Documents considered by the Committee on 5 April 2011 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents


1   Implementation of UN Firearms Protocol


(31703)

10963/10

+ ADDs 1-2

COM(10) 273

Draft Regulation implementing Article 10 of the United Nations' Firearms Protocol and establishing export authorisation, import and transit measures for firearms, their parts and components and ammunition

Legal baseArticle 207 TFEU; co-decision; QMV
Document originated31 May 2010
Deposited in Parliament14 June 2010
DepartmentBusiness, Innovation and Skills
Basis of considerationEM of 6 July 2010 and Minister's letter of 21 March 2011
Previous Committee ReportNone
To be discussed in CouncilNo date set
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionNot cleared; further information awaited

Background

1.1  Article 10 of the United Nations Firearms Protocol (UNFP) — which both the EU and its Member States (including the UK) have signed, but not yet ratified — requires contracting parties to establish general requirements for export, import and transit or authorisation systems in order to address the illicit manufacturing and trafficking of firearms, their parts and components and ammunition, and to ensure that all the states involved are aware of, and have consented to, any such activities.

The current proposal

1.2  Following consultations with stakeholders in 2006 and 2007, the Commission put forward in May 2010 this draft Regulation in order to give legal effect within the EU to the Article in question insofar as it applies to exports outside the EU, but it does not affect intra-EU transfers. In particular, it would:

  • require an authorisation from the Member State in which an exporter is resident for the export of those firearms, parts, essential components and ammunition listed in Annex I to the Regulation, this authorisation being valid for a period of at least 12 months, to be determined by the Member State, and subject to considerations of national foreign and security policy, the intended end use, and the applicant having no previous criminal record of illicit trafficking firearms;
  • require the authorising Member State to verify that the importing third country has issued an import authorisation, and that any third countries of transit have prior to shipment given written notice that they have no objection (though tacit consent will be assumed if no objections are received within 20 days, subject to the exporter supplying documentary evidence that the third country has no objection);
  • require authorisation documents to include, for the purpose of tracing, information on the date and place of issue, the countries of export and import and (where applicable) third countries of transit, the names of the consignee and final recipient, and details of the consignment;
  • enable a simplified procedure to apply to the temporary export of firearms for verifiable lawful purposes, including hunting, sport shooting, evaluation, exhibitions and repair, where this is supported by appropriate documentation.

1.3  The proposal also lists a number of activities to which it would not apply. These include state to state transactions or transfers; firearms destined for military use; those destined for the armed forces, police and public authorities of Member States; recognised collectors and those concerned with the cultural or historical aspects of firearms; deactivated firearms; antique firearms manufactured before 1899 and replicas (as defined in national legislation); and shipments by sea and through ports of third countries, provided there is no trans-shipment or change of means of transport.

The Government's view

1.4  We first received from the Minister of State for Business and Enterprise at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Mr Mark Prisk) an Explanatory Memorandum of 6 July 2010, in which he said that the UK had not been consulted recently on the measures in the proposal, and that, although it already had in place most of what would be required as regards export authorisation, it would be necessary to seek views across a number of Government Departments and industry representatives before a proper judgement could be made of the policy implications. He also said that there had not been a chance to prepare a UK Impact Assessment, but that this would be provided once consultation with the Commission, other Member States and industry had taken place, and a proper assessment of the costs and benefits had been made.

1.5  In view of this, our Chairman wrote to the Minister, saying that, if we were to take an informed view of the proposal, it would be sensible to await that assessment before deciding whether (and in what terms) to report the document to the House. He added that, in the meantime, we intended to hold the document under scrutiny.

1.6  We have now received from the Minister a letter of 21 March 2011, saying that it is not yet possible to provide a UK-specific Impact Assessment until certain points have been clarified further in discussions between officials in Brussels. However, he has been able to identify a number of points on the proposal which give rise to concern. These include:

  • a need to clarify that the definition of firearm, currently based on the Combined Nomenclature Code, excludes those which are intended for military purposes;
  • the need to clarify the definition of trans-shipment;
  • the extent to which the definition of export authorisation might prove restrictive compared with current UK licensing arrangements;
  • the distinction to be drawn between "transfers" and "transactions", and the inclusion or otherwise of collectors and deactivated firearms;
  • clarification of the definition of replicas;
  • the difficulty of making an import authorisation a pre-requisite, given that many countries do not issue these;
  • the problem of providing documentary proof that tacit approval has been given by an importing state;
  • the difficulty faced by exporters in providing supporting documentation;
  • the need to strike an appropriate balance as regards the proposals for simplification.

Conclusion

1.7  Whilst the aim of this proposal — to give legal effect within the EU to the relevant Article of the UN Firearms Protocol — is not in question, it is clear that there are still a number of outstanding questions about the detailed provisions which the Commission has proposed in order to achieve this. Consequently, whilst we are now in a position to report these to the House, we think it right to continue to hold the document under scrutiny, pending further clarification and in particular the provision of a UK-specific Impact Assessment.



 
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