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Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, I was advised that we may have some procedural difficulty with that. I was intending to move Amendment No. 31 separately, so my noble friend may wish to be very brief in replying to the first amendment.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, perhaps I may reply generally and we can take matters from there.

Before turning to more detailed points, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, for the care that he has taken with his proposal and his amendments. I am also grateful to him for the trouble that he has taken to discuss his proposal with a wide range of bodies and to take their concerns on board.

In particular, I noted when the noble Lord tabled these new amendments, as he has just explained, that he has taken particular care to address industry concerns in relation to commercial confidentiality by introducing a reference to the code of practice to government information. I also noted that he has taken steps to consider the possibility of delay during the Recess and the care he has taken to consider sensitive information in all its forms. The Government recognise that the noble Lord has made very great efforts to provide a compromise and an innovative way forward, and I pay tribute to his efforts in this area.

I also express my personal gratitude to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott, for making me aware of his views on this proposal. I noted with great interest his view that the constitutional objections to prior scrutiny he had voiced in Committee had "little, if any, application" in this case as the Committee would not represent Parliament or, "at least not directly", report to it. As many noble Lords will remember, when we

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last discussed this important issue I felt that the constitutional issues raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott, were a major concern, so I was very interested to see that he has said that he,

    "cannot see any constitutional objections to the Prime Minister appointing a number of Parliamentarians to act as Special Advisers to the executive".

However, I should like to draw the attention of the House to another point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott. In his letter commenting on the proposal now before the House, he added that he thought,

    "one of the most important functions of a Select Committee is that of holding the Government to account for its ... executive acts or omissions, so I think there would be some conflict of interest if a member of your"—

he means the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours—

    "committee were also a member of, say, the Trade and Industry Committee or Quadripartite Select Committee".

This comment touches on a concern that we had had about the proposal. Were a defence exports scrutiny committee to be established, we have some concerns about how it might inter-relate with the Quadripartite Committee in another place. The defence exports scrutiny committee would almost certainly need, and might well seek to take on, major parts of what is now the role of the Quadripartite Committee. For example, the defence exports scrutiny committee would almost certainly need to undertake a degree of retrospective scrutiny of both individual cases and strategic export licensing policy, if only to investigate and discuss why their advice was, or indeed was not, being followed by the Government. At its extreme, this could even be seen to cast doubt on the exact nature of the continuing role of the Quadripartite Committee. Moreover, in merely practical terms, it would also present difficulties were the Government to be required to account for their actions to two different committees.

That brings me to a related concern that we have had about this committee. One of its key features—the fact that it would meet in secret—also poses a potential problem. As the House will know, the Government have, wherever possible, sought to bring greater democratic involvement and accountability to the export licensing process and have tried to bring about greater transparency wherever possible.

One of the key achievements of the Bill will be to increase transparency and accountability. Given the potential for overlap between this committee and the Quadripartite Committee, we remain concerned in particular about the potential impact such a new committee might have on current levels of transparency and accountability.

These are only some of our concerns. The noble Lord may say that these and other concerns could be addressed. But these are issues that need careful thought. That brings me to my conclusion. We have given the noble Lord's proposal careful consideration and this has served to demonstrate both some possible attractions and some significant problems. I would add that it has shown that the issues, both of principle and of detail, are not straightforward.

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For that reason, I ask the noble Lord whether he is willing to withdraw his Amendment No. 30 and not to move Amendment No. 31. In asking that of him, I stress that we have taken legal advice and we are clear that the Government, were they to decide to take this approach, would be able to set up a defence exports scrutiny committee in all its essentials, without a requirement for new legislation.

However, we feel that it is essential to get to the bottom of the important issues that I have raised and indeed some other serious concerns, including legal concerns and points of detail—such as the nature of the supplementary information that the committee might request. That will take time and, given the vital issues covered by the Bill, the Government would be reluctant to see it delayed still further. It is vital that we can start the process of consultation on the secondary legislation and thereafter implementation as soon as possible so that we can be assured that the UK has the export controls that it needs in these uncertain times.

However, I should like to assure the noble Lord that the Government intend to continue their examination of his proposals and their consideration of how best to achieve greater accountability and transparency in the export licensing process. I would add that I hope to meet with him soon to discuss his proposals further.

Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his response. I agree with the reservation expressed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott of Foscote, and the caveat that he entered. In moving the next amendment, perhaps I may deal more substantially with the issue that my noble friend raised in his reply. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Campbell-Savours moved Amendment No. 31:

    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 licencing 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) The Prime Minister may by order make provisions as to the tenure of office, members of, the procedure of and other matters relating to, the Committee.
(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.

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(6) The Prime Minister shall lay before each House of Parliament a copy of each 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 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 the matter from the copy of the report as laid before each House of Parliament."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is the amendment that I should like the Government to accept at Third Reading. It may be termed an enabling amendment. The distinction between it and Amendment No. 30 is to be found in subsection (4), where the reference to Schedule 2 in Amendment No. 30 has been deleted and replaced by a power to introduce secondary legislation by order.

The amendment would enable the Government to establish a committee and leave the detail on tenure of office by committee members, committee procedures, access to information, definitions of sensitive information, staging of notification of licence applications, measures for the avoidance of delay and conflict of interest rules to secondary legislation, following up detailed consultation with lobbies and with the defence industry. Again, I do not expect to receive a substantive response today; I leave that for Third Reading. As this is an enabling amendment, however, I hope that the Government themselves will table an amendment that will bring my Amendment No. 31 into proper order.

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