Select Committee on Defence Seventh Report


XIII CONCLUSION

117. It is a legislative absurdity that many of our strategic export controls remain dependent upon Second World War powers introduced by way of emergency legislation. We welcome this belated effort to address this anachronism, although we sadly note that certain import controls will remain dependent upon the 1939 Act. We expect the Government to consult urgently on inclusion of the appropriate clauses to remove the final vestiges of the 1939 Act. We are confident that there would be a wide consensus in the House for that objective.

118. However, as the draft Bill and the response to the consultation document reveal, new legislation will be required to address issues which were not dealt with in 1939. Indeed, they were not addressed by the Scott Report which in itself did so much to prompt the current legislative proposals. The issues of intangible transfers of WMD technology, brokering and trafficking, end-use, and licensed production overseas are legislative issues of our time. We welcome Ministers' decision to address these more recent concerns, and particularly welcome the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry's open-mindedness on the scope and nature of the legislative measures required. Indeed, despite the pressures of time, Ministers appear to wish, and could certainly ensure, that this pre-legislative consultation process is a model of its kind. The assurance that there will be a similar consultation on the draft secondary legislation is particularly welcome.

119. There have been significant advances in openness and transparency in arms licensing during the course of this Parliament, which has been properly recognised in our previous Reports. A new comprehensive Bill, combined with the publication of an annual report, the further development of the EU Code of Conduct and national criteria, and the logical extension of this approach, prior parliamentary scrutiny, would make the United Kingdom a model of transparency and accountability in an area of policy vital to the country's international reputation.


 
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