HC Deb 21 July 1965 vol 716 cc1565-6
20. Mr. Bence

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what proportion of military equipment is of British manufacture.

Mr. Healey

This information cannot be provided in the form requested, but I can say that rather more than 90 per cent. by value of current purchases is of British manufacture.

Mr. Bence

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that it would be far better to get agreement among all those nations in the Alliance with Great Britain to withdraw the supply of armaments provision rather than to start off an international competitive race in the sale of armaments? Would he accept from me that many of us on this side of the House and many in the country think it a retrograde step to organise a professional sales service indiscriminately to sell arms?

Mr. Healey

I think my hon. Friend will recognise that it is Her Majesty's Government's hope that we can end this whole business of traffic in arms by reaching disarmament agreements with our political opponents. Meanwhile, it is an unsatisfactory arrangement that we should engage in commercial competition with our political friends to sell arms for defence. I think he will agree that when hard selling methods are used by some allies to pre-empt a market which should be fairly shared, Her Majesty's Government have not only the right but the duty to ensure that British industry shall get a fair share of the available market.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Will the right hon. Gentleman put first things first? When he proposes spending hundreds of millions of British taxpayers' money on United States aircraft, will he ensure that they buy some British equipment in return?

Mr. Healey

Yes, indeed, but I point out that during the financial year 1964–65 British exports of arms were three times as great as British imports of arms.

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