Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80
TUESDAY 30 JANUARY 2001
MP, MR WILLIAM
80. So anything that requires a licence now,
as part of a product created in this Framework Agreement it would
still be covered by our licence and by our reporting system?
(Mr Cook) Yes, and the licence would still appear
in the Report.
81. I was thinking of a hypothetical case of
where we were engaged in a project, let us say for manufacturing
an armoured personnel carrier, on a European Union basis and it
was destined for, say, Pakistan. If there was then, in this hypothetical
case of a few years ago, a coup, would we at that stage be able
to pull the plug or would it have gone too far?
(Mr Cook) That is always an extremely difficult judgment
and it is a difficult one in a national, unilateral perspective,
never mind in a multilateral one. Nor, of course, is it quite
unknown in the present circumstances anyway when there are so
many collaborative projects. Frankly, once the material had left
the country, there is little you can do to recall it, but if we
find ourselves in a situation in which we had a collaborative
project ready to go to a country in which there was a dramatic
change of circumstances, I do not imagine Britain would be alone
in being concerned about proceeding in those circumstances. Do
remember that Sweden and Germany have also pursued policies on
arms exports which are quite rigorous, and in those circumstances
if there was a truly dramatic change then I would expect us to
get agreement among all the partners about what the right course
forward should be. I cannot see something as large as an aircraft
carrier departing in circumstances in which only a minority agreed.
Would that be a fair summary?
82. I was thinking of an armoured personnel
carrier, not quite as grand.
(Mr Cook) Not quite as big as an aircraft carrier
but nevertheless a substantial size. I think we would get agreement
on that. I am also reminded that if such an export breached the
EU Code of Conduct, it is not just the six of us who would have
a view to express, it is all 15.
83. When you impose sanctions on any country
for whatever reason, do you actually automatically consider the
supply of arms as well?
(Mr Cook) Not automatically. It is usually the first
line of action but it is not necessarily automatic. I would stress
that our view on this is that sanctions and embargoes are best
done on a multilateral basis, in other words if we can get an
EU or, better still, a UN agreement on it, then it is worthwhile
going down that road.
Chairman: I think, Secretary of State, our Committee
and you share very passionately one concern and that is small
arms proliferation. You expressed this very strongly in the statement
you sent out. I quote, "Small arms have been the basic method
of mass killing over the past decade." Therefore, may we
turn to this issue?
84. Secretary of State, in your last Report
you say, "The UK remains firmly committed to national and
international measures that will prevent the illicit trafficking
of small arms ...", and there is a conference in the summer
of this year on Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons
which is going to build on existing regional initiatives by agreeing
concerted global norms and action. I wonder if you could indicate
to the Committee what you see as the prospects for this conference?
What actions do you envisage and who do you see policing those
(Mr Cook) First of all, we are actively exploring
with our partners whether we can try and find some common basis
to take to the conference, and therefore at the present time,
whilst I can offer a menu of activities we might go for, I would
wish them to be recognised as work-in-progress rather than a statement
of firm policy. We will ourselves be hosting a round table on
this issue next month, which I will be addressing, setting out
some of these issues. We are very strongly exercised about both
the trade in small arms and the enormous surpluses of small arms
there are around the world. There are several steps which need
to be taken. First of all, we would actually welcome a commitment
within Europe not to supply small arms to non-state actors, in
other words if you have a military fire arm it goes to the Government,
it does not go to anybody else who might be a rebel or other non-governmentalI
am trying to avoid the word "organisation" but you know
what I meana non-governmental armed force. Secondly, we
would want to make sure it was possible to do more to trace fire
arms. They are currently marked at the time of production but
it is very difficult still to trace them, and we need to improve
upon that, so we can trace back where they came from, and that
would be a means of invigilating the regulations. We need more
measures to be taken against the illicit trade in fire arms. We
need more measures in order to provide the incentive for surplus
fire arms to be surrendered, and we would like to see exploration
with international bodies like the World Bank whether there could
be a structured fund which rewards the surrender of fire arms
with development. Also we would like to see in all international
peace settlements as a standard commitment the surrender and destruction
of fire arms. Part of the problem in Africa is that once one conflict
is resolved the weapons are then humped off and sold to the next
conflict, and you have to stop that endless cycle of weapons.
