Select Committee on Defence Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum From Saferworld (1 December 2000)

  The purpose of this memorandum is to inform members of the Defence Select Committee of Saferworld's concerns regarding the implications of the Framework Agreement for national and European controls on arms exports. As the six largest arms producers in the EU, the Parties to the Framework Agreement (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the UK) are responsible for 90 per cent of all EU arms exports. It is therefore Saferworld's view that agreement between these six to "bring closer, simplify and reduce, where appropriate, national export control procedures for Transfers and Exports of military goods and technologies" (Part 1, Article 1(d)) may have a significant impact on the application of the guidelines set out in the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports.

  This impact need not be negative. To the extent that the Framework Agreement is intended to "bring closer...national export control procedures", Saferworld recognises that it could harmonise controls and help prevent the export of arms from the EU to countries with poor human rights records and to regions of instability and conflict. Nevertheless a potential tension exists between adherence to the EU Code of Conduct and the "simplification and reduction of national export procedures" for the purpose of promoting "a more competitive and robust European defence technological and industrial base" (Preamble, paragraph 6). In the context of the Agreement, a competitive industrial base is not an end in itself, rather it is intended to "contribute to the construction of a common European security and defence policy". If this ultimate purpose of furthering common defence and security is to be met, the Agreement must support rather than undermine responsible controls on arms exports. The recommendations made by Saferworld in this paper are designed to ensure that this is indeed the case.


  At the heart of Saferworld's concern regarding the potential impact of the Framework Agreement on European arms export policy are the so-called "white lists of permitted export destinations" compiled by Parties participating in a Co-operative Armament Programme (CAP). Saferworld is concerned that the white lists may potentially lead to the "fast-tracking" of arms exports to sensitive destinations, thus undermining adherence to the EU Code of Conduct.

Confidentiality of the white lists

  The white lists will be confidential and Saferworld is concerned that this may lead to exports to unknown and potentially sensitive destinations being fast-tracked through the national export licensing process. If there is to be confidence in the system the lists should be made public.

  The Government's justification for confidentiality is that the white lists are analogous to the advice already dispensed informally by individual national governments to domestic arms manufacturers (which is not publicised). However, it is Saferworld's view that there can be no real comparison between the white lists and such advice. The white lists are more than declarations of interest in potential export destinations; compiled on the basis of a formal consensus reached between all countries party to a Co-operative Armaments Programme (CAP) they will inevitably be viewed as having a higher status.

  Saferworld recommends that the white lists should be subject to Parliamentary Prior Scrutiny by the Quadripartite Select Committee on Strategic Export Controls (QSC).

  The general case for the Prior Parliamentary Scrutiny of arms export licence applications was put by the QSC in its "Further Report and Parliamentary Prior Scrutiny" (17 July 2000). Confidential prior scrutiny of white lists by the QSC would not undermine commercial competitiveness and would help to ensure a full and consistent application of the guidelines set out in the EU Code of Conduct.

  Failing the introduction of Prior Parliamentary Scrutiny, Saferworld believes that at the very least the white lists should be subject to retrospective scrutiny by the QSC and be made public.

The relationship between the white lists and national export control procedures

  Concern regarding the potential fast-tracking of exports to potentially sensitive destinations is generated by the lack of clarity as to exactly how the white lists will interrelate with current national export control procedures. In view of the rapidly changing internal and regional situation in many potential recipients of arms from EU Member States, it is vital that exports to white listed destinations are still assessed individually against the EU Code of Conduct export criteria.

  In spite of the Government's reassurance that the white lists will not function as export licences, it is difficult to see how they will not influence decision-making at the national level. Whilst in theory the licensing authorities in the country of final export could refuse to issue a licence for the export of goods manufactured under a CAP to a permitted destination, in practice such a refusal could only appear contradictory in view of the initial approval of that destination for inclusion on the white list and would therefore encounter strong opposition, both from the industry and from other countries participating in the CAP.

