HC Deb 27 May 1963 vol 678 cc916-7
44. Mr. Swingler

asked the Lord Privy Seal to what extent he lays down principles of discrimination in the export of armaments to foreign countries.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Peter Thomas)

All applications for the supply of arms abroad are examined by the Government Departments concerned in the light of the political, strategic and economic implications of each individual case. Subject to these factors, the general principles followed are that sales are authorised to recognised and stable Governments which are in normal diplomatic relations with Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. Swingler

Is it not clear, therefore, from that Answer that the export of arms, unlike other exports, is not determined by the needs of employment but is a political act, and that to millions of people at home, in the Commonwealth, and abroad, it implies some approval of the international standing of the country involved? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that that is the reason why millions of people deplore Her Majesty's Government policy of exporting arms to a country which is practising apartheid?

Mr. Thomas

No, Sir. It is wrong to say that these matters are assessed solely from the political angle. As I said, they are examined in the light of the political, strategic and economic implications of each individual case.

Mr. Healey

But does the hon. Gentleman think it sensible and consonant with British interests that Her Majesty's Government, for example, should have sent military aircraft to Indonesia and have refused Malaysia, a Commonwealth country coming into being, the means to defend itself against possible use of those weapons? Does the hon. Gentleman believe that it is consonant with the interests of the Commonwealth as a whole that we should be the arsenal of apartheid in South Africa at the risk of breaking our relations with the African countries in the Commonwealth?

Mr. Thomas

As I said in a speech in a debate on the Address, the policy of Her Majesty's Government on the export of arms to South Africa is well known, and all these matters are taken into consideration when we are considering whether or not certain arms should go.

Mr. M. Foot

Will the hon. Gentleman say whether he thinks that the sale of arms to South Africa improves or injures our relations with all other African States?

Mr. Thomas

It depends on which arms are sold.

Hon. Members