HC Deb 21 July 1965 vol 716 cc1560-2
14. Mr. Blaker

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what steps he is taking to increase the sales of British arms overseas.

18. Mr. Ron Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what progress he has made in securing the services of a super salesman for the purpose of selling British military equipment overseas.

Mr. Healey

Sir Donald Stokes, the managing director of Leylands, has, with the agreement of his board, accepted an invitation extended to him by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation and myself to advise us on the promotion of exports of defence equipment, and on any changes of organisation that may be necessary for this purpose. My right hon. Friend and I are most grateful to Sir Donald for so readily placing his great experience in the field of exports at our disposal, and we are convinced that the result of his work, which he has already begun, will be to enable us to step up the sales of our defence equipment to the maximum extent.

Mr. Blaker

Will the Secretary of State say whether the appointment of Sir Donald Stokes, and the appointment of a super salesman in future, about which the Prime Minister told the House the other day, will be intended to cover the sale not only of new equipment but of equipment that has been in service with Her Majesty's Forces and which they no longer require?

Mr. Healey

Yes, Sir. There is no limit to the scope of military equipment on whose export sales Sir Donald is now concerned to advise us.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this appointment has been greeted with considerable astonishment? Has the Minister for Disarmament been consulted about it? What salary is this big business tycoon, who is, presumably, selling arms for private manufacturers, to be paid? What kind of arms are to be sold? As the Government are against the proliferation of atomic bombs, are they now to try to sell napalm bombs?

Mr. Healey

The Government as a whole, of course, agreed this appointment. I think that the whole House is concerned with the fact that, for completely compelling economic and military reasons, we are buying some of our defence equipment from abroad, and it is desirable that we should be able to recoup the foreign exchange we lose from buying equipment from abroad by selling suitable equipment to our allies. From a constituency point of view, my hon. Friend probably shares our concern in this respect.

As to salary, Sir Donald Stokes will not be paid for his services. I would point out, as I said in my original Answer, that Sir Donald is not himself acting as a super salesman but is concerned to advise us on the whole range of problems connected with the export of arms.

Dame Irene Ward

How dreadful you are!

Mr. Ridsdale

Is not one of our great difficulties in the export of arms that our competitors have an advantage because they can give credits that we cannot?

Mr. Healey

There is a very wide range of considerations affecting the matter, and Sir Donald will be concerned with all of them.

Mr. Soames

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we on this side of the House feel most grateful to Sir Donald Stokes for agreeing to take on this responsibility which he has been invited to take by the Government? Would the right hon. Gentleman consider putting in the Library a copy of the terms of reference given to Sir Donald Stokes? Are there any countries in the Western world which are excluded from his terms of reference?

Mr. Healey

I will consider whether it might be possible to put a copy of the terms of reference in the Library. No countries are excluded from the terms of reference.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the Answer, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter at the earliest possible opportunity.