HL Deb 04 March 1980 vol 406 cc142-3

2.52 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask, as felicitously as I can, the second Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government to what extent the Governments of members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation are advised and consulted before sophisticated armaments are supplied to countries outside NATO but within range of Western Europe.

The MINISTER of STATE, MINISTRY of DEFENCE (Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal)

My Lords, there is no formal machinery for this purpose, but the United Kingdom takes into account a wide range of interests, including the security interests of the Alliance, in reaching decisions on any arms sales.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that, without wishing to criticise any country, the point of the Question is to ask to what extent are the members of NATO consulted before, for example, an immense quantity of arms is promised to, say, Egypt at a time when President Sadat—and under great need, this is no criticism—is producing a Bill to abolish human rights throughout Egypt, which appears to he directed particularly against a racial minority? And do the members of NATO enter into competition in the sale of arms to dangerous or sensitive areas, and are the members consulted?

With regard to France, is she reciprocally consulted at all in relation to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, of which she is a member but not a military member, particularly in view of her own recent production of the material for making her own Polaris submarines, or can she dispose of those as she wishes?


My Lords, it is difficult for me to add much to the initial reply that I gave. The fact is that there is no formal machinery. Obviously a great deal of informal consultation takes place between members of the NATO Alliance, but the noble Lord has to remember that NATO is an alliance designed to protect Western Europe and it is a matter of some discussion whether we should have some other kind of alliance to deal with the areas outside Western Europe.

With regard to one other question which the noble Lord put to me, yes indeed, there is competition between the NATO allies for export orders. Sometimes we wish the competition was not so fierce because we do not always win!


My Lords, if the noble Lord is considering an organisation of other alliances outside NATO, would he have a look at the form book rather than a crystal ball and see what happened with SEATO and CENTO, which were established with a tremendous amount of hoo-haa, and ask himself where they have got us?


My Lords, I am answering a Question concerning NATO;but I quite agree with the noble Lord that the track record of some of the alliances outside NATO has not been wholly encouraging.