Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40 - 59)



  40. Let me go back to this question of transparency. Would it not be reassuring to the public, not just in this country but elsewhere, if there was a recognition that the white list should be subject to parliamentary scrutiny and that the quadripartite committee system that we have established here, or some other parliamentary mechanism, should be informed? Otherwise, it could undermine the very welcome moves that we have seen in the last few years to greater openness about EU arms sales, parliamentary reporting, the annual report and so on, which have been brought in by the government in the last three years. Is there not a danger that in effect these measures could undermine that process?
  (Mr Pawson) In terms of the formal licensing process, we would envisage within the United Kingdom that the process would be the same. The terms of the licence issued would be as a result of consultation with other countries which may or may not happen now but there happens to be a mechanism in the framework for doing that. Therefore the questions of transparency and public access would be no worse than they are now, unchanged as a result of the Framework Agreement.

  41. Will these export destination lists and the Global Project Licences be recorded in our UK annual report on Strategic Export Controls?
  (Mr Pawson) To the extent that the UK is involved in the Global Project Licence, yes, because that licence will be reflected in the annual report.

  42. Only in respect of UK components of it or overall?

  (Mr Pawson) I think I would like to think about the detail of that[1].

  43. Perhaps you would write and clarify.
  (Mr Pawson) In general it would be the usual mechanism. If it was a small component and something was not readily identifiable we might be in a different situation from if it was a major project.

  44. You see where I am going to. We are working on the basis of countries working together and there is a common approach and yet the common information is not made available as a whole. What are we supposed to do, go to each country and put the pieces of the jigsaw together and find that each country has got different rules with regard to publicity and accountability on the parts, yet there is an EU Code of conduct but somehow the white list is not made public? I think we have a problem here. I think this potentially, in terms of public perception, could be a real problem and it may not be your intention but if it is not handled carefully it could become a result.
  (Mr Gould) I think we need to be a little bit careful in terms of talking of white lists and so forth. What is in the list here is that for a project which is being produced under the general arrangements of the Framework Treaty the six countries involved will consult on where they think the right export destinations ought to be. That will be as much a response to where the supplying companies think the market is as anything else. It is not really the creation of a comprehensive, you know, write down all the countries in the world and put them into various places on a different list, it is a slightly different approach. I take your point about the transparency of the process.

  45. Perhaps you would write to us and clarify it.
  (Mr Gould) I think when we have got to a point—

  46. I am requesting, and I have no doubt the Chairman will back me up, for the purposes of our report to the House we would like some more information on this.
  (Mr Gould) Fine.
  (Mr Pawson) I think I am right in saying that Mr Cook is due to appear before the Quadripartite Committee, of which this Committee is a member, on the 30th of this month. In the Government's responses one thing we said was we expressed a willingness to discuss a range of issues with the Committee. I see no reason why we cannot do that.

  47. I am sure we can ask Mr Cook but my questions are to you today. I would welcome a memo of some kind to our Committee as part of the work that we are doing.
  (Mr Pawson) Explaining how this is going to work.

  48. Exactly, and to clarify the points[2].

  (Mr Pawson) On the transparency, yes.

  49. Final point on this section. Let us suppose we are in a situation where a country is getting arms exports, there is no controversy and all the participants to this scheme are a part of it, and then one country decides, because of an event, an occurrence, it does not like this. We could quote Pakistan, we could quote Zimbabwe, we could any country. How easy would it be for the UK or any other country to stop the system and take the country off the list?
  (Mr Gould) It is dealt with in the Treaty in the default conditions, if you like. If there is no agreement to take a country off the list the default condition is that the country is taken off the list, the export is stopped. That is the way it works.

  50. Let us give an example. If, for example, we were collaborating on a project on, say, armoured personnel carriers and Pakistan is on the white list for that particular project and something happens, a military coup and the executing or threatening to execute the former Prime Minister—these are hypothetical things, they may well have happened, let us be hypothetical—could we subsequently stop exports to Pakistan of that vehicle which had been approved on the list?
  (Mr Gould) Yes.

