Press Notice 9, Session 2005-06

New inquiry: Review of export control legislation

The Commons Quadripartite Committee set up to examine strategic export controls - that is UK arms and weapons exports - today announces that it will carry out post-legislative scrutiny of the Export Control Act 2002 and the orders made under the Act.

Call for evidence

The Committee invites interested organisations and individuals to submit written evidence as part of its inquiry into the operation of the Export Control Act 2002, and the orders and guidance made under the Act, since it came into operation in 2004. Submissions, reflecting the guidance on written evidence given in this press notice, should reach the Committee as soon as possible and no later than 3pm on Friday 24 November 2006 .

Quad Chair Roger Berry MP, who also sits on the Trade and Industry Select Committee, said:

"The Export Control Act of 2002 was the product of very careful consideration by the Government and Parliament. It is crucial for this country that it is operating effectively as it is intended to stop arms and weapons technologies falling into the wrong hands while not placing unreasonable burdens on legitimate and responsible exporters.

"This inquiry will give all those with an interest in the operation of the Act of 2002 - from defence exporters and brokers to non-governmental organisations who work in the developing world - to have their say on the operation of the legislation.

"The Committee wants to hear especially from those who are affected by the legislation in the course of their work and from those who expressed views when the legislation was before Parliament in 2001 and 2002."

Scope of the Committee's inquiry

The Committee welcomes views on the operation of the legislation.

To assist those who wish to submit evidence the Committee has identified a number of issues and questions, some of which those making submissions may wish to consider. But the list is neither prescriptive nor exhaustive and is supplied solely to show the areas that the Committee may look at. Those submitting are not constrained to follow the list below.

Aims of the legislation

1.Have the Government's stated aims, purposes and policy objectives for the Export Control Act 2002 and orders made under the Act achieved their desired effect? More particularly:

€Has the legislation ensured that the UK is maintaining an effective system of export controls to make sure that UK involvement in arms exports does not contribute to regional instability, internal repression or external aggression whilst supporting a strong defence industry and defence exports?

€Has the legislation reduced trade in military goods and technology where it is undesirable without also discouraging trade that the Government wishes to promote?

€Has the legislation impeded the illicit or irresponsible transfer of technologies to states or organisations intent on creating weapons of mass destruction?

€Has the legislation helped to strengthen international regulation of the arms trade?

€Has the legislation prevented the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction?

€Does the legislation meet the requirements of European and international obligations such as UN Security Resolution 1540 (2004)?

€How does British legislation and enforcement of the legislation compare with that of other Member States of the EU?

2.Is the licensing system accountable and transparent? The Committee would also welcome views on how the effects of the legislation can be measured and whether there are reliable methods of distinguishing between the 'legitimate' and 'illegitimate' trade in arms and technologies.

Impact on policy in other areas

3.Does the legislation complement or conflict with defence, defence procurement, anti-terrorist or human rights policies and legislation? 

4.Is there any evidence that the granting or withholding of licences for the export of goods or technologies subject to control is being used as an instrument of foreign policy? 

Regulatory Impact Assessment and the concerns of industry

5.Were the effects of the legislation accurately and adequately identified by the Government in the Final Regulatory Impact Assessment (see http://www.dti.gov.uk/files/file7886.pdf#search=%22regulatory%20impact%20assessment%20export%20control%22), in particular, were the costs and benefits in the Regulatory Impact Assessment correct?  The Committee wishes to establish whether or not the legislation has increased the burdens on the defence industry and whether it has affected UK businesses’ ability to compete with other countries’ defence and dual-use exporters.

6.What have been the economic consequences of the legislation, particularly what effect has there been on manufacturers? For example, has it affected the ability of companies to enter collaborative ventures with EU or US companies? Has the transparency provided by the procedures given the UK an advantage or disadvantage in competing overseas?   The Committee welcomes views from both large and small businesses.  Small and medium-sized businesses may wish to comment on the extent to which the legislation affects their ability to enter the market or expand into defence or dual-use exports. 

7.When the legislation was under consideration industry had a number of concerns.  Where these addressed and resolved?  In particular that:

•the proposals lacked clarity and were too loosely worded; Did the Government produce guidance which addressed industry’s concerns?

•the record keeping requirements, particularly for intangible transfers and brokering, will be burdensome; The Government indicated that the records companies kept for their own purposes would also fit the requirements of the licensing regime. Did industry and Government devise a system for record-keeping which was both sufficient to show compliance while avoiding an unreasonable burden? Was the record keeping required for intangible transfers and brokering acceptable to industry and the institutions carrying out research?

8.Were the transitional arrangements adequate?

9.Has the licensing regime impeded trade fairs in the UK?

10.Has the legislation had any unintended consequences?

Sustainable development

11.Section 9 of the Export Control Act 2002 requires the Secretary of State to give guidance on general principles to be followed when exercising licensing powers which must include guidance on sustainable development.  Since 2002 only one application to export arms appears to have been refused on grounds that it was incompatible with the technical and economic capacity of the recipient country. The Committee invites views on the operation of the guidance, whether a test of sustainable development is practical, whether licences have been approved which should have been refused on this ground and whether the legislation needs to be revised.

Orders made under the Export Control Act 2002

12.Have the orders made under the Export Control Act 2002 been clear, well-drafted and intelligible? 

13.Have those to whom the orders apply received sufficient notice of any changes and adequate explanation of the requirements in the orders?

