Select Committee on Trade and Industry Minutes of Evidence


Letter from Mrs Barbara Roche MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Small Firms, Trade and Industry to the Committee

  When I gave evidence to the Committee on 10 November, you asked for further information on two specific issues. I am now pleased to be able to provide you with this.


  During the year ending 16 October 1998, my Department's Export Control Organisation (ECO) received 57 letters of complaint and 37 letters of thanks in connection with the processing of applications for standard individual export licences.


  In his evidence to the Inquiry, Mr Garland, Managing Director of RBR, referred to losing "two orders for the United Nations, UNHCR, because of delays" in processing Export Licence Applications (ELAs). I have assumed that he was referring to ELA 549180 for the supply of five helmets and visors to UNHCR in Croatia/Bosnia and ELA 532498 for the supply of 10 combat helmets to UNHCR in Afghanistan.

  The circumstances surrounding the first of these licence applications are described in the third and fourth paragraphs of a letter from Andrew Mantle (Director of the Export Control Organisation) to Mr Garland dated 18 September 1998. Although this letter was included in Mr Garland's written evidence to the Inquiry, I attach a copy for ease of reference. There is little which I can add to this letter from which you will see that, despite the fact that the application was initially incomplete, my officials were still prepared to try to process the licence application in half the normal target time (ie 10 rather than 20 working days). While it is unfortunate that these efforts proved insufficient to prevent the order from being cancelled, I believe that this case actually highlights the willingness of the ECO to be as helpful as possible.

  However, Mr Garland's dissatisfaction with the way in which the other UNHCR licence application was dealt with, is more justified. We received ELA 532498 on 14 May 1997 and circulated it to advisory Government Departments on 19 May 1997. However a final decision had not been taken by the time Mr Garland informed us on 3 July 1997 that the order had been cancelled. ELAs for the supply of goods to countries subject to an arms embargo need very careful consideration, whoever the recipient may be. However, clearly too long was taken in this case.

26 November 1998

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