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Arms Sales

Volume 115: debated on Tuesday 5 May 1987

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9.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will review his policy on arms sales; and if he will make a statement.

No. The general policy remains unchanged from that of the previous Administration; that is, within the limits of the United Kingdom's political, strategic and security interests, to encourage defence sales and thereby increase the wealth and job opportunities of this country.

Does the Minister recall that until April 1982 the centre of arms supply to the navy of the Argentine dictator was here, in London? As the Government have now arranged for HMS Glamorgan—along with many other arms—to be supplied to the dictatorship in Chile, which is still involved in murder, torture and the suppression of its people, will the Minister confirm that the Government's loyalty to their friends in the arms trade—the merchants of death—is greater than their respect for human rights?

The defence industry is a very important industry. Everything should be done to encourage the exports of defence equipment. On the question of selling frigates to Chile, I point out that one cannot involve a frigate in the suppression of the civilian population.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the Labour party's commitment, as represented at its conference last year, drastically to reduce arms sales abroad? That will obviously have great implications for jobs and employment opportunities throughout the country, specifically in the west midlands.

I agree with my hon. Friend. More than 100,000 people are now involved in defence export sales. I am sure that, with an election coming up shortly, they must be extremely worried about their future.

Is there not something radically wrong with a society, country and Government when the Government boast of increasing defence expenditure during the whole of their tenure in office — unlike expenditure for most of the Departments that they run — claim that employment relies entirely on defence weapons being bought, and now boast that wealth and job opportunities depend on ever-increasing arms sales, mostly to Third world countries where the people are crying out for the supply of things that are much more essential to human life than arms?

I have never been able to understand the neo-imperialistic attitude of the Opposition which says that we should dictate to Third world countries what they should and should not buy with the resources available to them.

Does my hon. Friend agree that, if there were the mutually assured destruction of an incoming Labour Government, the consequences of the Labour party winding up the Defence Export Sales Organisation, which made a profit for this country of over £5 billion last year, would be catastrophic for constituencies such as mine?

The defence manufacturing industry pays great tribute to the Defence Export Services Organisation, which does much to boost our sales abroad.