HC Deb 07 December 1965 vol 722 cc241-2
Q8. Mr. Tuck

asked the Prime Minister if he will propose to President Johnson and Prime Minister Kosygin that there shall be an international agreement not to sell arms to nations in the Middle East pending the preparation of wider measures for arresting the arms race.

The Prime Minister

I should welcome the opportunity of discussing these questions with President Johnson, but I am not convinced that the time is right for my hon. Friend's proposal.

Mr. Tuck

Would my right hon. Friend agree that, however defensive the acquisition of arms by a country like Saudi Arabia appears to be, the arms would constitute a formidable addition to the striking force of that country and, therefore, create grave anxiety in places like Israel and perhaps even Aden, where they might be used against our own forces, and will inevitably start up a new phase of the arms race in the Middle East?

The Prime Minister

I do not disagree with what my hon. Friend has in mind, and certainly in regard to the supply of arms from certain countries to, for example, the U.A.R. and the anxieties felt as between the U.A.R. and Israel, there is every case, if we could reach agreement, for getting some kind of ban on arms. But there are very great difficulties, not least the problem of the nuclear question, missiles and so on. That is why I say that I do not think that the time has yet been reached when we should be trying to formulate this particular proposition.

Mr. Heath

Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the Government are following previous practice in controlling the sale of arms so that the balance is kept in an adjusted form?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. That would be our hope. But as the right hon. Gentleman knows, it is not entirely within our control. The sooner we are able to move towards something on the lines suggested by my hon. Friend the better, particularly in regard to the critical balance between Israel and her neighbours, and the sooner we shall be able to relieve tension in that area. But our main aim in regard to the nuclear question is to get a general non-dissemination agreement.