Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1
TUESDAY 18 MAY 1999
MR TONY BRENTON, MR EDWARD CHAPLIN, MS ELIZABETH
WILMSHURST AND MR TONY FAINT
1. Good morning, and welcome to the International
Development Committee, which I know Tony Faint, anyway, is very
familiar with, but Tony Brenton is not. We are delighted to see
you here and to have got your memorandum, thank you, and your
supplementary memorandum, on this subject. We are right at the
beginning of this subject, and we are going to be helped by Elizabeth
Wilmshurst, and you are the Legal Adviser ...
(Ms Wilmshurst) Yes,
I am one of the Legal Advisers in the Foreign Office.
2. And you
are an expert on sanctions, are you?
(Ms Wilmshurst) It
is part of my work, yes.
3. Right; and then we have Mr Edward Chaplin,
and can you tell us, Edward Chaplin, what you do?
(Mr Chaplin) I am
Head of the Middle East Department in the Foreign Office, which
includes dealing with all Iraq issues. I think that is why I am
4. Would I be right in saying that you are the Desk Officer
(Mr Chaplin) I am
Head of the Department, and there is a section within my Department
which deals exclusively with Iraq.
5. Exclusively with Iraq; so
you are the expert on Iraq?
(Mr Chaplin) No,
sorry, I am the Head of the Department; there is a section within
my Department which deals exclusively with Iraq.
6. Right; good.
Well, all of you, you are very welcome as we try to explore this
subject. We, of course, are particularly concerned about the impact
of sanctions on developmental issues, and therefore humanitarian
issues, in the targeted countries for these sanctions, and, not
incidentally, I think, on whether or not such suffering induced
by sanctions is productive of anything. But I see from your announcement
of the Government's review of sanctions policy that, in fact,
you have come to the conclusion that they will remain an important
tool of our foreign policy, whether they are effective or not.
Anyway, we shall explore that matter.
(Mr Brenton) I do
not recall those words being used, Chairman.
7. The Government,
as you say, has recently done a wide-ranging review of sanctions.
Our first question is, what was the impetus behind the Government's
review of sanctions policy, why did you start down this road,
(Mr Brenton) Of
course, the UN and the EU have introduced quite a large number
of sanctions regimes over the past five years or so.
them around, yes.
(Mr Brenton) And
there was a feeling that we ought to take a comprehensive look
at these regimes, and whether really we were using sanctions in
the targeted way in which they ought to be used. And you have
seen the conclusions of the review set out in the Foreign Secretary's
memorandum to you, that we concluded there is a very strong case
for making them into a much more sharp and precise instrument
of foreign policy, to be rather clearer in the objectives, and
to make sure, in particular, and this is the concern of this Committee,
I think, that, as far as possible, the humanitarian impact was
minimised, i.e. that they were targeted on regimes rather than
populations, and that especially vulnerable sections of populations,
as far as possible, should be protected from them.
9. Yes; so there
was a bit of disquiet in the Foreign Office about whether or not
we were using this instrument properly?
(Mr Brenton) I should
emphasise that it was not, of course, only the Foreign Office;
the review was Whitehall-wide, the Foreign Secretary, who leads
in Whitehall on sanctions policy, initiated it and signed off
the final conclusions. But DFID, in particular, have been fully
involved, as have other interested Departments in Whitehall, the
Treasury, DTI, Customs and Excise, who are responsible for policing
a lot of sanctions regimes, and so on.
10. Apart from Mr Tony Lloyd's
reply to Ms Ryan on 15 March, and, indeed, your paper that you
sent to us on the future of sanctions, are there other conclusions
of the review you would like to emphasise to the Committee?
(Mr Brenton) I do
not think so. The main conclusions, indeed, all the conclusions,
are set out in the Foreign Secretary's memorandum to you.
11. Can I just ask, did you discover that there has
ever been a regime that has been toppled by sanctions?
(Mr Brenton) I think
you can make quite a strong case for the view that the change
of regime in South Africa was, to a large extent, assisted in
that direction by the impact of international sanctions.
the fact that the British Government, on the whole, did not go
along with it much?
(Mr Brenton) We
participated in internationally accepted activities at the time.
13. On that point, in South Africa, if you talked
to Mr de Klerk, for example, which I did on two occasions, and
asked him that question, he said the sanctions were not effective
except when the Swiss banks refused to roll over loans which came
due for payment to the South African Government. So that it was
not the general sanctions campaign but it was the refusal, under
pressure, international pressure, of the Swiss banks to roll over
loans to the South African Government which really faced them
with the international repercussions and national repercussions
of continuing the apartheid regime?
(Mr Brenton) I do
not think I would claim that sanctions by themselves have ever
toppled a government; what I would claim is that sanctions have
often formed an important component of a general set of international
actions and attitudes which, combined with internal developments,
obviously, in the case of South Africa, have played a material
part in changing a situation for the better.
14. I just wanted to comment on the statement the
Chair has made and ask for your opinion. I visited South Africa
on a few occasions when the sanctions regimes were in place, and
the biggest impact appeared to be on the morale of the various
communities that the sanctions were affecting, in particular the
business community, and that seemed to be felt very strongly.
Did your review look at the impacts not just on the governmental
processes of sanctions but also on the population at large and
(Mr Brenton) We
did a review of various sanctions regimes, including South Africa,
and, yes, that is right, it is not only the impact on Government
but on influential sectors of the population who play in to the
developing mood in the country which finally was what changed
things in South Africa.
15. But is not the assumption behind sanctions this,
that if you put sanctions on a country it is going to deprive
large elements of that country of trade, of food, normal foods
that they expect to receive in their diet, that it is going to
so infuriate them that the people of that country will bring pressure
to bear on the regime of which you do not approve to change its
policy? If that is so, therefore, if that population which is
being so inconvenienced by sanctions does not actually have any
power to change the regime, the sanctions will not be effective?
(Mr Brenton) I think,
yes, generating popular pressure for change is part of the effect
of some sanctions regimes, and a complication here is that different
sanctions regimes are applied in different ways. Obviously, if
you are dealing with a regime where popular pressure will have
very limited impact then you need to focus your sanctions more
on things which directly affect the regime, like their capacity
to travel, like their holdings of overseas assets, and so on.
And quite a lot of the product of our review is precisely the
conclusion that we need to move away from blunderbuss, hit-the-whole-population
type sanctions towards targeted, hit the regime and its supporters
type sanctions. So, yes, I think that is a lesson which we very
16. Can a copy of your review be made available to
(Mr Brenton) I am
afraid not; it contains sensitive material.
17. What kind of material,
what sort of material does it contain?
(Mr Brenton) It
takes quite a broad look at the impacts of sanctions on other
regimes in the world, on British interests; and we have, as I
say, summarised its main conclusions for you in the memorandum
from the Foreign Secretary.
18. Are you going to publish the review; presumably
(Mr Brenton) No.
What role did the Department of International Development, Tony
Faint, have in this process, and what did you contribute to the
(Mr Faint) DFID
was fully involved in the review, along with the other Departments
that Tony Brenton mentioned. The standpoint from which we took
part in the review was to draw attention to and bring forward
the analysis that we have done on the humanitarian effects of
sanctions and the various approaches which might be possible to
reduce their impact on poor and vulnerable groups; and I think
that you can see, from the results of the review, that all those
points were taken very seriously. So I think we were very happy
with our participation in the review, and we are very much behind
the outcome that Tony Brenton described, in terms of favouring
more specific, targeted regimes, clear objectives, exit strategies;
all these things go very much in the direction of the kind of
way we would like to go.