HC Deb 27 January 1964 vol 688 cc28-30
39. Mr. W. Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will now review the procedure under which sanction is given for the supply of military equipment to South Africa.

Mr. R. A. Butler

Our policy on the supply of arms to South Africa was fully explained by my right honourable Friend the Prime Minister in answer to questions on 19th December. I have nothing to add to what he said then.

Mr. Hamilton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that is precisely what the Prime Minister did not explain? Is it not the case that all the Prime Minister said was that he was satisfied with the machinery—without outlining what the machinery was? Is the Foreign Secretary aware that there is a good deal of disquiet in the country among all sections of the community, including the Churches, about the efficacy of the methods by which the Government distinguish between the supply of arms for purposes of internal suppression and external defence? Can he give the House a categorical assurance that no arms currently being supplied are being used or will be used for internal measures of suppression?

Mr. Butler

From my information, I am glad to say that there is no evidence of arms being used at all for repression at the present time. Therefore, what I shall address myself to is the future. I am satisfied that our machinery, which is carefully correlated between the Departments, does its best to differentiate in respect of arms and spare parts—the Prime Minister referred to this—designed to be used for repression internally, and that our policy is quite clear on this matter.

Sir J. Duncan

Will my right hon. Friend do nothing to prevent the South African Government patrolling the seas round their coast and the Mozambique Channel to watch the Russian submarines which are frequently operating in those waters?

Mr. Butler

My hon. Friend was answered by the Prime Minister on 19th December, when he asked a similar supplementary question. I should like to remind him that under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, a nation has the right to arm itself for self-defence. That is precisely why we make a differentiation in the policy that we adopt.

Mr. Hamilton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that British capital is now being used in South Africa to build factories for the manufacture of small arms, including tear gas? Can he say whether tear gas is used for internal purposes or is likely to be used for internal purposes, and if so, what are the Government doing to prevent the use of British capital for this purpose?

Mr. Butler

That goes wider than the Question, which is related to the export of arms, spare parts and so forth, and I should want notice of the hon. Gentleman's question.

Mr. Lee

Why does not the Foreign Secretary agree that the Government could adept the same policy on this as the United States and, indeed, Western Germany?

Mr. Butler

Precisely because we differentiate between the self-defence of a country and the Simonstown Agreement, both of which we think are legitimate, and the repression of internal disorder according to the terms used by the South African Government, which we do not wish to entourage and which we do not think is legitimate.