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Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, at Second Reading we supported the idea of sustainable development. We were pleased to see the amendment tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Redesdale and Lord Razzall. We on these Benches support the amendments.
The Lord Bishop of Manchester: My Lords, I too welcome Amendment No. 1. I do so because I want to remind the House of the moral presumption against the export of goods that are harmful and the moral presumption in favour of poverty relief, accessibility to health, education and welfare, and human flourishing.
If we are serious as a nation as well as a government about halving global poverty by the year 2015, there will need to be greater effort not only on the humanitarian front of the voluntary organisations, but also diplomatically, economically and politically to reduce the number of countries embroiled in armed conflict, and to improve the conditions in which regeneration can occur and be sustained. So I am glad to see that the criteria for sustainable development are written deeply into the Bill. We need to ensure that they stay.
The issue of sustainable development is plainly recognised by Her Majesty's Government. Yesterday I sat through a debate calling attention to the Green Paper, Planning: delivering a fundamental change. Several speakers referred to the importance of taking sustainable development into account when considering planning in
However, the weight given to sustainable development in the Billit is the weight that is importantis weak. I recognise that the Bill involves controlling certain goods and taking sustainable development into account, and that it is not about sustainable development per se. I heard that in Committee. But the responsibility currently placed on the Secretary of State is inadequate.
I am not a lawyer. I am a "bear with little brain" when it comes to the legal mind. But to the lay mind there seems to be a considerable gap and weight of intention between it being "absolutely mandatory" that sustainable criterion should be considered and,
The amendments give us the opportunity to ensure that the Secretary of State specifies that regard shall be had to what I hope noble Lords will agree is a significant matter. If we are serious about halving world poverty, we need to strengthen our legislation regarding what should and should not be exported and imported, taking into account the purposes and outcomes of such exports and the consequences of granting licences for them.
Lord Joffe: My Lords, I too support Amendment No. 24. The words "if any" add very little. They create flexibility which is not really required. The flexibility could easily be gained in the phrasing of the guidance given by the Minister. As the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has said, they open up a loophole for future Secretaries of State to take advantage of a wording that really should not be there.
Lord Rea: My Lords, I reiterate the view of my noble friend Lord Judd that all those who support these amendments, particularly those who speak from these Benches, are aiming in the same direction. The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, and others have talked about those controversial words "if any". The noble Lord also brought widgets into the argument. The amendments are very useful in that they restrict the application of matters of sustainable development to a list of itemsto none of which could the word "widgets" be applied. The table to the Schedule, entitled "Relevant Consequences", lists the serious matters that have to be taken into account: national security; peace, security or stability in any region of the world; the carrying out of acts that facilitate the development or use of weapons of mass destruction;
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 1 and 24. They have not been degrouped. It is easiest to take the two amendments together. Both amendments relate to the provisions in the Bill which oblige the Government to address issues relating to sustainable development and those in the Schedule's table entitled "Relevant Consequences" when issuing guidance under Clause 7.
Amendment No. 24 is very similar to an amendment tabled in Committee. It would replace the existing requirement in Clause 7(4) that guidance issued under the Bill must include guidance about the "consideration (if any)" to be given to sustainable development and the issues in the Schedule table, with a requirement that the guidance must state that "regard shall be had" to such issues.
Amendment No. 1, if I have understood it correctly, has a slightly more focused intention, which is to provide that guidance issued under Clause 7 in relation to export controls on military goods shall have regard to sustainable development and to the issues covered in the table to the Schedule. I believe that Amendment No. 1 has been tabled in the spirit of compromise, as a possible alternative to Amendment No. 24, on the basis that it seeks to meet some of the concerns that the Government expressed in Committee about the consequences that would follow from having a blanket requirement to have regard to sustainable development, and all the issues covered in the Schedule table, in the assessment of every individual export licence application.
If that is the case, I very much welcome the noble Lords' attempt to deal with the Government's previously stated concerns on this issue. However, as I shall explain in more detail in due course, Amendment No. 1 does not meet all the concerns that I identified in Committee. Perhaps I may concentrate on Amendment No. 24, as it raises the key question of whether the Bill as it now stands adequately provides for a lasting commitment on all future governments to address sustainable development and the issues listed in the Schedule table in the export licensing process.
Let me say at once that I have sympathy with the noble Lord's aim in tabling the amendment and with the views of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, on the matter. I have no more confidence than he or the noble Lord, Lord Judd, have in the goodwill of my successors in other governments on this issue. We certainly do not want to leave open the possibility that a future government could undo our achievements in securing a clear commitment to sustainable development and all the other issues covered in the EU code in the UK arms export control regime. However, we are confident that we have not left open such a possibility. Amendment No. 24 is not necessary to prevent such a possibility arising in the future.
Before explaining the reasons why the revised wording suggested by the noble Lord is not necessary, let me first explain why we have worded Clause 7(4) as we have and why it needs to be retained in the Bill.
The Government do not deny that there is a difference in effect between the revised wording proposed by the noble Lord for Clause 7(4) and that which the Government moved in Committee. The requirement that guidance published under Clause 7 must include guidance,
As I said in Committee, the Government need to be able to take common-sense decisions and to reach a judgment when taking export licensing decisions that particular considerations are simply not relevant in certain cases and situations. However, the amendment would require this and future governments to consider sustainable development and every issue covered by the Schedule table whenever they exercised licensing powers under the Bill.
A worrying consequence of that would be to compromise significantly the Government's capacity to comply with future international obligations and commitments relating to export control. I stress that in pursuing these it is not necessarily for the UK to decide to which factors regard must be had in the taking of export licensing decisions. That depends on the exact terms of the obligation or commitment. However, Amendment No. 24 would oblige the Government to have regard to sustainable development and all the Schedule issues in all cases.
The amendment would also fetter more generally the Government's ability to take common-sense decisions that, in certain cases, consideration of sustainable development and issues in the Schedule table are not relevant. For example, a proposed export of a single military vehicle to a developed country such as the United States would clearly not raise sustainable development issues. Nor would sustainable development, and several of the issues in the Schedule table, be relevant in the consideration of most applications for a licence to export objects of cultural interest.
However, the Government would not be able to say, "We will not take account of sustainable issues in these cases" and give guidance on it, because the legislation would require them to say that they would take account of sustainable development and those issues. That is why the reference to "consideration (if any)" in Clause 7(4) is needed. It allows the Government to retain the capacity
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