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Weapons Purchases

Volume 932: debated on Tuesday 24 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will take steps to ensure that wherever possible weapons which have to be purchased are of British manufacture.

About 90 per cent. of our expenditure on defence equipment is currently in the United Kingdom, on either national or collaborative projects. Some types of equipment are not manufactured in the United Kingdom, or are more cheaply or more quickly available from abroad. The greater the pressures on the defence budget the less we can expect to be able to cover the whole range of defence equipment from United Kingdom sources or to ignore the potential savings in cases where it is significantly cheaper to buy from abroad.

Is the Minister aware that there have been cases where orders for equipment for which there was a British equivalent have gone abroad and that while many of my colleagues and I believe that we should cut defence expenditure wherever possible, we also think that when equipment is being purchased the contracts should be placed in this country in order to provide employment?

I can assure my hon. Friend that it is Government policy to procure equipment abroad only if there is a clear advantage in terms of operating characteristics, cost or availability.