Arms Sales

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Industry – in the House of Commons at 2:22 pm on 12th July 1995.

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Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South 2:22 pm, 12th July 1995

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what proportion of British manufacturing exports was accounted for by arms or arms related material (a) in 1979 and (b) in 1994; and if he will make a statement. [32138]

Photo of Ian Taylor Ian Taylor , Esher

In 1979 the value of exports of identified defence equipment accounted for 1.3 per cent. of exports of manufactured goods from the United Kingdom. In 1993 the proportion was 2 per cent. Figures for 1994 will be published by the Ministry of Defence later this month.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South

Considering that the Minister is a member of a regime which over the past 17 years has presided over the destruction of about a third of our manufacturing industry, does he consider it a disappointment that the one area in which we appear to excel is the manufacture and marketing of arms? Does he think that we should find a more honourable way of making a living? Does his Department have any plans to encourage arms manufacturers to diversify into more productive activity?

Photo of Ian Taylor Ian Taylor , Esher

I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman intended to pay us a compliment by calling us a regime, but judging by his other standards, he was not attempting to be friendly. As for the British manufacturing base, the efficiency and technical application of United Kingdom manufacturing has dramatically improved since 1979 and the defence industry has had a major positive influence on new management techniques and technological application. There is nothing to be questioned about whether this country should be selling manufactured goods. We have only 16 per cent. of the world market. I would like more, but our share shows that many other leading countries are also involved in arms sales. The key question is to whom we should be selling, not whether we should be selling.