HC Deb 30 July 1964 vol 699 cc1788-9
Q6. Mr. W. Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister how many requests for the supply of military arms and equipment by Commonwealth countries have been refused in the last three years; what was the nature of such requests; and why they were refused.

The Prime Minister

It is not the practice to disclose details of negotiations with other countries for the supply of military equipment. While applications from Commonwealth countries receive especially sympathetic consideration, they are dealt with in the light of the political, strategic and economic implications of each individual case.

Mr. Hamilton

Cannot the Prime Minister supply the House with information indicating the delays between the initial request for arms and the supply of them by this country? Is it not the case that several complaints have been made by Commonwealth countries that there has been delay in meeting their demands and that the Government seem to have been more expeditious in seeking to supply arms to Spain and to South Africa than to members of the Commonwealth?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. In these matters of armaments we try if we can to meet the Commonwealth countries' needs, and we do it in negotiation and by agreement with them.

Mr. Stratton Mills

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a very full answer to this question would be most welcome by hostile rations?

The Prime Minister

It would be no service to the Commonwealth countries concerned, and they would not like it at all, if I gave facts and figures in answer to the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton).

Mr. Healey

Further to that reply by the Prime Minister, is he aware that the Prime Minister of Malaysia complained publicly in the United States only last week that Her Majesty's Government had taken three years to supply Malaysia with eight small naval craft? Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why Her Majesty's Government are so dilatory in meeting the demands for arms of Commonwealth countries whose soldiers are fighting side by side with our own when simultaneously they are pressing warships into the hands of a dictator who is actively pressing claims for British territory?

The Prime Minister

As usual, the hon. Gentleman is completely wrong. Any ships that we are building for Malaysia or any ships we are helping Malaysia to acquire are within the time scale which we worked out with the Malaysian Government. I am afraid to say that the Prime Minister of Malaysia was misinterpreted in what he said.