South Africa (Arms)

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 Victor Goodhew Mr Victor Goodhew , St Albans 12:00, 3 December 1969

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what instructions have been given, following the recent appointment of a new arms salesman, about the sale of arms to South Africa for external defence purposes.

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

None, Sir. The function of the Head of Defence Sales is to promote the sale of British defence equipment within the Government's policy, and, so far as South Africa is concerned, that policy has been made clear time and time again.

Photo of Mr Victor Goodhew Mr Victor Goodhew , St Albans

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that Her Majesty's ships are accorded full facilities at Simonstown and other South Africa ports? Is there not, therefore, both a legal and a moral obligation on Her Majesty's Government to fulfill their responsibilities under the Simons-town Agreement and provide those aircraft, ships and weapons which the South Africans need for the defence of the Cape route?

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

I am well aware of the facilities to which the hon. Gentleman refers. He will be awareßžunless I have to remind him now—of the United Nations resolution calling for an embargo on the sale of arms to South Africa and making no distinction between offensive and defensive arms. All these matters were taken into account in the statement which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made to the House.

Photo of Mr Frederick Corfield Mr Frederick Corfield , Gloucestershire South

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that with the closure of the Suez Canal the sea route round the cape is absolutely vital to this country? On what possible ground can the Government refuse to export Nimrods, for example, to South Africa?

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

Nimrods would, of course, be considered like any other arms proposal which came within the context of Her Majesty's Government's policy towards South Africa, but any matter of this kind should be referred to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull North

Will my hon. Friend try to explain to hon. Gentlemen opposite that any item which increases the armed forces of the Republic of South Africa, whether for external or internal policies, invariably strengthens that regime which many of us find reprehensible? Will he further explain to hon. Members opposite that in making the Buccaneer in the constituency of the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) manufacturers are already hard-pressed to find sufficient men to fulfil obligations to the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy and—

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. Questions must be reasonably brief.

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

All relevant factors were fully considered and explained to the House on 18th December, 1967, when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister stated that after examination of the problems the Government decided that their policy of adhering to the United Nations resolution remained unchanged.

Photo of Mr Victor Goodhew Mr Victor Goodhew , St Albans

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the very unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment.