Select Committee on International Development Second Report



36. As in past years we have raised queries on a number of licences recorded in the 1999 Annual Report as having been granted.[64] These included a number of licences for destinations such as Angola, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Many were for equipment for de-mining. In other cases, the simple revelation of the quantities concerned or the intended end-user were evidence enough of the reason for the grant of the licence. We regret that the Government did not accept our recommendation in February 2000 that end-user information should be published in the Annual Report, but look forward to publication of volumes in the 2000 Annual Report.[65]


37. In our July 2000 Report , we concluded that the granting in late 1998 and early 1999 of several Open Individual Export Licences (OIELs) for goods on the Military List covering Zimbabwe had been an "error of judgement", and that it would have been wiser to suggest to the exporters that they submit individual licence applications for these goods.[66] As we set out in our Report, this conclusion was based on the details forwarded to us by the Government of OIELs for Military List goods granted between August 1998 and February 2000. The OIELs to which we referred included those for aircraft spares and components for military vehicles.[67]

38. The Government's December 2000 Response did not accept our conclusion. It stated that —

    "The OIELs issued during this period generally covered equipment which the Government was satisfied would not be used in the conflict in the DRC....Of the seven OIELs for permanent exports issued between August 1998 and February 2000 which included Zimbabwe as a permitted destination, three were to named end-users in Zimbabwe."[68]

This is not a satisfactory response.

  • The undisputed fact that some of the OIELs were unobjectionable has, of course, nothing to do with the charge that several were imprudent.

  • The reference to named end-users was apparently wrong. Five rather than three were to named end-users.[69] It was also largely irrelevant. Two of the OIELs restricted to specified individuals were for sporting firearms, about which we raised no issue. Two of the OIELs were for radar components for civil aviation, naturally destined for the Government. The fifth was the OIEL for aircraft spares; delivery was restricted to the Government. Given that the Government of Zimbabwe was operating the military aircraft in question, and was intervening in the DRC, such an end-user restriction is in no way an answer to our conclusion.

  • We were surprised at the reference in the Government's response to "seven" OIELs. Information provided to us by the Government had suggested that there had been thirteen in the period in question. Zimbabwe was apparently removed as a permitted destination from six of these in February 2000 and from the remaining seven in May 2000. Subsequent written exchanges with the Government have established that there were in fact twelve OIELS for permanent exports in the period in question, and that there had been some confusion about the process of removing Zimbabwe as a destination.[70]

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.

ECOWAS moratorium

39. We pursued further three licences for military equipment sent to West African states subject to the ECOWAS moratorium. We were told that two of these had been cleared in writing with the ECOWAS secretariat in Abuja, who are responsible for permitting exceptions to the moratorium. The third had been licensed in March 1999, 12 days before the Code of Conduct on the moratorium was agreed. We sought by a letter dated 12 January 2001 to discover why the licence had not been delayed until procedures were in place to consider whether to allow an exemption, and if there were grounds for considering that an exemption would have been allowed. In written evidence received on 2 March 2001, the Government told us that it was confident that the export would have been approved by the ECOWAS Secretariat as an exception to the moratorium.[71]

Police forces

40. We also sought further information on the licence for export of a substantial number of pistols and sub-machine guns, and on several refusals of similar licences, to police forces. The Government noted that one police force for which a licence was refused had a poor human rights record, with "reports of extra-judicial killings, live rounds being fired on demonstrators, torture and deaths in custody": another had reports of "the indiscriminate use of CS gas and live rounds to disperse crowds". As in previous years, the Government provided helpful but confidential notes on the reasons behind these decisions, indicating the amount of care with which they are taken.

41. In January 2001 it was reported that Mo Mowlam, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, in the course of an official visit to Jamaica, had announced that a licence had been granted for export of 400 handguns and ammunition for the Jamaican Police Force, on the basis of assurances that the police would receive training in methods of non-lethal apprehension of suspects.[72] The licence was said to have been applied for in 1999 and blocked because of concern at the number of fatal shootings by Jamaican police. The Foreign Secretary agreed that it was potentially the sort of agreement which could be applied to other circumstances.[73] In subsequent written evidence, further details were provided of the arrangements made for the training of new and serving officers, and for restricting issue of weapons to those who have undergone the training.[74] We warmly welcome the introduction of a conditional end-use regime, whereby the recipient country is committed to specific improvements in its human rights performance. 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.


42. We raised with the Government several licences granted in 1997,1998 and 1999 for the export to Sudan of chemicals under the heading IC 350, which covers " chemicals which may be used as precursors for toxic chemical agents". These chemicals generally have a number of legitimate industrial uses as well. There have been unconfirmed reports of the use of mustard gas and other chemical weapons by Sudanese forces in southern Sudan. On 31 October 2000 the Government responded to a Written Question from Baroness Cox on export licences to Sudan for triethanolamine and sodium sulphide flakes. Following that answer, on 27 November 2000 a letter from Lord Sainsbury to Baroness Cox placed in the Library of the House revealed that one of the three licences in question had covered the export of triethanolamine to the Nile Paints Company for the manufacture of rubbing compounds for use with automotive paints. The other two exporting companies concerned had objected to the disclosure of the end-user.

