Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary memorandum from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in response to follow-up questions from the Quadripartite Committee relating to the Foreign Secretary's oral evidence session of 21 March 2002

Inquiry into the Annual Report on Strategic Export Controls 2000


  1.  Israel:  In his answer to Q 13 of the oral evidence, the Secretary of State undertook to write to the Committee giving further details of his inquiries into how UK-made components had come to be used in the Occupied Territories in contravention of the undertakings given by the government of Israel.

    The Government will write separately on the issue

  2.  Sri Lanka:  Annex D of the Government's memorandum gives details of some items that these were refused licences for export to Sri Lanka on grounds of the risk that they might be used for internal repression, while answer 20 (in the confidential annex to the main memorandum) reveals that apparently more lethal weapons were licensed for export to a very similar end user. Can the Government explain this apparent inconsistency?

See Confidential Annex.[29]

  3.  Tanzania:

    (a)  In his answer to Q 38 of the oral evidence, the Secretary of State undertook to provide information on whether Tanzanian ATC system was the beneficiary of an ECGD guarantee. Is it?

This transaction has not benefited from ECGD support

    (b)  In his answers in private session, the Secretary of State referred to the cost-benefit analysis he had requested on the purchase, and its significance in reaching his decision. Could you provide the Committees with a summary of this analysis, in confidence if necessary?

    As the Secretary of State indicated to the Committee, calculations and analyses were made in order to help Ministers assess whether the proposed export would seriously undermine the economy or seriously hamper the sustainable development of the recipient country. Information whose disclosure would harm the frankness and candour of internal discussion is exempt from disclosure under Part 2, Section 2 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information. However, further consideration is being given as to whether, consistent with the Code, a summary of the kind requested by the Committee could be provided in confidence. We shall write again to the Committee as soon as possible.

    (c)  In the rubric to Criterion 8 in the Annual Report, it states that the Government "will take into account, in the light of information from relevant sources such as . . . World Bank . . . whether the proposed export would seriously undermine the economy or seriously hamper the sustainable development of the recipient country.". In the light of this statement, why was the decision to grant the licence taken before the final opinion of the World Bank, taking account of the findings of the ICAO, was known?

See Confidential Annex.*

    (d)  The Committees understand that the payment of overseas aid to the Tanzanian Government was recently suspended. Why was this done?

    DFID provides budget support to countries where it is confident of a shared commitment to poverty eradication and that this commitment is fully reflected in the allocation and management of public expenditure in the country concerned. As such, DFID has to be assured that the resources allocated through the budget will be used effectively for the purposes intended, and produce value for money. The ATC contract raised a number of questions. For instance about the extent to which, given very scarce resources, the proposed purchase was a priority in terms of the poverty reduction programme, whether the equipment meets fully Tanzania's civil aviation requirements, and whether the proposed solution is cost effective. There was concern also whether further investment was either planned or necessary to meet Tanzania's requirements and whether this was reflected in Tanzania's forward investment programme. These are primarily questions for the Government of Tanzania but of course are of direct interest to those donors providing support through the budget. That is why the Government of Tanzania has given a commitment to a further technical review with the International Civil Aviation Organisation and that the government is prepared to work closely with development partners to reach a mutually acceptable solution on this issue. There is consequently a pause in the disbursement of DFID budget support whilst this process takes place.

  4.  Zambia:  Answer 27(a) in the confidential Annex to the Government's main memorandum reveals the intended end-user of 400 sub-machine guns licensed for export to Zambia. The memorandum states that the risk of equipment being used for internal repression is assessed carefully when export licences to Zambia are considered, and that Amnesty International reports are studied in that context. A recent Amnesty report states that "Contempt for human rights remains embedded in the Zambian police force, whose officers shoot and kill as an alternative to arrest." What undertakings were sought about the use to which the 400 sub-machine guns for export to Zambia would be put, before the licence was allowed?

