HC Deb 27 July 1965 vol 717 cc220-2
Q4. Mr. Blaker

asked the Prime Minister what steps he is taking to co-ordinate the activities of Departments concerned with the sale of British arms overseas.

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Member is concerned about co-ordination as it affects the positive selling of arms, I would refer him to the Answer given to him by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence on 21st July.

Mr. Blaker

Is the Prime Minister aware that on that occasion his right hon. Friend said that Sir Donald Stokes and the "super arms salesman", when appointed, would be concerned with the sale of secondhand arms, as well as the sale of new arms? How does he reconcile that statement with his own call on 16th December for a ban on the bloody traffic in secondhand arms?

The Prime Minister

I was referring to the extremely dangerous practice going on, which have been debated many times in the House, under which arms are transferred from Governments to private salesmen, who have been going all over the world selling arms to troublemakers and many of them have been used against British troops. My right hon. Friend's statement referred to Government-permitted sales to our allies and Commonwealth partners, whether they be new or secondhand arms. There is all the difference in the world between those two things.

Mr. Ennals

Would my right hon. Friend agree that it is still the policy of the Government not to sell arms to South Africa?

The Prime Minister


Mr. Emrys Hughes

Could my right hon. Friend assure us that we will not speed up arms and slow down housing? Is he aware that there is a great danger that this might lead to an inflation of the arms industry at a time when we need all the skilled labour for the advanced factories?

The Prime Minister

There is no question of speeding up arms production. We have had a number of historic debates in this Session when we have been voting in respect of cutting down on aircraft and other arms programmes which have become irrelevant to our defence needs. Where there is an agreement to arm some of our allies in N.A.T.O., we feel that United Kingdom types of weapons should be used and not exclusively American weapons, some of which have been sold as a result of pretty high pressure salesmanship.

Mr. Peter Thomas

Is the ban on the sale of secondhand arms still the policy of the Government, and do the Government intend to make any proposals in this field at the forthcoming disarmament conference?

The Prime Minister

I should not like to say at the moment whether it is appropriate at the disarmament conference or for straight handling at the United Nations. It is, and has been under successive Governments, the policy to keep very strict control over the sale of secondhand arms from this country. In my statement last December and previous statements I was concerned with international arms traffic through international privateers.