Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Third Report


Scott Report legislation
(a)Given this Government's debt of honour to bring forward legislative proposals to give effect to the 1996 Scott Report, it would be deeply regrettable were at least a draft Bill not presented for proper parliamentary scrutiny during this Parliament (paragraph 7).
European Code of Conduct
(b)We commend the real progress made in developing the European Union Code of Conduct. The Swedish Presidency offers an excellent opportunity to press for a minimum level of transparency in operation of the EU Code of Conduct, including a published annual Report from each state, and a minimum level of information on material licensed for export, as well as uniform reporting levels for the statistics published with the annual review of the Code. We recommend that the Government continue to press for greater transparency during discussions on the Code (paragraphs 9 and 11).
EU Code of Conduct: applicant countries
(c)We recommend that, in all future bilateral discussions with applicant countries, the Government makes a specific point of pressing the need to conform to the EU Code of Conduct (paragraph 14).
Six-Nation Agreement
(d)We would welcome the inclusion in the next Annual Report of a note on progress in establishing the revised export control system under the Six-Nation Framework Agreement (paragraph 17).
Small arms
(e)We warmly commend the Government's efforts to date in seeking a multilateral way forward to control the illicit flows of small arms, including the International Arms Surrender Fund proposed by the Foreign Secretary. Once the UN Conference has run its course, action must be taken to achieve more public identification of those arms producing and exporting countries which are holding up the emergence of an international consensus on the key issues (paragraph 19).
Exports to Israel: Southern Lebanon
(f)It is our judgement that officials processing export licence applications for military equipment to Israel should have drawn to the attention of Ministers the possibility of the equipment being used in the occupation of Southern Lebanon, and have thereby required an explicit policy decision on such applications, possibly in the form of specific end-use conditions (paragraph 26).
Open licences
(g)We welcome the Foreign Secretary's caution on the future use of open licences for other than the safest destinations. The example of Zimbabwe also reinforces the need for such caution (paragraph 27).
(h)We would have shared the reluctance of Minsters to agree to the proposed refurbishment. If it had remained right in their judgement that the licence should be refused, despite the views of the UN, the appeal against refusal could and should have been turned down, even if that ran a distant risk of judicial review (paragraph 32).
(i)In July 2000 we recommended consideration of a stricter interpretation of the arms embargo on China than that currently operated by the UK. If it is now the case that other EU nations are relaxing their interpretation of the 1989 embargo, that lends force to the need for a common interpretation (paragraph 33).
(j)We conclude that vigorous efforts to procure a common interpretation, at the very least among the member states of the EU, of "limited" arms embargoes would engender a greater atmosphere of mutual confidence (paragraph 35).
(k)We remain firmly of the opinion that a serious error of judgement was made in late 1998 and early 1999 in granting several Military List OIELs covering Zimbabwe. We now have also to conclude that the Government Response on this point was factually inaccurate. It is also wholly irrelevant to our central concerns that a number of the OIELs were to named end-users, as adduced in the Response, since the OIEL about which we have particular concerns was for goods to be supplied to the Government of Zimbabwe, and so capable of being used in the Democratic Republic of Congo (paragraph 38).
Conditions on licences for police arms
(l)We recommend a thorough evaluation of the outcome of the licence for the Jamaican police so that the practice can be extended to other countries where the UK quite properly feels obliged to refuse a licence (paragraph 41).
(m)We recommend a rethink of the target of 30 working days for settling appeals against refusals and renewed efforts to meet an achievable but challenging target. We also reiterate our opinion that a procedure be established through which companies would at least have the chance to answer the departments' doubts or concerns (paragraph 48).
Prior parliamentary scrutiny: coverage
(n)We are prepared on an experimental basis to recommend exclusion from Stage 1 notification of —
(i)  licence applications for exports to NATO countries and other close allies, on the basis of a list of criteria to be agreed between the Committee and Ministers:
(ii)  licence applications for dual-use goods, subject to the right to identify in the light of experience specific countries or specific categories of goods where prior scrutiny would be required: and
(iii)  licence applications not circulated to other departments.
That should halve the number of licence applications requiring initial notification, significantly reducing the administrative burden (paragraph 53).
Prior parliamentary scrutiny: numbers
(o)Based on our experience of looking at three Annual Reports, and on the reference by the Foreign Secretary to having had barely half a dozen in the four years he had been in office which raised major issues, we would not expect to seek formal Stage 2 notification of more than a hundred licence applications a year. Of those, a number might in any event be refused by Ministers, leaving a handful of possibly controversial cases (paragraph 55).
Prior parliamentary scrutiny: urgency
(p)We are therefore prepared to concede that Ministers should be free to go ahead with the grant of a licence otherwise subject to Stage 2 notification, not only as a result of national security and operational considerations in crises or conflicts as set out in our July 2000 Report, but also where there are genuine and well-founded grounds for believing that a contract may otherwise be lost (paragraph 59).
Prior parliamentary scrutiny: confidentiality
(q)We have given this matter serious reconsideration, in the light of the Foreign Secretary's remarks, and the memorandum received from the Defence Manufacturers' Association. It is really up to the Government to decide what level of classification to put on information given to a Committee. The solution to the concerns expressed on confidentiality lie in the hands of Government, and do not constitute any sort of reason to resist prior scrutiny (paragraph 63).
Prior parliamentary scrutiny: provision of information
(r)That there may be points of friction and areas of disagreement over the provision of information argues, not that the proposed system of prior parliamentary scrutiny is unworkable, but that it will require give and take on both sides: a self-evident truth we do not seek to conceal (paragraph 67).
Prior parliamentary scrutiny:issue of principle
(s)We cannot agree that all "individual casework decisions" by Minsters can be automatically exempt from prior scrutiny (paragraph 70).
Prior parliamentary scrutiny: implementation
(t)Our new proposals deserve proper scrutiny within Whitehall; but there is no reason to wait another five months for an answer. There is every good reason to have a system of prior parliamentary scrutiny ready to operate as soon as committees are set up in a new Parliament (paragraph 72).

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