UK arms exports during 2016 Contents

7The Arms Trade Treaty

Encouraging signature of the Treaty

131.The ATT came into force at the end of 2014 and currently has 94 state parties, while another 41 countries are signatories. It “regulates the international trade in conventional arms and seeks to prevent and eradicate illicit trade and diversion of conventional arms by establishing international standards governing arms transfers.”157 Control Arms UK told us: “The UK Government was one of the first countries to ratify the ATT and throughout the Treaty’s negotiations was a leading advocate for the inclusion of strong export commitments, including respect for human rights.”158

132.Successive UK governments have considered the provisions of the ATT and the Consolidated Criteria to be consistently mutually reinforcing. The 2016 Annual Report states that for the Government:159

Internationally, strengthening arms control remains a high priority. In 2016, Britain was once again a leading supporter of the Arms Trade Treaty. We have pressed for the universalisation of the Treaty and have encouraged more States to accede, in particular major arms exporters such as China, India, Russia, and the US.

133.However, Control Arms UK argued that the Government’s position on the ATT was at odds with its export practice. In particular, its policy on licensing arms exports to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen meant that “any endorsement by the UK of the ATT will be viewed as incoherent”.160 We also heard from Mr Butcher, of Oxfam, that, while the UK had initially played a leading role in respect of the Treaty, “It seems to us that since the treaty entered into force it has done less in terms of bringing countries into the treaty.”161 It was in this context that we heard about the proposal for a “presumption of denial” in respect of non-signatories of the ATT (see Chapter 5).

134.Sir Alan Duncan told us: “our policy is to get as many people as possible to sign up to [the ATT]. There are not enough yet.”162 He elaborated: “We are particularly working with the EU—and within the EU, particularly with Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Sweden—to try to get as many people to sign up as possible.” The UK was also working with the USA to encourage other countries to sign. He added: “It is the only legally binding international conventional arms control treaty, so we are firmly dedicated to doing everything we can to keep up the momentum.” The UK had also “contributed more than £300,000 to the arms trade treaty voluntary trust fund, which supports states in implementing the treaty. We have not let up on this, and we will not.”163

Reporting-obligations under the Treaty

135.We also heard in evidence from Controls Arms UK that the UK has failed to meet one of its obligations under the ATT:164

The UK is also failing to meet its obligation under Article 13 (3) of the ATT to report on its imports of arms covered by Article 2(1) of the Treaty. The UK left its import section entirely blank in both its 2015 and 2016 Annual Reports provided to the ATT Secretariat. The reporting of imports is a basic requirement for all ATT States Parties, and the UK’s inability to meet this standard is not adequate for a country that claims to have a sophisticated system for arms control.

136.This is corroborated by the ATT Baseline Assessment Project’s annual report for 2016, which states: “[T]hree States Parties provided reports for exports but no reports for imports (Australia, Austria, and the United Kingdom)”.165 This is despite the Government stating in its 2016 Annual Report that:166

In accordance with Article 13 (3) of the Treaty, the UK submitted an Annual Report to the Secretariat by the 31 May 2016 deadline. This report covers authorised or actual exports and imports of conventional arms covered under Article 2(1) of the Treaty made during the calendar year 2015.

Conclusions and recommendations

137.We welcome the Government’s commitment to promote signature of the Arms Trade Treaty by as many countries as possible. It must set out detailed plans for promoting both signature and implementation of the Treaty in its response to this report and give updates on progress in respect of these plans in its Annual Reports.

138.The Government should say what evidence there is of tangible effects that have been brought about by the £300,000 that it donated to the Arms Trade Treaty Voluntary Trust Fund.

139.It is inexcusable that in 2015 and 2016 the UK did not report on the imports of arms covered by the Arms Trade Treaty, in clear violation of its treaty obligations in this regard. The Government should set out, in its response to this report, what it is doing to ensure that the required information is collected, collated and published in a timely fashion in accordance with the terms of the Treaty.

158 Control Arms UK (UAE0007), para 52

159 HC (2017–19) 287, p 1

160 Control Arms UK (UAE0007), para 53

164 Control Arms UK (UAE0007), para 62

165 Arms Trade Treaty Baseline Assessment Project, Reviewing 2016 ATT Annual Reports on Arms Exports and Imports: Analysis and Good Practice, p 27; cf p 28 (“Australia, Austria, Italy, and the United Kingdom did not provide information on imports of [Small Arms and Light Weapons]”).

166 HC (2017–19) 287, p 7

Published: 18 July 2018