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Committees publish joint report on Government's arms export controls policy

18 July 2018

A new report by Parliament's Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC) comments on a variety of issues – including the regulation of arms-dealers; the quality of information in the public domain; concerns regarding auditing and end-user monitoring; concerns about the role of brokers / agents / advisors; concerns about enforcement and the capacity to enforce; and tackling alleged corruption in the arms trade. These issues were looked at in the context of the Committees' review of the Government's most recent annual reports on strategic export controls.

Chair's comments

The Committees' Chair, Graham Jones MP, said:

"During our inquiry we heard from the defence industry, academic experts, campaign groups and the Government itself. The Committees have together agreed a report that looks in depth at this very sensitive area and makes a series of detailed, constructive suggestions to improve policy and procedures.  Although the UK has one of the toughest arms-control systems anywhere in the world, this in-depth analysis has highlighted some of the gaps in those controls. I am delighted that there was a consensual view across the Committees on what is a very thorough report. There are, however, outstanding questions and the Committees intend to look into these further in the future."

Committees on Arms Export Controls

CAEC consists of four House of Commons Committees meeting together to scrutinise the Government's controls on exporting, and dealing in, both weapons and items with a potential military use. These Committees are the Defence, Foreign Affairs, International Development and International Trade Committees.

In their report, the Committees:

  • draw attention to the potentially significant impact of Brexit on UK arms export controls, and ask the Government to show that it is planning for the legal and other consequences of the UK ceasing to be part of EU arrangements in this area;
  • recommend the Government consider tightening the regulation of arms-dealers;
  • ask the Government to provide information about situations where licensing decisions are made by Ministers, rather than by officials;
  • recommend that the Government consider introducing a presumption that certain licences will be denied for exports to countries that have not signed the Arms Trade Treaty or are on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's list of Human Rights Priority Countries;
  • are critical of the Government for presenting data in formats that are very difficult to use – and say that the Government has misrepresented data in relation to prosecutions over export-control offences;
  • ask the Government to review the resources given to HM Revenue & Customs for the enforcement of export controls;
  • express dissatisfaction at the Government's admission that it carries out no auditing of overseas operations by UK companies in connection with licences, recommending that the compliance-audit regime be extended accordingly; and
  • recommend that the Government consider whether to start monitoring where arms exports finally end up.

In addition, the Committees heard evidence linking middle-men in the arms industry to alleged corruption and diversion of arms to destinations for which they've not been licensed. The Committees noted they couldn't judge the truth of these allegations, but took them very seriously, asking the Government to consider adjusting the criteria used to assess licence applications to incorporate a criterion specially relating to corruption.

Further information

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