HC Deb 23 February 1955 vol 537 cc1249-50
4. Mr. Wyatt

asked the Minister of Defence with what countries standardisation of the new rifle, adopted for use in the British Forces, has so far been achieved and on what dates; with what further countries he hopes to achieve standardisation; and what are the grounds for such hopes.

Mr. H. Macmillan

Belgium adopted the rifle in 1953; the Australian Government announced their intention of doing so last month. I understand that Canada is likely to adopt it when troop trials are completed. New Zealand and South Africa are also taking part in the trials and other countries are showing an interest.

Mr. Wyatt

But is not the Minister aware—have not they told him yet?—that the Belgian rifle has been redesigned in inches and so therefore the British one will not be interchangeable in its parts with the Belgian rifle? And as it will not be accepted by Canada or by the United States there will be no standardisation with any country, not even with Belgium and Luxembourg?

Mr. Macmillan

The hon. Gentleman is drawing false deductions from false premises.

Mr. Shinwell

The right hon. Gentleman cannot get away with this. Surely he is aware now that there is no question of standardisation in view of the adjustments which have taken place in the rifle? Will he now agree that there is no possibility of standardisation in the foreseeable future?

Mr. Macmillan

I answered the Question. It is that some countries have adopted the rifle and other countries are considering it.

Mr. Strachey

Would not the Minister agree that the Commonwealth countries which he mentioned were long ago standardised on the British rifle and that if we had adopted it—if the decision had not been reversed—we should now have the rifle in service for our own Army?

Mr. Macmillan

That is another question.

Mr. Wyatt

Does not the Minister realise that it is quite misleading to pretend that there could be standardisation with Belgium on a rifle which has been altered in its design in measurement so that the parts can no longer be interchangeable with the Belgian rifle?

Mr. Macmillan

That is not a true statement. There can be standardisation and there is a possibility of this rifle being accepted throughout the Commonwealth.