Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Judd: My Lords, I hope that my noble friend will take seriously what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Joffe. Few members of this House can speak with more authority on the issue. I know personally of the many dedicated and tireless years that he gave as chair of Oxfam, constantly aware of the human consequences of the issues that we are discussing.

The noble Lord put the case so well and argued it so intelligently that I cannot better him, but I should like to try to support him on one or two points. The first is the statistics that he gave towards the end of his remarks. It is important to remember that 92 per cent of the major world conflicts in the past 10 years have been internal affairs fought with small arms and other light weapons. Half of the casualties have been civilian—most of those women and children. Since 1990, during such conflicts 2 million children have been killed, 5 million have been disabled and 12 million left homeless. Small arms have helped to create more than 300,000 child soldiers. The devastation continues today. Those are the human realities to be pitted against the administrative and legal niceties that we were discussing until the noble Lord intervened.

The Government argue that extra-territorial controls on arms brokering are not legitimate because a reasonable United Kingdom person abroad could not reasonably be expected to know that he needed a licence to broker small arms. Like others, I simply cannot accept that. The high profile of small arms on the international agenda means that all arms brokers could be reasonably expected to know that they are involved in a highly sensitive trade in which new controls and agreements are continually being introduced.

Last year, there was a UN conference on illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects and a legally binding UN firearms protocol was agreed. It is surely the responsibility of arms brokers to keep up with their obligations under new laws and regulations, not the responsibility of law-makers to slow down until the arms brokers are ready. As the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, argued, the Government have helped to create an international consensus on the need to

18 Apr 2002 : Column 1144

control the trade in small arms, including small arms brokers. Failing to introduce extra-territorial controls on UK citizens involved in the trade would run counter to that whole endeavour.

Finally, we in this House have a way of rarefying the argument from its human reality by talking in the abstract. The people involved in that brokering are cruel, sinister, calculating, greedy, wicked people, as the result of whom we are faced with the figures cited by the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, which I have tried to underline. We need to take tough action and not allow people to think that because they can go off to some country that is not playing the game, they can go on making their money as merchants of death.

7.30 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, the noble Lord, Joffe, explained his amendment extremely well and I cannot add to or improve on what he said in any way. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, also added to his argument. I simply say that I agree with the amendment. I tabled a similar amendment in Committee—Amendment No. 63—but I did not move it.

I support the noble Lord's amendment but, as I told him, it should go further because it does not cover a person who is not a United Kingdom national but is ordinarily resident here. I hope that the Government will accept the amendment and we may then improve the provision in that way.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, perhaps I may make one general point, because it is critical. There has been much talk about the wicked, greedy arms brokers and so on. It should be realised that the amendment applies also to a UK citizen who may be working for an Australian company that is selling rifles to America. We are not dealing with a class of arms brokers whose sole role is trading in arms across the world.

The noble Lord, Lord Joffe, suggested that one can just hop on a Eurostar to evade controls. Obviously—this is not a facetious point—France, Germany, Belgium and Holland all either have or are in the process of introducing legislation to control arms brokers. I say that to underline that the way to control such activities is through international co-operation.

The amendment would impose an immediate and complete statutory ban on the trafficking and brokering of certain long-range missiles and two classes of paramilitary equipment—briefly, leg irons and electric shock weapons—and add small arms and light weapons to those categories of goods for which trafficking and brokering controls will apply extra-territorially. It would enshrine in primary legislation some aspects of the operation of trafficking and brokering controls which we propose to include in secondary legislation, but it also goes further than the Government have announced that we intend to go.

As I have already explained when discussing Amendments Nos. 13 and 14, the Bill is designed to provide the Government with flexibility to alter

18 Apr 2002 : Column 1145

controls introduced under it as necessary to respond to changing circumstances, including action within the EU, subject to scrutiny of those changes by Parliament. Enshrining details of the trade controls in primary legislation would prevent that and introduce an undesirable degree of rigidity.

In particular, the amendment would introduce a statutory ban on trafficking and brokering in long-range missiles and certain paramilitary equipment. We have made clear that those controls are intended to enable the Government to prevent the supply of equipment whose export from the UK we would prohibit. However, there are certain limited circumstances in which goods within those categories are legitimately exported from the UK. For example, long-range missiles or their component parts may occasionally be exported to our NATO allies, and such exports are fully in accordance with our obligations under the missile technology control regime.

The amendment would prevent the Government from considering any applications to trade in such goods. Moreover, the European Community is currently considering introducing its own controls on exports and trade in torture equipment. To enshrine national controls on these items in primary legislation could lead us into conflict with any future European Community legislation.

The amendment would require trade in small arms, ammunition and light weapons to be controlled whether carried out in the UK or by UK persons overseas. Noble Lords will be aware that the Government consulted last spring on the extent of extra-territoriality for the proposed trafficking and brokering controls and, as I mentioned, decided in the light of that consultation that controls on trafficking and brokering of torture equipment, long-range missiles and of arms to embargoed destinations—where the aim is to prohibit the supply of equipment whose export from the UK we have in effect banned—should apply extra-territorially, while other controls would apply to activities taking place in the UK.

Those conclusions were announced in October and reflected in the dummy draft orders. I have already explained the basis for that decision, namely the difficulties of criminalising the activities of UK citizens settled abroad who may be engaged in perfectly legitimate trade in their countries of residence. I must also say that it would be difficult to justify drawing a distinction between small arms and light weapons on the one hand, and other weapons on the other.

Nevertheless, as I explained, the Bill would not preclude the introduction of controls along the lines of those proposed in the amendment. It would permit the Government to introduce extra-territorial controls on trafficking and brokering in small arms and light weapons should we consider that appropriate in the light of significant new developments—such as, for example, reaching international agreement to apply trade controls extra-territorially or to ban certain exports.

18 Apr 2002 : Column 1146

I turn briefly to the Home Office criteria. It was argued that they would justify extra-territorial jurisdiction in this case. It was argued that the Home Office criteria would justify extra-territorial jurisdiction in that case.

In fact, the Home Office guidelines state that extension of jurisdiction overseas may be considered when certain factors are met. It also makes it clear that meeting those factors is not in itself sufficient to justify extra-territorial jurisdiction but that practical enforcement issues would also be relevant. It has been the policy of successive British Governments to resist strong attempts by other states to impose extra-territorial controls on our territory. We maintain the view that it would not be right to take extra-territorial jurisdiction over activities such as trade in military equipment, including arms, the majority of which will constitute perfectly legitimate transactions.

The Government share the concern of the noble Lords who tabled the amendments about the need to tackle the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. The new controls that we propose would contribute to that end. We have been working with other Governments to achieve international agreement on universal adoption of such controls. We are working to achieve international agreement to take action to regulate the activities of those engaged in brokering, in accordance with the United Nations programme of action on small arms and light weapons, agreed last July. The recently agreed EU common position on the introduction of trafficking and brokering controls by all member states will encourage the introduction of similar controls throughout the EU. The trafficking and brokering controls that we propose are fully consistent with the UN programme of action and the recent agreement in the EU.

The noble Lord, Lord Joffe, ended by saying that the amendment would send a clear moral message. Saying that we will do something and then being unable to deliver on it does not send the right kind of moral message. The moral message that we want to send is that, when we say clearly that we will do something, we will deliver on it. I urge the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page