So there is quite a broad agenda which we would like to pursue
and we are actually very active in trying to shape the debate
for the UN conference. In terms of policing, ultimately this is
a conference called by the UN and it would be done under the authority
of the UN. Of course, places like the European Union, with our
already existing and tried systems of the EU Code of Conduct and
well-established and mature systems of administrative machines,
are better placed to enforce it than others, but if it was carried
with the authority of the UN it would have the authority of international
85. By "partners", Foreign Secretary,
do you mean European Union partners?
(Mr Cook) In the first instance, yes.
86. So if we are still hammering to work out
the line to take with community colleagues, it does not sound
particularly optimistic for a UN conference in the summer, does
(Mr Cook) I would dispute that actually. I think there
is a lot of goodwill among European colleagues to try and find
a way forward on this. Some of that agenda I have outlined will
certainly be agreed among European colleagues and the round table
we are having here on 13 and 14 February is a good time in advance
of the June conference and we will make good progress in trying
to establish an international consensus.
87. Who is the round table going to involve?
(Mr Cook) I need to be guided. Apart from opening
it, I am not sure.
(Mr Ehrman) It will involve about 30 countries which
are those countries in the European Union interested in this issue,
and a wide range of other countries interested in the small arms
issue. If I can add to what the Secretary of State has said about
discussions within the European Union, the European Union has
put in a draft paper on some of its ideas into the preparatory
process for the conference, and we have reached a very welcome
measure of agreement on a number of the issues which the Foreign
Secretary mentionedthe question of pushing for tracing
under the UN Fire Arms Convention, the question of only selling
to other governments and not to non-state actors, and there is
a lot of agreement too on the question of surrender and destruction,
stockpile management and a number of other measures.
88. My last question is, the UN conference is
going to reportedly build on existing regional initiatives, your
Report mentions a number of regional initiatives under the umbrella
of different organisations, which, if any, of these do you consider
to be a particular success? Are there any of these ones you would
wish to hold up as real exemplars of the sort of progress which
could be made?
(Mr Cook) All necessarily are dealing with a very
difficult problem. All necessarily have imperfections. The work
that has been done in regard to South Africa has been quite commendable
and successful. If we achieve the same degree of outcome in other
African regions, for instance West Africa, we will make very good
Mr Baldry: I am sure everyone will be interested
to hear what you have to say. Perhaps you can send as a copy of
89. Are we talking in the illicit trade about
the recycling of a huge stockpile for the fresh manufacturing
of small arms and live weapons?
(Mr Cook) Both, and more. One of the strongest, original
sourcing comes from the surplus arms from the former communist
world, where very large volumes of surplus weapons are now available
and are available to countries with a lot of economic pressures.
Some do come from the stockpile of weapons obsolete, in our terms,
of other nations as the trade-up in terms of their own equipment.
A lot of it does come from weapons that are already in circulation
within Africa. All of these do need to be tackled. It is also
worth mentioning that the destruction of surplus weapons post
conflict also raises how existing military forces within the developed
world manage the stockpile of surplus weapons.
90. Is there fresh manufacturing? Who is doing
(Mr Cook) Mr Hain has already put in the public domain
those countries who are suspected of substantial trade in small
arms, non-state actors for instance. One has to be frank about
this and say that, of course, there are legitimate governments
in Africa who have legitimate requirements for small arms. Indeed
if they do not get them the balance of power shifts to the rebels.
That is why in our annual report we transferred 10,000 rifles
to the Government of Sierra Leone. We need to make sure that trade
is regulated to legitimate recipients and that the illicit trade,
which is significant in Africa, receives substantial international
response in order to curb it and to bring it under control. If
we can get general agreement, that would be valuable. I do not
think that many of the governments in the countries where people
are engaged in this would wish to oppose that. The question is
whether they themselves have the capacity to control those who
indulge in it.
91. If you take a specific instance like Angola,
we talked to Ambassador Fowler, of the UN Sanctions Committee,
pointing out it was not just small arms it was 50 tonne tanks
that were coming from Ukraine. What pressure can we bring to bear
upon Ukraine in order to make sure they do not engage in what
we would term illicit trade?
