Select Committee on International Development Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Letter from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to Dr Phyllis Starkey MP

  Thank you for your letter of 7 December about arms sales to Israel following up several written parliamentary questions. You also raised these issues in the Westminster Hall debate on 14 December, and I should like to take this opportunity to clarify the points raised on both of these occasions.

  To address the first question in your letter, about assurances, we are, and have been, in regular direct contact with the Israeli Government, including at senior Israeli military official level, as part of our ongoing enquiries to confirm that equipment and components licensed for export from the UK have not been, and will not be used against civilians in the Occupied Territories or southern Lebanon. We received an assurance from the Israeli government, on 29 November, that no equipment or components licensed for export from the UK are used against civilians in the Occupied Territories or in southern Lebanon. I was unable to include a reference to this assurance in reply to your two questions tabled on 17 November because at the time of answering we had not received it.

  We are not, however, simply relying on an assurance from the Israeli government. Our defence section and other staff in the Embassy in Tel Aviv have been active in checking that neither British made equipment nor components have been used during the recent events in the Occupied Territories.

  On the last point in your letter, as I said in answer to your written question, no geographical restrictions have been placed on the end-use of equipment licensed for export to Israel by this Government. The reason for this being that we assess all applications for export licences on a case by case basis, against the criteria and in light of the best information available at the time. We do not issue licences if we judge the equipment would be used in any way to contravene the criteria.

  In the Westminster Hall debate you queried my answer to a previous parliamentary question about CS gas. I should like to clarify that we did issue a licence for the temporary export of CS gas grenades to Israel in 1998, for demonstration purposes only. It is a condition of all temporary exports that they are returned to the UK. As my answer stated, we have not issued licences for the permanent export of CS gas to Israel.

19 December 2000

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