    The Department sought further clarification of the licence application through the High Commission in Lusaka before the licence was issued. They were satisfactorily assured by the High Commission that the equipment was part of a legitimate and long awaited up-grade for the end-user in Zambia.


  5.  The answer to question 29(b) of the Government's memorandum states that the DfID was consulted on 717 SIEL applications in 2000.

    (a)  To how many did DfID raise objections on Criterion 8 grounds?

    As pointed out in the Government's 27 February memorandum, views expressed by any individual Department involved in the licensing process fall under the description of "internal discussion and advice" the disclosure of which would in this case harm the frankness and candour of internal discussion. The information is therefore being withheld on the basis of Exemption 2 of Part II of the Code of Practice on Access to Government information.

    (b)  Did DfID raise objections on other grounds, and what were they?

    See reply to 5(a)

    (c)  Can you express the figures for the number of applications called-in by DfID for each year since 1997 (i) in numerical terms and (ii) as a percentage of all SIEL application?

No. of OIEL applications circulated to DfID
No. of SIEL applications circulated to DfID
Percentage of total SIEL applications

    (d)  Could you also give (i) the numbers of applications in each year to which DfID objected and (ii) the numbers of those to which DfID objected for which a licence was eventually granted?

    See reply to 5(a)


  6.  Military List Ratings:  On page 12 of the Annual Report it states that, "Because of the increased detail provided on items licensed for export, no information is provided on the ratings . . .". Can the Government enlarge on this statement, particularly with reference to the balance between the apparently increased transparency achieved by reference to summary descriptions and the apparent loss of transparency effected by removal of the Military List ratings?

    The Government did not intend to reduce the transparency of the annual reports by removing the military list ratings of items licensed for export. The Government judged that the inclusion of summary descriptions of these items provided more transparency than the military list ratings, since the summary descriptions can be readily understood by non-specialist readers without reference to the military list. The inclusion of military list ratings as well as summary descriptions would have significantly increased the size of the report, making both its internet and printed versions more unwieldy, and increasing the cost to the reader of the printed version.

    It is too late to include military list ratings as well as summary descriptions in the next annual report, production of which is already well under way. However, the Government is willing to consider including both these types of information in future reports if the Committee wishes, on the understanding that this might have implications for the cost and accessibility of future reports.

  7.  Six-Nation Framework Agreement:  Under the Agreement, the new licences for exports between the members of the Agreement will be called Global Project Licences.

    (a)  Will Global Project Licences be required to specify what items may be exported under them (as OIELs do) or will they only need to indicate what project the goods are for?

    The form of GPLs is yet to be decided. We do not yet know whether goods will be specified in full. These issues are under consideration in consultation with Framework Agreement partners. There will be the same level of transparency over GPLs as other UK licences.

    (b)  For how long will a GPL be valid?

    This is also still under consideration

    (c)  The Agreement also includes provision for a list of permitted export destinations for countries to which all members have agreed in respect of individual programmes. The list will apparently not be published as it will be classified commercial in confidence. Why?

    The lists of the permitted export destinations for jointly-produced defence products will be based on the confidential marketing plans and market research of the manufacturers involved in any particular programme (subject to the agreement of all Framework Agreement partners taking part in that programme). These lists are commercially sensitive because their publication could alert international competitors to the market opportunities which Framework agreement exporters are intending to persue. Although the permitted export destination lists might inform the licensing decision, they are not export licences. Details of GPLs and any other licences issued in relation to collaborative programmes/projects under the Framework Agreement will be published in the Annual Report.

    (d)  Will the list be available to the defence manufacturing industry?

    Only those companies and the Partner Nations' governments that are involved in any particular programme will have access to the permitted export destination lists related to that programme.


  8. (a)  What is hindering the Government's progress towards its target for the processing of SIEL applications         within 20 working days?

    The Government recognises the problems that any delay in the processing of an individual export licence application can cause the exporter concerned. Applications for export licences can take some time to process, especially if the situation in the country concerned is fluid. It is important that the Government takes the time necessary to assess, for example, a new regime's behaviour and intentions before deciding on outstanding export licence applications.

