HC Deb 21 February 1955 vol 537 cc871-3
34. Mr. Wyatt

asked the Minister of Supply when he expects the new rifle adopted for use in the Forces to be in production in Britain; and why it is not yet in production.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

Production in the United Kingdom will not begin until troop trials of the rifles supplied from Belgium have been completed. In the meantime, production planning is proceeding, but in my view it is wiser not to commence production itself until we know the results of the troop trials.

Mr. Wyatt

Can the Minister explain what the Secretary of State for War meant over a year ago when he said that by adopting the Belgian rifle and abandoning the British rifle we should save a year in production; and is it not the case that this delay has been caused by redesign of the rifle in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade the Canadians and the Americans to adopt it? Is it not also the case that his Ministry is as incapable of producing rifles as it is of producing aircraft?

Mr. Lloyd

Perhaps we may discuss the latter part of that supplementary question on another occasion. So far as the first part of the question is concerned, I was asked why production had not commenced so far, and I gave the reply.

Mr. Shinwell

But did not the Prime Minister state, nearly three years ago, that the Government preferred the Belgian rifle to the proposed British rifle, which was regarded by the War Office as the best in the world, and why have the Government allowed so much time to elapse in view of the decision to enter into production?

Mr. Lloyd

The right hon. Gentleman is well aware of the advantages of having the Belgian rifle, namely, proceeding towards standardisation.

Mr. Shinwell

But is the Minister aware that I am not aware of any advantage to be derived from the Belgian rifle in preference to the British rifle? And may I ask him also why, in view of the statement made by the Prime Minister nearly three years ago, nothing has been done?

Mr. Lloyd

With regard to the suggested statement of the Prime Minister, I should like the right hon. Gentleman to give me chapter and verse for it.

Mr. Strachey

Would not the Minister agree that this interminable delay must stem from the fact that the present Government reversed the decision of the late Government, which was on the point of producing a British rifle, and can he give any reasons for that reversal or any excuse for the delay which has occurred?

Mr. Lloyd

The right hon. Gentleman says that the previous plan was on the point of producing the British rifle. He is quite wrong. No production order had been given.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

Is the Minister aware that the late Government had made the necessary preparations to go ahead with production as soon as the all-clear was given by the Government?

Mr. Lloyd

No production order had been placed.