5.In their 2015 report, the previous Committees noted that the then Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills had given oral evidence to CAEC for three years in a row. The Committees reiterated their previous recommendation that:
given the far-reaching significance of arms export and arms control decisions for the Government’s foreign, trade, defence and international development polices, Oral Evidence should continue to be given to the Committees on Arms Export Controls by both Secretaries of State [for Foreign Affairs; and Business, Innovation and Skills].
6.In our recent inquiry, we were unable to take oral evidence from either the Foreign Secretary or the Secretary of State for International Trade (with the latter of whom statutory responsibility now rests for licensing exports of, and trade in, controlled items). We also experienced significant difficulty in obtaining confirmation that Ministers would be available to give oral evidence to us, with both departments only confirming this at the very last minute.
7.When the two Ministers gave evidence to us on 6 June, Mr Stuart told us: “I am sorry that the Secretaries of State were not able to be present today, but I hope that the presence of Sir Alan and myself is a sign of the seriousness with which we take the Committees.” Sir Alan (whose ministerial portfolio includes responsibility for “relations with Parliament”) said: “I am sorry if you feel that you have got the monkey rather than the organ grinder, but I hope that we can answer questions to your satisfaction.” He added that the Foreign Secretary’s future attendance before the Committees “would be entirely up to him, of course”.
8.In keeping with the practice of their predecessors, we consider that both the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for International Trade should make every effort to attend to give oral evidence to us on an annual basis, given the importance of this policy area. It is not acceptable for departments to leave it to the last minute before confirming the attendance of ministerial witnesses. To do so is disrespectful to the House.
4 Committees on Arms Export Controls, Second Joint Report of Session 2014–15, Scrutiny of Arms Exports and Arms Controls (2015): Scrutiny of the Government’s Strategic Export Controls Annual Report 2013, the Government’s Quarterly Reports from October 2013 to June 2014, and the Government’s policies on arms exports and international arms control issues, HC 608, para 5
6 Foreign and Commonwealth Office,
Published: 18 July 2018