Select Committee on Defence Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from the Campaign Against Arms Trade (30 November 2000)

  1.  The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) is delighted that the Defence Committee is holding this Inquiry and hopes that it will call as witnesses members of the Government and representatives from the military companies to elicit answers to the many questions raised by the Framework Agreement Concerning Measures to Facilitate the Restructuring and Operation of the European Defence Industry. Much of CAAT's submission is in the form of questions to which, at the time of writing, the answers had not yet been received from Government.

  2.  CAAT is opposed to all military exports, but recognises that, despite its negative effects on human rights, security and the economy, the arms trade will not end overnight. As an interim measure, therefore, CAAT is seeking an export licensing policy with an emphasis on restraint, especially on exports to governments which violate human rights or to countries in areas of conflict and regions of tension.

  3.  CAAT is also pressing for greater transparency with regards to the arms trade, believing it is essential that there is informed public and parliamentary debate on an issue which can have profound consequences for peace and justice in the world and for the economy of the UK.


  4.  The preparation of the Framework Agreement following the July 1998 Letter of Intent signed by the Defence Ministries of the France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and the UK seems to have been conducted virtually without publicity and certainly without parliamentary or public discussion.

  5.  The Annual Report on strategic Export Controls 1999, published on 21 July 2000, mentions that the Framework Agreement will be "signed shortly". Just a week later it was.

  6.  This secrecy contrasts with the welcome opportunities given by governments to make suggestions for, and comment on, changes to the Strategic Export Control regulations; a Defence Diversification Agency; and the Export Credits Guarantee Department. There is shortly to be a Green Paper on Mercenaries. The European Code of Conduct on Arms Exports was preceded by Ministerial speeches. In all these instances the Government proactively consulted with a range of interested parties including parliament, non-governmental organisations and military manufacturers.

  7.  The closed nature of the negotiations for the Framework Agreement alarms CAAT as it appears to be at odds with the UK government's commitment to greater transparency. CAAT would be interested to learn what consultation did take place and with whom, both within the UK and by the partner governments. In particular, CAAT wonders whether the military companies were consulted and what role, if any, they might have played in drafting the Framework Agreement.

  8.  As the Framework Agreement does not require domestic legislation, the Government has followed the customary ratification procedure, but this is itself less than transparent. The Framework Agreement was published and laid before Parliament on 1 November 2000, seemingly without publicity. After 21 sitting days the Secretary of State could have formally ratified it without any debate.

  9.  CAAT wonders whether there would have been any discussion about the Framework Agreement at all had CAAT and other non-governmental organisations not drawn it to the attention of your Committee and other parliamentarians. Did the Government keep your Committee informed whilst negotiations for the Framework Agreement were taking place?

  10.  CAAT believes that, in future, full consultation with all interested parties should take place before a government agrees a treaty.


  11.  The UK government supports "legitimate defence exports and a strong UK Defence Industry" (Annual Report on Strategic Export Controls 1999) believing that such an industry "is vitally important to our technological base, and to Britain's wider industrial health" (letter from Baroness Symons, 1.9.2000)

  12.  However, there is growing evidence that arms exports are not good for the UK economy and it might well be that reorienting resources and Government spending from military industry to civil goods and projects might well be beneficial to the country as a whole.

  13.  It may go beyond the scope of this Inquiry, but one question which, therefore, needs to be asked is what is the role of the military in the 21st Century. Who is the enemy? If the role of European armed forces is seen as intervention in support of human rights why is a treaty needed to enable the production of advanced fighter aircraft? CAAT feels that governments internationally may be being persuaded by military companies to adopt policies which will maintain their shareholder's profits, but which might have an adverse effect on peace and justice.


  14.  CAAT would be interested to understand the balance of motivation for the Framework Agreement between the perceived need for European military industry to collaborate to produce equipment for the participating countries, as against that to simplify the procedure for exports beyond Europe.


  15.  It is unclear to CAAT how a project becomes a "Co-operative Armament Programme" (CAP). Who makes the decision that it is one? Does the term cover every project which crosses national boundaries even when the facilities between which equipment is transferred belong to the same company?

