is in continuation of my same belief. I am in order in saying this and I do not blame the Left wing for doing it. In fact, I am giving them, as I did last time, credit for having been so successful in influencing the Prime Minister and his colleagues on this matter. I disagree with the Left wing violently: they know that. But I will defend their right to try to bring their influence on the Government to their line of thinking, provided that they do it democratically. In the same way, I would defend the right of the militant seamen to try to influence their leaders into a certain course of action, provided that that too was done democratically and that they were not acting for a foreign power or something more evil than that. We must protect the democratic right of the Left wing to influence the Government. The point is that the leaders—
I will just finish this point.The point is that, in those circumstances, the leaders, whether the Prime Minister or the seamen's leaders, have to stand up to the backdoor pressures or the Left-wing pressures and be men. They cannot complain if I criticise them for being influenced by the Left wing.
I think that it ought not to be misunderstood and that I ought to say that 110 became 46 when they had heard the argument.
I recognise that the "upstairs parliament" is not quite the same as the downstairs Parliament and that it is easier to sign a bit of blue paper than to put up one's hand upstairs. I do not know how the 1922 Committee of the opposite party operates, but it must be something strong which makes people who have signed Motions here fail to carry them through upstairs.At least we can say that, throughout, the Left wing has been quite consistent—I congratulate them on this—in what they have been trying to do and that they have so far carried it through. I believe that the Prime Minister's visit to Moscow may well have placated them and this may have been what happened upstairs, that he may have hinted—
I understand from the leak that he gave a nuance of an idea. Perhaps the prospect of the visit to Moscow placated the Left wing for a while. However, they are not only very consistent but also very persistent.When the glitter of this visit to Moscow has become a little tarnished, the Prime Minister will once again have pressures put upon him for total dissociation from United States policy and that it will come from these 111 or perhaps even more hon. Members by then. The question arises, how much further will the Prime Minister yield when that happens again? If the United States, as it is quite entitled to do, should say, "We have bombed the oil storage tanks and it is our military appreciation that we must carry this to the further oil installations, to the harbours through which the oil might be brought and shipped, and even to the power stations which drive the machinery connected with the oil", which is a logical conclusion in denying oil to the Vietnamese, how will the Prime Minister react? Will he go on dissociating himself from bombing power stations and harbours? We do not know, but perhaps when he winds up this debate he will tell us the answer. The world and the country will want to see how the Prime Minister trims his policies to these pressure from his Left wing. It is not only I who say that there are pressures on the Government from the Left wing. President Johnson has said that he is very sympathetic to the Prime Minister's position because he recognises that he has difficulties in his own party. That is very kind of him. Therefore, it is not only my belief but a well-known fact that these pressures operate. I wonder what the Americans, Australians and New Zealanders think of a Prime Minister who says that he will dissociate himself from the bombing of these oil storage tanks? The word "rat" has been used, but I will not use it. However, the right hon. Gentleman has defaulted on the allies when legitimate targets have been bombed. The Prime Minister has stopped urgent military equipment going to his allies, the Americans. He failed to consult the Australians and New Zealanders about the bombing, and he dissociated himself from it before he had even seen the results. What can the people in those countries, allies of ours, think of a Prime Minister who behaves like that? One is entitled to ask what would happen if the Chinese suddenly decided one day to begin an attack on Hong Kong. On which allies would we call to help us to defend Hong Kong but the very allies on whom the Prime Minister has now defaulted? The Motion initiated by the hon. Member for Fife, West called for the reestablishment of the Commonwealth Peace Mission and urged that it should go off again on another peace mission. I suggest that the very fact that two leading members of the Commonwealth are actively engaged in fighting in South Vietnam means that the Commonwealth Peace Mission will find it rather difficult to get an audience with the North Vietnamese. I hope, therefore, that if the Government do restart the Commonwealth Peace Mission the House will not be too hopeful that it will succeed. If peace comes out of the Prime Minister's visit to Moscow or out of any other meeting, it will be due primarily to American military action and to America's determination to see it through. I hope—and I hope that this will be heard outside this House—that the people of this country and the Americans, Australians and New Zealanders will draw a distinction between, on the one hand, the Prime Minister and the Labour Party and their policy—which, I maintain, is increasingly coming under Left Wing pressures—and the policy which my hon. and right hon. Friends have stated in our Amendment and which, I believe, represents by far the opinion of the majority of people in this country. Our Amendment backs up our allies in their very gallant fight, which I hope they will quickly win.
