HC Deb 26 April 1961 vol 639 cc415-6
24. Mr. Dugdale

asked the Lord Privy Seal what recent requests have been received from the Government of Portugal for the supply of arms; and what replies have been sent by Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. Heath

It is not in the public interest to disclose whether or not requests for arms have been received from foreign Governments, nor to state the extent, if any, to which particular requests will be met.

Mr. Dugdale

Will the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that if any such request is received, we will insist that these arms are not used in either Mozambique or Angola?

Mr. Heath

No, Sir. The principles governing the way in which these matters are negatiated between Governments are of very long standing and well known and were published to the House on 21st January, 1959. We shall adhere to those principles in this case.

Mr. Stonehouse

Is it not time that we looked again at these principles if they mean that British-supplied arms are to be used in colonial aggression in Angola?

Mr. S. Silverman

Without dissenting from what the right hon. Gentleman has said about the confidential nature of the course of the negotiations, is he really suggesting that the people of this country have no interest and no right to know whether the Government, in their name, are supplying arms to any nation or not for a particular purpose at any time? Does he think that it is not in the public interest and that the public does not have a right to know what is being done in its name?

Mr. Heath

Apart from the fact that there are many transactions of this kind, some of major items and some very small, equipment used by various forces is being supplied through commercial channels, and it is not in the public interest that the whole matter should be public, nor would the Governments placing the orders necessarily wish to have the information published.

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