the Government’s announcement of a strategic review of UK
export licensing announced by the then Foreign Secretary,
Robin Cook, in the House of Commons on 27 July 1997.
Britain is one of the largest arms
exporters in the world. That leading position obliges us to
take seriously the reputation of the arms trade. Success and
responsibility go hand in hand.
I am announcing the new criteria which the Government will
apply to all licences for arms exports. They are universal
criteria. They are not aimed at any one country in particular,
but they will apply even-handedly to all countries.
new criteria put into effect our manifesto commitment that
'Labour will not permit the sale of arms to regimes that
might use them for internal repression or international
new criteria will stop the export of equipment 'which has
obvious application for internal repression, in cases where
the recipient country has a significant continuing record
of such repression'.
a separate parliamentary answer I am fulfilling another
manifesto commitment to halt the export of equipment used
for torture. The Government will now prevent the export
under any circumstances of electric-shock batons, stun guns,
leg-irons or similar instruments of inhuman or degrading
Scott Report on the supply of arms equipment to Iraq revealed
the dangers of such decisions being taken in secret. In
order that parliament and public can observe that the new
policy is being enforced, I am today committing the Government
to an annual report on the application of arms exports.
An informed public debate is the best guarantee of responsible
regulation of the arms trade.
criteria will apply to all arms exports decisions taken
by the present Government, including those on applications
for a licence held over since 1st May, pending today's announcement.
is not practical to backdate these new criteria, to apply
to decisions on licences already taken by the previous administration.
In my policy statement before the general election I set
out eight steps towards a responsible arms trade. Today's
announcement means that we have already taken four of those
steps. The remaining policy commitments relate to international
measures such as the introduction of a European Code of
Conduct and strengthening of the UN Conventional Arms Register.
We will now press for such international action, in order
that the measures we have taken, to stop repression or aggression,
are not undermined by other countries acting less responsibly.
We have revised the criteria to halt exports which might
be used for internal repression or external aggression.
b) We have stopped the export of equipment used for torture.
We have increased the transparency of the arms trade through
the introduction of annual reporting.
We have banned the production or export of anti-personnel
Government are committed to the maintenance of a strong
defence industry which is a strategic part of our industrial
base as well as of our defence effort. Defence exports can
also contribute to international stability by strengthening
bilateral and collective defence relationships in accordance
with the right of self-defence recognised by the UN charter,
but arms transfers must be managed responsibly, in particular
so as to avoid their use for internal repression and international
will be important to avoid a situation in which our policy
of seeking to prevent certain regimes from acquiring certain
equipment is undermined by foreign competitors supplying
them. We will therefore work for the introduction of a European
code of conduct, setting high common standards to govern
arms exports from all EU member states.
to export strategic goods are issued by the President of
the Board of Trade and the Export Control Organisation of
the Department of Trade and Industry is the licensing authority.
All relevant individual licence applications are circulated
by the DTI to other Government Departments with an interest,
as determined by it in line with its policy responsibilities.
These include the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry
of Defence and the Department for International Development.
present Government were not responsible for the decisions
on export licences made by the previous Administration.
We do not, however, consider that it would be realistic
or practical to revoke licences that were valid and in force
at the time of our election.
criteria set out below will be used when considering all
future individual applications for licences to export goods
entered in part III of schedule 1 to the Export of Goods
(Control) Order 1994 and existing licence applications on
which a decision has not yet been made. The criteria will
also be applied when considering advance approvals for promotion
prior to formal application for an export licence and licence
applications for the export of dual-use goods when there
are grounds for believing that the end user of such goods
will be the armed forces or the internal security forces
of the recipient country.
criteria will constitute broad guidance. They will not be
applied mechanistically and judgment will always be required.
Individual applications will be considered case by case.
used in considering conventional arms export licence applications
An export licence will not be issued if the arguments for
doing so are outweighed by the need to comply with the UK's
international obligations and commitments, or by concern
that the goods might be used for internal repression or
international aggression, or by the risks to regional stability,
or other considerations as described in these criteria.
