Government probed on arms to North Africa and Middle East

31 August 2011


The Committees on Arms Export Controls today published the attached letter to the Foreign Secretary raising questions over the Government’s Response to the Committees’ Report into the Scrutiny of Arms Export Controls (2011): UK Strategic Export Controls Annual Report 2009, Quarterly Reports for 2010, licensing policy and review of export control legislation (PDF 395KB).

The Chairman of the Committees, Sir John Stanley, said:

"The Government’s Response (Cm 8079) (PDF 395KB) leaves a substantial number of questions unanswered across the whole arms exports and arms control field. We are probing the Government further in the detailed series of additional questions we have now put to the Foreign Secretary.

With regard to the Written Ministerial Statement by the Foreign Secretary yesterday on the Government’s review of arms exports policy towards North Africa and the Middle East, I am not surprised by the Government’s stated outcome of its review. Given that there has been, understandably, an almost total absence of official observers in close proximity to the violent internal repression that has been taking place, and given also the fact that the UK Government approved arms exports including machine guns, sniper rifles, combat shot-guns and ammunition as detailed in Annex 4 of our Report were not emblazoned with Union Jacks, it is hardly surprising that the FCO could safely conclude “there was no evidence of any misuse of controlled military goods exported from the United Kingdom”.

However, the key fact is that the Government, entirely justifiably, has now revoked a total of 157 arms export licences to North Africa and Middle East countries as listed in Cmnd 8079 p.21-45. As we stated in our Report, this provides the clearest evidence of the scale of the misjudgment of the risk that arms approved for export to certain authoritarian countries in North Africa and the Middle East might be used for internal repression, a misjudgment by both the present Government and its predecessor.

The Committees will be considering their response to the Foreign Secretary’s Written Ministerial Statement and to the further Statement promised."

Further information

  • The Committees on Arms Export Controls (formerly the Quadripartite Committee) 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 current Chairman is Rt. Hon. Sir John Stanley MP, who is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
  • 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.
  • Media Enquiries: Alex Paterson, Media Officer, on 020 7219 1589
  • Committee's Website: Arms Export Controls (Committees on)  
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