Previous SectionIndexHome Page

3 pm

Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North): The hon. Member for Rayleigh (Mr. Francois) apologised for being delayed at the dentist. I apologise for being delayed while working in my office and for therefore following on television the speeches of the Minister and of the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key), who courteously referred to the amendments that I moved on 18 October and to some of the remarks that I made at the time.

It is true that I said that thorough parliamentary scrutiny is in the interests of good government, and that that is in the interests of not only Back Benchers of whatever party but the Executive—provided that it is not an opportunity for inordinate delay or unreasonable obstruction. I hasten to emphasise the words "unreasonable obstruction", because it was not until I heard the hon. Member for Salisbury that I realised that Hansard had recorded me as saying "unreasonable instruction". May I say immediately that I absolve the Opposition from ever being guilty of

8 Nov 2001 : Column 406

unreasonable instruction? I have occasionally suspected that they had an unreasonable lack of instruction, but never unreasonable instruction. He also referred to my comments in withdrawing the amendment, when I said that I hoped that my hon. Friend the Minister would take account of the expressions from both sides of the House that the fullest scrutiny of secondary legislation was desirable.

However, the hon. Member for Salisbury did not quote what I said immediately before that, when I indicated that, in relation to the negative resolution procedure, the Minster made the point in responding to my probing amendment that this procedure would deal purely with technical matters, such as minor changes in detailed lists. That seemed to me to be perfectly reasonable.

On clause 3(2), I recognised that, in the case of emergencies, the delayed affirmative procedure might be the most appropriate procedure, particularly since the Minister had indicated that it would relate mostly to technical matters. I say to the hon. Member for Salisbury that I cannot see the advantage of trying to use something like royal prerogatives in these circumstances, as the procedure to which I have referred would be preferable. On 18 October, I stated that my amendment was intended purely as a probing amendment and that it was my intention to withdraw it. I felt that the Minister had answered a number of points satisfactorily and my amendment, as worded, was not appropriate to be pressed. I was slightly disappointed that some Opposition Members felt it appropriate to seek to deny me the opportunity to withdraw the amendment.

The amendment tabled today by the hon. Member for Salisbury still does not take sufficient account of the Minister's response and raises the suspicion that, in this case, inordinate delay and unreasonable obstruction might be the intention behind it. The hon. Member for Salisbury showed good judgment on many occasions in Committee; I compliment him on his good judgment if he feels that his own party has a vested interest in the position of Opposition parties for some considerable time into the future. However, inordinate delay and unreasonable obstruction may be in the interests of Opposition sometimes, but they are not in the interests of good government. Therefore, I would not be proposing to vote for the amendment.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome): I have not contributed so far to discussions on the Bill, although I had some part in its genesis when I served on the Foreign Affairs Committee, which considered the matter at an early stage and formed part of the Quadripartite Committee, on which I served for a short time.

I agree with almost everything that the hon. Member for Manchester, Central (Mr. Lloyd) said; many of us have a great deal of respect for what he did when in office. One of the principal reasons for that was his advocacy of the EU code of conduct, which was an important advance. But, as he said, it has no force in law. It is a matter of agreement between the EU member states, but it does not fall within our statutes. That is why it is so important that we get the Bill right.

I wish to refer to the question of whether sustainable development should be a criterion and whether it should be in the table in the schedule. The Minister will have some difficulty in persuading many of us that it should

8 Nov 2001 : Column 407

not be there, for this reason. First, the argument against it being included might be that it fettered the discretion of Ministers. Clearly, it does not; it extends the discretion of Ministers to apply what Members on both sides of the House have agreed is a desirable criterion.

The second reason might be that the criterion is otiose because the matter is covered elsewhere. If that argument is to be pursued—that the measure is unnecessary because the guidance can be relied upon entirely to give Ministers the discretion they need to make decisions without fear of judicial review or challenge in the courts—we must ask what the court's interpretation of the absence of that criterion from the list would be and whether it is more likely that it would evince a challenge from those who had had an export licence refused on those specific grounds, if it were on the face of the Bill or if it were not. My answer to that, not as a lawyer but as a layman, would be that it is inevitable that a court would be more easily persuaded that the Minister was acting beyond the express powers given in the legislation, if he was relying on guidance notes that were not on the face of the Bill than he would if he were relying on an express commitment and an inclusion in the schedule.

Therefore I believe that the Minister needs to persuade the House, at the conclusion of the debate, that there is a good reason for not including that criterion in the list. It seems to me that many Members on both sides of the Chamber are not yet persuaded of that fact, and if that is the case he would be well advised to accept the advice that has been proffered, not least by some hon. Members on his side of the Chamber.

Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme): I welcome the Bill. It is an important new weapon in our armoury to restrain the merchants of death. However, having read the Standing Committee report, I am in confusion as to exactly who and what would be captured by the scope of the technical assistance provisions, so I should like to speak, if I may, to Government amendment No. 4. If you will bear with me for a short while, Madam Deputy Speaker, I should like to use a concrete example of a situation where I believe that we would all like arms dealing to be captured, but I am not quite sure whether it would be, and would appreciate the Minister's advice.

I welcomed the assurances that the Minister gave in Committee that the Bill had sufficient scope to cover what some might call mercenary activities of United Kingdom nationals, but which might more broadly be called military support activities of UK nationals abroad; I very much look forward to the long overdue Green Paper on mercenaries. Some doubts were nevertheless raised that the courts might not uphold orders placed on such nefarious people, as the language of the Bill is not sufficiently precise. Therefore it is important in this debate to state that it is the will of Parliament that, as far as possible, such traffickers in death be captured by the Bill.

At this time of the terrible conflict in Afghanistan, it is important that we do not forget other regions of the world where irresponsible arms dealing, against the will of the international community, is leading to death and destruction. I am thinking particularly of the terrible civil war in the Congo, where other African states that should know better are systematically looting a country that is already on its knees. Zimbabwe is one of the vultures at that feast—or rather, Robert Mugabe's henchmen are profiting while that war bankrupts their own country.

8 Nov 2001 : Column 408

It is a little known fact that the main arms supplier to Zimbabwe and its adventure in the Congo is a UK resident, who runs his huge business empire from the royal county of Berkshire—from genteel Ascot and Windsor, to be precise. I should like to use his example to illustrate why the House should support the Bill, and to place in context my request for clarification from the Minister of the Bill's precise scope.

Outside the sports pages, hon. Members would not find much reference to that gentleman, Mr. John Bredenkamp, in the UK press. With a fortune estimated at £400 million, he has deep pockets, expensive libel lawyers and a dangerous reputation. He is also extremely clever and careful, and does not readily leave end-user certificates lying around. Therefore it is safer for the press to chronicle his handling of sports stars—including Ernie Els and Francois Pienaar among many others—through his sports agency, Masters International, than his handling of arms. However, Mr. Bredenkamp has long had form of a distinctly unsporting kind, and he is exactly the sort of person based in this country whom the Bill should tackle.

A former tobacco farmer, captain of the Rhodesian rugby team and member of Rhodesian special forces, Mr. Bredenkamp was a key figure in sanctions busting, so long ago, for Ian Smith, and when the regime changed he quite simply changed his allegiance. In 1994, the activities of Mr. Bredenkamp's then company, Casalee, were exposed by a courageous Channel 4 "Despatches" programme.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that we are actually discussing, in this group of amendments and the new clause, the general restriction on purposes of control orders. It may be more appropriate for the speech that he is currently delivering to be made at Third Reading.

Next Section

IndexHome Page