Export Control Bill

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Dr. Tonge: Amendment No. 66 is in a similar vein and seeks to include activities that facilitate the acquisition or disposal of goods including transporting—which the Government amendments have covered—and freight forwarding, and also mediating, insuring, financing, advertising or promoting. I shall not repeat the speech that has just been made—that would be tedious—but it is important to incorporate the amendments and to ensure that the Minister intends to include all those activities, as his colleagues in the House said yesterday. It was intended that all be covered. May we have an assurance that all will be covered?

Mr. Key: I believe that the Minister will provide a satisfactory answer in this case. However, I share the concerns of the hon. Members for Richmond Park and for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Savidge). I shall ask the Minister in a moment to clarify why, on page 37 of the Customs and Excise dummy draft statutory instrument, there is a long list of countries and destinations referred to in article 9 but then the Customs and Excise [Embargoed Destination] (Sanctions) Order—the one at the back of the dummy pack—says on page 6,

    ``Schedule, Controlled Goods specify the goods covered''

and there is a blank page. I wonder whether there is a reason for the blank page. Perhaps he considers that the list on page 37 is adequate. Although the Government have made a great effort to address the issue of control on movement, there seems to be a mismatch here and I shall be grateful to hear a logical explanation, if that is at all possible in the time available. I expect that if I wait for just a few more minutes, one will be forthcoming. It is extremely important. No one has suggested that it should not happen, so I do not seek to oppose the Government. Perhaps this is not the right moment and it should be done when we consider secondary legislation. However, as the Minister was kind enough to let us see the dummy orders and to start today's proceedings with some advice on them, I thought that this might be the opportunity to probe further.

Vera Baird (Redcar): I do not want to add much more, save to associate myself with the concerns that have been expressed on this point—in particular, as a lawyer, with that of the hon. Gentleman, who confesses to not being one, about the mismatch between the amendments that the Minister has tabled and the specific exclusion of transportation services in the order.

I would go further. A real cause for concern occurs within the dummy order on trade in controlled goods, page 3, paragraph 5(b), which has been referred to, concerning the financing or financial services that must back up the movement, which—it is now clear—will be included in the legislation while specifically excluded from the secondary legislation. Similarly, the advertising or promotion services that must back up the distribution and transportation are now specifically included in the primary legislation but excluded from the secondary legislation. I find it difficult to comprehend how the amendments could permit of that express exclusion, which seems to be part and parcel of similar areas of trade in such goods.

I add my anxieties to those already expressed and exemplified in those particular ways. I query paragraph 5(a) and I wonder whether paragraphs 5(b) and 5(d) are not part of what is now to be found in primary legislation.

12 noon

Nigel Griffiths: I believe that we all share the concerns that have been voiced in respect of the amendments. However, I must tell the Committee that, by listing precise activities, the amendments may narrow our powers. It is important to maintain the broad scope of the powers contained in clause 5.

I confirm at the outset that, under the clause, the Secretary of State would be able to impose controls on financing, transportation, freight forwarding, insuring, mediating and advertising or promotion activities in relation to trade between overseas countries. The dummy orders make it clear that we intend to use the powers in clause 5 in full to control the supply or delivery, or any acts calculated to promote the supply and delivery, of arms to embargoed destinations. We intend also to introduce controls on the supply or delivery and acts calculated to promote the supply or delivery of torture equipment and long-range missiles to any destination.

Those controls are intended to catch financing, transportation, freight forwarding, insuring, mediating, advertising or promotion activities. Indeed, we consider that those activities are already caught by orders made under the United Nations Act 1946, which implement binding UN arms embargoes, on which the new controls are modelled.

The powers provided in clause 5 are deliberately couched in general terms. Clause 5(2)(b) refers to

    ``activities which facilitate or are otherwise connected''

with trade in controlled goods, including their acquisition or disposal. Those general terms are necessary to ensure that the powers granted are broad enough to cover the activities that we may need to be controlled in the orders.

