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Export licences for chemicals to Syria

09 September 2013

The Chairman of the Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC), Sir John Stanley, has written today to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable, putting to the Government 7 areas of detailed questioning and requirements for further information on UK Government approval of export licences for chemicals that could be used in the production of chemical weapons

Sir John Stanley said:

"The Committees on Arms Export Controls’ detailed scrutiny over the last 18 months of the Government’s approval of export licences to Syria for chemicals that could be used in the manufacture of nerve gas has much further to go now that the Government has confirmed the appalling use of sarin in Syria. We need to uncover the whole history of British Government approvals of exports to Syria of dual-use chemicals. We also need to uncover the history of British Government approvals of dual-use chemicals to countries, in addition to Syria, who are known holders of chemical weapons.

With regard to the Government’s approval of the specific export licences to Syria of potassium fluoride and sodium fluoride, both of which are stated to be precursor chemicals in the manufacture of nerve gas, the Business Secretary needs to explain why his Department failed to comply with the Foreign Secretary’s policy statement to the Committees that the Government would not issue export licences “which might be used to facilitate internal repression."

The Government must also explain why the Secretary of State for Defence on September 2 in the House of Commons, and the Business Department on September 3 both stated that none of the potassium fluoride or the sodium fluoride had actually been exported to Syria under the Government approved licences, when the Secretary of State for Business’s letter to the Committees of 10 April 2013 makes it quite clear that some quantities had already been shipped.

These are among the 7 areas of further detailed scrutiny set out in the Committees’ letter to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills today (PDF PDF 33 KB).

Image: Parliamentary copyright

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