Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 40 - 46)



  40. So it is fairly small.
  (Lt Colonel Spicer) It is very small.

  41. As it is so small, why should it not be possible to have a regulatory system whereby each soldier is individually licensed and the licence makes it incumbent upon him and gives you the authority to conform to regulations very similar to those laid down in the Armed Forces Act, or is that impractical?
  (Lt Colonel Spicer) It is not impossible. It would produce a massive administrative burden both on the regulatory authority and on the companies themselves.

  42. If the obligation were on you to certify that each soldier was indeed licensed along these lines, that would transfer the responsibility to a large degree to you and you would be accountable and answerable. Is this something you would welcome? It would certainly ease many people's minds.
  (Lt Colonel Spicer) If it did anything to ease people's minds and make people feel more comfortable with the concept, then of course private military companies would do it. I think there is a problem here, because if the responsibility is mine to ensure that anybody I employ has a licence, who grants the licence? It is not for me to grant the licence. What I do at the moment is vet them on experience, service record, word of mouth, criminal record, all the other things one is able to do, but I cannot give them a licence to operate. I cannot see how that responsibility could be devolved directly to the commercial companies because I can certainly check their MOT but what I cannot do is give it to them. I could do under the current circumstances, but we are not envisaging a situation with the detailed vetting and detailed examination which has been discussed this morning, whereby I could grant that licence. I could check the licence exists, but I do not think I could grant it.

  43. I should like the people who operate for you to be bound by regulations which are as near as possible to those which bind the members of the nation's armed forces.
  (Lt Colonel Spicer) That would have to be a matter for the way in which the parliamentary regulation or the national regulation is formulated. I certainly would not object to it, in fact it would make my life a lot easier. It might be administratively more complicated.

  44. How do you see the best future of the private military companies: acting within national contexts, or as what I would call contract fire fighters for the international community?
  (Lt Colonel Spicer) A combination of both. There are certain circumstances where there is a requirement for the firefighting we have talked about, but in general terms and in commercial terms the way ahead is to carry on doing the less controversial element of this business, the less dangerous, the less fraught with concern and we have heard today about some of the concerns. Nevertheless, I do not believe that the world is going to become a safer place and I think that there will continue to be a requirement for people to act quickly and effectively, and I include in that cost effectively, to stop people being killed or raped or maimed.

  45. I do not think we would dissent from that at all. Do you have what I would call a black list of regimes for which in no circumstances, whatever the temptations and whatever the rewards, you would not act?
  (Lt Colonel Spicer) Yes, we do. We go further than that. We keep very closely in touch with the legal requirements and we superimpose on that—it may sound rather pompous—our own moral view of it as well, even though it is strictly legal.

Sir John Stanley

  46. May I conclude with one last question on your position on the regulatory system? Basically you have come down in favour of the Government's option E, the general licensing system. Previously you have also advocated that regulation might be provided by monitors, which is not actually one of the options which is specifically highlighted in the Green Paper. You have raised the possibility that the monitoring might be carried out by Defence Attachés. I should like to put it to you that in my view, speaking personally, such regulation by Defence Attachés could only be of a purely token nature, that the burden of responsibilities falling on Attachés is such that the need for them to be in close proximity to the national capital and to the government buildings and staff and ministers in the countries in which they are operating makes it really illusory to think that the Defence Attachés could spend any material amount of time in and around countries doing any genuine monitoring of private military companies. How do you respond to that and is monitoring by Defence Attachés still part of your proposal or not?
  (Lt Colonel Spicer) Monitoring certainly is. The question which has been raised in the past is fine, you have a registration process and a regulatory process which is largely administrative and a number of concerns have been raised about what happens on the ground. The only way I can see that being dealt with to the satisfaction of those who have the concern is to have some form of monitoring linked to the registration or regulatory process. On whether it is the job of Defence Attachés or not, I have a completely open mind. It is one suggestion. The reason I suggested it—and I did not envisage them being in the command post 24 hours a day—was if a private military company were deployed in a country to which they are the Attaché, or possibly the region, there might be a case for them certainly to be aware in detail of what the contract was about, how it was going to be carried out, and what constraints and parameters there were within it. In other words, they have full disclosure of the project, whereas the regulatory process, if it goes for a general licence, may not require that, but it is one way of the licensing government maintaining contact with what is going on. I appreciate that Defence Attachés are quite busy and do need to be near the seat of government. I do not see them being around all the time and it may not be the best answer. It may not be the best solution, but they do exist, they are on the ground, they have links with government, they have military knowledge, so they can understand what the purpose of the project is and they can keep as closely or as loosely in touch with it as the situation may demand and the other demands on their time allow.

  Sir John Stanley: Thank you very much indeed for coming in front of us this morning. Thank you very much for your paper.

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 1 August 2002