It is important to maintain the broad scope of the power in clause 5. However, we consider that the wide-ranging controls that we plan to impose in relation to embargoed destinations, torture equipment and missiles are justified. Our aim is essentially to prohibit involvement in that sort of trade. A licence would be provided only in the most exceptional circumstances, such as for the supply of equipment to peacekeeping forces.

However, it would not be appropriate for the controls on trafficking and brokering of all military equipment to any destination to apply to those whose sole involvement is in finance, transportation, insurance or general advertising or promotional services. That would impose an unjustified and heavy burden on those sectors. Imposing controls on the advertising or general marketing of military equipment would be difficult to justify and impractical to police. It would not be practical to operate such a regime. However, the regime does apply to those who mediate or broker such deals. In learning from other countries, which claim to have tough arms-control regulations but which have failed for one reason or another to enforce them, we are driven to make the legislation as practical as possible. We believe that it does so without the amendment.

Vera Baird: The Minister spoke about the danger of narrowing the ambit of clause 5(2)(b) by specifying the activities in the amendments. That could easily be dealt with. Clause 5(2)(b) reads:

    ``activities which facilitate or are otherwise connected with their acquisition or disposal''.

If that is intended to cover the activities mentioned in amendments Nos. 2 and 66, there seems no harm whatever to be derived from stating that the provision will include, although not exclusively, those activities and so listing them. If the Minister intends that those activities should be covered, listing them would greatly reassure hon. Members. Will he further consider that possibility?

Nigel Griffiths: No, I do not believe that I can reassure my hon. Friend of that. The intention is clear. We must not allow ourselves, or any Government or their agents, to be bogged down in chasing individual financing or individual insurance. That would divert vital arms-monitoring resources from the illegal and immoral arms dealers, those who are in breach of United Nations embargoes or other embargoes or will be in breach of the terms of the Bill. Such brokers and traffickers are the people on whom we want to focus our attention.

As I have said, if the experience of other countries is anything to go by, the more a country has talked tough, the less enforcement there has been. Such countries are trying—not very successfully, as we know from the trade in illegal arms—to crack down on problems that are not at the core of what we are trying to tackle in the Bill. The Bill is crafted to give us among the toughest, and certainly the most practical and enforceable legislation. That is why it is so framed.

Mr. Savidge: I said that the amendment was a probing amendment so I did not intend to press it. Obviously, one would want the clause to be as broad as possible, and I totally accept that I would want it to be enforceable rather than simply to appear tough.

I stress, however, that I mentioned that I recognised the fact that provision of the type for which I asked was specifically included in relation to missiles, torture equipment and embargo destinations. I am still puzzled as to why we should therefore definitely rule it out in relation to other material that could be dangerous. In light of the events of 11 September, it is crucial that we show the maximum flexibility possible.

My gravest concern is not on the clause, but on the dummy orders and whether the exclusion should be so explicit. I feel strongly that the conscious and knowing financing or transportation of materials is a serious issue. That seems precisely in line with comments made by my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and others. I hope that it can be thought about carefully, especially in consideration of the final terms of the dummy orders and in the consultation that the Government will have with organisations. I recognise that the concerns of industry and the finance world would have to be reasonably protected, but we have properly recognised in the past few weeks that control of financing and transportation can be a vital part of the fight against terror and the appalling dangers that may face us in coming decades.

With those appeals to the Minister, I will be content to withdraw my amendment.

Nigel Griffiths: I thank my hon. Friend for raising that issue. We are, of course, working with the Home Office on the emergency legislation and we will ensure close co-operation to get the proper legislation to prevent and deter terrorism.

My hon. Friend makes an important point when he says that the orders are dummy orders and the matter has been put out to consultation. His arguments and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Vera Baird) and other members of the Committee have been noted, and I expect that we shall receive submissions on the matter. I have set out clearly my desire to produce workable and practical but tough legislation. I look forward to reading the considered views of others on the dummy orders.

 
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