HC Deb 30 January 1956 vol 548 cc575-7
33. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what machinery has been established by the Governments of the United States of America, the United Kingdom and France to co-ordinate the supply of arms to Israel and the Arab States, as contemplated by the Tripartite Declaration of 1950.

Mr. Nutting

As was stated in the recent White Paper on the export of surplus war material, Her Majesty's Government are in close consultation on the supply of arms to Middle East countries with their co-signatories of the Tripartite Declaration and also, as occasion arises, with other friendly countries who may be potential suppliers.

Mr. Henderson

In view of the supply of Centurion tanks to Egypt, do the consultations to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred include the supply of armaments of equal quality to Israel?

Mr. Nutting

I do not quite get the meaning of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's supplementary question, but I can say that all arms deliveries of that kind are cleared by this consultative machinery.

Mr. Henderson

In that consultative machinery is it the policy of Her Majesty's Government that arms of quality equal to the Centurion tanks which they have supplied to Egypt are to be supplied to the Government of Israel?

Mr. Nutting

The policy of Her Majesty's Government in this matter has been very frequently stated; it is to supply armaments in accordance with their obligations under the Tripartite Declaration.

36. Mr. E. Johnson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the purchase of arms of an offensive character by Egypt from Czechoslovakia, he will consider facilitating the purchase by Israel of defensive weapons such as anti-tank guns and short-range fighter aircraft.

Mr. Nutting

In accordance with the terms of the Tripartite Declaration of 1950, Her Majesty's Government have supplied, and will continue to supply Israel and the Arab States with arms for legitimate self-defence, internal security and defence of the area as a whole. Requests by the Israel Government for arms are examined in the light of these considerations and of Her Majesty's Government's policy to seek to prevent an arms race.

Mr. Johnson

In considering this matter, would my right hon. Friend appreciate the necessity of providing Israel with modern anti-tank weapons and modern fighter aircraft, as such weapons would be in keeping, would they not, with the Tripartite Declaration? It would satisfy Israel if she has no aggressive intention and it should not alarm the Arabs unless they intend to attack Israel.

Mr. Nutting

I would prefer not to be drawn into a discussion of individual weapons when these matters are being considered and discussed in Washington by my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Strachey

While appreciating that the Minister does not wish to engage in an arms race, may I ask him whether he considers supplying all the arms to one side only as an acceptable alternative?

Mr. Nutting

It is not only I who do not want to engage in an arms race; it is Her Majesty's Government and the co-signatories of the Tripartite Declaration.

Mr. Stokes

Is it possible for Her Majesty's Government to make some statement on the comparative strengths, because from what I have observed in the Press and reports of remarks in the House, people are talking an awful lot of nonsense about all this?

Mr. Nutting

While not necessarily disagreeing with the last part of the right hon. Gentleman's supplementary, I do not consider that it would be helpful to publish these figures because, as I think the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate, it would stimulate a considerable number of demands from those who considered that they were worse off than the others.

Mr. Wigg

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider what anti-tank weapon would best be suited for dealing with the Centurions supplied by the Government to Egypt?