Select Committee on Trade and Industry Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Campaign Against Arms Trade


  1.  The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) is opposed to all military exports, but recognises that, despite their negative effects on human rights, security and the economy, the trade in them will not end overnight. As an interim measure, therefore, CAAT is seeking an export licensing policy with an emphasis on restraint, reinforced by transparency, and far greater opportunities for public debate. It is against this background that CAAT responded, in October 1996, to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Consultative Document on "Strategic Export Controls", and is making this submission in response to the White Paper of the same name published on 1 July 1998. The submission does not cover every issue raised by the White Paper, but focuses on those of greatest concern to CAAT.



  2.  CAAT is profoundly disappointed that the Government has decided not to allow parliamentary scrutiny of individual export licence applications, before (or, indeed, even after) the decision on whether to grant a licence has been taken. (Clause 2.1.7 refers)

  3.  Transparency is an essential feature of democracy, and citizens are entitled to know about the decisions the Government is taking on their behalf. This is especially the case on matters of ethical and economic concern such as arms exports. Information is a prerequisite for informed debate, and its release should take precedence over commercial confidentially, or the military security interests of overseas governments. The Government's lack of willingness to be open on this issue leaves a strong impression that it has something to hide, that it is embarrassed about at least some of its export licensing decisions, and unwilling to defend them to the public.

  4.  CAAT would urge the Government to think again and make all applications for military equipment export licences available for public inspection 10 working days in advance of the licence application being considered, in order to allow adequate time for comment and, if necessary, debate. Copies of the register should be lodged in the House of Commons' Library, in the Export Market Information Centre, on an appropriate part of the Internet, and other suitable places for public inspection.

  5.  A long debate on each of the thousands of licence applications made annually would not be anticipated, so CAAT does not believe that publicising individual export licence applications would "inevitably slow down significantly the process of decision-making". A register of applications, such as the one suggested in point 4 above, would, however, provide an opportunity for concerns to be raised about a particular sale before the licence was granted. It would also allow those with expert knowledge to question a series of seemingly innocuous exports that might, for example, indicate missile proliferation. This could complement the Government's own intelligence.

  6.  The publication by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) of an annual report on strategic exports is not an alternative to an export licence applications register as it will not ensure that individual licences are not granted in breach of the purposes of export control.

Purposes of strategic export controls

  7.  CAAT welcomes the decision to set out the purposes of export controls in legislation (Section 2.2 refers). However, it should be made clear that these are the only purposes that will be taken into account, and that they cannot be disregarded by a Secretary of State for Trade and Industry who might feel it politically expedient to so do.

  8.  The real test of the value of setting out the purposes of strategic export controls in legislation will be whether the Government adheres to them. This can only be seen over time, and only then if measures to introduce transparency with regard to individual licence applications, such as those proposed by CAAT, are introduced. Without such detail, neither parliamentarians nor the public will be able to consider whether, for instance, a particular export might damage regional stability. All consideration of, and debate about, the matter would remain with Ministers and civil servants. This would, essentially, be the same situation as at present, and the same as prevailed when the decisions over sales to Iraq, as described in Sir Richard Scott's Report, were made.

  9.  Assuming that details of individual export licence applications and decisions do become public knowledge, putting the relevant policy criteria into legislation as proposed would allow the judicial challenge of a decision by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. This would be welcome. A provision should be made in the secondary legislation and/or guidance material that would specifically allow third parties to challenge decisions.

"Catch all"

  10.  CAAT believes it is essential that some form of military end-use, or "catch all", control be introduced (Clause 5.1.2 refers), and is disappointed that it should be seen merely as a possibility. All goods being transferred from the UK to overseas military, security or police forces or armaments-manufacturing bodies should be made subject to export licensing controls. This would include goods being transferred under Government-to-Government deals (which would thus receive the extra scrutiny of the licensing process), or by the Crown Agents, and of surplus stock.

  The goods would include, not exclusively:

    —  arms, ammunition, implements or munitions of war, any article deemed capable of being converted thereinto or having a strategic or tactical value or nature;

    —  materials, equipment and technologies which are designed or used for the development, production or utilisation of arms, ammunition or implements of war;

    —  materials and equipment incorporating technology, the acquisition of which would give assistance to the development and production of arms, ammunition and implements of war and their means of utilisation or delivery;

    —  materials equipment and technologies which may be used for the production of arms, ammunition or the implements of war or their means of utilisation or delivery;

    —  spare parts;

    —  items to be produced under licence in the purchasing country.

  Where there is any doubt, or dispute, as to whether or not goods being purchased would be going to a military, security or police force or armaments manufacturing body, an export licence should be required.


