Export Control Bill

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Dr. Cable: I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Page: I beg to move amendment No. 37, in page 2, line 39, leave out subsections (3) and (4).

I shall re-state the obvious. The ostensible purpose of the Bill is to introduce a new system of controls on the export of arms, to replace one essentially based on the Import, Export and Customs Powers (Defence) Act 1939. That is how the Bill has been represented—perhaps I should say sold—to the House and the country. The speeches on Second Reading by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the Minister offered ample proof of that. As has been mentioned more than once, the 1939 Act has served us rather well. I do not know whether it is the longest serving Act, but it must be somewhere near the top 20.

I want to tease out from the Minister how he envisages the provisions working. Subsections (3) and (4), which my amendment would delete, make it apparent that the much trumpeted purposes for which orders can be made under clauses 1 and 2, as listed in the schedule, allow orders that revoke or amend an earlier order or re-enact provisions with or without modifications to be made outside the purposes permitted in the schedule. The schedule's provisions have to be taken into account only if such orders strengthen existing controls or impose controls on goods or technology previously not subject to controls. The Committee will recognise the fact that there could be concern about that.

The conclusion must be that the House is being invited to allow existing orders to be amended or re-enacted without being subjected to the provisions of the schedule, unless the controls are being strengthened or extended. It is working on the assumption that everything is fine as it is and need not be changed.

The question that inevitably arises is whether the Government envisage more than one system of export control. The amendment has the merit of seeking to ensure that our manufacturing companies apply one set of criteria, rather than combining the old and the new. The Minister should explain why the hotch-potch that has been proposed is better than the case that was put forward in principle for the new controls. However, the proposals in this clause are belied.

Nigel Griffiths: The deletion of subsections (3) and (4) would have the effect of the purposes in the schedule applying to orders or provisions in orders made under clauses 1 or 2 that simply revoked, amended without strengthening, or re-enacted controls without modification.

The purpose of the subsections is to ensure that while the purposes must apply for the imposition of any new or strengthened controls, no doubt must be cast on the legal validity of controls simply as a result of a re-enactment of controls or technical changes in an order. The most frequent reason for changes to be made to export control orders at present is to reflect changes agreed to the control lists in the international export control regimes, such as the Wassenaar arrangement, missile technology control regime and nuclear suppliers group. There will inevitably be some time lag before such changes are carried through into national legislation.

The subsections are included for the avoidance of doubt, to make it absolutely clear that any decision by, for example, the international regimes to remove a particular item from their control lists—which might be considered to remove the main purpose for which the controls were originally enacted in orders—could not throw doubt on the legal validity of the secondary legislation under the Bill. I am sure that the Committee will recognise that controls in secondary legislation that have been validly introduced under the purposes should not subsequently be challenged, as that would undermine our export control regime. I hope that that satisfies the hon. Gentleman and I urge him to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Page: Although I am grateful for that answer, I have ended up even more confused than I started. I suspect that if the Minister had to start again, he would end up even more confused. He has not reassured me; he seems to be confirming that we shall be operating two systems. That worries me. In view of his response, I should like—when this is recorded in tablets of stone via Hansard—to take it away to study. I might return later, if possible, to take a second bite at the cherry. As it stands at the moment, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Dr. Tonge: I beg to move amendment No. 12, in page 3, line 20, leave out `or 2(1)' and insert `2(1), 4(1) or 5(1)'.

The Chairman: With this we may discuss the following amendments: No. 13, in page 3, line 21, leave out `or transfer controls' and insert

    `, transfer controls, controls on the provision of technical assistance overseas or trade controls'.

No. 28, in the schedule, page 9, line 3, leave out `or transfer controls' and insert

    `, transfer controls, controls on the provision of technical assistance or trade controls'.

No. 45, in the schedule, page 9, line 14, leave out `or'.

No. 46, in the schedule, page 9, line 14, after `which is,', insert

    `the provision of technical assistance overseas which is, or the trade in controlled goods which are'.

No. 47, in the schedule, page 9, line 26, at end insert—

    `(4A) This paragraph applies to the provision of technical assistance overseas of any description if it appears to the Secretary of State when the order is made that there is a risk of the provision of technical assistance overseas of that description might have any of the consequences mentioned in the following table.