  51. Nobody would say that we were in breach of contract?
  (Mr Gould) No, the Treaty foresees that eventuality.

  52. Our partners from other countries who may have been on the collaborative projects would not then say that we were in breach of the Treaty and it was damaging to their jobs?
  (Mr Gould) No. Well, they might say that it was damaging to their jobs but they could not say that we were in breach of the Treaty.

  Mr Gapes: Okay.


  53. I would like to ask a question on this export section. Mr Pawson, when we had a session with the new head of Defence Export Services, we asked for information on whether the MoD would publish its detailed assessment of the overall costs and benefits of defence exports for the UK. This was called for by ourselves in our report, on the appointment of the new Head of Defence Export Services. We were told this information would be available "later this year", i.e. 2000. Could you find out for us where that request is in the pipeline, please, and if it is nowhere in the pipeline if you could rapidly insert it?
  (Mr Pawson) It is very much in the pipeline, Chairman.

Laura Moffatt

  54. It is a long time.
  (Mr Pawson) It is a long time. If I may explain, it does seem a long time. We thought it best to put this in the hands of our economic adviser and to do it jointly with academics who have expertise in the field, therefore working together with academics to produce a report. It has taken rather longer than I would like to hope it would have taken if it had just been produced by the Ministry of Defence. I will certainly find out where it has got to.

  55. Academics are even slower than the Ministry of Defence.
  (Mr Pawson) I did not want to say so explicitly.

  Chairman: Fine. If we just say we are sitting here with baited breath. Thank you so much. Mr Gapes?

Mr Gapes

  56. Can I take you on to other issues related to research and development programmes. Will the collaborative research and development programmes which are facilitated by this Framework Agreement be any more successful than previous European initiatives in this area? If so, why?
  (Mr Gould) I have to say I hope so because it has not been very successful up to now, as you will have detected, no doubt. There are, as I am sure you are aware, at least two Memoranda of Understanding that I can recall contemporarily, and I am sure there are lots of others, about European research and technology. There is the EUROPA MoU from the Western European Armaments Group, which is still not signed by all the nations, and there is one being discussed this evening in France called the European Technology Acquisition Programme, again some difficulty there. The key about this Treaty is that it does two things, I think. One is in Article 29 it says that "we shall develop a common understanding of what technologies are needed". That really is the key to it. The key to this is getting co-operation in the right areas of technology and getting countries to agree. This creates an obligation to do that. It does not guarantee that it is done, it is part of working hard at it. The MoUs ETAP, EUROPA, provide a mechanism for doing that. The other thing which is genuinely novel in this Treaty is that it creates the conditions whereby information produced by those technology programmes, which is Government owned information, will find its way across all six nations into proposals which European companies wish to make. The point I am making there is that there is absolutely no point in defence terms in doing lots of research and technology unless you actually turn that into a defence product which can be deployed with armed forces. This Treaty actually makes it a lot easier to do that, it provides the legal framework which makes it easier to do that. As I said, it does not guarantee that is going to happen, that is a job for the six governments working together that we need to do.

  57. You are well aware, of course, in terms of technology we are dealing with a world in which there is one technologically dominant country.
  (Mr Gould) Yes.

  58. That technological dominance is reflected also in a number of collaborative United States/British, United States/European projects.
  (Mr Gould) Yes.

  59. How do we, as a Government/country, balance our obligations on this European collaboration on the one hand with our close relationships both politically, strategically and industrially with the United States?
  (Mr Gould) As Europe, even if we do all the right things that I have just described in terms of European R&T development, we cannot produce world class defence technology across the full range of capabilities that we require in Europe. That has been the case for some time now and it is going to go on being the case because there simply is not the investment taking place in Europe to allow that to happen. This means that we will have to continue to have access to technology developed and matured in the US through our procurement programmes. I do not see these things as mutually exclusive. There are some areas, and hopefully by good co-operation in Europe we can produce a few more, where actually we can produce world class technology but we will have to go on having co-operative armaments procurement programmes or, indeed, simply procuring directly from the US, from US companies or transatlantic transnational defence companies if we are going to fill the full range of defence capabilities we need.

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