Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100
TUESDAY 30 JANUARY 2001
MP, MR WILLIAM
100. We sell components which are used in aircraft.
We do not sell any big bits, as I understand it, we sell tiny
pieces which go into other people's equipment.
(Mr Cook) What we have sold to Israel is recorded
in our three Annual Reports and it is there on the record, and
we will go back through it and have a look at it. As of this moment,
I am not advised of any equipment which has been used in Southern
101. Can I turn then to the possible use of
UK components in the Occupied Territories against civilians, and
the position, as restated in endless answers is, as I understand
it, that the British Government has no evidence that anything
we have sold to the Israelis has been used against civilians in
the Occupied Territories, and we have actually had a written assurance
which was sent to the Foreign Affairs Committee from a part of
the Israeli Government saying that they certified "no UK-originated
equipment nor any UK-originated systems/sub-systems/components
are used as part of the IDF's activities in the territories."
If it were shown that any UK-originated equipment, even embedded
as printed circuits in a missile or as part of a night sight,
had indeed been used by any branch of the Israeli security forces
in the Occupied Territories against civilians, what would or what
could the British Government actually do?
(Mr Cook) The most obvious consequence is that we
would very much have that in consideration when we considered
any future licence application. We have received the reassurance,
as you say, of the Israeli Government and it says, "I hereby
certify that no UK-originated equipment nor any UK-originated
systems/sub-systems/components are used as part of the IDF's activities
in the territories." I cannot advance on that for the Committee
but I can say to the Committee that obviously we will reflect
very carefully on applications for licences both against our criteria,
which provide that we will not supply equipment for internal repression,
and against reasonable defence in the Occupied Territories. If
we feel that the equipment for which a licence is being sought
is equipment which is the same or similar to what which may have
been used in the last months, that will weigh very heavily with
102. Given that all the equipment we have sold
is, as I say, tiny pieces, it is not huge bits of anything, and
that these have presumably been installed in other people's aircraft
or tanks or whatever, how are British officials on the ground,
as was stated in the letter from Peter Hain, actively checking
whether any British-made equipment or components are being used
in the Occupied Territories? Is anybody standing beneath planes
and trying to spot which ones have our bits in and which ones
have not? Do you think it is feasible to take at face value the
assurances from the IDF? Do you think they know which precise
aircraft have our bits in and which have not, and which ones are
shooting up people and which are not?
(Mr Cook) I have reported to the Committee the assurance
we have been given by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel,
which of course is detailed in that it is not simply systems but
sub-systems and components. I am not in public going to second-guess
an assurance I am given by another sovereign government. On the
question of what we can do on the ground, our Defence Attaché
is meant to ensure he maintains a close interest in what is occurring
in the Occupied Territories, but I have to be candid with the
Committee and say, having licensed equipment there is a limit
to the extent to which we can then subsequently, when it has left
our shores, verify where it is or on what plane or wherever it
is flying. We seek to but I cannot pretend to say that I have
as good a system once it has left these shores as I have beforehand,
and that is why we will be looking very carefully and rigorously
at the current applications for export licences to Israel in the
light of what has been used in the Occupied Territories.
103. As you are looking closely at export licences
to Israel, why did the Government permit Israel as a destination
for a Military List Open licence for both military vehicles in
1998 and military vehicle components in 1999, rather than retaining
control by asking the exporters to seek standard individual licences?
(Mr Cook) 1998 and 1999 are long before the current
violence within the Occupied Territories and they, of course,
coincide with a time of optimism in the peace process. But the
issue of open and individual export licences is a valid issue
and it is one we have under consideration, and there may well
be such open licences where it may be more prudent and appropriate
in the future to handle the matter by standard individual licences.
Chairman: That is a rather helpful and important
comment. I will adjourn the Committee for ten minutes.
The Committee suspended from 5.40 pm to 5.48
pm for a division in the House
Chairman: On Israel, if we do go into private
session, perhaps we can deal with any further questions that might
be pursued then.
