HC Deb 04 February 1970 vol 795 cc404-5
12 and 14. Mr. Pardoe

asked the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what is the value of all arms sales to Nigeria during each of the past five years; and what proportion of total arms sales this is;

(2) if he will estimate the total value of all arms sold by foreign countries including Great Britain to Nigeria in the past year.

Mr. Healey

As the hon. Member knows, it is not the practice to disclose detailed information about sales of defence equipment to individual countries. I am not responsible for what foreign countries do.

Mr. Pardoe

While not at all thanking the Secretary of State for Defence for that most unhelpful reply, may I ask him how his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary came to the figure which he divulged to the House on 9th December, 1969, of British sales being 15 per cent. in value? Since we have been given that figure, is not the House entitled to the basic figures on which it was calculated?

Mr. Healey

Wounded as I am by the hon. Member's ingratitude, I am afraid that I must tell him that I am not responsible for the processes by which my right hon. Friend reaches any conclusions which he presents to the House, but I have total confidence in his rectitude and accuracy.

Mr. Henig

Will not the Secretary of State reconsider this practice? Is it not the case that if the British Government are pursuing a particular policy they ought not to feel that there is anything to hide? In view of certain allegations which have recently been made, would it not be better simply to tell the House exactly what the truth is?

Mr. Healey

No, Sir. I do not think that it would.

Mr. Michael Foot

Will not the Secretary of State for Defence reconsider this whole question of the Government's refusal to give details of arms sales abroad? Does he not feel that the Government would find it much easier to defend some things they do if they stated the information quite clearly? Would not my right hon. Friend take into account that following the 1956 Suez adventure details were given of arms sales to both Egypt and Israel which had taken plazce previously? Will he not, therefore, reconsider the whole question, and let the House have full details?

Mr. Healey

I will, of course, keep this matter and other matters permanently under review. I accept my hon. Friend's point that it would possibly be very much easier to defend Government policy if I were at liberty to reveal all the facts about these sales, but there are other very strong arguments of policy against doing so, and I think that they must take precedence at the present time.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

Will the right hon. Gentleman please not give those figures unless he has an assurance from the U.S.A., Russia and France that they will publish their figures, for otherwise this country will be placed in a most invidious situation?

Mr. Healey

That is one of the considerations of policy which have led me to the conclusions which I have reached.