HC Deb 16 November 1982 vol 32 cc131-2
1. Mr. Hooley

asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many persons are currently employed in the sales section of his Department.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement (Mr. Geoffrey Pattie)

At the end of September 1982 the strength of the defence sales organisation was 352 civilian and serving officers.

Mr. Hooley

As imports of manufactured goods to Britain now exceed exports, does the hon. Gentleman agree that it would be more sensible to redeploy those people in the organisation to the promotion of our civil exports instead of promoting the ugly and squalid sale of weapons of death?

Mr. Pattie

One of the many lessons of the Falklands conflict is the vital importance of having a strong defence industrial base—one that is able to respond quickly to the demands of the Armed Forces. The activities of that organisation assist in that process.

Mr. Robert Atkins

Does my hon. Friend agree that many people in the organisation have been working extremely hard to encourage sales of Tornado to as many countries as wish to buy it—Greece, for example? Can he give any background to how that proposed sale is going?

Mr. Pattie

The proposed sale of Tornado to Greece is being pursued actively by the manufacturers of the aeroplane, Panavia, which is a consortium from Germany, Italy and Britain, and there has recently been a highly successful demonstration of the aircraft's capability to the Hellenic air force.

Mr. McNamara

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one of the lessons of the Falklands war is that we must be careful to whom we sell arms? Will he cancel the foolish proposal to hawk arms on a ship around the Gulf—an area of great potential conflict—next year? The proposal can do neither that area nor the peace of the world any good.

Mr. Pattie

I agree with the hon. Gentleman in one respect—we must be extremely careful about whom we sell arms to. We have always done so, as have Labour Governments, who sold far more to some South American countries than we have. I do not agree with the second part of of the hon. Gentleman's question.

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