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War Material (Export)

Volume 481: debated on Wednesday 29 November 1950

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asked the Minister of Defence to which countries, whether inside or outside the British Commonwealth, he has authorised the sale of Centurion tanks.

No sales of Centurion tanks have so far been authorised except to Egypt and certain Commonwealth countries. It would be against well established practice to disclose details of sales to Commonwealth countries but, as I informed the House last week, no future sales of defence equipment will be allowed unless they are in our strategic interest.

The right hon. Gentlemen has omitted to reply to that part of the Question which refers to the sale of Centurion tanks to countries "outside the British Commonwealth."

On that aspect, I have said that we do not propose to permit any sales in future unless they are in our strategic interest.

Surely what is asked in the Question is what has been the export of them in the past. That is the point.

As I have said, it is not customary as the right hon. Gentlemen is well aware, to give details of sales to Commonwealth countries or, indeed, to other countries with whom we are with friendly relations. It is not desirable that the world should be informed of the matériel at the disposal of other countries, but in a later Question I propose to make an exception in the case of Egypt and give the information.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that this Question referred specifically to the past? Is he telling the House that no Centurion tank has been sold under his authority to any country other than a Commonwealth country or Egypt? Is that what he is saying?


asked the Minister of Defence how many Meteor jet aircraft are at present on order in this country for delivery to the Egyptian Government; whether these have yet been paid for; and when it is intended to dispatch them to Egypt.


asked the Minister of Defence what quantities and kinds of military equipment to be supplied to the Government of Egypt under existing contracts were still in this country on 20th November; and which of them have since been shipped.

Various orders from Egypt for military equipment, including jet aircraft, are outstanding. It would be contrary to normal practice to give details. With the exception of one aircraft which was in transit on 20th November no deliveries have been made since that date. Certain advance payments have been made against these orders, in accordance with normal procedure.

Is not it a fact that 12 Meteor or jet fighters were, in fact, crated and ready for dispatch to Egypt last week and that but for the matter having been raised in the House they would now be on their way?

Does the Minister's answer about no deliveries apply to all sea, land and air armaments?

Does the Minister realise that the jet aircraft already delivered to Egypt are very rarely flown?


asked the Minister of Defence if he will state in convenient categories the quantities of jet aircraft, Centurion tanks and other recently produced military equipment which have been exported since 1st January, 1949, giving the countries to which they have been sent.

It is contrary to the normal practice to give details of sales of defence equipment.

When will His Majesty's Ministers drop the Communist technique of saying one thing and doing the exact opposite?

We do not require to drop the Communist technique, because we have never adopted it.

When the right hon. Gentleman says that it is contrary to normal practice, I suppose that normal practice is subject to the view taken of normal practice by the House?


asked the Minister of Defence in what quantities Centurion tanks have been delivered to the Egyptian Government; and on what dates.

Though it is contrary to normal practice to disclose details of military equipment supplied to foreign governments, I think it right to make an exception in this case. The number of Centurion tanks delivered to Egypt is nine, of which seven left this country in May and two in October.

When these matters were being discussed here last week, ought not that most important fact to have been disclosed to the House?

In view of the right hon. Gentleman's mistaken reply that that question was not asked, I should like to raise this matter again, Sir. Could not I have an answer to a question which I wished to put?