43. We obtained from the Government details of the five licences granted since May 1997 for goods to Sudan under the IC 350 category, including the value and end-user. One licence was for substantial volumes of a precursor chemical. Our informal inquiries suggested that the volumes and the material were reasonable for the stated purpose. The Foreign Secretary confirmed in oral evidence that the appropriate steps had been taken prior to granting a licence to ensure that the volumes sought were reasonable for the stated purpose.[75]

Refusals and revocations

44. There were 128 refusals of SIELs in 1999, and 8 revocations.[76] Six of these were for dual-use goods for Yugoslavia. The licences had been issued between November 1997 and March 1999, and were revoked in May 1999 in the wake of the Kosovo crisis and NATO airstrikes. Following our recommendation, the Annual Report provides a breakdown of the reasons for refusals. More than half were because of the risk of proliferation. 12 were on grounds of internal repression and a further 4 because of internal tensions or conflicts. 7 were on grounds of preserving regional stability. As in past years we obtained a list of refusals, the better to be able to judge the exercise of this power. We did not seek details of licences refused on proliferation grounds. We pursued a number of specific cases in written evidence. As in previous years full and helpful notes were provided by the Government.

Appeals against refusal

45. In our February 2000 Report, we set out our concerns on the process of appealing against refusal of a licence. We examined the seven appeals recorded in the 1997 Report, all unsuccessful, and the fifteen appeals recorded in 1998, one of which was successful. The Committees recommended publication of summary details of appeals, including the elapse of time. The Government accepted the "basis" of the recommendation, including the undertaking that "the 1999 Annual Report will give information on the performance against target" — the target of determination of an appeal within 30 working days from receipt of all relevant information, as recommended by the Trade and Industry Committee in its December 1998 Report.

46. In July 2000 the Committees recorded in their Report the comments made to them by five of the companies who had appealed against a refusal in 1998. We recorded our disturbance that these companies "should have had such uniformly bad experiences of the operations of a Government department", and recommended the introduction of an improved appeals procedure prior to the passage of legislation. In response, the Government set out the reasons why consideration of appeals could be "lengthy", and recorded some steps taken to improve the procedure, including the right of appellants to present in person any new information or arguments on the application. This welcome step was taken in response to the Committees' July 2000 recommendation that "further consideration be given to ways of ensuring that an appellant company can participate in the appeal procedure."

45. In 1999 there were 25 appeals against a refusal. Six were successful; in one further case it was decided that no licence was required. In response to our invitation, we received seven letters from appellants—

  • a company from Essex, which had appealed unsuccessfully against a refusal, felt that the process had taken "too long" and that " meetings with the DTI and their advisers would have been beneficial and would have speeded the process";

  • a company from Warrington, which had appealed against refusal of a licence and then learned 7 months later that a licence was not required in any event, described the situation as "very stressful", with the distinct chance that the customer would take his business elsewhere. The Managing Director wrote that "I do fear the experience will have a very negative effect on the organisation's willingness to place future orders with UK suppliers;

  • a company from Broadstairs had appealed without success against refusal of temporary licences to Argentina. Their letter set out the frustrations of dealing with extensions or renewals of OIELs, and in relation to the appeal suggested that "had we had the chance to discuss the matter face to face and even to demonstrate our equipment the outcome may have been different. In any event we would have had the certainty that our views had been received and considered";

  • a Somerset company which had appealed unsuccessfully expressed frustration with the refusal of licences to companies that had in the past purchased equipment from them, and felt that the chances of successful appeal were "very limited";

  • a company from Worthing, which had appealed unsuccessfully against a refusal, reported that they had twice had to fly out to the intended recipient country to explain to the Ministry of Defence there the reasons for the delay and then the failure of the appeal. It was suggested that the equipment had been wrongly classified in both the original decision and the appeal; but the company's request for a meeting to explain had been turned down. The Managing Director wrote "Had we been a large multinational corporation we could have supplied the systems through a non-UK subsidiary and no one at the DTI/FCO would have said a word";

  • a company from Ross-Shire appealed successfully against refusal of a licence but the company abroad had by then "lost faith" in the British company's ability to supply and had turned to a US/German company, with a licence granted by Germany "within three months". The company's experience of the US system showed that there had been an open discussion over a similar application, which had been decided in two weeks rather than 18 months.

47. In December 1998 the Trade and Industry Committee recommended that there should be a time limit for determination of appeals. The Government response of February 1999 was against a "binding time limit" but considered that there should be a target of 30 working days from receipt of all the relevant information from the appellant. It went on "we will in due course

that target has been met".[77] Two years on, it is plain that the target of deciding an appeal within 30 days is having no effect at all. "None of the appeals made met the Government's 30 working publish guidance on the handling of appeals...and report on the number of occasions on which

days target."[78] Of course appeals require " very cautious and very thorough investigation".[79] The Foreign Secretary told us that —

    "I have limited sympathy with complaints we are not moving fast enough".[80]

48. We are more concerned than the Foreign Secretary with delays in settling appeals against refusal. 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.

64  Ev, pp 29-30 Back

65  Cm 4799, pages 11-12 Back

66  HC 467, para 14 Back

67  ibid, para 12 Back

68  Cm 4872, para 4 Back

69  Ev, p 40 Back

70  ibid Back

71  Ev, p 40, 10 Back

72  Times & Financial Times, 11 January 2001 Back

73  Q 110 Back

74  Ev, pp 38-9, 5 Back

75  Q 152 (not printed) Back

76  Ev, pp 26ff Back

77  HC 65, para 66; HC270, page x Back

78  AR 1999, p 15 Back

79  Q 121 Back

80   Q 123 Back

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