A number of hon. Members have expressed approval of the decision of the Government to hold this debate, and I associate myself with their remarks. It is right and proper that we should be discussing the war in Vietnam. I say that because, first, the war there is of great concern to all hon. Members as human beings—we are concerned at the destruction, suffering and loss of life which is taking place—secondly, because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) said, the House should be discussing the most intractable international problem today, a problem which represents a major obstacle to the achievement of a world disarmed, thirdly, because of the possibility that the war in Vietnam may escalate into a third world war and, fourthly, because of the vast expenditure of money and resources which prevents any genuine attempt being made to tackle the poverty in Asia which gives rise to so many of the troubles about which we have heard today.At a time when two-thirds of the world's population is under-nourished at a time when anyone who studies the facts must be concerned about the tremendous population explosion that is taking place—is it not a disgrace that the most weathy and powerful nations in the world should be spending vast sums of money on warfare while, comparatively speaking, they are spending little on the peaceful developments which might bring political stability to the under-developed countries? If an observer from outer space saw what was going on on this planet today—saw the greatest and most powerful nation spending vast sums of money on the war in Vietnam—he would declare that it was utter madness. It is high time that we recognised that it is indeed madness.
While the hon. Gentleman is correct in saying that the United States is spending large sums in Vietnam, would he not agree that that country is uniquely spending even greater sums for the relief of poverty and illiteracy throughout Asia?
Certain sums are being spent to relieve poverty and misery—on the really important developments which should be taking place in the world—but they are comparatively small compared with the vast sums being spent on arms.The degeneration of both the aims and methods in the war in Vietnam has gone a long way. We have been told that the Americans are there to fight for democracy. Let us be clear about this. There is no democracy, as we understand it, in North Vietnam, but what exists in South Vietnam is a vile dictatorship which is the last and latest of a series of dictatorships. Marshal Ky's Government is without popular support. Marshal Ky is a self-confessed admirer of Hitler, and he used troops to disperse demonstrators—and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke about those demonstrators. Many of Ky's opponents are in prison. When I heard the Foreign Secretary point out that demonstrations could take place, as though my right hon. Friend were giving some evidence to show that there was a vestige of democracy there, I could not but disagree with him from the bottom of my heart. The opposition to Marshal Ky's Government does not exist only among the Buddhists, but among the Catholics, too. The Observer of 20th March last stated:
Make no mistake about it. This is an appalling dictatorship, and it is disgraceful that any modern nation should have any truck with it. I must say something about the bestial nature of the war. The use of torture has been condemned, but I suggest that we must be honest about this, and I regret that the Foreign Secretary is not in his place to hear what I am about to say. Torture is used by both sides in Vietnam, and I do not deny that. However, the trouble with my right hon. Friend is that he has mentioned, generally speaking, torture used only by the North. Meanwhile, the New York Herald Tribune of 27th July last year stated:"Even Catholic leaders who have fled Communism in the North have talked to me recently of plans for eventual passive resistance to the General's Government."
Last year I visited Buchenwald. where I saw the remnants of torture; I saw a memorial of man's inhumanity to man. Everyone asks, "Why didn't the Germans speak against it?" I believe the answer to be that many of them accepted the argument put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West that it was not right to take a Pontius Pilate attitude. I am prepared to take a Pontius Pilate attitude. I can have no part in any sort of regime that is prepared to support this sort of thing taking place in a civilised world, and I want to make that very clear. Let us look at the way to bring this war to an end. United States Government policy has proceeded by means of progressive escalation from 1955 until today. The pattern has been that each increase in United States involvement has been insufficient to secure the results sought. The Americans have therefore gone one step further along the road. Every promise about the way to proceed has been progressively discarded. James Reston, associate editor of the New York Times, said"One of the most infamous methods of torture used by the Government is partial electrocution—or 'frying', as one U.S. adviser called it. The wires are attached to the male genital organs, or to the breasts of a woman prisoner. Other techniques designed to force onlooking prisoners to talk involve cutting off fingers, ears, finger nails or sexual organs of another prisoner. A string of ears decorates the wall of a Government military establishment."
They went beyond the 17th Parallel when they said they would not; they have gone over to the offensive when they said that they were only going to respond to enemy attack; they said that they would not get involved in major war on the Asian mainland, but did. Even in bad resolves, they had been unfaithful. Johnson said that he would not negotiate, and then he changed his mind. What faith can we place in the statements of this sort of Government? The Opposition in this House approved of this course of escalation. It is hypocritical for hon. Members opposite to attack this Government because they are buying United States planes, and so on, while they themselves are prepared to back the United States to the hilt in this war in Vietnam. Let us remember the logic that must be followed. If the bombing of the Hanoi and Haiphong oil installations does not work, what are we to do? What do the Opposition propose'? At what stage do we call a halt? Or do we follow Johnson to a full-scale war on China? Hon. Members opposite have refused to answer these questions, but I say that it is political cowardice on their part if they do not tell us this evening what they want to do. What has been the rôle of the British Government? Its rôle has been to support the United States policy hook, line and sinker, until the bombing of the oil installations. It may be said that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary expressed certain disagreement on the use of gas but, by and large, what I have said is true—hook, line and sinker we have supported American policy. Let us be, clear that there is no logic in supporting American policy unless we are prepared to follow it right through. If the bombing of the Hanoi and Haiphong oil installations was wrong, and I believe that it was wrong, my right hon. Friends must realise that so was the previous policy that led to it. One hon. Member opposite said that Mr. McNamara stated on 29th June of this year that infiltration in the first five months of 1966 was double that in the first five months of 1965. What better example could we have of the failure of the policy of stepping up the bombing? That failure should be absolutely clear to anybody. If this United States policy has been wrong, it demonstrates the failure of British support for that policy. British support has not worked. It did not hold Johnson back from doing things that we thought were wrong. It did not make the North Vietnamese anxious to negotiate; on the contrary, it hardened their resolve to carry on. I remember as a child visiting London during the blitz. That memory makes me wonder how anybody can believe that human beings will respond to the bombing of their capital city by running away and being prepared to negotiate. The only thing that will happen is that they will harden themselves to stand up and fight. If anyone after the bombing of London in 1940 had proposed negotiations with the Germans, he would have stood the risk of being lynched—"The guile of this Administration exercised in the name of high and noble principle is hard to match."
There is surely a difference between the two incidents. The bombing of London—and on one occasion I happened to be there on leave—was absolutely indiscriminate bombing of London by fire bombs. The bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong comes twenty-five years later, it is done by precision bombing, and the bombing has hit the precision targets.
If arguments like that satisfy the hon. Gentleman, they certainly do not satisfy me.I want to make it quite clear that I believe that the policy of supporting the bombing, this policy that has failed, is completely idiotic. It is stupid for us to say that we are prepared to support the bombing of villages and then say that we are not prepared to support the bombing of towns. It is ridiculous to say that we are prepared to support the bombing of oil installations outside other towns but that we are not prepared to support the bombing outside Hanoi. I have recognised, and I hope that my hon. Friends will also recognise, that the failure of the British Government's policy in this respect does not in any way detract from the Government's good intentions. At the same time, that policy has failed. Unfortunately, an Amendment tabled by myself and a number of my hon. Friends has not been called. This Amendment recommends complete dissociation from the United States' policy. I am sorry that it has not been called because that places some of us in a very difficult position as we certainly would not wish to vote for the sort of policy put forward by the Opposition. Let us look, however—and here I address my remarks in particular to people like my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West, for whom I have a very great respect indeed—at the effects of complete dissociation from United States policy. I have no illusions that if we were to dissociate ourselves from United States policy, Lyndon Johnson would suddenly take notice of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, but that might not be too much of a loss as the President has not taken too much notice of my right hon. Friend so far. He apparently does not regard my right hon. Friend as a close adviser on these matters—he would not otherwise have gone as far as he has gone. The only force, short of military force—which I hope we would all abhor—which will make Johnson listen to calling off the bombing or taking positive steps towards peace is the voice of American public opinion. Let us not forget that powerful voices have been raised inside the United States of America against the bombing. Very strong voices have been uttering the need for America to change her policy in this respect—voices like those of the Kennedys, and of Gavin and of Galbraith. Johnson himself is extremely sensitive to these voices, and even more sensitive to the Gallup polls. Lyndon Johnson's policy has been designed to appeal to United States public opinion on a number of occasions. The Times in an editorial on 8th January this year said:
I maintain that the sort of things that Johnson has been doing are very much orientated towards what is going on in American public opinion. The greatest contribution that the British Government, for which I have worked for many years, can make to peace is to tell the United States publicly that its policy in Vietnam is completely wrong—not merely the bombing of the Hanoi and Haiphong oil installations. If the Government were to take this step it would be the greatest possible fillip to sanity in the United States. As I believe in people, I implore my hon. and right hon. Friends to take note of this plea. The Motion in the names of my hon. Friends does not do this. It"The peace offensive"—of Johnson—" is an attempt to rally domestic and foreign opinion to the American side to put some public pressure on North Vietnam. It is an exercise in public relations rather than diplomacy."
It does not include some of the sense of the remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary this afternoon. Quite clearly, he considered that the United States Government, comparatively speaking, is blameless in this matter and that the real fault and reason for there not being negotiations rests with Hanoi. This patently is not true. The basis on which the argument has been put is not true. There has been much reference to the Oxford teach-in. A number of things my right hon. Friend said there were not correct. The first nine reports by the International Control Commission recorded repeated violations of the ban on receiving foreign arms by the South as well as the North. The South, with American backing, opposed free elections. The guerrilla movement was not begun by the North but originated in the South. The talk which is being put about to the effect that Lyndon Johnson is now interested in peace is something which I hope my right hon. Friends will look into very carefully because his recent statements, particularly the one at Omaha, indicate a shift away from the 14 points put forward earlier. We now have a situation in which it appears that the United States Administration is not so much interested in peace as in outright victory. I have heard my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister say that we do not want to support people who are interested in victory but those who are interested in getting peace. We must remember that this is a two-edged sword which cuts both ways. I reject outright the Opposition view that we should go ahead in support of the Americans in their programme of escalating this conflict. The Government Motion as it stands is quite unsatisfactory, but at least there is no reference in it to support of United States policy in general, although the Foreign Secretary referred to it. Although I have great respect for him, his speech appalled me. I regret very much that there has been no opportunity of putting to the House the Amendment expressing the point of view of a large number of hon. Members, particularly on this side of the House and on the Liberal bench. This debate takes place, not as a result of pressure of hon. Members who take the point of view of the Official Opposition, but as a result of the pressure of those really concerned about this conflict. I very much respect the sincerity of my right hon. Friends, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, but in this particular matter I do not respect their judgment. I hope that although they do not respect my judgment they will have a similar respect for my sincerity as I have for theirs. If we are interested in world peace we cannot afford to carry on with support of United States policy. Complete dissociation from that policy will assist the United States opposition and enable Britain to act as an independent peacemaker in this business, which Britain cannot do at present. I was very happy to learn that the Prime Minister is to go to Moscow to make an attempt to bring about peace. I hope that hon. Members in all parts of the House will cast on one side political sniping in this vital matter. I am sure they wish him success. But I make the forecast in all humility that his mission will almost certainly fail because we have not yet dissociated ourselves completely from United States policy. We cannot carry on in the way we have done up to the present. Everyone wants this war to end, but it will not if we carry on with the present situation fraught as it is with danger to the whole of humanity and allowing urgent problems facing humanity to be discarded and put on one side. If United States bombing were called off, not for a brief period but permanently as U Thant, Secretary General of the United Nations suggested, although it would not be easy there would be much more opportunity of bringing about a peace settlement than there is if we go on as at present. I hope and believe that my right hon. Friends are gradually coming round to this position. I hope they will come round to it soon, because I want this Govern- ment to succeed particularly in foreign affairs and also in home affairs more than anything else. Only with these matters in mind do my hon. Friends and I express our views vehemently this evening."… approves Her Majesty's Government's determination to pursue their efforts to promote unconditional negotiations already accepted by the United States…"