104. Secretary of State, the Chairman has asked
me to be brief, so I have to obey his diktat. On the question
of China, in response to our Report of July of last year, a promise
was made by the Government to pursue any opportunity to establish
a common interpretation of the EU embargo on China. What is the
object of that embargo and have we now got a common interpretation
(Mr Cook) The answer to the question of objective
is that it was a response to the Tiananmen Square massacre and
I think it served two intentions in the minds of those who took
that decisionand this of course was before my time. The
first was a very clear international public expression of displeasure
at what China had done and, secondly, anxiety to try and make
sure that arms of repression which might contribute to that type
of event should not be available from European countries. Unfortunately,
and unlike most EU embargoes, it was very much a political declaration
rather than a detailed agreement and in the decade since then
it has never actually been pinned down as a detailed agreement,
with the result that it is interpreted differently by the different
Member States. We have pursued this within the European Union
as we promised the Committee, and in many ways it would be in
our own interest to secure an agreement in which other Member
States interpreted the embargo in the way we do because we tend
to be more strict than the others. That, of course, has the downside
which I must warn the Committee about, that whilst in principle
we would favour a common agreement on interpretation there is
the risk that any common agreement might turn out to be less rigorous
than our present national embargo because we are actually at the
front of the pack at the present time.
105. Is your conscience clear, if I dare put
it that way, Foreign Secretary, over the record of your time in
office in relation to the export of arms to China?
(Mr Cook) Yes, and it is openly recorded within the
Annual Reports we have produced. We are absolutely clear that
what we sell to China is entirely consistent with the EU embargo
and that actually we resist more than most of our other partner
states, and the overall volume is not immense.
106. On Taiwan, I take it that where arms exports
to Taiwan are concerned attention is paid to the concerns of the
Government in Beijing. Have you received any representations from
Beijing concerning that?
(Mr Cook) You mean in terms of sales?
(Mr Cook) What we would not wish to do is to sell
weapons in either case which would actually add to the tensions
or differences in the area. We would be very anxious to make sure
that nothing we did upset the balance of forces, nothing we did
lent itself to increase tension. That would be a consideration
which would drive us. It would not be taking, as it were, the
Beijing view into account.
Dr Godman: Thank you. Thank you, Chairman.
108. Foreign Secretary, I just wonder, you mentioned
Tiannamen Square, does the same concern go as far as Tibet is
concerned in China?
(Mr Cook) I was merely explaining the origin of the
EU embargo, which was a response to the Tiannamen Square massacre.
Tibet is a matter of considerable interest to us. It regularly
features in gatherings of both the United Kingdom/China dialogue
and the EU/China dialogue. We ourselves arranged an EU troika
visit to Tibet. We expressed a number of areas of concern. At
the most recent meeting we raised what I call the question of
religious freedom within Tibet, which is a matter of very great
109. On other licences, may I raise a rather
curious and interesting one, Foreign Secretary. When Mo Mowlam
visited Jamaica we noticed a licence had been granted for an export
of 400 hand guns and ammunition for the Jamaican Police Force.
That had been blocked in 1999 because of a number of fatal shootings
by Jamaican Police. An assurance had been received that the police
would be taught methods of non-lethal apprehension of suspects.
Is this some interesting new sort of approach or tactic that we
offer weapons on the sort of assurances that there will be reforms
or that police will be trained in some future date in the use
of these weapons?
(Mr Cook) It is more than an assurance. What we have
is a very clear precise agreement that there will be human rights
training within the Jamaican Police in which, if I recall rightly,
Amnesty will participate. We have consulted Amnesty reports before
going ahead with this particular licence. There have been very
welcome signs of increased interest and commitment on the part
of the Jamaican Police Force. I agree with you, it is a novel
development and I think it is a welcome one if we can get to a
point at which the commitment to human rights and the commitment
to a serious human rights training programme is introduced by
the police force. That is actually a gain. Secondly, I would remind
the Committee the reason why we are providing such weapons to
the Jamaican Police Force is, frankly, because they do have very
major problems with drugs running into and through Jamaica. The
tragedy of the whole of the Caribbean is that quite often the
drugs traders have better guns than the police.
110. Do you see this as a possible pattern of
a future where you have these sort of quid pro quos? This
is going to be an interesting test case in some cases.
(Mr Cook) It has to stick. We will certainly be making
sure that it does. I think it might be prudent at this very early
point not to make it a generalised rule, but we will be following
this with close attention. If it produces an improvement, if the
agreement brokered by Mo Mowlam proves to be one that does raise
the standards of performance in Jamaica, it may be one, with caution
and care, we could apply in other circumstances.
