Export Control Bill

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Rob Marris: If the amendments, including amendment No. 55, were to be included in the Bill, how would that be more efficacious than the failed 19th century Act to which the hon. Gentleman referred?

Mr. Key: It should be very clear that the details that are laid before the hon. Gentleman bear absolutely no relation to that earlier Act. However, the hon. Gentleman is doing his best to support the Government's insupportable position. I commend him for his loyalty—no doubt he will have a job quite soon. However, that does not alter the fact that the Government are omitting to take advantage of an opportunity, which will be widely noted both inside and outside the House. I therefore seek to divide the Committee on the matter.

Nigel Griffiths: I am happy to make a final attempt to persuade the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment by answering some of his points directly. I can assure him that all aspects of the EU joint action can and will be implemented under the Bill through the powers under clause 4 on technical assistance and those under clause 2 on technology transfers. I have just heard that an announcement on the publication of the Green Paper is expected in the House soon.

I did not say that the control of mercenaries was unnecessary. My point was that the Government have been holding consultations on the issue, but that it is not a matter for this Bill. This is not the Bill for regulating mercenary activity; it is a framework for ensuring that we have proper control of the export of arms and the technologies associated with them for the 21st century, which is why the wording is as broad as possible. I urge the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment and wait and see what the Green Paper on mercenaries proposes. He should look to that for proper legislation on mercenary activity.

Mr. Key: The ``not me guv'' answer will not do. I regret very much that we have seen so little commitment. As for inviting us to wait a little longer for the Green Paper, that takes the biscuit, and I am afraid that it does not change my mind in seeking to divide the Committee.

Mr. Bill Tynan (Hamilton, South): If the amendment were successful, would that mean that we would not require a Green Paper on the issue of mercenaries?

Mr. Key: If there had been any suggestion from the Minister that he was prepared to take the amendment away, consult widely on it or do whatever he liked with it, but with a commitment to come back with a firm proposal to include mercenaries in the Bill, I would have withdrawn the amendment. However, he did not and he has missed his chance.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 10.

Division No. 2]

AYES
Hendry, Mr. Charles
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Key, Mr. Robert
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Tonge, Dr. Jenny

NOES
Baird, Vera
Griffiths, Nigel
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Marris, Rob
Pearson, Mr. Ian
Savidge, Mr. Malcolm
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Tynan, Mr. Bill

Question accordingly negatived.

Clause 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 5

Controls on trade in controlled goods

11.45 am

Nigel Griffiths: I beg to move amendment No. 56, in page 4, line 7, after `disposal;' insert—

`( ) their movement;'.

The Chairman: With this we may discuss Government amendments Nos. 57, 59, 60 and 61.

Nigel Griffiths: Amendments Nos. 56, 57, 59, 60 and 61 seek to ensure that the Government have the power to introduce controls on the movement of controlled goods where there is no acquisition or disposal and there are no activities facilitating or otherwise connected with acquisition or disposal.

We need the amendments to ensure that we can implement our commitment to introduce controls on trade to embargoed destinations that are analogous to those introduced under UN sanctions and embargo orders. UN trade embargoes seek to control not only those who sell or supply goods to an embargoed destination, but those who deliver goods in their ownership to the embargoed territory. I am sure that hon. Members will agree that the Government should have powers under the Bill to introduce trade controls for any embargoed destination that are as comprehensive as those introduced under the United Nations Act 1946 to implement binding UN embargoes. Adding movement to the list of activities that can be regulated under the clause will allow us to do that.

The amendments also give the Government the option of implementing trade controls imposed by EU embargoes by orders under the Bill, rather than the European Communities Act 1972. Evasion of such controls will then attract the 10-year maximum penalty allowed under the Bill, rather than the two-year maximum penalty possible under the Act. I am sure that hon. Members will agree that it is desirable for the Government to be able to implement fully under the Bill trade controls that are analogous to those introduced under UN sanctions, and I invite hon. Members to support the amendments.

Mr. Key: We support the amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 57, in page 4, line 9, leave out `or disposal' and insert `, disposal or movement'.—[Nigel Griffiths.]