None of us would deny, and I am certain his right hon. Friends would not deny, the sincerity of the hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Newens) in his approach to this very serious problem, although I must confess that his hysterical method of expressing himself was inclined to make one feel that at times he was getting a little lost in his arguments.I want mainly to make two points. I do not agree with the hon. Member that the answer to the Vietnamese problem can he found by ceasing bombing of North Vietnam. That has been tried and has failed. For 40 days and 40 nights the Americans ceased bombing in North Vietnam and there was no reaction whatever from the North Vietnamese. I do not see how, by further efforts on those lines, anything would be achieved. I regret very much the Government's decision to abandon the United States Government by not supporting the military action of bombing oil installations at Haiphong and Hanoi. It was a regrettable and weak decision, as was said by the Leader of the Opposition, my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) and many of my colleagues. I was extremely impressed by the speech of the Foreign Secretary this afternoon. It was a first-class speech, putting forward with great clarity the views of the Government on the entire Vietnamese situation with none of which did I disagree except the point about the failure to support the military decision to bomb oil installations in North Vietnam. I returned from Laos only ten days ago. I think that I am the first back bench Member from either side of the House to visit Laos. When I was in Vientiane I made a close and careful study of the situation in Vietnam as seen from Vientiane. I also met many of the leading members of the Royal Laos Government and many people who are resident and involved politically and diplomatically in Vientiane. One of the things that struck me was the importance of a document which so far has not been produced by Her Majesty's Government. This document was explained to me by Mr. McClelland, who is the Canadian Commissioner on the Laos Control Commission. This International Commission was set up as a result of the 1962 agreement. Mr. McClelland, the Canadian Commissioner, accompanied by the Indian Commissioner, has carried out a careful survey of the operations on the Ho Chi Minh trails, which is not just one trail or track but a series of laterite roads running through the Communist and Pathet Lao controlled areas of Laos. This document of 700 pages, which includes photographs, shows in great detail, and for the first time, the fact that Chinese and Russian equipment and North Vietnamese troops are travelling by truck and regularly using the Ho Chi Minh trails. The significance of this document is that it is signed by the Canadian Commissioner and by the Indian Commissioner, but not by the Polish Commissioner. This document, signed by the two neutrals, provides the first firm evidence from a neutral source of the movement of Chinese and Russian equipment and North Vietnamese troops down the Ho Chi Minh trails. This document was in the hands of the British Government over three weeks ago. Yesterday I requested, and one of my hon. Friends has also requested, that a copy of this document be put in the Library. The Question for Written Answer which I tabled to the Foreign Secretary yesterday afternoon has not yet been answered. No reply of any sort has been given. This is an extremely important document for today's debate, in which many views are being expressed sincerely. I am the first to admit that I do not approve of all the views which are being expressed on one side, as many people may not approve of my views. This document is fundamental to our debate today and it should have been placed in the Library in response to my request or have been given to us to look at. I ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to ask the Prime Minister to reply to this point tonight and also to say whether this document has been shown to the American Government officially. If the document was in the Prime Minister's hands before he made his statement to the House last week, as I believe it was, he had the firm evidence in his grasp on which to make quite plain the reasons for the American decision to bomb the oil installations in Haiphong and Hanoi, this document makes it clear that trucks were moving down the Ho Chi Minh trails and the petrol and oil installations were needed in order to provide fuel for those trucks.
As the hon. Gentleman has said, there have been many sincere expressions of view in this debate. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition is against the Government for dissociating themselves from the bombing of Haiphong and Hanoi. Will the hon. Gentleman say, for his part, where he would stop in supporting American policy, short of the use of nuclear weapons?
As I was saying earlier, I have two main points to make tonight. I will certainly answer the hon. Gentleman's question when I come to my other point later. Before I finish on the subject of this document, I express the hope that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will ask the Prime Minister to reply to this point tonight, because it is concerning many of us on this side of the House and also puzzling us. This document gave the Prime Minister the firm argument and evidence to enable him to give full public support to the American decision to bomb the oil installations. I should be grateful for an answer to this question.The second point concerns a rather wider aspect of the Vietnamese situation which spreads into the S.E.A.T.O. area. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham has said, it is not only the situation in Vietnam which concerns us as a power in the Far East, but also the situation of S.E.A.T.O. Although there is not time today to develop one's thoughts and ideas on how one would like to see S.E.A.T.O. develop, the point should be made that nearly every South-East Asian nation is 100 per cent. behind the American action, the American attitude and the American fight in South-Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, Formosa, the Philippines, Malaysia, Burma, Thailand—all these countries fully support the Americans in South Vietnam, as do Australia and New Zealand, as was pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham.
This is of essential interest to the House. Surely the hon. Gentleman is now talking about the ruling cliques in those nations and not necessarily about the mass of the native populations, which is quite another matter.
No. I am talking about the mass of the population, because there is a democratic system in Japan, New Zealand and Australia. There is a very flourishing democratic system in Singapore, as there is in Malaysia. All these countries, which I have no doubt the hon. Lady has visited, have flourishing democratic systems. Some South-East Asian countries have not. Thailand has not at present got democratic elections. But all these nations give wholehearted and universal support to the American attitude in Vietnam. In Thailand we have great commitments. We have commitments under the S.E.A.T.O. Treaty to support Thailand if the request comes to us for aid.In 1962 under the Treaty we put a squadron of Hunter aircraft into Cheng Mai to support the Thais at the time of the Laos difficulties, before the agreement was reached by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home). What is interesting but not widely known in this country is that British troops are already in Thailand at the moment. In fact, there is a battalion of British troops at the moment in a place called Loeng Nok Tha. There are 32 officers and 565 other ranks there. They are building a massive airfield. I have Questions down to the Foreign Secretary next week to ascertain details of the cost and the arrangements about this airfield. As we already have troops—in my view, rightly so—in Thailand to fulfil our S.E.A.T.O. obligations, I cannot see why the Government should not, if requested by Thailand, put more troops into Thailand as a member of the S.E.A.T.O. organisation—at Thailand's request. I am sure that hon. Members opposite, both above and below the Gangway, would support such a request for troops, because this would be carrying out our obligations under the S.E.A.T.O. Treaty. The Prime Minister's latest idea of going to Moscow, which was announced last night, has been discussed on several occasions today. Many people hope that this is a genuine effort by the Prime Minister to start a peaceful negotiation to try to get some result in Moscow when he visits there later this month. I should like the Prime Minister to answer the question put to him this afternoon by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. Was he really invited? I wonder. I wonder if he did not perhaps suggest that he would like to visit the Trade Fair and then have a talk with the leaders of the Soviet people whilst he was there. [HON. MEMBERS: "So?"] This is very important. It is important to know if there is a change of mind and of attitude on the part of the leaders in the Kremlin as a result of the bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong. If the initiative had come from the Soviet leaders in the Kremlin for the Prime Minister to visit them in Moscow, this would indicate a change of mind. If, on the other hand, the initiative did not come from Moscow but came from the Prime Minister, this would indicate that we were back on the same old road which we have been over already in the last two years. I refer to the visit to Hanoi of the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, a mission which was not carefully prepared, and to the Commonwealth Peace Mission, which never got off the ground. They both failed. I have a strange feeling—I hope I am wrong—that, if the Prime Minister suggested this visit and if it did not come as a genuine invitation from the Soviet Leaders, maybe—perhaps I am being unfair—it was arranged as a sop to hon. Members below the Gangway who are being so tiresome and troublesome to the Prime Minister. Hon. Members may not agree but that is how it looks to me. During my travels, particularly in Laos, comments have been made to me by many people that, whenever the Prime Minister seems to take what is put out by him to be a genuine step to find a peaceful solution, it always seems to take place when he is having terrible trouble domestically with the Left wing of his own party. That makes people overseas begin to wonder how genuine his efforts are. I do not want to detain the House longer, which will please many hon. Members opposite, because many hon. Members on both sides wish to speak. All of us, whatever our views, wish to see this miserable and beastly war finished. Some of us feel strongly and sincerely, like my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham, that the only way to deal with Communism is from a position of strength. We believe that if we talk from strength we get results. Others do not believe that. Some hon. Members opposite feel that we should start talks with the other side by withdrawing all our support for the American position in the Far East. That is an understandable position. The position which I do not understand and which I regret is that taken up by the Prime Minister during the past week by saying that he will support the Americans in the battle they are fighting, alongside Australians and New Zealanders, in South Vietnam but that when they take military action which will safeguard the troops fighting in this bloody little war, he must refuse to support President Johnson in his hour of need.
