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CAEC Chairs write to Leader of the House and publish Government response

12 January 2023

The Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC) writes to the Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt and publishes the Government’s response to their report “Developments in UK Strategic Export Controls”.

The letter calls for CAEC to be treated as a stand-alone Select Committee, stating that this would boost effective scrutiny of Government licencing and control of arms exports. The Chairs state that input from relevant committees can still be retained through use of the guesting provisions now available to committees, whilst lessening the restrictive quorum requirements of the current structure.

CAEC’s membership currently consists of four House of Commons Select Committees meeting concurrently: the Defence Committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee, the International Development Committee and the International Trade Committee.

Today CAEC also publishes the Government Response to their recent report on Developments in UK Strategic Export Controls, published in October. The response addresses CAEC’s recommendations calling for increased transparency, particularly when it comes to non-compliance with controls and the level of prosecutions and convictions. The Government also responds to CAEC’s concerns around evidence of insufficient resources in the Export Control Joint Unit, and whether the government’s list of human rights priority countries is appropriately considered when making licensing decisions and exercising export controls.

Chair's comments

Chair of the Committees on Arms Export Controls, Mark Garnier MP, said:

“Arms export controls are critical to our safety and security and as a policy area deserves dedicated and thorough scrutiny.

“While the Committees on Arms Export Controls have undertaken some important work this parliamentary term, the Committees’ unusually stringent rules and governance structures are often a hindrance. In particular, the rigid rules around quorum form a huge barrier.

“In the correspondence published today we suggest a new approach that would streamline processes and enable more effective scrutiny of Government licencing and control of arms exports.

“Many of the key recommendations in the Committees on Arms Export Controls’ report are aimed at improving transparency and parliament’s ability to scrutinise this policy area. While some of the responses to these recommendations were positive, there is room for improvement. It is disappointing that the Government and HMRC have refused to provide confidential information to the Committees on large compound settlements or details on companies found to be non-compliant.

“It is also deeply disappointing that no Secretary of State has committed to appear before the Committees to examine this policy area. There are many areas of policy that straddle multiple departments, yet are still effectively scrutinised by parliamentary select committees. Arms export controls is no exception to this and departments must be willing to send their Secretaries of State.

“However, we are pleased to see that other recommendations have been taken onboard. The commitment to work with international partners to support human rights accountability in Yemen, and to consider including Israel as a case study in the next annual report, are positive developments.

Further information

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