Select Committee on Trade and Industry Minutes of Evidence

Annex F


  Mr Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made towards an agreed EU Code of Conduct on arms sales; and if he will make a statement.(438651)

Mr Fatchett: On 25 May, the General Affairs Council reached agreement on the text of an EU Code of Conduct for Arms Exports, which will be formally adopted at a future meeting of the Council. The text is annexed to the Council Conclusions, a copy of which will be placed in the House Library.

  Agreement on the Code of Conduct is an important achievement, and fulfils the commitment given by my right hon Friend the Foreign Secretary to my hon Friend the Member for East Ham (Mr Timms) on 28 July 1997, Official Report, columns 26-29. The detailed elaboration of the eight EU Common Criteria agreed in 1991 and 1992 is a major step towards the establishment of high common standards for arms exports from all Member States. In addition the mechanism that requires Member States to circulate information on licence refusals and to consult before undercutting another Member State's denial is the first of its kind ever applied by a group of states to their conventional arms exports. It will help to ensure the criteria are applied in a consistent fashion and to produce a level playing field for British companies.

  Our efforts to promote responsibility and transparency in conventional arms transfers will not end with agreement on the Code of Conduct. We will continue to take steps in support of these principles at both national and international level. Member States will have the opportunity to review the operation of the Code itself after a year and agree any necessary improvements.

  I will make a further statement on the national implementation of the provisions of the Code following its formal adoption by the General Affairs Council.

Written Answers

Official Report Columns 240-242

3 June 1998

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