HL Deb 03 December 1974 vol 355 cc62-5

2.48 p.m.


My Lords, in the hope of getting a more satisfactory Answer, I beg leave to ask the second Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government to state the total sums made available to the kingdom of Jordan since 1958 either in cash or in the provision of armaments.


My Lords, since 1958 we have made available to Jordan, in both grants and loans, a total sum of the order of £51 million. Of this, a sum of the order of £24 million was grants, £25 million development loans, and the balance of some £2 million military assistance.


My Lords, can my noble friend tell us whether there have been any beneficial results? What have we gained from these financial concessions which this country could hardly afford, and which King Hussein and his friends put to ill use by, so far as can be ascertained, actually selling some of the equipment to other countries without our consent?


My Lords, our relations with Jordan are long and close. They date at least from the 1946 Anglo-Jordanian Treaty, to which my noble friend was a party as a member of the Government that concluded it. Since then, over a long period of years, the amount of aid made available to this key country in the Middle East has not been excessive. In the matter of military assistance it has been very small indeed, and over the past seven years since 1967 there has been only one relatively minor contribution by this country to the military might of Jordan.


My Lords, since my noble friend has recorded an item of military history with which I am, of course, familiar, would he not agree that the personalities of that period, and particularly Abdullah, were much more sincere and wholehearted friends of the United Kingdom than King Hussein?


My Lords, I would very much hope that my noble friend, on reflection, might agree that Jordan under King Hussein may prove to be one of the moderating influences in this very troubled and difficult region.

Several Noble Lords: Hear, hear!


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that many of us admire the courage of King Hussein?


My Lords, I share in that admiration personally.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that I want him to exclude me from that piece of flattery from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham?


My Lords, however long and close our association with Jordan has been—and it has been long and close—does it entitle us today in our present parlous financial condition to supply arms to it in order that Jordan may supply those arms to other countries?


My Lords, we are not making available anything like excessive aid to Jordan, or indeed to any other country. Indeed, the question of aid is constantly under review and is based on the criterion of development. As to the provision of arms, I agree with my noble friend that this is a very difficult question. Successive Governments have attempted to strike a balance which it was hoped would conduce to a settlement of this problem and the attainment of a just and durable peace.


My Lords, in his original Answer, my noble friend said something like "of the order of" a large sum of money. We are hearing this term very often. Will he give any indication as to what "of the order of" means, when it is related to large sums like this?


My Lords, I used the phrase "of the order of £51 million". However, if it would assist my noble friend and the House I would endeavour to give this in somewhat more precise detail. But I think the picture given of a total sum of £51 million or so in a substantive Answer is most helpful to the House.


My Lords, can the Minister say whether it is a fact that part of this military aid to Jordan has been sold to the Republic of South Africa and conveyed to Rhodesia?


My Lords, none of it was conveyed to Rhodesia. We have had assurances from the Jordanian Government to that effect. Unfortunately, some of it was resold to South Africa. May I take this opportunity of stressing once more that it is a normal condition that when our Ministry of Defence makes available to overseas countries any equipment from this country it shall not be re-sold to any other country. If it is not needed, then it should be offered back to the firm providing it from this country.


My Lords, would the noble Lord say whether this aid is still continuing, and, if it is, would he say whether any additional conditions will be tried to stop the transfer of any of the arms or equipment from Jordan to any other country?


This condition, of course, has been, and will continue to be, imposed on all provisions, all sales, of arms from this country to other countries. We have received assurances from the Jordanian Government that they will not in the future place themselves in the position in which they found themselves a few weeks ago, and we accept their assurances.