HC Deb 18 April 1951 vol 486 cc1815-6
41. Captain Soames

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty why H.M.S. "Cottesmore" has been sold to the Egyptian Government; and whether His Majesty's Government intend to sell to foreign Powers other destroyers of this class.

Mr. Callaghan

This ship was sold in June, 1950, as surplus to our requirements. As regards the second part of the Question, I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Miss Ward) on 4th April.

Captain Soames

In view of the hon. Gentleman's reply to Question No. 36 about priority being given to antisubmarine vessels in the defence programme, how can he say that this vessel was surplus to requirements? If the Government wish to sell anti-submarine vessels, would it not be wiser to sell them to nations subscribing to the Atlantic Pact?

Mr. Callaghan

As to the first part of the supplementary question, I believe we have none of this class of ships now serving with the Navy. At any rate, we have only one or two. As to the second part of the supplementary, it is our policy to sell these ships, or to loan them or give them, to countries in danger as a first priority.

Mr. J. P. L. Thomas

Will the hon. Gentleman state in what respects the negotiations over H.M.S. "Cottesmore" differ from those over the Centurion tanks, which, we were assured in the House, were not to be sent to Egypt?

Mr. Callaghan

This ship was offered to the Egyptians as long ago as the autumn of 1949. She is not now H.M.S. "Cottesmore," and has not been for a very long time. She is an Egyptian ship, manned by an Egyptian crew.

Mr. Awbery

Were not old battleships and new battleships sold to friendly Powers and potential enemy Powers when the Tory Party was in power?

Sir H. Williams

Would it not have been rather useful if H.M.S. "Cottesmore" had been retained in the Navy to escort British tankers through the Suez Canal?