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Anglo-Canadian Defence Talks

Volume 527: debated on Friday 7 May 1954

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asked the Minister of Supply if he will make a statement about his recent talks in Ottawa with the Canadian Government on defence matters.

During the course of my recent visit to Ottawa, I had talks with Canadian Ministers concerned with defence, in particular with Mr. Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence) and Mr. C. D. Howe (Minister of Defence Production). I also met the Canadian Chiefs of Staff. These talks provided an opportunity for a general exchange of views on defence matters affecting the two countries, with special reference to the problem of defence production and of aeronautical and weapon research. Among other subjects discussed was the supply of equipment required by Canada from the United Kingdom.We reviewed the arrangements for cooperation in scientific and technical development as well as methods for securing a still closer integration of the defence research programmes of the two countries, particularly in regard to aircraft and air-to-air guided weapons. We also reviewed the progress made in the standardisation of weapons and equipment. In this connection we discussed the question of the Belgian F.N. automatic rifle which, as the House knows, is to be manufactured in Britain for the British Army.Whilst the Canadian Government have not as yet reached any final decision, the adoption of this rifle for the Canadian forces is being actively considered and some 2,000 of these weapons have been ordered for troop trials. Should the Canadian Government adopt this weapon, they would propose to manufacture in Canada the rifles required for the Canadian forces. This would necessitate converting the design to inch dimensions, since the Belgian production drawings, which are based on the metric system, are not suited to manufacturing methods and tooling in North America.

In view of the prospect of the adoption of the F.N. rifle by the Canadian Government and the interest of the United States Government who have likewise ordered rifles for troop trials, the United Kingdom Government have decided that the rifles to be manufactured in Britain should also be based on inch dimensions. The few months delay involved in converting the drawings is, in our opinion, an acceptable price to pay for the possibility of obtaining standardisation and interchangeability of weapons and the creation of an alternative source of production in North America, which might be of great value in the event of war.

The Canadian Government have agreed to undertake the actual work of adapting the production drawings to the inch system in accordance with accepted American - British - Canadian standards. This work will be carried out at Canadian Arsenals in Toronto. The closest collaboration will be maintained throughout with the United Kingdom Ministry of Supply, who will be represented at Canadian Arsenals by design and production experts. The United States Government have been invited to appoint observers to maintain technical liaison in connection with this work.