Quadripartite Select Committee Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-50)


31 JANUARY 2006

  Q40  Chairman: Five or six? I do not know really.

  Mr Hayes: It is probably the sort of information that if you asked under a Freedom of Information request the response would be that the information is not readily available.

  Q41  Chairman: The answer to my parliamentary question was exactly that. I was hoping you guys might know the answer.

  Mr Hayes: Sorry.

  Mr Wilson: If there is more than a dozen at Gatwick I should be very surprised. It is because of the point which Bernadette made that export compliance is just part of their role.

  Chairman: In all seriousness, I appreciate that. Bernadette referred to beryllium. Somebody ought to ask the beryllium question.

  Q42  Robert Key: I would be delighted to ask the beryllium question! I understand that if you have a consignment of beryllium which contains more than 50% beryllium by weight, you need a licence?

  Ms Peers: Yes. I did a check on it yesterday. Imagine it is going to Italy, it is ML8—

  Q43  Robert Key: This is beryllium for an X-ray machine window; that is giving you an example?

  Mr Wilson: That is a potential use for it.

  Q44  Chairman: Robert, why do you not give your full question because I think the question is important and then we will have the answer afterwards.

  Mr Wilson: That is actually pure beryllium, 99% or more.

  Robert Key: Do you want the whole question?

  Chairman: I am sure you have a very good question. Let's have the `Full Monty'—and that is the first time that phrase has been used in a Committee.

  Q45  Robert Key: Can you explain to the Committee what happens at ports when goods are exported? What documents are required?

  Ms Peers: For beryllium or just in general?

  Chairman: Robert, forgive me again, go to the beryllium question.

  Q46  Robert Key: Let's take an imaginary UK export to a country outside the European Union which rolls up at, let's say, Dover in a lorry. On board is your consignment of beryllium which because it contains more than 50% beryllium by weight normally requires a licence. The driver says no licence is required because the regulation provides an exemption for beryllium metal windows for X-ray machines and that is what he has on board. What happens next?

  Mr Hayes: We are confusing two controls here. The military list control on beryllium contains a decontrol notice. The dual-use entry contains a control. Again, you have got to come back to the basic question of is this military list or is it dual-use. For the purpose of the question we will assume it is military list.

  Q47  Robert Key: Let's assume that it is a window for a military hospital.

  Mr Wilson: Not more than 50% beryllium and not therefore controlled by the military list but—

  Q48  Chairman: The driver says it does not require a licence. What happens next?

  Ms Peers: Well, then he goes to the Eastern Docks where there are no Customs (because if you have anything to declare you go to the Western Docks) and he gets on a ferry and away he goes because he is assuming as a driver he has produced his passport and his CMR, which is equivalent to an airways bill (and I do not know what the initials stand for, I am sorry), which basically says what he has got on board which would be windows for an X-ray machine. He would then drive across Europe, transitting various countries. If it was military we then have the issue of the transit licence because you cannot transit EU countries with military equipment without a transit permit, so we are assuming for this example that it is not military so that does not come into it. He would go through the countries. If he is stopped then he would probably say to the Customs agent that it is X-ray windows. They probably will not know because of their lack of knowledge or awareness and on it will go to its end destination. Very few checks will take place.

  Q49  Chairman: David, I cut you off earlier, forgive me. Do you want to re-emphasise the point you were making about the confusion?

  Mr Hayes: I think it just seems to emphasise the complexity of the controls really. The first decision we have to make is is this item controlled; yes or no. If it is controlled as military, if it is as we describe a 50% content, then no it is not. If we look at the dual-use control, the one that does contain the 50% reference, then beryllium metal and alloys containing more than 50% beryllium by weight are subject to control. The decontrol note says that it does not control the following: metal windows for X-ray machines, so in actual fact if the item we are talking about was a metal window for an X-ray machine it would not require a licence at all.

  Q50  Malcolm Bruce: I wondered if I could relate that back to the Export Control Organisation. You said this is what is outside. Is there no interaction between the Export Control Organisation and Revenue and Customs to say these are areas you should be looking out for. Is the reduction in the staffing of the Export Control Organisation going to make it more difficult for them to do that? Should they not be picking some of these things up and saying we should be looking out for them?

  Mr Hayes: A lot of the Revenue and Customs work is now intelligence-led. By the definition of that term we do not have access to what it is that they are doing, but you would imagine that it would certainly be possible to identify known high-risk consignees, countries regarded as high risk for either WMD development or diversion of goods, carriers who are high risk, maybe even tariff codes that are regarded as high risk, and you would expect them to base their intercepts on that sort of information. Whether or not they are doing that, we are not really in a position to know.

  Robert Key: Chairman, would you like the zirconium silicon question next?

  Chairman: I think not actually, Robert. I think we need to draw this session to a close. Mr Hayes, thank you to you and your colleagues. It has been a very helpful session. The transcript will be available on the Internet in about a week. If having read that any further comments are provoked in your mind, please do write to us and, similarly, if any of my colleagues, Robert for example, has a question they would like to ask, we will contact you but, again, thank you very much for your attendance this afternoon.

previous page contents next page

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

© Parliamentary copyright 2006
Prepared 3 August 2006