United Kingdom's international obligations
An export licence should be refused if approval would be
the UK's international obligations and commitments to
enforce United Nations Organisation for Security and Co-operation
in Europe and European Union arms embargoes, together
with any national embargoes or other commitments regarding
the application of strategic export controls;
the UK's international obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation
treaty, the biological weapons convention and the chemical
the UK's commitments to the international export control
regimes--the Australia group, the missile technology control
regime, the nuclear suppliers group and the Wassenaar
the EU common criteria for arms exports, the guidelines
for conventional arms transfers agreed by the permanent
five members of the UN Security Council, and the OSCE
principles governing conventional arms transfers;
the UK's commitment not to export all forms of anti-personnel
land mines and their components.
United Kingdom's national interests
Full weight should be given to the UK's national interests
when considering applications for licences, including:
the potential effect on the UK's defence and security
interests and those of allies and EU partners;
the potential effect on the UK's economic, financial and
commercial interests, including our long-term interests
in having stable, democratic trading partners;
the potential effect on the UK's relations with the recipient
the potential effect on any collaborative defence production
or procurement project with allies or EU partners;
the protection of the UK's essential strategic industrial
rights and internal repression
will take into account respect for human rights and fundamental
freedoms in the recipient country;
will not issue an export licence if there is a clearly
identifiable risk that the proposed export might be used
for internal repression.
For these purposes equipment which might be used for internal
repression will include:
Equipment where there is clear evidence of the recent
use of similar equipment for internal repression by the
proposed end user, or where there is reason to believe
that the equipment will be diverted from its stated end
use or end user and used for internal repression;
Equipment which has obvious application for internal repression,
in cases where the recipient country has a significant
and continuing record of such repression, unless the end
use of the equipment is judged to be legitimate, such
as protection of members of security forces from violence.
The nature of the equipment proposed for export will also
be carefully considered. Certain goods have more obvious
potential for use in internal repression that others, such
as armoured personnel carriers specifically designed for
internal security. In other cases, there may be prima
facie reasons for believing that particular equipment
might be used in such roles in certain circumstances. Any
proposed export which is to be used by the recipient country
for internal security purposes should be considered particularly
Internal repression includes extra judicial killings, arbitrary
arrest, torture, suppression or major violation of human
rights and fundamental freedoms. In some cases, the use
of force by a Government within its own borders does not
constitute internal repression. The use of such force by
Governments is legitimate in some cases, for example to
preserve law and order against terrorists or other criminals.
However, force may be used only in accordance with international
human rights standards.
The Government will not issue an export licence if there
is a clearly identifiable risk that the intended recipient
would use the proposed export aggressively against another
country, or to assert by force a territorial claim. However,
a purely theoretical possibility that the items concerned
might be used in the future against another state will not
of itself lead to a licence being refused.
When considering the risk that the country for which arms
are destined might use them for international aggression,
the Government will take into account:
the existence or likelihood of armed conflict between
the recipient and another country;
a claim against the territory of a neighbouring country
which the recipient has in the past tried or threatened
to pursue by means of force;
whether the equipment would be likely to be used other
than for the legitimate national security and defence
of the recipient.
The need not to affect adversely regional stability in any
significant way will also be considered. The balance of
forces between neighbouring states, their relative expenditure
on defence, and the need not to introduce into the region
new capabilities which would be likely to lead to increased
tension, will all be taken into account.
In assessing the impact of the proposed export on the importing
country and the risk that exported goods might be diverted
to an undesirable end user, the following will be considered:
the legitimate defence and domestic security interests
of the recipient country, including any involvement in
UN or other peacekeeping activity;
the technical capability of the recipient country to use
whether the purchase would seriously undermine the economy
of the recipient country, taking into account its public
finances, balance of payments, external debt, economic
and social development and any International Monetary
Fund/World Bank-sponsored economic reform programme;
the risk of the arms being re-exported or diverted to
an undesirable end user, including terrorist organisations--anti-terrorist
equipment would need particularly careful consideration
in this context.
The following factors will also be taken into account:
the risk of use of the goods concerned against UK forces;
the need to protect UK military classified information
the potential for the equipment to be a force multiplier
in the region;
the risk of reverse engineering or technology transfer.
In the application of all the above criteria, account should
also be taken of, for example, reporting from diplomatic
posts, relevant reports by international bodies, intelligence,
and information from open sources and non-governmental organisations.
To ensure full transparency and
accountability to Parliament, the Government will report
annually on the state of strategic export controls and their
application, thereby providing for parliamentary
consideration of the application of the criteria. The
Government will also inform Parliament of any changes to the