Arms Supplies (Dictatorships)

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st March 1983.

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Photo of Mr Arthur Newens Mr Arthur Newens , Harlow 12:00 am, 1st March 1983

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the conditions on which arms supplies to military dictatorships can be approved.

Photo of Mr Ian Stewart Mr Ian Stewart Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Procurement)

Every proposal to export defence equipment is carefully considered on a case-by-case basis, and a wide range of political, strategic and security factors are taken into account before a decision to grant an export licence is made.

Photo of Mr Arthur Newens Mr Arthur Newens , Harlow

Is it not clear that the controls are totally inadequate in view of the fact that Rolls-Royce engines, David Brown gear controls, components for Exocet missiles, radar eqiupment and other components have continued to be supplied to Argentina, despite its refusal to agree to a cessation of hostilities in the South Atlantic? Does this not illustrate that we must change the whole system and that the licensing system at present is useless?

Photo of Mr Ian Stewart Mr Ian Stewart Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Procurement)

I share the hon. Gentleman's concern that equipment of this type is continuing to reach the Argentine, but I must also point out that it is difficult to draw the line on such decisions when long-standing contracts are in place between British industry and defence industries in allied countries and when such collaboration is important for our own purposes.

Photo of Mr Bill Walker Mr Bill Walker , Perth and East Perthshire

Does my hon. Friend agree that the democracies are in a minority in this world, and that if we sold only to democracies the Russians would be left with all the other parts of the world to sell to and their influence would therefore be extended?

Photo of Mr Ian Stewart Mr Ian Stewart Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Procurement)

I recognise the point that my hon. Friend has made so well.

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

Does the Minister accept that the interpretation of his statement is as follows: long-term business interests means that business is business, profits are profits, British deaths are British deaths, but that as long as we can line the pockets of the people who make a profit out of arms sales we are doing all right?

Photo of Mr Ian Stewart Mr Ian Stewart Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Procurement)

Perhaps I could point out to the hon. Gentleman that nationalised industries are among the biggest arms exporters. The fundamental point is that, wherever possible, all contracts entered into after the Falklands conflict have been cancelled. There are a number of long-standing arrangements where collaborative ventures with friendly countries and industry in allied countries are involved, and those, of course, require much more difficult decisions.