HC Deb 06 November 1934 vol 293 cc827-8
45. Mr. MANDER

asked the Prime Minister whether he has any statement to make with reference to the evidence given by Captain John Ball, managing director of the Soley Armament Company, Limited, described as contractors to the War Department and Air Ministry, at the senatorial inquiry in America, in which it was stated that his firm had available among other articles the following: about 1,000,000 rifles, 20,000 Lewis machine guns with spare parts, 8,000 of the same guns of the aeroplane pattern, 6,000 Vickers guns, 4,000 Webley revolvers, 5,000 Smith and Wesson revolvers, 10,000 Colt revolvers, and 303 calibre ammunition for rifles and machine guns amounting to 120,000,000 rounds in good condition: whether he will state the terms of the arrangement with the company; and what steps are taken to prevent the sale of armaments indiscriminately to foreign countries in the interests of money making?

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald)

The Soley Armament Company are on the list of War Department contractors who are eligible to tender for surplus stores including arms and ammunition. There is no special arrangement direct with the Company in regard to the articles mentioned in the question, some of which it is understood are not from War Department stocks, but the Company act as representatives of "B.S.A. Guns, Ltd." who at present hold under agreement the right of purchase and re-sale of War Department surplus stocks of rifles and Lewis guns. The hon. Member will appreciate that it is contrary to custom to publish the terms of contracts, but I can assure him that no sale can be made except to approved destinations and on the grant of an export licence by the Board of Trade. These safeguards are very rigidly administered, and, during the past four years, rifles and Lewis guns to the value of only some £25,000 have been sold for export. As regards the last part of the question, the machinery of the export licensing of arms ensures effective control over the supply to foreign countries of arms from the United Kingdom.


Apart from that question, does not the Prime Minister think it is very undesirable that such enormous powers for harm should be in the hands of private individuals?


The hon. Member put a question to me and, having had his answer, begins another with "apart from that question." He must put his new question on the Paper.


Was this the firm that supplied the rifles and machine guns to the Socialist party in Spain for their recent rebellion?