The hon. Member for Richmond, Surrey (Mr. A. Royle) followed a much more restrained and responsible line of argument than the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten). I do not condemn the hon. Member for Banbury's effort in trying to extract from the situation the maximum political advantage, but it is regrettable that he should have done so on an occasion such as this when we are discussing issues of very grave importance.My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) posed some questions to the Opposition and I hope that the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) will make it clear just how far the Opposition are prepared to go with the Americans. I believe that we are entitled to an answer. We started this debate with the shattering news that the Prime Minister is to visit Russia. I believe that on both sides of the House this is a most welcome move. It could bring great fruits. The speech that has impressed me most, apart from that of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, is the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Newens). He is my friend in more sense than one. He is a personal friend and I appreciate his very deep and sincere feelings on this issue. Indeed, we all have such feelings. The argument on this side of the House is not about the end that we wish to achieve but about the means by which we can best achieve it and I have great sympathy for the deep feeling of my hon. Friend the Member for Epping. What is going on in Vietnam is a tragedy for mankind and I do not believe that an academic discussion of the causes of the conflict, of the rights or wrongs, will have any effect in saving one single life. I was pleased to see that the Government's Motion put as first priority the urgent need to stop the fighting and to bring to an end the murder, slaughter, bloodshed and atrocities being committed by all the participants in that bloody struggle. That is the end upon which we are all agreed on this side of the House. Where we differ is on the best way to achieve it, on whether it would be better completely to dissociate ourselves from the United States or to have some real influence on American policy by continuing a limited form of association. I believe that there is a growing acceptance in Vietnam itself that there can be no military victory by either side. When my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance returned from Hanoi, I believe that he came back with the message that there was no inclination by the Hanoi authorities to discuss a peaceful settlement because they thought that they could gain a military victory. I believe that that time has gone both for the United States and for Hanoi. I believe that, as the war escalates, it has a danger of leading to a less satisfactory settlement than could be obtained if talks could be arranged to take place now. The second part of the Motion talks of a settlement which would enable the peoples of North Vietnam and South Vietnam to determine their own future. Again, there is no difference between my hon. Friends and myself on that issue. We are all concerned and determined that all the people of Vietnam, in the north as well as in the south—at least, I hope that we are agreed—should have an opportunity at some time to determine freely their own destiny. The danger is that, if the reluctance of Hanoi to talk continues, we shall move into a situation where, with the build-up of military forces in both North and South, no acceptable political settlement will be possible except one brought about by military stalemate after the Korean pattern. That is why we call urgently to the Soviet Union, as Co-Chairman, to join with us in an exercise of influence in reconvening the Geneva Conference and call on Hanoi to talk now while there is still a chance to get an acceptable political settlement with free determination for all the peoples of Vietnam. There are some voices in this country which are not helpful in this situation. I refer to no voice which has a hearing in this House. I received an invitation at the beginning of the week to attend a conference whose sole purpose was to raise funds to supply arms to the Vietcong. That sort of action by anyone in this country can have no bearing at all on the achievement of a peaceful solution. Nor can the carrying of banners with the slogan "Victory for the Vietcong". We should all, both here and outside, realise that there can be no military victory in Vietnam. If we supply funds to supply arms to the Vietcong, we are not helping to stop the murder and the slaughter. All we are doing is prolonging the agony of the people of Vietnam.
I agree that efforts to supply arms to the Vietcong are not helpful in any way and I deplore such efforts, but would not my hon. Friend agree that to support the Americans in their efforts to secure a military victory in South Vietnam is equally deplorable?