HC Deb 06 July 1960 vol 626 cc440-1
29. Mr. Harold Davies

asked the Secretary of State for War what is the cost of the 500 Malkara anti-tank rockets ordered from Australia to equip the Royal Armoured Corps; and why this order was placed despite the fact that the weapon was cumbersome and already out of date.

Mr. Soames

Some 400 missiles have been ordered at a cost of about £1 million. Others will follow. Malkara is air-portable, accurate, highly lethal against the heaviest tank at considerable range, and is already in production. It will be a most valuable addition to our armoury.

Mr. Davies

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that some of us know that there are always difficulties in ordering equipment like this? Can he explain why it is that Australia has abandoned this weapon because it is cumbersome and is not effective, while the British Government go ahead? Is it not time that somebody somewhere had a policy of building up our hardware instead of spending public money on equipment that is useless?

Mr. Soames

I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman knows the reasons why the Australians have not ordered this weapon. I must make it clear that it was developed in Australia on our behalf and to meet our needs. It was not developed to meet the needs of the Australian Army, which is concerned with the much more restrictive conditions of jungle warfare. I would have been very surprised if the Australians had decided to adopt this weapon, because it does not fit their needs.

Commander Kerans

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I saw this weapon last month when it was shown to many hon. Members? I found it to be extremely effective for both moving and stationary targets at varying ranges.

Mr. Soames

I am grateful to my hon. and gallant Friend for those comments. I wish the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) had been able to see it for himself.

Mr. Steele

How many of our N.A.T.O. allies have accepted this weapon and are prepared to buy it?

Mr. Soames

It has not been sold to any other N.A.T.O. countries at present.

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