HC Deb 29 June 1982 vol 26 cc742-3
13. Mr. Flannery

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he now has any plans to review the United Kingdom's arms sales to Latin American military Governments in the light of recent events.

Mr. Pattie

The sale of defence equipment is kept under continual review. All applications are considered individually on their merits in the light of all relevant factors.

Mr. Flannery

As the Government suddenly discovered during the Falklands struggle that the Government of Argentina are Fascist, is it not reasonable to assume that they will look at all the other Governments in Latin America—most of which are similar? Are the Government aware that when the Falklands business broke equipment was on the high seas going to the Fascist Argentine Government from the British Tory Government? Is it not reasonable to ask that all those arms sales should be carefully examined in the light of the political stance of those Latin American Governments and the likelihood that they are still suppressing their people with the aid of this Government?

Mr. Pattie

I cannot recall the hon. Gentleman addressing a question on similar lines to the Labour Government when they were supplying military equipment to the same Fascist Government and many others.

Mr. Cormack

While I appreciate that my hon. Friend does not have access to all the papers of the previous Administration, will he try to discover how many draft letters of resignation from the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) exist in the archives on the subject of arms sales?

Mr. Pattie

It would make an extremely interesting study if it were possible.

Mr. Denzil Davies

Since in the Falklands war some British troops were killed with British-made weapons, is it not time for all of us seriously to consider whether Britain should not seek gradually to disengage from the international traffic in arms? Is it not a fact that very often arms are produced in Britain with an eye to the balance of payments as much as on British defence requirements?

Mr. Pattie

As the right hon. Gentleman will know, the questions that he has raised are interrelated. The ability of British industry to supply the equipment that is needed by the British Armed Forces does turn, to some degree at least, on its ability to export items of defence equipment.

Mr. Robert Atkins

Will my hon. Friend list the other weapons, in addition to the Canberras and the type 42 ships, that were sold by the Labour Government to the Argentine, particularly when the right hon. Member for Lanark (Dame Judith Hart) was at the Foreign Office? If my hon. Friend can list those weapons, will he place the list in the Library?

Mr. Pattie

I gave a considerable list—almost an exhaustive one—on the last occasion when defence matters were dealt with at Question Time. It is in the Official Report for that day.