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Arms Sales

Volume 972: debated on Tuesday 30 October 1979

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18.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether there has been any change in Government policy on arms sales since May 1979; and whether there are any plans for such change.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave earlier today to my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley).

Does the Minister accept that the decision of the previous Labour Government to cancel the sale of armoured cars to El Salvador, for example, was highly significant in that it added to the international disapproval which helped to bring about the recent downfall of President Romero's regime? Does the Minister agree that by increasing the sale of arms to such repressive regimes, the Tory Government would be supporting those regimes instead of trying to bring about peaceful change?

The first part of the hon. Gentleman's question is really a question for my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal. As to the generality of it, of course we consider arms sales on a case-by-case basis. There are sometimes circumstances in which we think it is not appropriate to make arms sales, but where they are appropriate and where the countries concerned wish to defend themselves by weapons made in this country, there is a contribution that we can make to their defence and stability, so we look at the matter on a case-by-case basis. Unless there is a good reason not to make those sales, we are inclined to make them.