Nigel Griffiths: I beg to move amendment No. 58, in page 4, line 10, leave out subsection (3).

The removal of subsection (3) is necessary to remove a potential loophole, whereby brokers or traffickers who deliberately arranged for goods to be shipped via the UK might have been able to claim that they were immune from the controls. The subsection was originally included to ensure that brokers did not require both an export licence and a trading licence for the same transactions. However, that can be achieved in secondary legislation and the Government have concluded that that approach would be better in this case. That is reflected in the dummy orders. I hope that the Committee will share the Government's wish to tighten up the Bill in this respect, and I invite hon. Members to support the amendment.

Mr. Key: With the caveat that I mentioned earlier, that I am suspicious always of secondary legislation replacing primary legislation, and that the matter should be fully aired in consultation, I am fully prepared to support the amendment, which appears practical.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 59, in page 4, line 21, leave out `or disposal' and insert `, disposal or movement'.

No. 60, in page 4, line 24, leave out from `gift' to end of line and insert `;and'.—[Nigel Griffiths.]

Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North): I beg to move amendment No. 2, in page 4, line 27, leave out from `(c)' to end of line 29 and insert

    `financing, transportation, freight-forwarding, or taking any other action (or agreeing with another to do so) that facilitates the manufacture, export or import of a defence article or defence service, irrespective of its origin, are activities which facilitate the acquisition or disposal of goods'.

The Chairman: With this we may take amendment No. 66, in page 4, line 27, leave out sub-paragraph 5(c) and insert—

    `( ) activities which facilitate the acquisition or disposal of goods include transporting, freight forwarding, mediating, insuring, financing, advertising or promoting.'.

Mr. Savidge: I welcome the comments that the Minister made at the outset of our deliberations, to say that we must take into account the tragic events in the United States and their relevance to the Bill. In that spirit we need to examine every issue as carefully as we can. We need to show the maximum flexibility.

I welcome the news that the Government are minded to proceed in that way, and particularly my hon. Friend's statement that there would be a significant consultative period for the secondary legislation, and that the industry and non-governmental organisations would be included in extensive public consultation. I also welcome amendment No. 59, which relates to movement and thus shifts the debate towards one of the issues that I shall raise in moving my amendment—transportation. That issue is explicit in some of the draft orders and in the Bill, for example in relation to embargoed destinations, torture equipment and long-range missile technology. However, I am anxious that we should deal with it clearly in other respects.

With respect to embargoed destinations, certain important matters are covered. However, although Afghanistan—to take the example that we are thinking about at present—would be an embargoed destination, many of the neighbouring countries would not be. We would need to ensure that there was provision for situations in which equipment might be transported to neighbouring countries and supplied to Mr. bin Laden's organisation, or any sister organisations. Transport is not just a theoretical issue. There are allegations of British companies being involved in transporting weapons to, for example, rebel forces in Liberia, Sudan and India. Whether those allegations prove true or false, India is not an embargoed destination.

The amendment relates not just to transport but to freight forwarding, by which I mean the organisation and administration of transport, and to financing. I am encouraged by the Minister's amendments on movement, but I am concerned about the wording in the dummy order on trade in controlled goods, which states:

    ``Paragraphs (2) and (3) shall not apply to any person whose sole involvement in relation to the acquisition or disposal of any controlled goods is to provide or agree to provide—

    (a) transportation services,

    (b) financing or financial services,

    (c) insurance services, or

    (d) general advertising or promotion services.''

It strikes me that—especially in the context of the interview that the Prime Minister gave at the weekend, in which he said that we must control all aspects of the provision of weapons to such organisations—it is vital to ensure that we cover all such areas. It is also integral to what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in the House yesterday concerning the finance-related legislation that the Government intend to introduce. Finance is a vital part of the whole process. The purpose of the amendment is to gain an assurance from the Minister that there will be a careful attempt to close every possible loophole in relation to all aspects of the export of dangerous weapons or materials to illicit groups or to countries to which we would not want to see such things exported.

 
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