§ Mr. Best
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what evidence he has of British companies losing business to competitors in Europe as a result of the embargo by the United Kingdom on the supply of lethal arms to Iran; what specific discussions he has had with the Federal German Government on this matter in relation to the supply of engines for Chieftain tanks; if he will raise the question of a co-ordinated European approval to arms sales to Iran at the next Council of Foreign Ministers; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Eggar
Specific evidence of European competitors having taken business which might have come to Britain is hard to come by. However, we have refused licences for the export to Iran of significant amounts of defence equipment.
We have had recent assurances that any application to export tank engines to Iran from the Federal Republic of Germany would be automatially rejected. Such a sale would contravene the FRG's policy of neutrality in the conflict and of not permitting the export of goods for military use to areas of tension.
Defence sales are a matter for national Governments and are not covered by the treaty of Rome. We would like to see all other European countries adopt a policy as stringent as our own, but it would not be constructive to press for a co-ordinated defence sales policy within political co-operation while little possibility of agreement appears to exist. There is, however, an exchange of information on defence sales policy within the machinery of political co-operation.