  16.  Will any projects currently in existence retrospectively become CAPs?

  17.  Will a list of CAPs be made available to parliament and the public?

  18.  How will exports made under the Global Project Licences be recorded in the UK Annual Reports on Strategic Export Controls?


  19.  It is not immediately clear how the Framework Agreement interacts with the standard licensing procedure. For instance, in a letter to CAAT dated 6 November, Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain MP says that a Global Project Licence will stop companies "from having to make many separate licence applications to transfer the same product to the same permitted destinations". CAAT understood that Open Individual Export Licences did this and wonders how GPLs differ from OIELs.

  20.  What checks will be made to ensure that goods exported under GPLs are incorporated in the relevant Co-operative Armament Programme and not otherwise?


  21.  The Framework Agreement says that the permitted export destination lists will be based not only on the EU Code of Conduct but also on the need for the "preservation of a strong and competitive European defence industrial base". CAAT is concerned that the interests of military companies, particularly the larger ones with substantial lobbying resources, will prevail when decisions are made.

  22.  This disquiet is heightened by Peter Hain's letter which says the lists "represent declarations of interest in potential export opportunities by the companies involved". From this it seems that the permitted export destinations will be a "wish list" of the arms companies; hardly a position CAAT expected would be taken by a Government promoting a "responsible arms trade".

  23.  Who will be agreeing the permitted export destinations list? Will it be defence ministers or, as with export licensing currently, Trade and Industry ministers? Which ministers would be involved in the decision to remove a country from the Permitted list?

  24.  There are fears that the countries with smaller military industries, or more restrictive export policies, will be overruled when the permitted export lists are agreed. For instance, the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society (SPAS), one of CAAT's partners in the European Network Against Arms Trade, fears that the Framework agreement will undermine Sweden's export policy and allow exports to destinations which have previously been closed to Swedish exporters.

  25.  Research by SPAS shows that Sweden's five partner countries licence the export of military equipment to Colombia, Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, all countries to which Sweden currently prohibits sales. Furthermore, whilst the UK and France are willing to export weapons to Indonesia, Kenya, China and Sri Lanka; Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden do not allow exports to one or more of these. SPAS does not believe that Sweden will be able to convince its partner countries to exclude these nine export destinations from the permitted export lists. Rather, Sweden will have to adjust its export policy to those of its partners. Given the dominance of French and UK companies, the same is likely to be true of the other government's with more restrictive policies.

  26.  Article 13, 3 (b), makes provision for the removal of a permitted Export destination should it be felt that the country was an inappropriate recipient under the EU Code. Again, concern remains that if there is no consensus, the decision will depend on the percentage contribution to a project a country makes.

  27.  Would export of the final product to a non-party country on the permitted list be "fast-tracked" through the export licensing process in any way?

  28.  Peter Hain's letter says that the permitted lists "will not function as export licences: exporters will still have to apply for these from the country from which the export is taking place". However, military production has a long time-frame and the companies will obviously want certainty over future export destinations when working on a Co-operative Armament Programme. CAAT finds it difficult to envisage any circumstances in which an export licence would not be granted to a non-party country on the permitted list and would be interested to know whether the Government can.

  29.  As it seems most unlikely that an export licence would be refused to a country on the permitted list, CAAT is extremely concerned that the lists of permitted export destinations is to be kept secret. This reverses the progress towards transparency that has been made since the Gulf War in 1991, and in particular since the election of the Labour government in 1997.

  30.  How does the system envisaged by the Framework Agreement inter-relate with EU Code denials?


  31.  Many non-government organisations, including CAAT, are hoping that the Government will introduce tough end-use controls in its, hopefully shortly forthcoming, new export licensing legislation. The Framework Agreement makes such controls even more essential. Records must be kept, and randomly verified, to ensure that no exports are diverted.


  32.  In May 2000 the United States adopted its Defence Trade Security Initiative to enhance cross-border armaments co-operation. This includes an International Traffic in Arms regulation which would allow the UK to obtain military equipment from the US without an export licence once the UK has shown that its standards of export control, industrial security, intelligence and law enforcement reach US standards. What impact does the Government believe this will have on the UK's military industry and exports? How does it interact with the Framework Agreement?

  33.  The Letter of Intent envisaged a series of detailed agreements. Which agreements are in the process of negotiation and what is the timetable for them?

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