  11.  CAAT is pleased that the issue of the export of intangibles, that is passing information about weapons' designs to third parties overseas, has been addressed (Section 3.2 refers). It is, however, disappointed that the Government proposes to limit the controls on this, for the time being, to tecnhnology related to weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles.

  12.  It is important that controls should be extended to all goods with a military end-user, for instance as defined in point 10 above, as soon as possible. If this cannot be done immediately for practical reasons, then a definite timetable should be agreed now.

Trafficking and brokering

  13.  CAAT is also pleased that controls are to be introduced on brokering (Section 3.3 refers), but does not agree that they should be more limited, either in terms of goods or of destination, than those on actual physical exports.

  14.  The Government appears somewhat naive in its reliance on the export controls of overseas countries to complement its own, as brokers can deliberately choose routes through the countries with the weakest laws. This was illustrated in the "Dispatches" television programme in March 1996 which showed an UK businessman offering to arrange the supply of electro-shock weapons to Zaire. The equipment was to be made in, and shipped from, Mexico. The owner of the factory there said he could export to anywhere he chose, and that the Mexican government presented no problem.

  15.  CAAT would also have liked to have seen a register of brokers proposed, with failure to register such activities made an offence under UK law. The registration documents should be open to public and parliamentary scrutiny.

  16.  Certainly, the enforcement of controls on trafficking and brokering is less straightforward than the enforcement of controls on exports from the UK (Clause 3.3.3 refers). This should not, however, rule out the imposition of controls, and the investigation of the infringement of them when this is brought to the notice of the appropriate authorities.

End-use controls

  17.  CAAT is dismayed that the Government has made no concrete proposals with regard to End-use monitoring (Section 5.2 refers), especially as many responding to the Green Paper (including CAAT), had made detailed suggestions on this. It is vital that the Government publishes its End-use proposals without further delay to enable them to be considered alongside the matters covered by the White Paper.

  18.  The following are the suggestions CAAT made when responding to the Green Paper, and would still advocate today.

    (a)  Applications for export permits should not be approved in the absence of an End-User Certificate (EUC) issued by the relevant government authority in the importing country, and obtained by the export licensing authority in the UK. It should indicate clearly the identity of the issuing authority, the name and designation of the signatory, the specifications, serial numbers and quantity of the armaments under consideration, and contain a commitment not to resell or transfer the armaments without the express permission of the UK export licensing authority.

    (b)  The terms for the licensed equipment should be "cost, insurance and freight", ensuring that the selling company is responsible for getting the equipment to the port of discharge, and thus lowering the risk of diversion.

    (c)  The supplier should be required to obtain a Delivery Verification Certificate (DVC) and to submit this document within a prescribed period to the export licensing authority. The DVC should be issued by the customs authority in the importing country as proof that the goods have arrived in the designated port of discharge and been collected by the designated purchaser.

    (d)  Customs and Excise should actively follow up all intelligence concerning licensing violations, and also do spot checks. These latter should be initiated, without prior warning, on a random sample of licences granted to confirm that the user of the equipment exported, and the use to which the latter is put, is as stated on the export licence. Such a right of inspection should form part of the export licence. Where abuse is discovered, the Government should not issue new licences for the export of military equipment to the country concerned. A refusal on the part of the prospective importing state or party to permit verification of end-use should be considered prima facie evidence of undesirable practices and should preclude export.

    (e)  The management and directors of any company found to be violating export licence regulations should be made personally liable under criminal law for such infringements. The company itself could be fined, have its goods seized or assets sequestrated.

    (f)  The Government should refuse entry into the UK to anyone proved to be concerned with miliary procurement for countries subject to an arms embargo, and expel those already operating here to a destination where their safety is ensured.

    (g)  Police and customs officials should give priority to ensuring that the UK is not used as a centre for the illegal supply of weaponry to countries against which an embargo has been imposed by the United Nations or the European Union.

    (h)  The Government should use the appropriate international fora to arrange co-operation between customs and law-enforcement agencies to combat the illegal trafficking of military equipment.

  19.  In the interim, CAAT would suggest that all licences issued by the Export Control Organisation contain re-export conditions. It is understood, from a DTI letter dated 9 July 1998 about exports to Chile, that such conditions are currently the exception rather than the rule.

Location of export licensing work

  20.  CAAT is relieved that the Government has rejected the suggestion by Sir Richard Scott to locate export licensing within the Ministry of Defence (Section 5.3 refers). CAAT would, however, have preferred the responsibility to have gone to the FCO or, failing this, an independent licensing authority.

  21.  The announcement, by the Foreign Secretary in May 1997, of a foreign policy with human rights at its heart, gave hope that, under the incoming Labour Government, there might be a change in direction from the promotion of arms exports, to the reduction and eventual elimination of them. To facilitate this, CAAT would have liked to have seen the appointment of a Minister of State, within the FCO, with specific responsibility for, and committed to, controlling and phasing out military exports.

