HC Deb 07 November 1955 vol 545 cc1463-4
14. Mr. E. Johnson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many Centurion tanks have been sold to Egypt during 1955; and for how many more such sales have been authorised.

Mr. Turton

It is contrary to Her Majesty's Government's normal practice to disclose details or quantities of military equipment supplied to foreign Governments. But I can say that no tanks have been supplied to Egypt since the middle of August, and that no further deliveries are at present due.

Mr. Johnson

Whilst thanking my right hon. Friend for the second part of that Answer, may I ask him if the first part implies that the British people, through this House, are not entitled to know what arms the Government are selling to foreign Powers?

Mr. Turton

This has been the normal practice carried on both by Her Majesty's Government and the preceding Government. There was only one exception made on 29th November, 1950, when the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) announced certain deliveries of Centurion tanks to Egypt.

Mr. Shinwell

In view of the fact that on that occasion I did inform the House of what was being done, why are Her Majesty's Government so reluctant now to inform us how many Centurion tanks had been sent to Egypt before August of this year? Is it not important to know, because the position is no longer normal but very abnormal?

Mr. Turton

I adopted exactly the same lines as the right hon. Member, and I have said what we are doing at present exactly as he did, except that his Government were exporting to Egypt at the time and we are not exporting.

Mr. Shinwell

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why the Government refuse to give this information? Is it for security reasons, or because they do not want to disclose unpleasant facts?

Mr. Turton

The right hon. Member told the House on 29th November, 1950: … it is contrary to normal practice to disclose details of military equipment supplied to foreign governments.…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th November, 1950; Vol. 481, c. 1154.]

Mr. J. R. H. Hutchison

As Centurion tanks have been sold to other countries, can my right hon. Friend assure the House that the Egyptian Government are getting no advantage in matters of price?

Mr. Turton

That question does not arise from the reply.

Mr. Paget

On a point of order. There was a marked ambiguity in the answers. The second part of the Question asks: and for how many more such sales have been authorised. The reply was that no more are at present due. Does that mean that no more have been authorised, or not? There seems to be an ambiguity?

Mr. Speaker

I really cannot answer that question because I know nothing about it. If the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) wishes to find that out, he ought to put down another Question. We must push on.

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