Select Committee on Trade and Industry Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary memorandum submitted by The Foreign and Commonwealth Office


  I have consulted colleagues in other Government Departments and also checked our records of Parliamentary Questions going back to late 1996. To the best of my knowledge the Foreign Secretary's announcement on 28 July 1997 was the first occasion on which there had been a clear and comprehensive public statement of arms export licensing policy. Before this there had been several ad hoc statements in response to parliamentary questions, but these tended to be fairly general; I enclose a couple of examples from November 1996. I also enclose an extract from the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1995 (document cm 2800), presented to Parliament by the Defence Secretary in May 1995, which contains a similarly general statement of policy.

  Within Government, FCO desk officers involved in advising the DTI on export licence applications were able to refer to a consolidated guidance booklet, extracts from which are enclosed. The extracts come from the March 1997 edition of the booklet but are essentially the same as the relevant passages in the previous edition of the booklet in 1995. Although the booklet was intended primarily as an internal guidance document, a copy was placed in the Library of the House and we also sent copies to members of the public on request.

  The criteria were mainly based on the UK's international obligations and commitments, as set out in points (a) to (c) of the guidance. Points (d) to (m) were mainly, though not exclusively, drawn from the various international guidelines on arms transfers to which we subscribe: the Guidelines for Conventional Arms Transfers agreed by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the OSCE Principles Governing Conventional Arms Transfers and the EU Common Criteria for Arms Exports. (You will see that the check-list[30] from the guidance booklet refers to "the criteria in Annexes A-C": these Annexes give the text of the three documents.)

20 November 1998

25 November 1996

539  Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley): To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to ensure that there are effective sanctions and monitoring of controls on arms exports to countries violating human rights. (5878)

  Date Answered 27 November 1996


  All export licence applications for arms are considered on a case by case basis in the light of the established international criteria to which we are committed. These require us, inter alia, to take into account the respect of human rights in the country of final destination. We do not export equipment we consider likely to be used for internal repression.

27 November 1996

*12.   Mr Barry Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent advice his Department has given to other Government departments about Government policy on arms sales. (4597)

  Date Answered 27 November 1996


  We give regular advice to other Government departments on the foreign policy aspects of arms sales to other countries. Such advice is confidential.

  It is the Government's policy to encourage legitimate exports of arms and military equipment unless there are compelling foreign, security or defence policy reasons not to do so.

Extract from the statement on the Defence Estimates 1995—Stable Forces in a Strong Britain (Cm 2800)

  445.  Our success in winning export orders has been achieved against a background of very strict export controls. All exports are considered on a case-by-case basis in the light of established criteria. These include the common criteria for arms transfers agreed with EU partners, the guidelines agreed by the Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council and the Principles Governing Arms Transfers agreed by the OSCE. We observe internationally-agreed arms embargoes and take due account of national security and operational considerations.

  446.  The Government believes that the responsible transfer of defence equipment is consistent with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, which recognises the inherent right of all states to self defence if an armed attack occurs. That right cannot be exercised unless states also have the right to acquire the means by which to defend themselves. The transfer of conventional weapons, when conducted in a responsible manner, can enhance the ability of states to meet their legitimate defence and security requirements; contribute to the deterrence of aggression and encourage negotiation for the peaceful resolution of conflict; and enable states to join effectively in collective measures decided on by the United Nations for the purposes of maintaining or restoring internal peace and security.

Extract from Guidance for Desk Officers, March 1997

  12.  When considering ELAs/AWPs, Desk Officers should take the following factors into account (this is not an exhaustive list—a checklist is at Annex D)[31]:

    (a)  the UK's international obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and (in due course) the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC);

    (b)  the UK's commitments to international non-proliferation regimes (see paragraph 16): the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG); the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR); the Australia Group (for chemical and biological weapons proliferation) and international guidelines on conventional arms transfers (see Annexes A-C)1;

    (c)  adherence to international or national arms and trade embargoes (NPD and UND can advise on which countries are affected);

    (d)  the legitimate defence, domestic security and industrial requirements of the recipient country, including involvement in UN or other peace-keeping operations;

    (e)  the effect on internal tension within the recipient country;

    (f)  the effect on regional tension and stability: HMG does not export defence equipment likely to increase tension in a region or contribute to regional instability, eg by introducing a new capability or technology. Desk Officers should also check their records of cumulative flows (see paragraph 23) for any evidence of excessive trends/flows;

    (g)  existing armed conflict: HMG does not export defence equipment likely to prolong or aggravate an existing armed conflict;

    (h)  the effect on British economic and commercial interests;

    (i)  the risk of reexport or diversion to an undesirable end-user, including to terrorists and including transfers of anti-terrorist security equipment. Desk Officers should consider whether the stated end-user has a legitimate requirement for the equipment. They should also check their records of cumulative flows (see paragraph 23)1 for any evidence of unusual trends/flows);

    (j)  the effect on political relations with the recipient or with allies or friendly nations and any commitments to partners in collaborative projects;

    (k)  the technical capability of the recipient to use the equipment (eg Desk Officers should consider whether the stated end-user has the necessary training to use a particular type of equipment);

    (l)  the economic capability of the recipient country. Desk Officers should consider refusal if the sale would seriously undermine the recipient's economy. Relevant factors include: regional security and stability; the level of military expenditure of the recipient's neighbours; the proportion of GDP reresented by military expenditure; the level of military expenditure in relation to the balance of payments and external debt; and problems which arms purchases might cause to the recipient's economic reform or IMF programme. Consideration should be given to whether ODA or UKDel IMF/IBRD should be consulted. (Under the Overseas Development and Co-operation Act 1980 aid may be used only for promoting the development or maintaining the economy of countries or territories outside the UK or the welfare of their people. It is Government policy that aid may not be used either for the purchase of military equipment, unless for reasons such as mine clearance for humanitarian or development purposes, or to promote such purchase);

    (m)  the behaviour and human rights record of the recipient country. HMG does not export defence and internal security equipment likely to be used for internal repression. When considering this aspect, Desk Officers should clarify to the best of their ability to what end-use the equipment will be put. Desk Officers should routinely consult Human Rights Policy Department on any ELA to any agency of a country about which there are human rights concerns. Because of the political sensitivity involved, Departments will need to consider whether such cases should be referred to Ministers for a decision;

  13.  Desk Officers should print their name clearly below their signature on each application when they indicate their recommendation.

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