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British Aircraft (Deliveries)

Volume 465: debated on Wednesday 1 June 1949

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what requests he has received from the Greek Government during the last 12 months for fighter aircraft, fighter or light bombers and training planes, respectively; when these requests were received; and whether they have now been fully met.

During the past 12 months, 74 fighter bombers have been delivered to Greece on request and against payment. Of these 20 were ordered in January, 1948, and delivered in July, 1948; delivery of 54 ordered in August, 1948, is just being completed. No aircraft in other categories mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member have so far been delivered, but by August we expect to meet outstanding requests for 24 training and 12 transport aircraft, ordered in March and April of this year.

Why was the Greek Air Force kept short of Spitfires during the whole of the winter campaign when Spitfires are obsolescent craft in this country? Is the Minister aware of the very urgent need in Greece for fighter bombers and light bombers of a slightly large type than Spitfires?

I think the nature of the aircraft is a different question. I think my answer explained the reply to the first part of that question.

Could the Under-Secretary state what types of aircraft were sent to Greece?

Can my hon. Friend say whether these aircraft are paid for by, the Greek Government or whether we give the aircraft to them?

Is the hon. Member aware that nothing would serve better to raise the morale of the Greek National forces at this critical stage——

—of the summer campaign than an announcement by His Majesty's Government that they would welcome any further orders for aircraft of this description now that the programme is being completed?

Is my hon. Friend aware that the better the aircraft to go to the Greek Fascist forces, the better the aircraft that are captured or taken from them by the Greek popular forces?

On a point of Order. May I ask you, Sir, whether it is in Order for the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Platts-Mills) to refer to the legally-elected Government of Greece as being "Greek Fascist forces?" Is that in Order and, if not, should it be allowed? This is a friendly Government.

I did not hear the word "Fascist." It is, of course, the Greek Government.

Are you prepared, Sir, to allow another hon. Member to rise and put a question before one question has been completed and the Minister has been enabled to reply?

Further to that point of Order, Mr. Speaker, I hope you will take note of the fact that attention has been drawn to this question by the other side, because on very many occasions I have drawn attention to the use of language by the other side in connection with the democratic Governments of Eastern Europe.

Is the Under-Secretary prepared to give an answer to my question?

I will complete my question, which was interrupted, I thought rather unexpectedly, by points of Order from the other side. May I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that hon. Members on the other side at least are perfectly well aware that the Fascist group in Greece are what they call the official Government group?

On a point of Order. On a previous point of Order, Mr. Speaker, you said you did not hear the legal Greek Government described as a Fascist Government. That statement has just been repeated by the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Platts-Mills). Now that it must have been heard by you, I repeat the point of Order—whether a legal Government with whom we have diplomatic relations should be so described?

I heard the hon. Member for Finsbury and he was in error, because he made an imputation. He did not call the Government a Fascist Government; he said there were groups behind the Government which are well-known as Fascists. That is exactly what I heard and I listened very carefully. That, of course, was an imputation and an inference which should not be made.

Further to that point of Order. Are we to understand from that Ruling, Mr. Speaker, that the question of whether a Government is a Fascist Government or not is now a question of Order in this House and not a question of fact?

Further to that point of Order. Have we not adopted an attitude in the past three years that there are certain Fascist Governments in the world—the Governments of Spain, of Portugal, of Greece, and of near-Fascist Turkey?

I think the word "Fascist" is always taken in an unfavourable sense, and, therefore, to use it against one of those Governments is an imputation against that Government. The hon. Gentleman has just said, I think, that three or four Governments are Fascist. Since this word is an imputation, it is better not said.

On the last point of Order that the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Platts-Mills) made, he specifically described the Greek Government as being a Fascist Government. I listened most carefully to what he said. He said the Governments of Spain and Portugal and Greece were Fascist. I am sure he would not deny it. In view of the fact that all the members of the Greek Government participated in the fight against Fascism in 1940 while the hon. Member was supporting it, is it not particularly unfortunate that he should say such a thing?

Further to that point of Order. Is it necessarily out of Order to refer to a Government, even mistakenly, as a Fascist Government unless it is to be assumed, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) has assumed, that no legally appointed Government would be Fascist?

This is getting rather complicated. I have not found the word "Fascist" in Erskine May as being out of Order. Neither is the word "Communist" out of Order. The one is an imputation on the one side, and the other an imputation on the other side. I think it unfortunate that these reflections should be made against any Government, be they Fascist or Communist Governments.

The question I was putting was this. Does not my hon. Friend realise that those Governments whose civil wars are supported by dollar grants from America, invariably find themselves giving or selling or losing their equipment to the popular forces?

That is another imputation, because the hon. Gentleman said the Government were supported by dollars, and I have had complaints about that before.

On a point of Order. Is it to be tolerated, and is it in accordance with the proceedings of this House at Question Time, that the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Platts-Mills) should be allowed repeatedly to rise to his feet and obliterate the subject matter of a Question by booming out his supplementary questions that cast imputations? I submit that that is not in Order.