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The noble Lord said: I rise to speak to this amendment in my name and in that of my noble friend Lord Razzall and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lichfield. I should like to start by saying how much we welcome the new government amendment to which the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury of Turville, has just spoken. We are obviously deeply concerned about the amendment's aim, which is to include the words "sustainable development" in the Bill. To achieve that end, the Bill has been significantly rewritten. That has largely addressed our concern about the deficiency of the Bill as drafted.
However, Amendment No. 48B is an attempt to address two areas. It would change the wording "consideration" to "have regard to" and leave out the expression "if any". We raised both of those issues at a meeting before the government amendment was tabled and we had hoped that those two small details would have been changed. The reason that we want to insert the expression "have regard to" instead of "consideration" is that in legal definition it would carry more weight. We have taken legal advice on that and were told that a statutory duty to "have regard to" a matter requires the decision-maker subject to the duty to take something into account and pay careful
The second issue, about which we are more concerned, is the inclusion in brackets of the expression "if any". The Minister said that there may be areas in which sustainability may not come into consideration. However, that is not a reason to include the words "if any". If the Secretary of State believed that the issue of sustainability did not have the weight that other issues should have, he could just say so. It would be up to him in his deliberations to say what weight he gave to the sustainability criterion in granting any export licence.
To add the expression "if any" would be to create a loophole. I am certain that the Department of Trade and Industry has no intention of creating a loophole. However, the provision must be worded in such a way that no loophole is available. We therefore hope that the Minister will consider leaving out the expression "if any". We on these Benches and many other Members of your Lordships' House will be keen to return to the matter later and press it, if necessary. I beg to move.
The Lord Bishop of Lichfield: Several of us on this Bench strongly support the amendment. We do not believe that it is simply a matter of semantics. The government amendment undoubtedly strengthens the status of sustainable development in the Bill and goes some way towards addressing concerns raised on Second Reading in January. However, we remain concerned that the weak language in the revised clause on guidance could still allow a future government to disregard issues relating to sustainable development. Ensuring that the Export Control Bill prevents irresponsible arms sales wasting the resources of poor countries is a central concern not only of churches but of other faith communities.
It is one thing when a government that defend their population according to international law purchase military equipment. It is quite another when British companies persuade governments to spend large sums on equipment that is beyond their needs and means. Speaking from the perspective of my diocese, we are closely linked with a new black South African diocese. There are worries there about the proposed sale to South Africa of Hawk fighter jets. Not only are there outstanding questions about the strategic viability of the South African arms procurement programme, there remain concerns about whether that is a true priority for South Africa's taxpayers. At present, figures in the 1997 World Bank development report are hopeful, with defence accounting for a smaller proportion of gross national product than education or health quotas.
However, that picture could change when the implications of the procurement deal are fully realised. The Guardian reported on 7th January 2002 that South Africa is now looking to pull out of its £3 billion arms deal with the United Kingdom and other countries because of the collapse of the rand. The country is also ravaged by HIV-AIDS. Life expectancy falls well below the world average. That clearly underlines the importance of the need to ensure that the Bill provides that weapons that could hamper sustainable development are not exported.
It so happens that I have just returned from a visit to South Africa. The issue of sustainable development is very important, especially with regard to roads. In recent weeks, I have travelled hundreds of kilometres with the African bishop of the new diocese. Too many adults and children are killed on South African roads because of the state that those roads are in. There are potholes, blind bends and few warnings of danger spots. New roads are expensive, but they are a vital aspect of the sustainable development that we want to promote at all costs.
Apropos sustainable development, I must also mention the urgent progress needed in South Africa on wider healthcare issues. I visited a paraplegic centre in a black township just two weeks ago. Youngeven tinychildren there were not only paralysed, they were unwell with other complaints, while housed in a derelict, abandoned, disused heavy vehicle hangar. It was cold and draughty, and there were only four girls in their late teens to care for the children. Those are the priorities that we should follow.
The Government have substantially rewritten the clause on guidanceClause 8in part to respond to claims that the Bill did not give due weight to the implications of exports for sustainable development. I welcome the Government's more explicit reference to that in the section on guidance, but I wonder whether it would have been easier if the Government had made sustainable development one of the relevant consequences in the schedule, as the original amendment set out to do. That would have given a clearer signal that development was regarded with the same seriousness as the other factors included in the consolidated criteria.
I also find it disappointing that such wholesale changes have been tabled at the eleventh hour at the Committee stage in this House, when there has been a Green Paper, a White Paper, a draft Bill and two public consultations in which no such change was proposed. Despite the improvement, subsection (4) does not deal with all concerns regarding sustainable development. In fact, it raises additional difficulties. In the existing language of Clause 7, the Secretary of State must have regard to the potential consequences mentioned in the schedule, as noble Lords on the Liberal Democrat Benches have said. Under the proposed government amendment, the Secretary of
Although the two phrases are close in meaning, "to have regard to" is stronger than "to give consideration to". The worry, as the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, said, is that the Secretary of State could choose to issue guidance that instructed the persons exercising licensing powers and functions to disregard the consequences referred to in the schedule. Unless the Government have a persuasive argument as to why a weakening is now necessary, any change should be resisted.
The government amendment contains a further loophole, by including the caveat already mentioned"if any"in subsection (4). That would mean that the Secretary of State could simply ignore issues such as human rights and sustainable development when issuing guidance on export licensing. The Government have explained the inclusion of the phrase "if any" as being intended to ensure that, where, for example, it was not relevant to a particular case to consider issues relating to sustainable development, the guidance could allow for that. They gave the example of the possible need to control exports of diseased cows, but it is not clear, in that case, why consideration of the impact that such exports might have on sustainable development and of the likelihood that it would have any of the consequences listed in the schedule could not be included thereby in the decision-making process.
The amendment is not about whether we support sustainable development: of course, we do. The challenge is to devise a system that provides adequate safeguards to ensure that development is not marginalised within the decision-making process. The example of South Africa suggests that that is all too easily the case. The amendment would tackle the problem and go some way to ensuring that we have an export control policy that is ethically responsible, transparent and publicly accountable. If we do not achieve that today, we may be ducking the political anddare I say itthe moral challenge before us.
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