  Saferworld urges the Select Committee to seek a guarantee from the Government that the white lists will not act as fast-track mechanisms for exports to sensitive destinations and that individual export licences will still be required.

The drawing up of white lists

  Under current national export licensing procedures decisions are made by the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign Office and the Department of Trade and Industry. The Department for International Development is also consulted with regard to applications for exports to developing countries. It is not clear whether the same procedure will apply for the drawing up and approving of the white lists.

  Saferworld would like the Defence Select Committee to clarify whether the inter-departmental procedure for the drawing up of the white lists is the same as that for the granting of arms export licences.

The removal of a country from a white list

  Removal of a permitted destination from a white list is envisaged "in the event of significant changes in its internal situation, for example, full scale civil war or a serious deterioration of the human rights situation, or its behaviour becomes a threat to regional or international peace, security and stability, for example as a result of aggression or the threat of aggression against other nations", but only after a lengthy consultation process of up to three months. However, "Any Party involved in the programme may require a moratorium on Exports of the product to the permitted destination in question for the duration of that process". Whilst welcoming this provision, Saferworld is nevertheless concerned that the criteria for determining whether a country should be removed from a white list are less detailed than the principles set out in the EU Code of Conduct.

  The Framework Agreement should state explicitly that the principles set down in the EU Code are the criteria against which the removal of a permitted destination from a white list is judged.

Consistency across the EU

  The EU Code of Conduct contains the operative provision that any Member State, which refuses to grant a licence for the export of arms to a particular destination, should inform other Member States of that refusal and the grounds for making it. Saferworld is concerned that the secrecy surrounding the drawing up of the white lists by countries participating in a CAP will undermine this commitment to information sharing as other EU Member States will not be informed of a decision not to put a particular destination on a white list.

  Saferworld proposes that, in accordance with the EU Code of Conduct, any decision not to include a destination on a white list should be circulated to all EU partners.


Annual reporting on strategic export controls

  The government has maintained that, as current UK export licensing procedures, including the scrutiny of the Annual Report on Strategic Export Controls by the Quadripartite Select Committee, would remain in force, the Framework Agreement does not undermine its commitment to transparency. However, this reassurance fails to assuage Saferworld's concerns because the responsibility for issuing export licences will lie solely with the government of the country from which the finished product is to be exported. Therefore, although the approval of the UK government will be required for all co-operatively produced arms exports, arms containing UK-made components could be exported to sensitive destinations from foreign soil without the knowledge of the UK Parliament or public.

  The government has committed itself, in Appendix E, Paragraph 15 of the 1999 Annual Report on Strategic Export Controls to "provide details of the (Framework) Agreement and its implications" in Part One of the 2000 Report. However, this commitment is not sufficient to allay concerns that the Agreement will undermine current standards of government transparency on strategic export controls.

  Saferworld recommends that all exports of jointly produced goods, regardless of the country of final export, be recorded in subsequent Annual Reports on Strategic Export Controls.

  These records should include full details of the type, quantity and end-user of the goods exported. In addition, the government should encourage all EU Member States to produce detailed national annual reports and improve the clarity and transparency of the joint Consolidated Report.

End-use controls

  As with annual reporting on strategic export controls, responsibility for end-use controls on arms exported under a CAP will lie with the country of final export. The collective responsibility which countries participating in a CAP must accept for arms exported under that programme enhances the need for the harmonisation of end-use controls. The design and stringency of national end-use assessment, certification and control systems currently vary significantly across the EU. Germany and Sweden have in place certain provisions which could be identified as representing elements of best practice in the field of end-use certification and monitoring. Examples of such practices are requirements for explicit assurances not to re-export equipment without prior consent and post-export follow-up checks (Germany) and advanced export data collection systems (Germany and Sweden).

  Saferworld calls on the Defence Select Committee to urge the Government to introduce strengthened end-use controls following these models in its forthcoming export licensing legislation and to encourage other Parties to the Framework Agreement to do the same.

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