    HMG is making strenuous efforts to improve performance. DTI introduced the ELATE computerised licensing system in March 1999. This gave exporters the opportunity to submit standard individual export licence applications on disk. Building on the success of that system, DTI's Electronic Licensing via the Internet System (ELVIS) initiative aims to enable exporters to send in licence applications, including appropriate supporting documentation, over the Internet by 2003 so as further to improve the efficiency of the licensing process. FCO is also introducing an enhanced IT system this year to handle ELAs electronically, as well as enhanced procedures for tracking and chasing licence applications. Similarly, MOD are actively engaged in enhancing their export licensing databases. Jointly, all Government Departments involved in export licensing are constructively reviewing existing structures, systems and processes with a view to modernising them where necessary and to accommodate the new demands resulting from provisions in the Export Control Bill.

    The Government has published commitments to the exporter, setting out the targets for Standard Individual Export Licences (SIELs). The target is to provide a substantive response to applications for standard individual export licences within 20 working days for 70 per cent of applications. (This target applies as soon as full documentation in support of applications is provided). Government performance against the 70 per cent target improved from 52.1 per cent in 1998 to 56.9 per cent in 1999 and 57 per cent in 2000. Our current calculation of performance for 2001 is 60 per cent.

    (b)  Does the Government have any recent information about the rate at which applications are processed in other EU Member States?

    We do not have definitive figures for European or other partners. Informal soundings indicate that many other countries do not publish targets for processing licences, and face similar challenges in turning licence applications around quickly.

  9.  Processing of appeals:  The Government's target of providing a decision on appeals against refusal of an SIEL within 30 working days from receipt was not achieved in any of the 15 eligible cases received in 2000. The Government's memorandum (Q 39) indicates that a review of the appeals target is in progress.

    (a)  By how far are Government Departments overshooting deadlines on appeals?

    The length of time by which the Government misses the target of 30 working days on appeals varies from case to case. It is important to bear in mind that only a very small proportion of export licence applications are refused. Decisions to refuse are not taken lightly. Appeals against refusal will often raise difficult and complex issues. This and the need to consider all relevant information, including the new information provided by the appellant, the fact that appeals are considered independently of and at a more senior level than those advisers and officials who were involved in the original applications, all mean that consideration of appeals is never a mere formality and the process can be lengthy.

    (b)  How, more precisely, is the Government "continuing to look at the appeals target"? Has this process been completed, and if not when will it be?

    The revision of the appeals targets requires significant research and analysis and will take some time. This work is in hand; we cannot yet say when it will be finished.

    (c)  Have any SIEL refusals or appeal decisions made in 2000 been the subject of Judicial Review?


  10.  End-use monitoring:

    (a)  For how many destinations is end-use monitoring routinely carried out to verify the proper use of the goods exported under SIELs?

    The surest way to prevent UK arms ending up in the wrong hands is to examine export licences carefully at the licensing stage and to refuse an export licence when there is an unacceptable risk of diversion or misuse, ie before a licence is issued. All our overseas posts have standing instructions to report on any allegations of misuse of UK-origin defence equipment so that it can be taken into account in the licensing process. But specific commitments to Post export monitoring are rare. It is neither practical nor useful to do so for all or even most defence exports over their lifetime with the end-user. We satisfy ourselves as to the end-user's authenticity before issuing a licence.

    Such monitoring would be extremely resource-intensive. It would generally require a degree of technical expertise on part of those involved. And post-export monitoring cannot prevent the diversion or misuse of equipment-it could only confirm a diversion or misuse after it has taken place - although it can inform future licensing decisions.

    In certain limited circumstances, we are willing to undertake monitoring of equipment in the recipient country when we believe that this would genuinely help to minimise the risk of diversion and where such monitoring is practicable. Political officers or Defence attaches may do this during the course of normal political duties, travel through their host countries, or usual contacts with defence/security force interlocutors.