  22.  As this change in direction by the Government has not occurred, CAAT would urge that an independent licensing authority be established. The DTI has trade promotion as one of its major responsibilities. Keeping the export licensing function within its remit would leave the DTI subject to conflicting pressures. Similar pressures within the MoD were revealed in detail by Sir Richard Scott. Then, the cautious line taken by Lieutenant Colonel Richard Glazebrook, the MoD official responsible for assessing the security implications of exports, was overridden by that of the, more numerous, officials within the same department charged with promoting arms sales. CAAT fears that the views of officials from the relatively small export licensing department would be equally disregarded in the DTI.


  23.  CAAT is disappointed that the White Paper does not address either training, or the provision of mercenaries, by the UK companies, government or citizens. It also fails to cover production under licence. It hopes that Government will address these omissions in the near future.


  24.  The provision of training is as much part of the arms trade as the provision of hardware, but at present there appear to be even fewer controls over training.

  25.  A list of countries whose military or security personnel are being trained by the UK Armed Forces or in Ministry of Defence (MoD) establishments will, at present, be given in answer to a parliamentary question. In the last few months (see, for instance, Hansard, 22.7.98), in a departure from former practice, additional information, for instance the numbers of personnel being trained, and the name of the establishment, has also been given.

  26.  CAAT welcomes this additional information, but it is still insufficient to allow informed debate before the training starts.

  27.  When it responded to the Green Paper, CAAT made the following suggestions. It would still suggest that in cases of training of overseas military, security or police personnel by members of the UK Armed Forces or in Ministry of Defence establishments, details should be available for public inspection. The details should be lodged, one month in advance of the confirmation of an offer of training, in the Library of the House of Commons and in a suitable public place. The details given should include the:

    (a)  country from which the prospective trainee comes and military or other unit in which s/he is serving;

    (b)  name(s) of trainee(s);

    (c)  dates of training;

    (d)  nature of training;

    (e)  place/establishment of training.

  28.  Though information about training by the UK Armed Forces and in MoD establishments is sparse, details of training by private companies is virtually non-existent. Such training is very occasionally reported by the media, usually when it forms part of an equipment package.

  Training of overseas military, security or police personnel by private companies in the UK or by the company's personnel overseas should be subject to licence, either

    (a)  as part of a licence for the supply of military equipment when training is in the use of equipment made by the company supplying the equipment; or

    (b)  through a specific licence for training when this is not part of an equipment package.

  A detailed prospectus of training should be published in advance of the granting of such a licence.


  29.  The provision of mercenaries to fight overseas wars, both between countries and within countries, is of concern to many. In December 1989, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted an International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries.

  30.  When it responded to the Green Paper, CAAT urged the Government to sign and ratify immediately the UN Convention on Mercenaries, and to introduce legislation to bring UK law in line with it. FCO Minister, Tony Lloyd, in a letter dated 6th July 1998, said that the UK had "not become party to the Convention because we doubt it is legally enforceable. The Convention's definition of a mercenary would make it difficult to secure a conviction in an English court".

  31.  Earlier, in answer to a parliamentary question on 30th June 1998, in the House of Lord, Mr Lloyd's then colleague, Baroness Symons, said that: "We are examining a number of options for national domestic regulation of so-called private military companies operating out of the United Kingdom. As part of this process, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is currently looking at measures taken by other governments, including recent South African legislation."

  32.  Whether as part of these changes being made to strategic export licensing, or separately, CAAT believes that it is essential that mercenary activities are made illegal without delay.

Licensed production, international companies, and collaborative projects

  33.  Military production is becoming increasingly internationalised. The White Paper does not consider how this change can be reflected in export controls, but CAAT believes this issue should be addressed without delay.

  34.  If a UK company licences the manufacture overseas of military equipment, as defined in point 10 above, the agreement should require an export licence even if no equipment actually originates in the UK.

  35.  When military equipment is made by a UK company in collaboration with an overseas company, by an overseas subsidiary of a UK company or by an overseas company in which a UK company has a participating interest of at least 20 per cent, such goods would require a UK export licence before they could be exported from the overseas country to a third country.

  36.  The management and directors of any company found to be violating this regulation should be made personally liable under criminal law for such an infringement. The UK company itself could face prosecution under UK law, be fined, have its goods seized or assets sequestrated.


  37.  The DTI's proposals in the White Paper are not sufficient to fully assist in the implementation of a UK foreign policy which puts human rights at its heart, and it is important that amendments are made so that they do so. In particular, it is vital that full information about export licence applications is made public to enable a proper debate about an ethical issue of widespread concern.

September 1998

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