    (4B) This paragraph applies to the trade in controlled goods of any description if it appears to the Secretary of State when the order is made that there is a risk that the trade in controlled goods of that description might have any of the consequences mentioned in the following table.

    (4C) The reference in sub-paragraph 4(B) to consequences of the trade in controlled goods includes a reference to consequences relating to the use of information recorded on or derived from the goods.'.

Dr. Tonge: On the surface, this appears to be a complicated group of amendments; in fact, I have wrestled with them for a while. Our worry is that we are not covering a broad enough area. Therefore, the amendments add controls on the provision of technical assistance overseas and trade controls to the export controls and transport controls that are already stated. The purpose is to broaden the scope of the Bill. To see the point of it, we should look at the schedule. That is why amendments Nos. 45, 46 and 47 are amendments to the schedule, which also refers to the transfer of technical assistance and controls on trading in controlled goods.

Many speeches have been made on the transfer of technical assistance. It is an important matter, and it should not be swept under the carpet. I feel most strongly about the fact that the controls on trade in controlled goods have been omitted from clause 3 and the schedule, because they refer to my old friends brokering and trafficking. As shadow Secretary of State for International Development, I have seen evidence of the damage that the brokering and trafficking of arms causes in developing countries.

12.30 pm

I want the changes to clause 3 and to the schedule of purposes to be considered together. They should include controls on the provision of technical assistance and on the trade in controlled goods. If they are omitted, the Government will be able to introduce more limited controls in secondary legislation—which we have not yet seen.

Although the orders imposing controls on the export of controlled goods from the United Kingdom and on the transfer of technology will be made for the purposes set out in the schedule, the Secretary of State will be at liberty to decide for what purpose controls will be introduced on brokering and the provision of technical assistance. The amendments aim to broaden the scope of the Bill and to tighten it. We fear that one of the Government's reasons for delaying the secondary legislation might be to make the purposes of the Bill more woolly than most of us would like.

Nigel Griffiths: I believe that the amendments have been tabled with the intention of ensuring that orders made under clause 4 on controls on the provision of technical assistance overseas and clause 5 on trade in controlled goods may be made only in accordance with the purposes set out in the schedule. The Government are so far in agreement with the hon. Member for Richmond Park that we have already ensured that the Bill requires that orders made under clauses 4 and 5 may be made only in accordance with purposes set out in the schedule. However, I fully appreciate the complexity of the Bill, and I should like to explain the position.

Clause 3 does not apply to orders made under clauses 4 or 5 that cover technical assistance and overseas trade in controlled goods, because those clauses provide that controls can be imposed only in relation to goods or technologies that are themselves subject to control under clauses 1 or 2. I draw the Committee's attention to clause 10 (2) to (5), which expand the meanings of controlled goods and controlled technology for the purposes of clauses 4 and 5. Since goods or technologies can be made subject to control only under clauses 1 or 2 for the purposes set out in the schedule, it follows that the controls set out in clauses 4 and 5 can, in effect, be imposed only for the purposes listed in the schedule.

It might help if I quote from the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation in another place on 25 April. Although that comment was made about the earlier draft of the Bill, the point that the Committee made still holds good. In paragraph 15 of the report, the Committee said of the powers in clause 4 that

    ``Clause 3 does not apply. This appears to allow the power to be used for any purposes but this is not the case.''

The report goes on to say that the definition of technical assistance limits the power to matters connected with controlled goods or controlled technology, saying that

    ``these terms are defined . . . as goods subject to controls under clause 1 and technology subject to controls under . . . clause 2.''

Controls under clauses 1 and 2 are either imposed for the purpose in the schedule or are temporary controls under clause 3(2). A similar limitation applies to controls under clause 4. Given that the controls under clauses 4 and 5 are limited and can be imposed only in relation to goods or technologies that are, when exported or transferred, themselves subject to control under clauses 1 or 2, the amendments tabled by the hon. Members for Richmond Park and for Twickenham are no longer necessary. Moreover, the schedule is constructed on the understanding that, for all the reasons that I outlined, it need apply only to orders that impose export controls or transfer controls. The amendments would, therefore, require unnecessary and extensive revisions to the schedule and other parts of the Bill.

For all the reasons that I have given, I hope that hon. Members will not press the amendments that I listed.

 
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