Select Committee on Trade and Industry Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary memorandum submitted by Saferworld



  The purpose of this briefing is to provide additional evidence on end-use controls and prior parliamentary scrutiny of arms export applications. It supplements the oral evidence provided by Paul Eavis (Executive Director, Saferworld) to the Trade and Industry Committee on Tuesday, 10 November.


  End-use certification and monitoring requirements currently vary significantly across the EU. This presents the danger and unscrupulous companies will seek to establish themselves in countries which are perceived as having the weakest controls. Furthermore, importing Governments may also seek to purchase controlled goods from those EU Member States which are viewed as having weak controls. There is, therefore, a pressing need for the EU and partner governments to agree on, and adopt, best practice in the field of end-use certification and monitoring. Five examples of such best practice are cited here (and further details can be found in the annexe to this paper):

    —  In Belgium and Germany, end-use certificates to sensitive destinations require an explicit assurance from the importing Government/company that they will not re-export the equipment without the prior consent of the Belgian/German government;

    —  Post-export follow-up checks are also made in Germany and Belgium to ensure that the equipment has not been diverted. In Belgium, for example, three months after the goods are exported, the government requires proof that the goods were delivered including details of the transit routes and travel plans;

    —  Both Germany and Sweden have computerised export data collection systems with many, innovative tracking and monitoring features. In contrast, in the UK each government department (MoD, DTI, Customs and FCO) has produced its own IT solution, but there is no means of cross-checking databases and the Trade and Industry Select Committee recommended in 1996, that the DTI, FCO and MoD "allow mutual access to their computerised information relating to export licensing and that the DTI's export licensing database be developed for the benefit of all three departments";

    —  In Germany, a military "catch-all" clause for exports to sensitive destinations effectively requires companies to ensure that all proposed exports to these destinations are for civilian use only. In the UK and elsewhere in the EU, the catch-all applies to exports in relation to weapons of mass destruction only;

    —  In Germany, exporting companies are required by law to appoint a "Person Responsible for Exports" and obtain a certificate of reliability from the Federal Export Office. The named company official—who must be a person at executive board or managing director level—is also responsible for assessing end-use, and can later be held accountable for any foreseeable diversion.


  The UK Government White Paper on Strategic Export Controls put forward a number of arguments against parliamentary scrutiny of individual licence applications. The main arguments are, first, the prior parliamentary scrutiny of individual licence applications would slow down the decision-making process, and second, that the publication of individual applications would mean identifying individual companies and lead to a loss of competitiveness. In Sweden, however, a system of confidential prior parliamentary scrutiny of sensitive export licences has been in operation since the mid 1980s. During that time, no commercially sensitive information has to our knowledge ever been revealed to the public and there are no appreciable delays in the licensing process overall given the selective and limited nature of the cases referred.

  An Advisory Board on Exports of Military Equipment was first established by the Swedish Parliament in the mid 1980s. In February 1996 the structure of the Board was reformed and broadened, and it was re-named the Export Control Council to coincide with the formation of a new independent licensing body, the National Inspectorate of Strategic Products (ISP). The Council has 10 political appointees (with representation from all the major political parties), and is chaired by the Inspector-General of Military Equipment (as the head of the ISP).

  The Export Control Council meets about once a month to discuss sensitive arms export licence applications before final approval is given. The Council is not consulted on a complete list of all planned exports as the important cases would be lost in a potential information overload situation. Rather, the Council is consulted on the interpretation of national guidelines in borderline cases; most export licensing decisions are thus handled by the ISP on the basis of previous rulings by the Council. The Council can request more details on any of the licence applications it is shown and, where there are concerns, it can raise objections to the granting of individual licences. While these objections are not legally binding on the government, it has never gone ahead with the licensing of exports to which the Council has objected.

  Both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the MoD also participate at the Council meetings, with the former presenting assessments of the recipient countries, and the latter providing a defence policy viewpoint. In addition to these regular meetings, Council members also receive continuous reports on all export decisions, thereby giving them a complete insight into the way in which their national arms export control system functions.

  The lesson from the Swedish experience is that proper parliamentary oversight of export licensing policy will only be achieved through prior parliamentary scrutiny of sensitive licences. It is also interesting to note that a UK Parliamentary committee to scrutinise the work of the intelligence services already exists without any apparent danger to national security.

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Prepared 10 December 1998