HC Deb 15 June 1964 vol 696 cc928-9
28. Mr. Swingler

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's policy on the supply of arms to Spain.

38. Mr. M. Foot

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what conditions are imposed in the interests of foreign policy on the sale of arms to Spain; and what recent alteration he has made in these conditions.

Mr. R. A. Butler

Her Majesty's Government's policy with regard to the supply of arms to Spain is the same as that which we adopt towards other States, namely, that every application is carefully examined in the light of the political, strategic and economic implications of the individual case. We also take into consideration whether such arms are likely to be re-exported or used for aggression against, or the subversion of, other countries.

Mr. Swingler

Can we take it that the Foreign Secretary is not in favour of promoting trade in arms purely for commercial purposes? Does it follow, therefore, that approval to the supply of arms to Spain implies a measure of political consent and support to the régime there? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that such a measure would be utterly repugnant to the majority of British people?

Mr. Butler

No firm decision to build ships of British design has so far been communicated to us by the Spanish Government, but the preliminaries have all been gone through. There is no political question in this. What is at stake is that, under supreme competition from other people, we have the chance of fulfilling a very good order, and I very much hope that we would.

Mr. Foot

Does the Minister's reply mean that he has no objection whatever to selling arms to Fascist countries? Will he recall that he was the Minister before the war who most assiduously told the House of Commons that no Italian or German arms were being sold to Franco Spain? Does not the right hon. Gentleman have some guilt on his conscience, which he ought at least to try to remedy by refusing to agree to this contract?

Mr. Butler

I have no guilt on my conscience. My previous activities when I was Under-Secretary were concentrated upon keeping us out of the Spanish Civil War, and my present activities are doing my best for my country.

Sir P. Agnew

Is it not a welcome consequence of the defeat of the Spanish Armada that the Spanish Government recognise the superiority of design which our warship designers can produce? Is it not, therefore, highly desirable that this design should be allowed to be used by a country with whom Her Majesty's Government have a cultural agreement?

Mr. Butler indicated assent


Mr. Gordon Walker

Was not there a rather premature disclosure of this transaction? Is it true that it was announced in London before it had been announced in Madrid? Indeed, has it yet been announced by Spain? Has any agreement yet been concluded?

Mr. Butler

I said in my original Answer that no firm decision to build ships of British design has so far been communicated to us by the Spanish authorities. There was a premature disclosure.

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