Quadripartite Select Committee Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 51-59


31 JANUARY 2006

  Q51 Chairman: Welcome, good afternoon, Mr Isbister. Would you like for the record to introduce yourself and your colleagues to introduce themselves?

  Mr Isbister: I am Roy Isbister and I work on export controls for the NGO Saferworld.

  Mr Sprague: I am Oliver Sprague, and I am Research and Policy Officer for Oxfam GB.

  Mr Thomas: I am Mark Thomas. I am a journalist, broadcaster and performer. Amnesty have asked me to take their place today which I am very grateful for although I do not represent Amnesty today. I would like to say thank you very much to the Committee for inviting all of us in to speak today.

  Chairman: Thank you very much, you are very welcome. We have got an hour for this session. I am going to ask my colleagues to be brief and to the point in the questions that they put to you. Similarly if you could be brief in responding. Can I thank you, however, all of you, for your written submissions which have been very, very helpful indeed and no doubt our questions will be based on those submissions.

  Q52  Mike Gapes: Can I begin with questions about the international Arms Trade Treaty. Your memorandum to us is quite helpful. It praises the Foreign Secretary for his admirable leadership in the area, but if you look at the Gleneagles G8 summit, it does not refer to that Treaty and also the UN Millennium summit was disappointing in terms of disarmament questions. How do you assess the progress that has been developing in the last year and what would you like to see included in an International Arms Trade Treaty.

  Mr Sprague: I think I will kick off on that one. From where we were last year we have again made considerable progress. I think I spoke to the Committee last year and we were up to 20 governments which had expressed support; we are now up to 43 governments which have said they support an Arms Trade Treaty. Obviously this year more than any other year it is incredibly important. We have two big events that are happening. We have the Small Arms Conference in June and then we have the General Assembly in October, and we hope that a Resolution on an Arms Trade Treaty will be tabled at that meeting. Obviously we have an awful lot of work to do to get that 43 up to nearer 100 governments. In terms of content, I think we should be quite clear, the Arms Trade Treaty is about all arms, it is not just small arms, but there is an important Small Arms Conference happening in June this year which I think is where some of the confusion might have arisen on this issue. In terms of the content, I think NGOs have been campaigning on this for a number of years. We are very clear about what we think the Arms Trade Treaty should look like. Obviously we are not yet at the stage where we have content on the table and governments are going to spend a couple of years looking at this, and we hope to be fully engaged in that process, but we as NGOs are clear that it should be based on existing principles of international humanitarian and human rights law. There is quite a body of law out there that says thou shalt not transfer arms under certain very clear circumstances, so for example international arms embargoes, resolutions by the UN Security Council, treaties which countries might have signed up to, for example the 1980 Convention on certain conventional weapons and the Landmine Treaty. There is also an aiding and abetting-type principle in that you should not authorise arms transfers where it is likely that the use will be for serious crimes against humanity, genocide, et cetera. Then there is a whole category of norms that have been established on non-proliferation, things that we can see, for example, in things like the EU Code of Conduct, the Nairobi Protocol in Central Africa, and these are factors that should be taken into account, they are things like sustainable development, regional security, those types of issues. The importance here is that there is a positive duty on the State not to authorise transfers where there is a risk that those transfers could be used in such ways.

  Mr Isbister: Maybe I could just follow up briefly on the process side of things. We have 43 states that have expressed statements in support of the idea of having a trade treaty, but it does have to be recognised that there is a lot of lazy support in amongst that, where states have made a statement and then they think they can put their feet up, their job is done, time to move on. There have been disappointments; for example, what happened at the G8 last year, I think we were disappointed by what we got from that, and the Millennium Plus 5 summit was disappointing. On the other side there has been good stuff, the EU statement in October, the statement from the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, which was a very welcome surprise—you had India and Pakistan, for example, putting their support behind the idea of an Arms Trade Treaty, which has not happened before, but looking forward there needs to be a lot more happening, there needs to be a lot more activity. We have praised the Foreign Secretary; there needs to be more support across Whitehall. DFID is starting to make its presence felt but we have seen very little from the Ministry of Defence so far, so we look for support from them. There needs to be resources given to make this happen, it is not just a case of making statements, there has to be money, time and effort going into this and there needs to be work by the UK government to encourage states which have made a statement of support to actually go out and do something as well. If this is just a UK game then it is going to fail. At the General Assembly later this year we need something solid, we need something strong, for example an open-ended working group that looks at how we can take the process of an ATT forward, not a group of governmental experts that will look at whether an ATT is a good idea and is basically kicking this into the long grass. There is a lot that has happened and there is a lot more that needs to happen.

  Mike Gapes: Thank you.

