HC Deb 21 June 1994 vol 245 c118
13. Mr. Alton

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence to how many countries Britain sold arms during 1993.

Mr. Aitken

In 1993, British defence equipment manufacturers received orders from 90 foreign countries.

Mr. Alton

Will the Minister reject and repudiate once and for all the curious notion that the morality of how a weapon is used has nothing to do with the salesman? Does he agree that it is high time that Britain published a blacklist of countries to which we will not sell arms because of their record of human rights abuses?

Mr. Aitken

The United Nations embargoes on countries that, for one reason or another, are considered unsuitable recipients of arms are published. As further evidence of transparency, we subscribe to the new UN register on conventional arms transfers, which makes apparent any breaches of the UN list. The export licensing system ensures that each and every arms transfer is considered on its merits, and human rights and the possible purposes for which arms may be used are taken into account. The hon. Gentleman's point has been understood.

Mr. Thurnham

Will my hon. Friend give every consideration to the export potential of the European FLA Hercules replacement? Does he agree that its potential export sales could be as high as £7 billion?

Mr. Aitken

A great deal of loud and persuasive lobbying has taken place in relation to the potential exports of that aircraft. At this stage, however, it is only a paper aircraft, so it would be impossible and unwise to predict the potential for exports. I hope that they will be high once the aircraft is built.

Mr. Donald Anderson

One country to which we have steadfastly refused to sell arms is Bosnia. By contrast, as the Minister wells knows, the United States House of Representatives has passed a binding resolution in favour of a unilateral lifting of the arms embargo and the setting aside of £200 million for the United States to purchase armaments for Bosnia. What will the Ministry of Defence, in co-operation with our European colleagues, do to speak loud to senior senators to try to ensure that the UNPROFOR mandate is not undermined?

Mr. Aitken

We have made our views known to the United States Administration and to Capitol Hill, but the United States Congress, like the House of Commons, is a sovereign legislature, and both must be respected.

Mr. John Marshall

I thank my hon. Friend for lifting the arms embargo on Israel, which will make it easier for the British arms export industry. Does not he think it strange that those who call for greater help for manufacturing industry are always willing to make snide and sniping comments about the record of our arms exporters?

Mr. Aitken

The Government welcome the considerable change in the political situation in the middle east as a result of the recent accords, which have made changes, such as the lifting of the arms embargo, possible. We welcome it and I am glad that my hon. Friend does so, too.