The Committees on Arms Export Controls: Press Notice

AN 06/0809 - 19 August 2009

GOVERNMENT MUST ENSURE THAT UK ARMS EXPORTS ARE NOT BEING USED AGAINST CIVILIANS IN CONFLICT ZONES, SAY THE COMMITTEES ON ARMS EXPORT CONTROLS

Closer scrutiny of UK arms exports is being called for by four Parliamentary Select Committees following confirmation by the UK Government that Israeli weapons systems, used in the Gaza conflict, almost certainly contained British-built components.

The Committees on Arms Export Controls publish their annual report today which includes scrutiny of export licences granted in 2008 and examines the policy and enforcement of UK arms export controls.

The Committees were concerned that UK military equipment and weapons, exported to Sri Lanka during the ceasefire between the Sri Lanka government and the LTTE, may have been used against the civilian population when hostilities escalated in 2006.

The Committees welcome the Government’s review of extant export licences to Israel but questioned what implications the revocation of licences would have on the UK’s defence relationships with the USA and Israel, and on the operational capability of the UK’s armed forces.

Whilst the Committees agreed that applications for licences for exports to Israel and Sri Lanka should continue to be assessed on a case-by-case basis, the Committees called for a review of all existing licences relating to Sri Lanka and recommended that the Government assess what weapons used by the Sir Lanka armed forces against the LTTE were supplied by the UK.

Chairman of the Committees on Arms Export Controls, Roger Berry MP, says “Sri Lanka highlights the need for the UK Government to monitor closely the situation in countries recently engaged in armed conflict. It must assess more carefully the risk that UK arms exports might be used by those countries in the future in a way that breaches our licensing criteria.”

The Committees repeat strong recommendations from last year’s report that the Government establish a register of UK arms brokers and that the UK extend certain trade controls on activities by UK persons anywhere in the world.  The Committees call for all residents in the UK and British citizens overseas to obtain trade control licences, or be covered by a general licence, before engaging in any trade in the goods featured on what is called “the Military List” of weapons and materiel classifications. 

Chairman of the Committees, Roger Berry MP, says, “The UK has a responsibility to ensure that its arms export industry, and individual UK citizens, working overseas are not engaging in the illegal arms trade and therefore we remain convinced that there is a need for a registration system for arms brokers. In addition, the Government must now work with NGOs and industry to bring forward draft proposals on extending the extra-territorial provisions of export control legislation.”


FURTHER INFORMATION:

1. The Committees on Arms Export Controls consists of four Committees which meet together to consider the control of strategic exports, including weapons. The Committees involved are: Business and Enterprise, Defence, Foreign Affairs and International Development. The Chairman for these meetings is Roger Berry MP, who is a member of the Business and Enterprise Committee.

2. The Committees’ main job is to review Government policy on licensing arms exports and licensing decisions. Each year the Government produces an annual report on Strategic Export Controls which the Committees scrutinise.

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