Scrutiny of Arms Export Controls (2010): UK Strategic Export Controls Annual Report 2008, Quarterly Reports for 2009, Licensing Policy and Review of Export Control Legislation
Source: House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee
Ref: HC 202
Published March 30, 2010
131 pages in PDF format

Since 1999 the Business, Innovation and Skills,1 Defence, Foreign Affairs and International Development Committees have worked together to examine the Government’s strategic export control system and policies. This arrangement, which is known as the “Committees on Arms Export Controls”, enables the House of Commons to conduct ongoing scrutiny of a complex and controversial area of government policy.

This is the fifth, and last, Report this Parliament. As in previous years, the committees reviewed the policy, enforcement and the annual and quarterly reports on strategic export controls published since the previous Report. Even though it is only seven months since the last Report in July 2009, it provides an update with significant developments on issues that were examined in detail over previous years.

As well as the process of taking oral and written evidence on policy and the operation of strategic controls legislation, the committees have continued to scrutinise issues raised by particular licences; for example, they assessed whether there has been any inconsistency in the issuing and refusal of licences to a particular country and whether other licence approvals or refusals for which the rationale is not obvious have been determined in accordance with the consolidated EU and National arms export licensing criteria. This process is detailed and, necessarily, confidential. The report draws on the information received to make points on policy issues, and will keep certain cases under review.

The main focus this Parliament has been on the Government’s post-legislative scrutiny of the orders and regulations made under the Export Control Act 2002. As reported in the last four reports, the Government launched a public consultation document, 2007 Review of Export Control Legislation, and invited responses on the impact and effectiveness of the controls and on a number of options for change. The outcome of the 2007 Review of Export Controls consisted of three tranches of legislation: Export Control (Security and Para-military Goods) Order 2008; Trade in Goods (Categories of Controlled Goods) Order 2008; and Export Control Order 2008.

This Parliament also examined in detail the question of bribery and corruption in arms exports, on which predecessor Committees first reported in the previous Parliament. Increasingly in this Parliament attention has turned to the negotiations for an international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The committees have consistently commended the Government for its efforts in supporting the work towards an ATT and examine the latest developments on the ATT in Part Six of this Report.

In the course of the preparation of this Report, two evidence sessions were held: firstly, with the UK Working Group on Arms and the Export Group on Aerospace and Defence; and, secondly, with the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and officials.
Written evidence was also received from the Campaign against Arms Trade, and various submissions from Government. Continuing the practice adopted in previous years, the committees have also made available on the internet the written evidence received by February 2010, to assist those with an interest in the inquiry.

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