(Mr Cook) We have to be a little bit careful, it is
not the Government of the Ukraine that is providing that. There
may be Ukraine individuals referred to by Ambassador Fowler. We
need to work with the Government of Ukraine to make sure that
activitywhich is probably illegal in Ukraine, as well as
elsewhere, because there is an arms embargo on UNITA and a Security
Council Resolution in force, if I recall correctlywe need
to work with them to make sure international law is applied. Although
there are substantial pieces of kit being traded illicitly and
in breach of arms embargoes, I would not undervalue the enormous
contribution by the self-loading rifle. The self-loading rifle
has become the true weapon of mass destruction of our time. It
has killed millions over the past decade. That is the standard
weapon of the rebel organisations across Africa.
92. What is the action that would be most useful
to bring that under control?
(Mr Cook) I think that an international commitment
to trade only with state actors and not to trade with non-state
actors would be very helpful. It is a little bit odd that self-loading
military rifles can be traded legally on the international market
rather than only to Governments. Frankly, self-loading military
rifles are the property of the military and the military should
only be accountable to Government.
93. In your discussions have you managed to
engage China, so that can be a positive influence?
(Mr Cook) I am not aware of what particular discussion
we had with China in the lead up to the conference. I would be
happy to be guided on this by Mr Ehrman. To be fair, China itself
participating in the arms trade is not quite in the same league
as some of the western countries.
(Mr Ehrman) We are very much engaged with the Chinese
in talking about UN firearms protocol and the question of tracing
the weapons. We are working to try to overcome some problems they
have in that area to see if we can move that forward before the
94. We know that the United States has a particular
attitude about firearms, for example. Are you satisfied that that
attitude is not thwarted in a way and then this area then becomes
(Mr Cook) As Foreign Secretary I would not dream of
putting my feet into the snake pit of American debate on domestic
95. I was not saying that. On the same philosophy.
(Mr Cook) As far as the question of export is concerned,
they do have quite a tough regime, although it does not entirely
match ours. There is room for dialogue. I feel they will play
a positive and constructive part in the UN conference.
96. Can we turn on to some country cases. Israel
has figured recently, and Dr Starkey has been pursuing that with
(Mr Cook) Before you start that, can I ask when we
might go into private session?
Chairman: The line of questioning is going to
be still on the generalities rather than any specifics. If at
any moment you feel that, we can reserve it for private.
97. The first issue I want to explore is more
a concern about the possible use of United Kingdom arms in the
occupied territories. There are also concerns that up until last
year United Kingdom arms may have been used by Israeli forces
in Southern Lebanon. I would like to clarify your view on that.
Has it always been that no United Kingdom equipment or components
should have been deployed there, or merely that they should not
have been used aggressively? What exactly does aggression mean
when we are talking about Israeli forces who were in occupation
of another sovereign state? What could they be doing there that
was not aggressive?
(Mr Cook) I am not aware that we have any evidence
of United Kingdom equipment being used in Southern Lebanon. I
am open to correction if I am wrong on that. Israel does have
a legitimate right of self-defence. We welcome the courageous
step that has been taken by Prime Minister Barak to withdraw from
Southern Lebanon. I regret that fighting has continued there,
not at the instigation of the Israeli side.
(Mr Ehrman) Chairman, we have always looked very carefully
at every application for Israel. We have not issued a licence
for equipment where at the time of assessment we thought that
there was a clear use, that it would be used for internal oppression
or external aggression. That would cover your question.
98. External aggression would cover any use
in Southern Lebanon, in your view. It was the United Kingdom's
view that we should not sell things to Israel in the past which
could have been used in Southern Lebanon?
(Mr Cook) The time this Government has been in office
it is not the period which Israel has gone into Southern Lebanon.
During that period Israel has withdrawn from Southern Lebanon,
which is a step that we actually welcome.
99. I think everyone welcomes their withdrawal.
Within the period of office of this Government they were bombing
power stations and they were in occupation of Southern Lebanon.
I am simply seeking clarification that it was the policy that
we would not have sold arms that we thought could be used in Southern
(Mr Cook) If we had evidence that a licence was for
equipment which might be used for external aggression, we would
not grant it. To be frank, we are here dancing around a visionary
problem. I do not recall ever being confronted with a decision
which raised this question. Are we aware of any licence in the
last four years which may have had a Southern Lebanon dimension?
I take it we have not been selling the aircraft which have been
carrying out the bombings to which Dr Starkey refers.