    Some examples of such post-export monitoring are contained in the 1999 Annual Report on Strategic Export Controls. The Committee is also respectfully reminded of the evidence given by the Secretary of State in respect of Israel.

    (b)  What proportion of SIELs are subject to such monitoring?

    Specific commitments to monitor the end-use of arms exports are rare. However, as pointed out above, all our overseas posts have standing instructions to report on any allegations of misuse of UK-origin defence equipment.

    (c)  What plans are there to undertake an assessment of the US Department of Defense's "Golden Sentry" end-use monitoring programme?

    We are aware of the development of the so called Golden Sentry programme. We understand it is a system still under development. We will of course discuss this system with the US authorities just as we discuss the full range of export control issues with them.


  11.  In his answer to Q 25 of the oral evidence, the Secretary of State undertook to write to the Committee about the case for a thorough-going look at the EU Code of Conduct in the light of events since 11 September. When might the Committees expect his response?

    The Government is examining the case for reviewing the EU Code of Conduct in the light of events since 11 September. The Committee will be informed of the Government's conclusions on this issue as soon as possible.

  12. The Government's memorandum constantly stresses that decisions are made on a "case-by-case" basis. Is the cumulative effect of arms exports to a particular destination ever taken into account when considering a SIEL application?

    The consolidated EU and national arms export criteria set out the issues to be taken into account in reaching licensing decisions. The cumulative effects of the purchase of arms by recipient countries may well be a relevant consideration in the assessment of a licence application under the criteria. But decisions on individual applications must be made on a case by case basis against the criteria.

  13.  What exactly is the nature of the advice on licence applications requested from DfID? Is it simply to consider the application in relation to criterion 8, or is it to consider the application in relation to more specific analyses and assessments of the country's situation, including its developmental needs and priorities?

    The Consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria are the Government's stated policy in relation to export licence applications, and set out clearly the considerations taken into account by the Government. The Government does not apply any unannounced criteria to export licensing decisions.

  14.  The Government's memorandum (Q 44) states that the UK will "continue to work for the full implementation of the OSCE Document on Small Arms". What are the key areas on which the Government is seeking to make progress in the near-term, and who or what are the major obstacles to that progress?

    The Government has been active in the OSCE and with the OSCE Conflict Prevention Centre (CPC) in Vienna in working to sustain the steady momentum towards implementation of the OSCE Document, most notably at and following an important seminar on implementation measures in Vienna in February 2002. This was held in part preparation for the second information exchange under the Document, due in June 2002. This will focus on exports and imports within OSCE, surpluses and destruction and on stockpile management and security.

    Although the June 2001 information exchange by OSCE Participating States was the broadest international such exchange on small arms and light weapons ever undertaken, returns varied greatly in their coverage and detail. Countries can have very different and, at times, seemingly incompatible systems, practices and terminology. The Government believes it is important to agree model frameworks or templates for information returns to which Participating States may flexibly respond. These templates will best facilitate consistency and more thorough comparisons in the future. We therefore welcome the work of the CPC in preparing such templates. We are also preparing a prompt and comprehensive national return for June 2002 that should serve as a model for other countries.

    Rather than having to address major obstacles at this stage, the extent to which OSCE Participating States reflect recent discussions in their own returns in June will be a useful gauge of their willingness to use such model frameworks. The Government will then assess the extent to which it may need further to encourage other OSCE Participating States to share experiences and lessons learned on, for example, weapons destruction and safe storage in working towards the longer-term OSCE aim of best practice guidance on the areas covered by the Document.


Export Control Bill

    The Foreign Secretary would like to clarify a point he made in relation to the Export Control Bill. In reply to question 22 he made reference to the more formal process for approval of the Government's arms export licensing criteria under the Export Control Bill. For the avoidance of doubt, he wants to make clear that he was referring to the more formal approval system that would be used within Government as a result of the requirement in the Bill for guidance issued under it, to be published and laid before Parliament (the Consolidated Criteria will constitute such guidance).

29   Not printed. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 19 July 2002