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The Deputy Speaker (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, I should point out that if the amendment is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 27.

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Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, the amendment would have the effect that any changes to guidance relating to the general principles to be followed when exercising licensing powers would be subject to parliamentary approval.

As the House will know, Clause 7(8) states that the consolidated criteria represent guidance which fulfils the duty laid upon the Secretary of State in Clause 7(3) to give guidance about the general principles to be followed when exercising licensing powers.

As I have explained on previous occasions in the House, the consolidated criteria derive to a very great extent from the European Union code of conduct on arms exports, which is an international agreement. It would not be right for governmental commitments entered into following negotiations with our international partners to be overturned by Parliament and indeed were Parliament to have a capacity to do this, it would make it virtually impossible for the Government ever to negotiate such international agreements.

I realise that the amendment has been tabled out of a desire to ensure that no future government could weaken the guidance on which export licensing decisions are based without the approval of Parliament. However, I would remind noble Lords that Clause 7 places a statutory obligation on government to include within guidance guidance relating to sustainable development and the matters listed in the table of consequences in the schedule to the Bill.

This obligation is in fact stronger in relation to sustainable development than the previous situation under the Bill. In earlier versions of the Bill, it would in theory have been possible for a future government to alter the schedule by secondary legislation and thus, for example, give no further attention to sustainable development.

Clause 7 now requires the Secretary of State to give guidance and it also requires that guidance to address sustainable development and the schedule table issues. As noble Lords may observe, there is no provision in the Bill for Clause 7 to be amended short of by primary legislation. Thus there are already limits on the extent to which the Government are free to alter the guidance on the general principles they follow when exercising licensing powers.

The proposed amendment also seeks to ensure that any guidance under Clause 7 is laid before Parliament and published within 28 days. Yet, as I explained in Committee, the Government would be subject to legal challenge if they were to make a licensing decision on the basis of unpublished guidance. Hence the Government are unable to use any guidance before it is published, providing a powerful incentive for prompt publication of guidance relating to the exercise of their licensing powers.

As concerns other guidance relating to export licensing functions, this is typically published to exporters by way of the Export Control Organisation

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website. We would expect to do this simultaneously with laying the guidance before Parliament and see no need to make statutory provision for this.

For those reasons, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 27 and 28 not moved.]

Clause 8 [Annual reports]:

[Amendment No. 29 not moved.]

Lord Campbell-Savours moved Amendment No. 30:

    After Clause 8, insert the following new clause—

(1) There shall be a Committee, to be known as the Defence Exports Scrutiny Committee (in this section referred to as "the Committee") to examine United Kingdom defence export licence applications and the licensing process.
(2) The Committee shall consist of nine members—
(a) drawn both from the members of the House of Commons and from the members of the House of Lords; and
(b) none of whom shall be Ministers of the Crown.
(3) The members of the Committee shall be appointed by the Prime Minister after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition, within the meaning of the Ministerial and other Salaries Act 1975 (c. 27); and one of those members shall be so appointed as the chairman of the Committee.
(4) Schedule 2 to this Act shall have effect with respect to the tenure of office of members of, the procedure of and other matters relating to, the Committee; and in the Schedule "the Committee" has the same meaning as in this section.
(5) The Committee shall make an annual report on the discharge of their functions to the Prime Minister and may at any time report to him on any matter relating to the discharge of those functions.
(6) The Prime Minister shall lay before each House of Parliament a copy of each annual report made by the Committee under subsection (5) together with a statement as to whether any matter has been excluded from that copy in pursuance of subsection (7).
(7) If it appears to the Prime Minister, after consultation with the Committee, that it is evident that the publication of any matter was exempt under the Code of Practice to Government Information, the Prime Minister may exclude that matter from the copy of the report as laid before each House of Parliament."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment is one of three dealing with aspects of prior scrutiny. It provides for the establishment of a defence exports committee which would be subject to the arrangements set out in Amendment No. 41, which would in turn introduce a new Schedule 2 to the Bill.

I do not intend again to set out the case for prior scrutiny by a defence exports scrutiny committee. The case was fully debated at cols. 860-874 of the Official Report of 7th February 2002. However, I shall take the opportunity to update the House and those outside campaigning on this issue on developments over recent weeks.

The amendment was originally moved on 7th February. At that stage the Minister undertook to consider the proposal, based on the ISC model. Since

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then, extensive lobbying of Ministers has taken place. An Early Day Motion was introduced in the other place which read:

    "This House believes that specified defence export licence applications should be subject to prior scrutiny by a committee comprising Honourable Members of Parliament".

To date the Motion has been signed by 217 Members of Parliament—that number will increase substantially over the next couple of weeks—20 of whom are former Labour Ministers of the Crown and five of whom are current chairmen of Select Committees.

Extensive work has been carried out by lobbies outside Parliament, in particular Saferworld, which supports the amendment, despite correspondence suggesting the contrary which I understand has been circulating in some departments.

A meeting was convened with the Trade Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, who promised to consider the amendment. Discussions took place with Clare Short, who promised to consider it. A meeting was arranged with the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw; he promised to consider it. A meeting of the Quadripartite Committee was convened. Jack Straw gave evidence to that committee. He referred specifically to this amendment and said that it was being seriously considered by the Government. A further meeting was convened with the Overseas Development Secretary, Clare Short, who undertook again seriously to consider it.

Over the weeks, a number of discussions held with some members of the Quadripartite Committee have taken place on the substance of the amendment. I then met the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott of Foscote. With his permission, I shall quote from a letter that he wrote to me on this amendment. He stated:

    "I think the constitutional objections that in the course of the second reading debate I voiced about prior scrutiny (quoted by Lord Sainsbury: see Hansard p. 872) have little, if any, application to the proposed function of your Defence Exports Scrutiny Committee.

    The committee would not, as I read the proposal, represent Parliament. It would be appointed by the Prime Minister and would report to him, not to Parliament—at least not directly. Its function would be akin to that of a Special Adviser."

He went on to state:

    "Subject to that, I cannot see any constitutional objection to the Prime Minister appointing a number of Parliamentarians to act as Special Advisers to the executive on export licensing decisions—which, in effect, is what your proposal comes to".

There were then further discussions with the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, and again he undertook to consider further the substance of the proposed amendment to the law.

Ann Clwyd, a colleague of mine in the other place, had a meeting with officials in Downing Street, and I also followed that up with a further meeting with a Downing Street official to arrange for a briefing of the Prime Minister specifically on this amendment. I understand that he has been briefed.

I met the Defence Manufacturers Association and I understand that while some of its members have expressed concern about the Quadripartite Select

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Committee's original proposals, others support the DESC compromise proposals. We are also trying once again to meet Patricia Hewitt, the Trade and Industry Secretary, over the next week. Indeed, I hope to meet my noble friend the Minister at the Dispatch Box today to discuss the matter.

I believe that there is strong support throughout the system for this proposal. It is based on a compromise, but it is a compromise that will work. I say that it will work on the basis of my own experience on the Intelligence and Security Committee. We have not been given any guarantees by the Government, nor do we expect them at this stage. The Government are clearly listening and consulting, and that is all I ask for at this stage.

The debate goes on and I hope that by Third Reading we will have a positive response. I do not expect a substantive response on the amendment today, but it will be interesting to hear what my noble friend has to say. I beg to move.

10 p.m.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 30 and 41 because they cover substantially the same ground.

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