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Portugal (Supply Of Arms)

Volume 643: debated on Tuesday 4 July 1961

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asked the Prime Minister whether he will make it a condition that, when arms are supplied to Portugal under North Atlantic Treaty Organisation arrangements, they will not be used in Portuguese territories overseas.


asked the Prime Minister if he will make it a condition of supplies of military equipment to Portugal under North Atlantic Treaty Organisation requirements that such equipment should not be used in Portuguese overseas territories.

In considering applications for the export of arms to Portugal, we shall have regard to the nature and quantity of equipment in relation to her reasonable requirements as a N.A.T.O. ally. This has been explained to the Portuguese Government, and I do not think that formal conditions about the use of any military equipment that may be exported are necessary or appropriate.

Is the Prime Minister alive to the grave indignation felt in this country at the thought that we are supplying arms to Portugal, either directly or through the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which are being used to crush the people of Angola? Will he take steps to stop this trade immediately, and will he indicate to the Portuguese Government our disgust at and disapproval of what is being done? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that making excuses that it is not our responsibility is just a washing of his hands, like Pilate in the past, and saying that we are innocent of these things when we are guilty?

As I said to the House some days ago, the position is that no licences for the export of arms or ammunition are, in fact, being made in respect of Angola or Mozambique. That does not affect certain large deliveries of equipment that are only suitable for Portugal in her place as a N.A.T.O. ally.

How can the right hon. Gentleman possibly distinguish between armaments supplied for N.A.T.O. purposes and armaments that could be used in Angola? Is he not aware that at this moment armaments supplied for N.A.T.O., including the napalm bomb, are being used by the Portuguese Government in Angola? Is it not the case that Portugal itself is the base of the policy in Angola, and that if Portugal is built up, its policy in Angola is also being supported?

As regards the supplies of weapons that may have been supplied in the past, I do not know. All I know is that as regards licences in the last few weeks, or even longer, we have been applying this rule. I do not, for instance, see how to continue work in a British shipyard on two frigates that were sold some months ago and cannot be delivered for some time, can assist or play any part in the rather tragic events now going on in Angola.

Can the Prime Minister explain what is the point of putting an embargo on the export of arms to Angola when arms can go freely to Portugal and be sent from there to Angola?

In giving these export licences, such is the great width and variety of arms that are likely to be asked for that I think that it is quite possible to operate this policy effectively.

The right hon. Gentleman has not answered the question. What we are concerned with is this. If, in fact, the Government have out off the supply of arms to Angola, as they have done, it is presumably because they think it against our interests that they should go there. Since it is perfectly possible for the arms to go from Portugal to Angola, does he not think that the Government should take the logical step of putting an embargo on the export of arms to Portugal?

No, Sir. I think that there are certain arms that it is right for us to be ready to continue to sell to Portugal for N.A.T.O. purposes.

Would it not be better to discriminate between the different kinds of arms being sent to Portugal, instead of simply imposing an embargo on the export of arms to Angola and doing nothing about the export of arms to Portugal?

Any licences for Angola are obviously likely to be asked for because the arms would be useful to Angola.

Has my right hon. Friend seen a letter in The Times of this morning in which it is suggested that this vendetta against Portugal is quite out of proportion?

We deeply regret, of course—and this is a very large question—the situation that has developed there, but I do not honestly' think—and the House, on reflection, I think will agree—that to try to cut off Portugal from membership of the N.A.T.O. alliance at this time would help in any influence that we may have on them.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I beg to give notice that, in view of the very unsatisfactory reply of the Prime Minister, I will seek to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.