Supplementary Memorandum submitted by
The Department of Trade and Industry on Computer Systems in the
Export Licensing Process |
1. In its Report, the Committee recommended
that "the three departments involved in export licensing
allow mutual access to their computerised information relating
to export licensing and that the DTI's export licensing database
be developed for the benefit of all three departments".
2. In its observations on the Committe's
report, the previous administration stated that it saw merit in
a more co-ordinated use of information technology and that it
was already considering the scope for improving the sharing of
information relevant to export licensing between interested departments.
As a first step, the scope for downloading licence data from the
DTI's ECLIPS system for use in the FCO and MoD was under active
consideration and, in the longer term, greater emphasis would
be placed on ensuring that information systems used in processing
export licences were compatible and that future systems development
took into account the interests of other relevant departments.
3. Although some progress was made, problems
associated with determining precisely what information should
be forwarded to OGDs, how subsequent changes to records should
be communicated and outputting of the data in a format that would
be acceptable to all Departments, contributed to a lack of progress
in establishing a procedure for the routine transmission of ECLIPS
data to OGDs.
4. On 30 October 1997 an announcement to
Parliament was made (Official Report, cols 870-871) announcing
data integrity problems that had been found in the ECLIPS database.
It was decided that there was little point in proceeding to try
to share data from the DTI database that was suspect. However,
building on the discussions between DTI, FCO and MoD with respect
to sharing the data held on ECLIPS, DTI began work on the development
of a new computer system, named ELATE (Export Licence Applications
Transmitted Electronically). The development of ELATE, which is
described in more detail below, has had the sharing of electronic
data between departments as a key requirement from the start and
builds on the work done during 1997 on ECLIPS data exchange.
THE ELATE PROJECT
5. In September 1997 DTI invited FCO and
MoD to participate in a project to establish a means of capturing
accurate data from export licence applications received electronically
and sharing it among the three departments. Subsequently, the
Director of DTI's Export Control and Non-Proliferation Directorate
chaired a Project Board (with members drawn from other departments)
to oversee the development of a computer based application form
that could enable exporters to submit their export licence applications
in electronic form. A new database in DTI to hold this information
with a means of transmitting the data to FCO and MoD electronically
was also to be developed. All those involved agreed that resources
should be focused on ensuring that the new system (ELATE) became
operational as quickly as possible and that the efforts to share
ECLIPS data should not be pursued.
6. Substantial progress has since been made
in developing a software package that will enable exporters to
complete an export licence application form on any standard personal
computer, and then download the completed form on to a standard
diskette. Participants in a trial of the package (some 80 businesses
including major exporters, SMEs and sole traders) responded very
favourably and their comments were taken into account in developing
a production version of ELATE. The current intention is to launch
the new electronic application form later this year.
7. Development of the DTI database to hold
the data collected from the ELATE forms is nearing completion.
In parallel, FCO has developed a compatible system to enable it
to receive ELAs electronically from the DTI. MoD has developed
a new database that will allow data from ELATE to be accepted
from DTI either on diskette or electronically. DTI will also be
able to send diskettes to other interested departments. Certain
supporting documentation, routinely submitted in support of export
licence applications (eg end-use certificates, technical brochures)
will, for the moment, continue to be circulated to other departments
in paper form.
8. A fully networked interchange has been
limited by the absence of a common communications infrastructure
capable of providing an appropriate level of protection for the
material concerned. The Cabinet Office initiative to establish
a Government Secure Intranet (GSI) has been helpful in addressing
the problem and as more departments become linked to the GSI (DTI
is already a member) this is expected to become the standard means
of sharing export licence application data.
9. Because ELATE allows for information
to be accepted and transferred electronically, it will not only
be easier for exporters to apply for export licences, but will
also greatly enhance the integrity of the data and virtually eliminate
keying errors, one of the main problems identified with the ECLIPS
database. It will still be possible for exporters without access
to a personal computer, or who do not wish to use the ELATE diskettes,
to submit applications in hard copy although this will be discouraged.
The data on these applications will have to be transcribed onto
the new database and checking procedures will be in place to minimise
the risk of mistranscription of data.
10. There is also a need to share information
on completed export licence applications, particularly on licences
issued and applications refused. DTI is working with HMC&E
to examine the feasibility of making this information available
electronically to Customs officials who have responsibility for
enforcing export controls at the point of export.
Export Control Organisation
13 October 1998