  Q53  Chairman: It might be worth saying that Members of the Committee have been circulated with a copy of a draft Framework Convention on International Arms Transfers, which has Oxfam, Saferworld and Amnesty International's logos stamped on the top, along with other organisations. I agree that this is not the time to go through the detail of this draft framework, but would it be fair to say that that is the direction in which you feel we should be going in terms of the detail of the International Arms Trade Treaty?

  Mr Sprague: Yes.

  Q54  Chairman: I assume the answer is yes but, forgive me, I was just trying to say we have seen the draft.

  Mr Sprague: We need to be very clear that this is what we as NGOs think should be in it and it is going to be governments that negotiate what is going to be in it. We are encouraged from the speech that the Foreign Secretary gave—I think it was in March last year—that his thinking does appear to be in line with the types of things that we want to see in the Treaty and you can bet that we will be campaigning, lobbying and negotiating hard in the next two years, hopefully after October, to make sure that the Treaty is what we want it to be, it is as close to what we have written on paper as we can get.

  Chairman: Thank you, that is helpful. When we take evidence from the Foreign Secretary we will certainly ask him questions along those lines.

  Q55  Mr Borrow: I want to touch on another area that you cover in your submission, which is that in the same way as much of British industry has engaged in joint ventures overseas or set up subsidiary companies overseas, the defence industry is going in the same direction. There is this issue that a loophole exists to circumvent UK arms export controls, and I wondered to what extent you feel that it is realistic to actually seek to extend the control to subsidiary companies and joint ventures, and whether in the end it would be effective in actually reducing the movement of arms to countries where we would not want them to go, simply by affecting joint ventures of UK companies. How effective do you think that would be?

  Mr Sprague: It is certainly true that the defence industry, not just in the UK, is becoming more global. Our colleagues in the DMA in 1999 were addressing the Defence Select Committee and said that there is hardly a Western defence system that does not have a high degree of UK components and technology within it. The best way of looking at this is through case studies about where we think a potential problem might arise. A qualification from earlier is that for subsidiary companies, my understanding of the law is that the Broking and Trafficking Regulations do not apply to embargoed destinations if subsidiaries are involved, they only apply if a UK citizen or a UK-based company is part of the deal; therefore, if any of the phone calls or paperwork took place within the UK, that would be covered. We might want to just clarify that that is the situation. That is clearly one area that could be looked at immediately and I know Mark might have an example that he wants to talk about where this did happen. There are some examples in the military vehicles sphere, for example BA Systems is now an owner of a South African company, Land Systems OMC. Land Systems OMC has exported a range of vehicles to a variety of destinations that I do not think would have received exports from the UK of the same type of equipment. Those include, for example, the Ivory Coast—which is currently under embargo—Nepal, Uganda and India for use in Kashmir, so there is obviously a control problem from here. It is an area that will need work but, as a first step, things like the embargo legislation on broking and trafficking could be looked at.

  Mr Thomas: I would certainly agree with that. I am not sure if you want me to go onto the subject of Ashok Leyland at this stage.

  Chairman: I would like to save Ashok Leyland for a few more minutes if possible, because I know other Members want to come in on this. Before we do, the South African example, Mr Sprague, is mentioned in your written submission to the Committee, which is very helpful. Some of the other examples you have mentioned are actually not here and if there are any other examples that you think the Committee ought to think about, then please let us have them. Richard, you wanted to pursue this production overseas point before we then go on to Ashok Leyland.

  Q56  Richard Burden: One thing that was in your submission was the Land Rovers, the Turkish made Land Rover Defender 110 military vehicles which were used by Uzbek troops during the massacre of 2005. What you have said about that in your submission is that they were a gift from the Turkish government to the Uzbek government, and you think it is likely that they were produced under licence from the UK by Otokar, the Turkish company, although 70% of the components were exported from the UK and therefore you say there is a loophole. We actually put this to the Government and said what do you say about this then, and I would like to read out to you what the Government said in response to that, and then perhaps you can give your response to that. What the Government told us was: "We understand that Land Rover sells flat-pack civilian Land Rover Defenders to the Turkish company in question, which then assembles and re-badges them for onward sale under its own name, using its own products and components, and according to designs for which that company holds the intellectual property rights. It is the Government's understanding that these are not Land Rover approved products and it is therefore inaccurate to describe the company concerned as an overseas production facility for Land Rover. Under the EC Dual-Use Regulations ... the UK has no power to control the export of civilian specification Land Rovers. To the extent that the buyer in Turkey converts the civilian vehicles using his own technology and without UK involvement, this is a matter for the Turkish authorities as regards any export from there." That is what the Government said to us and I would be interested in your reaction to that.

