Friday, April 30, 2004

Visible arms distribution?

Found this in Hansard from two days ago:

"Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to his letter to the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South dated 14 April, which countries his Department considers to have a stricter and more transparent arms exporting system than the UK. [168596]

"Mr. MacShane: The United Kingdom has one of the strictest arms export licensing systems in the world. The Government are not aware of any countries which overall operate a stricter export control policy, other than the case of countries such as Japan, which do not export any military equipment at all. We know of no other country that publicly reports more information on arms exports than the United Kingdom."

Phew, that's alright then.

Or is it?

Last week the Defence Select Committee took evidence from Safer World, Oxfam and Amnesty. But apparently Britain's 'transparent' system doesn't make it any easier to establish whether or not it leads to arms proliferation around the world:

"Q75 Chairman: Thank you, and thank you for your written submissions. They are very helpful indeed. Could I start with what I understand to be one of your key concerns which is increased proliferation, especially small arms but also proliferation more widely. Could you give us any specific examples of concerns you have about British exports leading to proliferation?

"Mr Parker: As human rights and humanitarian organisations our primary concern is around the human cost of proliferation. We also work towards suggesting solutions for the causes of proliferation, and in terms of United Kingdom exports what we would point to is the increased use of open licensing and tying that with the transparency issue in that it is very difficult to get a grip on quite how much equipment is being exported from the United Kingdom under open licences. It is very difficult for us to give you examples of United Kingdom exports leading to proliferation when a glance at the annual report shows open licences to places such as Luxembourg ‑ 91 open licences ‑ for all manner of equipment and we have no idea quite how much is going under those open licences. There is also a vast naval licence covering a huge range of equipment ranging from submarine parts through to general purpose machine guns which appears to have been granted to somewhere in the region of 40 countries but, again, with no indication of the amount of equipment going out under these licences it is very difficult to come to an informed opinion on United Kingdom exports leading to proliferation."

I look forward to seeing the report when it comes out.

No comments: