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French Government (Missile Supplies)

Volume 24: debated on Tuesday 25 May 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on his latest discussions with the French Government about the availability of their missiles to the Argentine junta.

Following the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands, the French Government immediately took action to suspend all arms sales to Argentina. We share with France and much of the rest of the world a common resolve to stand firm against military aggression. The Government are grateful for the help and staunch support from the French Government for the position we have taken.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there will be widespread support in the House and the country for what he has just said? Will he take an early opportunity to ensure that the French Government know how widely they are appreciated and how their position is welcomed in this country? In view of the persistent reports of countries such as South Africa and Israel, perhaps, assisting Argentina with the supply of missiles, and in pursuance of the question asked by the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) yesterday, will my right hon. Friend carry out as detailed an investigation as possible, so that in future we can know who our friends are?

The main question relates to France, and I should like to emphasise the tremendous support that we have from President Mitterrand and the French Government as well as the particular support that I have had from my opposite number, M. Hernu, since the outset of the Falkland Islands problem. As to other countries, as I said yesterday, we continually monitor the movement of arms and look in particular at the dangers for us of the movement of, for example, Exocet missiles to Argentina. That review will continue.

As most of Argentina's military equipment was sold to it by NATO countries, is it not time that NATO Defence and Foreign Ministers examined the whole question of arms sales to countries that may well use the weapons against individual members of NATO?

I think that this is a matter for individual countries. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we review all our arms sales. We look at each country individually and make a judgment on each case. That has always been the manner in which these policies have been conducted by successive Governments.