Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Department of Trade and Industry and Ministry of Defence on export licensing policy towards Israel


22 January 2001

  1.  The details of licences requested by the Committees are contained in the attached Annex[3] which is sent to the Committees in confidence.

  2.  This Government has paid close attention to applications to export military equipment to Israel and other countries in the Middle East, in view of the security situation in the region. Since July 1997 the Government's policy on export licence applications has been to scrutinise each application against the export licensing criteria, on a case by case basis and in light of information available at the time. In the case of Israel we have paid particularly close attention to the criteria concerning internal repression, internal conflict, international aggression and regional stability. We have kept the situation in the Occupied Territories and southern Lebanon under close scrutiny. We have also borne in mind the legitimate defence and domestic security interests that Israel, and other countries in the region, have. When we have been satisfied that a particular application met the export licensing criteria, we have issued a licence. When this has not been the case, we have refused applications, as recorded in the Annual Reports on Strategic Export Controls.

  3.  The Committees will have noted from the Annual Reports that Israel is not a large defence sales market for the UK. The value of defence exports to Israel has been well below £1 million in each of the last three years for which we have records (1997-99). Most of the exports which this Government has licensed have been components or technology.

  4.  Since the outbreak of the violence in the Occupied Territories in late September 2000 we have paid especially close attention to export licence applications for Israel. We have not issued any licences since then for equipment or components for equipment which may have been used in the recent conflict in the Occupied Territories. We continue to keep this situation under close review. We have always judged whether equipment on applications would be used aggressively by Israel in Southern Lebanon and would refuse applications where this was the case.

  5.  We are satisfied that these controls on exports to Israel have been strict. We have not, however, placed specific limitations or end-use conditions on licences for exports to Israel. If we had judged at the licensing stage that there was a clear risk that a proposed export would be misused in contravention of the criteria, we would not have issued a licence for that transaction.

  6.  The extent of the violence and the methods used by the Israelis to combat it were unexpected. We therefore raised the matter with the Israeli Government who have given us an assurance that no UK-originated equipment, systems, sub-systems or components are used as part of the Israeli Defence Forces' activities in the Occupied Territories.

  7.  Both Embassy staff and the FCO have raised the use of specific equipment (including combat helicopters and tanks and components thereof), as well as the use of any strategically-controlled UK export with the Israelis. We have also been actively monitoring, and continue to do so, the equipment used since the outbreak of violence. Many UK exports have been components or pieces of technology embedded in other systems and are therefore not very visible. The UK has not sold main equipment such as tanks, aircraft, warships or artillery to Israel since May 1997.

  8.  The attached annex[4] contains details of the temporary licence issued in 1998 for CS gas and tear gas/irritant ammunition (the licence covered both these types of equipment). The Government set out in answer to a Parliamentary Question on 21 October 1998 (below) the considerations it gives to applications for temporary exports for demonstration, trial, testing or evaluation purposes. The issuing of that temporary licence in no way fettered our discretion in considering any future application for the export of that type of equipment. It should be noted that the company concerned have informed the Export Control Organisation of the Department of Trade and Industry that the goods exported under this temporary licence have been returned to the UK


  Mr Alan Johnson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to his answer of 28 July 1997, Official Report, columns 26-29, how the criteria for defence exports are used to assess applications for licence to export arms or goods subject to control for strategic reasons, for the purpose of demonstration, trial, testing or evaluation.[56232]

Mr Tony Lloyd: Licence applications to export goods and technology controlled, under Part III of Schedule  1 to the Export of Goods (Control) Order 1994, (the "Military List",) or dual use goods when there are grounds for believing that the end-user of such goods will be the armed forces or internal security forces of the recipient country, are examined on a case-by-case basis against the published defence exports criteria and the EU Code of Conduct.

  When the application is for demonstration, trial, testing or evaluation, purposes, attention is paid to the level of control exercised by the exporter and whether the export will be temporary in arriving at a judgement as to whether the equipment might be used for internal repression, international aggression, diverted to an undesirable end-user or otherwise contravene the criteria.

  If a decision is taken to issue such a licence, this in no way fetters our discretion in considering future applications for the export of equipment of the type demonstrated or evaluated. Such applications will be treated on their merits against the prevailing circumstances at that time.

  In some cases, licensees will be informed that, on the information available at the time, a licence would not normally be granted for the permanent export of the same or a greater quantity of the goods concerned to the same end-user, irrespective of the purpose of the intended export.

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