Mr Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for
Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made towards
an agreed EU Code of Conduct on arms sales; and if he will make
Mr Fatchett: On 25 May, the General Affairs Council
reached agreement on the text of an EU Code of Conduct for Arms
Exports, which will be formally adopted at a future meeting of
the Council. The text is annexed to the Council Conclusions, a
copy of which will be placed in the House Library.
Agreement on the Code of Conduct is an important
achievement, and fulfils the commitment given by my right hon
Friend the Foreign Secretary to my hon Friend the Member for East
Ham (Mr Timms) on 28 July 1997, Official Report, columns 26-29.
The detailed elaboration of the eight EU Common Criteria agreed
in 1991 and 1992 is a major step towards the establishment of
high common standards for arms exports from all Member States.
In addition the mechanism that requires Member States to circulate
information on licence refusals and to consult before undercutting
another Member State's denial is the first of its kind ever applied
by a group of states to their conventional arms exports. It will
help to ensure the criteria are applied in a consistent fashion
and to produce a level playing field for British companies.
Our efforts to promote responsibility and transparency
in conventional arms transfers will not end with agreement on
the Code of Conduct. We will continue to take steps in support
of these principles at both national and international level.
Member States will have the opportunity to review the operation
of the Code itself after a year and agree any necessary improvements.
I will make a further statement on the national
implementation of the provisions of the Code following its formal
adoption by the General Affairs Council.
Official Report Columns 240-242
3 June 1998