The current arrangements are between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Malaysia and are encompassed in a memorandum of understanding concerning defence equipment procurement and related services and a memorandum of understanding and a sales agreement relating to the sale of six ex-Royal Navy wasp helicopters and associated equipment. There have been no changes to any of those documents since they were signed.
Is the Minister aware that I had to have the mental gymnastic ability of Houdini to find out from his Department, the Prime Minister and the Overseas Development Administration whether aid was ever discussed in the context of arms sales? That was always denied, yet on Friday 7 July I received a reply saying that Her Majesty's Government had written to the Malaysian Finance Minister on 28 June saying that it would be unacceptable to link aid with arms. If they were never linked, why was it necessary to write such a letter? Why were all my questions given such evasive replies by various Departments? Why will not the Minister now publish all the correspondence relating to those deals?
My recollection is that Mr. Houdini was an escape artiste. The hon. Lady may be trying to escape from her own imaginings about linkage. The explanation is merely that the Malaysian Government suggested that aid be considered and it was made clear to them that that was not acceptable. That has been made clear to the hon. Lady and to the House in the answers that she has received.
Does my hon. Friend accept that Her Majesty's Government deserve the congratulations not only of the House but of the country on having secured a contract that promises to guarantee jobs at home and to enhance Britain's standing and influence in an important part of the world? I hope that my hon. Friend will not listen to the miserable carping of Opposition Members which serves only to destroy our defence industries, not to build them up as he has done?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments. It is not unexpected that Commonwealth countries such as Malaysia should be recipients of aid and, I am happy to say, that they should purchase defence equipment from the United Kingdom. As my hon. Friend says, defence exports provide many jobs—more than 100,000—throughout Britain. The attitude of the Opposition and the hon. Member for Eccles (Miss Lestor) would threaten all those jobs.