  Mr Sprague: The first thing to say is that it is a situation that nobody can be very pleased about. There were clearly pictures of Land Rover vehicles used in a massacre of civilians; even the Turkish government voiced its displeasure at Uzbekistan for using its Land Rovers in a way that they were not donated for. I think it is a loophole that 70% of a vehicle can be sold that bypasses the licensing system and that clearly needs to be looked at because these vehicles are clearly what normal people would understand to be military vehicles. The equivalent of DESO (Defence Exports Services Organisation) in Turkey actually lists these vehicles as military specification; it says the Land Rover Defender 110 of the type that was transferred to Uzbekistan comes fitted with a NATO-style towing hook and rifle clips, both of which to my understanding makes them ML6a under the UK control list. We need to be very clear that these, under the UK definition, would be military vehicles that were sold. 70% of the bits for those vehicles were supplied from the UK; that no control is possible I do not think is entirely true because there is now an EU arms embargo on Uzbekistan and it is my understanding that in cases where there is an EU arms embargo, the EU Dual-Use Regulation applies and civilian components for incorporation into military systems become licensable under an end-use catch-all clause. I am very sure that that is the case, so I do think now that civilian components for vehicles supplied to Uzbekistan from the UK would be subject to UK licensing.

  Q57  Richard Burden: On the grounds that there is an embargo.

  Mr Sprague: Exactly.

  Q58  Richard Burden: I understand that. Let us assume that we were dealing with a situation where there was no embargo. Getting your views about how far you feel the regulations should be tightened, let us give another example where something which would normally be regarded as for civilian use is alleged to be for military use. Caterpillar bulldozers, for instance, have been used for military use in the occupied territories, JCBs are currently being used building the separation wall outside Jerusalem which the Israelis say is a defensive mechanism; would you say that those kinds of equipment should be covered by these kinds of regulations?

  Mr Sprague: I cannot talk on the Caterpillar example in Israel, but a balance needs to be struck between a single light bulb and a 70% flat-pack kit that gets militarised. Somewhere between those two examples I think the control system needs to kick in, and it is the use to which these things could be put which should be the ultimate judge.

  Mr Isbister: The case that you give is a very good example of how, wherever you draw the line, you are going to be able to come up with difficult cases that sit pretty much on that line. I would argue that where it is drawn at the moment—I cannot imagine that this is what the Government wants to see, what happened in Uzbekistan with the Land Rovers, I cannot imagine that the Government was happy with that situation so somewhere in the Government someone must be saying "Actually, we have not got it right", and I think we need to do more to explore this. The idea of introducing a catch-all clause that catches components that are designed for a system for military end-use or for a military system, these are things that need to be explored, I do not think the Government is right where it is. The thing that kind of bothers me is that there is a lot of hands thrown up in the air and there is an attitude that this is one for the too hard basket. The transfer of production technology, I do not think we should get too bogged down in talking about licensed production overseas, for example, because then we can miss out on a lot of other ways of transferring capacity, but the transfer of production capacity is crucial. This is a bigger deal than transfers of finished products on three counts. It is a bigger deal because you cannot as readily control the level of production, so with a simple export you know how much has gone, but by transferring capacity you start to lose control over the quantity. Tied into that is you lose the control of the eventual end-use, because again as production goes up you can have additional proliferation of the produced equipment. Even more importantly, you lose control of the intellectual property itself, so the recipient company of that technology can then export that technology. To me, this makes this an area which is key to effective control in an increasingly globalised world, and it feels like we are not grasping the nettle at the moment. It is hard, but it is something that I think we simply are not doing at the moment.

  Mr Sprague: There was an inference in the Government's response to you on this case that somehow they were two totally separate companies and that what one did was completely separate from the other. There are a couple of things I just want to throw into the mix to challenge that. That is a picture of the vehicle; it clearly has both Land Rover and Otokar logos on it. Also, this is Land Rover's latest brochure for its military sales; the vehicle that is pictured for sale, because Land Rover in the UK do not make an armoured personnel vehicle, is an Otokar vehicle[1], so Otokar vehicles are in Land Rover's new brochure and they were jointly exhibiting at DSEi[2] this year. Here is a picture of this very same vehicle and you can see the Otokar logo on the bonnet, so to imply that they are two totally separate companies and there is no relationship between the two I think is slightly misleading.

  Q59 Richard Burden: Have you gone back to the Government with that evidence?

  Mr Sprague: We will.

  Chairman: The Committee would be very grateful for copies of that and we will certainly refer it to the appropriate government department for explanation. It would be very helpful indeed.

1   See memorandum submitted by Oxfam Back

2   Defence Systems and Equipment International exhibition Back

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