Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20
TUESDAY 10 NOVEMBER 1998
20. That is where I see the difficulty because
people would turn round and look at us and say sometimes the way
we have behaved has not been entirely appropriate.
(Fiona Weir) If the UK had breached international
human rights law then we should apply scrutiny to what we are
doing ourselves. That principle would indeed apply.
21. Your organisation has certainly accused
us of doing so in the past. You have accused the UK of breaching
human rights in Northern Ireland, have you not as Amnesty International?
(Fiona Weir) Amnesty International has indeed.
22. So would you put us in the same category?
(Fiona Weir) That is a slightly difficult one because
I am not allowed to comment on own-country rules as an Amnesty
UK person. I am not aware of Amnesty ever having made a case for
the specific banning of any particular import of military equipment
to the UK.
23. Perhaps you could write to us on that?
(Fiona Weir) We will do so.
24. May I move on to end-user certificates and
the monitoring of them? In your written submissions, both of you
indicated your concern that there are no proposals to strengthen
up that particular process. I should like to hear your views on
the practicalities about how you think that monitoring of end
users could possibly be improved, bearing in mind of course the
difficulties that I am sure we are all aware of that in certain
countries around the world there would be great difficulty, in
fact perhaps a lot of hostility to a very invasive process of
checking, double checking, constantly rechecking what the end-use
application was of certain equipment and plant and products which
are going into those countries. You have expressed your concern.
Would you like to elaborate?
(Mr Eavis) Our concern in this area is that because
end-use controls vary considerably across European Member States
and wider still, it certainly presents an opportunity for companies
or individuals to exploit those differences. The types of things
we are arguing for which should be present in an end-use system
would be to have a common form for examplea very practical
stepwhich would be on tamper-proof paper so that it is
difficult to forge end-use certificates. That would be one step.
Another step would be to build in a system so that when you receive
an end-use certificate or an end-use assurance from an importing
company, you would send a copy of the end-use certificate to your
diplomatic mission in that country and ask them to verify the
information which exists on that form. It does not have to be
that intrusive: just verifying that the company does exist there
and this is what it makes. A number of Member States do have those
sorts of procedures in place. The Belgian Government for example.
Then there are things which you could write in to your end-use
certificate, which Britain currently does not write into its end-use
certificate, to prevent the re-export of weapons. We would argue
that there should be a very clear written undertaking in an end-use
certificate that those goods should not be re-exported from that
recipient country unless there has been prior written approval
by the Department of Trade and Industry. That also happens in
some European Member States, Belgium again, but not in the case
of Britain. There also are the follow-up measures. There is a
role for the diplomatic missions overseas to play, not least in
checking that the goods have arrived and that they have gone to
the place the documentation said they were going to go. A number
of Member States, Austria, Belgium, have those types of arrangements
in their end-use system and they do have some level of follow-up
checks. They do see that as the last resort. I would argue that
a significant proportion of diplomatic missions' time is actually
spent on arms promotion and I would say that a significant proportion
would be better spent on looking at how the arms which are being
purchased are being used and whether they are actually ending
up in the place which they said they were going to end up.
25. Have you done any sort of work in terms,
for example, of the country you cited on a couple of occasions,
Belgium, about how effective it is? It seems to me that despite
all of that process, if you end up with a company within a country
which is particularly lax about these issues, that a real concerted
effort, premeditated view that this equipment is going to arrive
and after a relatively short period of time it is going to be
re-exported, you have real difficulties without starting to get
very intrusive into the activities of individual companies; very
time consuming, very, very difficult. How effective has what you
see as the beefed up Belgian system been?
(Mr Eavis) The Belgian Government argues that it is
26. They would, would they not?
(Mr Eavis) Exactly, so I do not know. There have not
been that many examples. The only way of really telling is to
look at the examples of when end-use guarantees have been broken
under the Belgian system and we certainly have not found any examples
of that. There may be Belgian NGOs who would be able to identify
those sorts of examples for us. Clearly there will be some companies
who will always be able to get round end-use controls, but it
is trying to have something in place which is far more effective
than we have at the moment and to try to get European-wide agreement
or even further, agreement within the Wassenaar arrangement, that
we are all working to the same common system so that we decrease
the risks of diversion. Obviously the White Paper does talk about
looking at this within the European Union, and within the Wassenaar
arrangement and we welcome that. It is just that a lot more work
needs to be put in to looking at what the best practice system
could be so that it could then be implemented. We would be pleased
to provide you with examples of what actually happens in other
Member States to try to pull out examples of that best practice.
27. I have to say I think that would be useful
and we would probably welcome having a look at examples from elsewhere
and just see how our system compares with it. That would be a
(Mr Eavis) Indeed. Yes.
28. This sounds like a fair amount of effort
on the part of our embassies. Have you formed any idea just how
many people would be required in how many countries to enforce
the kind of system you are talking about? How practical, in terms
of practical politics, is it for the Government to turn round
to manufacturers who are pursuing legitimate exports and say,
"Sorry, we're taking people away from export promotion in
our embassies just to check up on the sales which are already
going on"? That is what you are suggesting.
(Mr Eavis) No, we do not have detailed analysis of
what the implications would be in terms of time of personnel overseas.
I did say that this elementand I mentioned four or five
elementswould be the last resort. There will be some countries
where it would be important that great emphasis is put on changing
the role of the missions. This is being discussed, anyway within
the Ministry of Defence; looking at whether the types of defence
attache«s we have at the moment are the most appropriate
for the new challenges which are being faced in some of the recipient
countries. Part of the question could be looking at how our arms
are being used. One of the encouraging statements which was made
in this regard by the Foreign Secretary was that as a matter of
course now ambassadors and staff overseas will dialogue with NGOs
in that country to seek information from NGOs as to whether there
is any information which has come to light which the Government
should be aware of. That is a very useful practical step: a dialogue
with the NGO community in the recipient country which would not
actually take that much time.
29. I should like to cover the proposal for
an independent agency which you both put forward and how that
would improve on the current arrangements. I am wondering, if
it is independent, or even if it is a standing interdepartmental
committee, or I think you suggested under HM Customs, how parliamentarians
would still be involved?
(Fiona Weir) Other departments clearly have within
their remit a promotion role and a promotion role does not fit
very well with a control role, so it seems to us independence
is quite a useful way of getting that extra degree of objectivity
into this process. We should very much urge you to consider separating
those functions out. We have not thought through the details of
how it would work, what particular parliamentary structures and
committees, but given that there is more than one committee interested,
it may be that one might have to look at something like some kind
of joint meeting or debate which brought various parties together
around the annual report. We have not thought through those details.
30. One can only wonder about the appropriateness
of having the Treasury as the Ministry responsible for the curtailing
of an export business. It would certainly be a different role
for them. On that happy note may we thank you very much for your
evidence this morning. It is a very useful starting point for
(Fiona Weir) Thank you. We certainly hope that you
will not leave things with a degree of openness and parliamentary
scrutiny which industry regards as exactly the right balance because
we might have concerns about that.
Chairman: There are always problems in politics
about pleasing the wrong people. It just depends where you are
sitting. Thank you very much.