Military Equipment

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3 December 1969.

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Photo of Mr Frederick Corfield Mr Frederick Corfield , Gloucestershire South 12:00, 3 December 1969

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will state the total value of orders for military equipment, including the net cost of the cancellation of orders for the Fl 11 placed in the United States of America over each of the last five years, and the total value of United States military procurement from the United Kingdom over the same period.

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Defence Equipment)

The information on the value of contracts for military equipment placed in particular years with the United States is not readily available. The related expenditure figures for the years in question and for 1969–70 were, however, given in my replies to the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing) on 1st May, 1968, and 10th November, 1969: the figures in the latter reply took account of the latest position on Fill cancellation costs as given by my right hon. Friend in a reply on 10th June, 1969. I estimate receipts from the United States for military equipment to have been at least 70 million dollars in the five years 1964–65 to 1968–69.—[Vol. 763, c. 198; Vol. 791, c. 41; Vol. 784, c. 246.]

Photo of Mr Frederick Corfield Mr Frederick Corfield , Gloucestershire South

Is it not clear that this unfavourable balance is never likely to be put right while the United States insists that any piece of equipment purchased from abroad—I have in mind the Harrier —shall be manufactured under licence in the United States? What representations are Her Majesty's Government making to the United States Government on this line of policy, which is so damaging to this country?

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Defence Equipment)

As regards the Harrier, as the hon. Gentleman knows, the issue has not yet been completed, and Congressional approval has not yet been fully given to what we regard as this attractive sale to the United States. As regards general purchases from the United States, we are making, and industry is making, an intensive effort to increase our sales there. Our Head of Defence Sales has been over there on more than one occasion with a team, and I have myself been to see senior United States Ministers to try to ensure that we have a fairer crack of the whip.

Photo of Mr Tufton Beamish Mr Tufton Beamish , Lewes

Apart from the damage done to British industry by the placing of such excessive orders in the United States, why have the Government left it to a Tory Government to pay most of the bills?

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Defence Equipment)

As the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows, we inherited a number of projects from our predecessors. As regards payment for what we have had to buy in the course of our period of office, the whole matter was canvassed at length on the Bill which we brought before the House and the method of buying was fully explained.

Photo of Mr Frank Allaun Mr Frank Allaun , Salford East

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if, in view of the increase in cost of imports of military aircraft and missiles from the United States of America from £43 million in 1967 to £146 million in 1968, and to £164 million for the first three quarters of 1969, he will revise his policies to avoid this expenditure, particularly in view of its effect on the balance of payments; and if he will estimate this expenditure for 1969, 1970 and 1971.

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Defence Equipment)

The figures to which my hon. Friend refers represent the value of imports of Phantoms and Hercules and associated missiles and equipment rather than net dollar expenditure by the United Kingdom. The loan arrangements for the finance of the initial dollar cost have the advantage of spreading net dollar expenditure over thirteen years.

The value of outstanding imports is about £45 million, of which about £20 million will fall in the last quarter of 1969, £20 million in 1970 and £5 million in 1971.

Any future proposals for the purchase of equipment from the United States of America would be a matter for fresh consideration.

Photo of Mr Frank Allaun Mr Frank Allaun , Salford East

Which other Ministry would be allowed to incur vast American imports on this scale? As these have increased five-fold in the last two years, what compensating cuts does the Ministry of Defence intend to make in order to honour its undertaking that there will be no increase in total arms spending?

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Defence Equipment)

I can answer only for the Ministry of Defence. My hon. Friend knows that the position is quite clear. These were purchased, under agreements, over a number of years. It is not significant that the increases in the actual imports have taken place in the last year or so. This is because the order was made some years ago and the aircraft have now come off the stocks and come to this country. That is the position. The method of payment was canvassed before the House and a Bill was presented and passed by the House as long ago as May, 1966.

Photo of Mr Stanley McMaster Mr Stanley McMaster , Belfast East

Does not the Minister agree that the cancellations of British aircraft, including the TSR2 and the 1154, have been a complete disaster.