T rafficking and brokering and extra-territorial controls

14.The Export Control Act 2002 introduced controls on certain trafficking and brokering, including some extra-territorial controls on UK citizens operating outside the UK.  Are these provisions enforceable?  Have they been enforced?  Have they reduced irresponsible transfers of arms and technologies? Do the provisions need to be revised?  If so, how should they be changed?

Licensed production overseas

15. How effective are the current arrangements in regulating licensed production facilities? Do the current arrangements prevent arms and technology produced overseas from falling into irresponsible hands?

16. What is the nature and extent of licensed production overseas? Has licensed production overseas increased since 2003? How important is licensed production overseas to the competitiveness of the UK defence industry? Has the Government adequate information about licensed production overseas? In addition, the Committee would welcome evidence (including specific instances) of the extent to which dual use goods that may not require an export licence are ultimately incorporated into military goods and, if there are serious concerns, how the export of these goods could be controlled.

Intangible transfers of technology/ effects on research and academia

17. Are those to whom the controls on intangible transfers of technology apply fully aware of, and complying with, the requirements of the law? In particular, are the requirements to keep records to ensure compliance for open licence procedures and to submit documentation in support of licence applications workable?

18. Does the Government proactively police and enforce the controls on intangible transfers of technology?

19. Have the controls on intangible transfers of technology affected academic freedoms or scientific research? Are the controls on intangible transfers of technology adequate and effective? If not, what changes need to be made?

Enforcement

20. How effectively is the legislation being enforced against those who have no regard for the letter of the law? What challenges are there to bringing forward successful prosecutions?

21. The legislation increased the maximum penalty for breaking export controls from 7 years to 10 years. What impact has this change made?

Other matters

22. Has the licensing regime impeded the provision of support to British armed forces?

23. Is there any evidence that the open general licences have provided loopholes or allowed goods to fall into irresponsible hands?

24. Is the appeals process against refusals or revocations of licences working satisfactorily?

25. Is communication between the departments with responsibilities for considering applications for export licences adequate and effective?

Notes for submitters

Written evidence should be in Word or rich text format and sent by e-mail to [email protected]. The body of the e-mail must include a contact name, telephone number and postal address. The e-mail should also make clear who the submission is from. The deadline is 3.00 pm on Friday, 24 November 2006.

Submissions should be in the format of a self-contained memorandum and should not exceed 3,000 words in length. Paragraphs should be numbered for ease of reference, and the document must include an executive summary, ideally no more than one page long.

Committees make public much of the evidence they receive during inquiries, including publication on the Committee's web pages, and, because the Government itself plans a review of the legislation in 2007, the memoranda received in this inquiry may be copied to the Government. If you do not wish your submission to be published, you must clearly say so. If you wish to include private or confidential information in your submission to the Committees, please contact the Clerk of the Quadripartite Committee to discuss this. Please bear in mind that Committees are not able to investigate individual cases. Personal information, such as address and contact details, should be provided separately from the body of your submission. You should be aware that there may be circumstances in which the House of Commons will be required to communicate information to third parties on request, in order to comply with its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Submissions should be original work, not previously published or circulated elsewhere. Once submitted, no public use should be made of the submission unless you have first obtained permission from the Clerk of the Committee. For further information on evidence to select committees, see the guide for witnesses available at: http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/witness.cfm

The Committee expects to receive most evidence in the form of written memoranda. In addition, it may hold a small number of oral evidence sessions. It will announce details of oral evidence hearings later in the autumn.

The Committee is also announcing today in Press Notice No. 10 - that it will be undertaking an inquiry into the UK's 2005 Annual Report on Strategic Export Controls (Cm 6882). Written evidence for that inquiry should also reach the Committee by 3.00 pm on Friday 24 November 2006. The Committee is happy to accept written evidence covering both inquiries but those submitting should submit separate memoranda for each inquiry.

Notes

1.The Quadripartite Committee consists of four Committees that meet together to consider the control of strategic exports, including weapons. The Committees involved are: Defence, Foreign Affairs, International Development and Trade and Industry. The Chairman for these meetings is Roger Berry MP, who is a member of the Trade and Industry Committee.

2.The Committee's 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 Committee scrutinizes.

3.Membership of the Committee:

Members from the Trade and Industry Committee: Roger Berry MP (Labour); Mr Lindsay Hoyle MP (Labour); Peter Luff MP (Conservative); Judy Mallaber MP (Labour).

Members from the Defence Committee: Mr David S Borrow MP (Labour); Mr David Crausby MP (Labour); Linda Gilroy (Labour); Robert Key MP (Conservative).

Members from the Foreign Affairs Committee: Mike Gapes MP (Labour); Mr Fabian Hamilton MP (Labour); Mr Paul Keetch MP (Liberal Democrats); Rt Hon Sir John Stanley MP (Conservative).

Members from the International Development Committee: Malcolm Bruce MP (Liberal Democrats); John Barrett MP (Liberal Democrats); John Bercow MP (Conservative); Richard Burden MP (Labour).

4.For media inquiries please contact the media officer Alex Paterson on 020 7219 1708, email €” [email protected]

5.Specific Committee Information: Tel 020 7219 8367, email €” [email protected]

6.Committee Website: http://www.parliament.uk/quad

7.Watch committees and parliamentary debates online: www.parliamentlive.tv

8. Publications/Reports/Reference Material: Copies of all select committee reports are available from the Parliamentary Bookshop (12 Bridge St, Westminster, 020 7219 3890) or the Stationery Office (0845 7023474). Committee reports, press releases, evidence transcripts, Bills; research papers, a directory of MPs, plus Hansard (from 8am daily) and much more, can be found on www.parliament.uk