111. Does the training take place before or
after they have had the guns?
(Mr Cook) I think before. I am open to correction.
It is going on now.
112. Is this a range of weaponry that is going
to Jamaica? Are we talking about pistols?
(Mr Cook) It is a specific contract which they have
been seeking to obtain for a number of years. This is a long-lasting
dispute between us and them. The way in which it is resolved is
one that provides a degree of satisfaction to both of us. I am
trying to find what particular weapon it is.
113. Handguns and ammunition?
(Mr Cook) It is side arms. As to quite what weapons
they are, we can provide a note.
114. What is interesting about it is that it
was openly publicised that this will be the arrangement: a licence
will be granted on these terms and on these conditions.
(Mr Cook) It was by negotiation with the Jamaican
Government. We welcomed the fact they made a public commitment
to human rights and the police force.
115. Is it the case that people are arguing
that the Jamaican Police were just shooting people at any provocation
or in cells, or were they engaged in shoot-outs with criminals
and people were killed in the process? It seems to me the distinction
is important. If it was self-defence or engaged in some general
fire shooting then we should not be quite so concerned.
(Mr Cook) I would not discuss bona fide grounds for
some historic episodes. At the same time I identify what is a
serious problem. There are very serious gun fights in Jamaica,
quite often with the drugs traders. We also have to make sure
that we have regard to the other things that we do demand of Jamaica.
We do demand of them that they take a vigorous approach to drug
runners, who may, after all, be connected with drug rings in Britain.
We cannot command of them that they take a firm line against drug
runners and at the same time say, "We are not selling you
any weapons with which to do it". The outcome, in which we
are improving human rights observance in the police force and
arming them with all they can cope with, is one which has a lot
in it for both countries.
116. I know we are going to go into private
session. I will not go into the details of specific cases. I would
like to speak about the granting of £3.5 million worth of
licences for arm sales to Morocco. You have already mentioned
in your answer to Dr Starkey the difficulties with identifying
how and where those arms are used in areas where there is dispute
about territory or occupation of territory. You seem to imply
you rely predominantly on the information coming back from the
state involved to guarantee that they have not used their weapons
in a disputed area, which seems rather bizarre to me. There we
are. Can you confirm, do you have any kind of tracking mechanism
to identify whether weapons supplied to Morocco are used in the
disputed territory of Western Sahara? Do you have any system in
(Mr Cook) The United Nations mission is there and
MINURSO oversees the refurbishment of the guns. This was a licence
which was originally refused and there was then an appeal submitted.
Inbetween our refusal and the hearing of the appeal, the United
Nations in both Western Sahara and New York confirmed the refurbishment
was within the terms of the ceasefire agreement and they were
willing to supervise the refurbishment. They assessed the project
as force neutral. On that basis, with the full agreement of the
United Nations, we proceeded to grant the appeal. However, involved
in the same application was a proposal for the supply of fresh
guns and we rejected that. There is no licence for the export
117. I was not going to go into the detail of
that particular case here. What kind of systems does your department
have to ensure that you monitor through? Do you have your own
tracking mechanisms, or do you wait for NGOs or others to report
instances to you, or do you take it on the say-so of the state?
(Mr Cook) In this particular case we do have the UN
mission there willing and perfectly capable of monitoring what
happens, and, indeed, has volunteered. In other cases we would
rely on reporting from our own posts, at many of which we have
defence attachés. We would also draw on any other public
information through civil society. In the introduction to our
annual report we list quite a number of cases where we have taken
specific action in specific countries to strengthen our end-use
monitoring of what happens. I have to be frank with the Committee,
we are not an imperial power, we cannot pretend to be an imperial
power. Once the weapons leave our country and go into another
country, our capacity to monitor them or to regulate them is necessarily
limited. It is attempting a status in the world we do not occupy
and frankly we do not aspire to occupy to do that.
118. That is why we require greater vigilance
on the original decision.
(Mr Cook) Absolutely, I agree with that.
119. Can the Foreign Secretary explain how the
refurbishment of guns, which presumably enhances their efficiency,
can be "force neutral"? What does "force neutral"
(Mr Cook) It is not my word, it is the assessment
of the United Nations.