Skip to main content

Portugal (Supply Of Arms)

Volume 643: debated on Wednesday 5 July 1961

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


asked the Lord Privy Seal what quantities and types of British arms have been supplied to Portugal in each of the last 12Months; what conditions have been attached in each case; and on what date Her Majesty's Government not to employ these arms in overseas territories.


asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will state the amount and value of naval, military and air equipment sent directly to Portuguese overseas territories during the past year.


asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will publish in HANSARD details of all arms exported to Portugal between 1st January and 15th March, 1961, and since 15th March; and what steps are being taken to ensure that arms supplied to Portugal for use in the fulfilment of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation obligations will not be used in the Portuguese overseas territories.

As it is not the policy of Her Majesty's Government to give details of arms supplied for foreign Governments, I have nothing to add to the replies given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 27th June and yesterday.

On the eve of a debate on the situation in Angola, is the Lord Privy Seal telling the House that we are not entitled to know what quantities of British arms have been supplied to be used by the Portuguese to massacre the people in Angola? Does he propose to refuse this information to the House? Will he tell us how the Government will ensure that arms now supplied to Portugal will not continue to be used to massacre people in Angola?

It is a long-standing policy of Governments on both sides of the House not to give details of arms supplied to other countries, whether by Governments or by private purchase. With regard to policy towards Portugal and Angola, it has been clearly announced to the House that any orders for Portuguese overseas territories are in suspense. As for Portugal herself, the arms are examined to see whether they are in accord with her N.A.T.O. requirements. It is for the Government to decide whether that is so or not.

Could the right hon. Gentleman say why he has not answered the second part of Question No. 29, which does not ask for details and which the Prime Minister did not answer yesterday? Will the right hon. Gentleman please answer it now? What steps are being taken?

The steps being taken are that the arms which are supplied have to be seen by Her Majesty's Government to be in accordance with N.A.T.O. requirements.

With regard to Question No. 27, is it not a fact that no arms were supplied last year directly to Portuguese territories because they were all sent to Portugal for trans-shipment? Does not this make complete nonsense of the Prime Minister's promise not to send any in future?

I do not think it does, because, as I explained, supplies of arms have to be seen to be within N.A.T.O. requirements.

is it not a fact that almost the whole of Portugal's effective fighting forces are at present serving in Angola and that therefore any arms sent to Portugal are likely to be used there rather than anywhere else? Can the Lord Privy Seal give a straight answer to a straight question: have Her Majesty's Government asked the Portuguese Government for any assurances that arms supplied under N.A.T.O. arrangements will not be used in Angola?

No, Sir. The arms which are supplied for N.A.T.O. requirements are very often, in fact almost entirely, of a different type from the sort of arms which can be used in a colonial territory or colonial type of territory such as Angola.

When the right hon. Gentleman relies on precedent in this matter and says that these figures are not generally revealed to the House, will he recall that at the time of Suez the detailed figures of arms supplied during the previous few years to Egypt and Israel were given to this House? Will he look up those figures? Is it because we happen to have this alliance with Portugal that facts similar to those which were revealed on a previous occasion are denied to the House?

I will look up the precedent cited by the hon. Gentleman, but the statement of general policy as I made it remains.

Are not we bound under the Arms Traffic Convention of 1920 to publish licences of arms which we sell abroad? Have the Government repudiated that obligation?