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Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is also difficult to understand the Minister's reasoning when the EU code of conduct for arms export is not legally binding, so no Government will be bound by it anyway?
The non-governmental organisations that are interested in this subject and form the United Kingdom working group on armsAmnesty International, the British American Security Information Council, which is known as BASIC, International Alert, Oxfam and Saferworldtook legal advice on the Minister's comments. It asked whether he was right and the advice the group received from Matrix chambers was that he was wrong. Indeed, judicial review could be called for by a firm if an export is refused on the grounds of sustainable development because only those criteria that are set out in the schedule are relevant. Given that legal advice, which I can make available to him for no fee, I hope that he will reconsider his case.
I have one example in particular on which I should like the Minister to comment. The Department of Trade and Industry is considering an application by a British firm to supply Tanzania with $40 million of air traffic control radar equipment. As that has a substantial military component, it has to receive approval from the Department. The World Bank has condemned the proposal for being needlessly expensive and it says that what Tanzania needs could be obtained for $10 million. The proposal has also been turned down by the International Monetary Fund.
The UK has formed a relationship with Tanzania, one of the world's poorest countries, to help it to wipe out its huge debt. However, at the same time there is a risk that the Government will increase that debt by $40 million. If the criterion of sustainable development is not included in the Bill, that application could be approved, but if it is altered by my amendments, it could not be approved.
The inherent conflict must be causing problems in the Government. The Department for International Development is surely against the proposal because if the project goes ahead poverty would probably increase in Tanzania, so its support is inconceivable. It is also unlikely that the Treasury is in favour of the proposal. The idea of going to Dar es Salaam to negotiate debt reduction and then agreeing to something that adds $40 million to that debt does not sound like prudence, does it? So who does support the proposal, which has been around for a long time? It can only be the DTI.
I am suspicious because the sustainable development criterion has been removed from the Bill and without it we cannot be sure that poverty will be taken into account. I hope that the Minister can explain that omission and assure me that if he cannot alter the Bill today, he will do so in another place.
Dr. Tonge: Liberal Democrat Members broadly welcome the Government and Conservative new clauses and amendments in this group. We are also delighted that many of the issues that they address were raised by Liberal Democrat Members in our amendments in Committee. As the Minister rejected our amendments as unnecessary at the time, it is good to see them returning as Government amendments.
I want to speak to the amendments tabled by me, my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable) and the hon. Members for Moray (Angus Robertson) and for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd). Amendment No. 36 deals with the need for the Bill to provide for thorough consideration of the cumulative impact of arms exports.
The Government's policy is that exports are assessed case by case. Although that is appropriate in most instances, there are situations in which it is vital that the Government assess the cumulative impact of arms exports on a country or region. The need for such an assessment is especially acute when considering the implications of exports for sustainable development, which I shall speak about at some length, as the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Tony Worthington) did.
No licence has ever been refused under the sustainable development criterion, largely because it is almost impossible to prove that any single licence will damage development. However, although it may be true that one licence taken in isolation may be of little concern, the combined effect of a number of licences could well have an adverse effect on development.
Perhaps it is necessary to spell this out again to the Minister, as we did in Committee. Developing countries often get into debt, and they are often encouraged to do so by the United Kingdom, which grants them export credit guarantees to buy arms. They spend far too much on the arms sector while spending far too little on health and education, which they neglect. As I said in Committee, education is crucial to the economic and overall development of any country. Development issues have been neglected because of spending on arms. Although one export may not highlight that fact, a series of exports may do so.
A series of exports may be a factor also when evaluating the impact of arms exports on a particular region. Perhaps one export of arms will not have an immediate impact on the country to which it is made, but it may affect overall regional stability. It is therefore crucial that the Bill provides for the consideration of the cumulative effect.
Perhaps the Minister will refer us to other provisions in the Bill, or to other schedules, guidance or other criteria, all of which can be so confusing. If the issue is addressed in all those places, why can we not simply state in the Bill how to address it? I do not know what Ministers are running away from. A provision requiring an examination of the cumulative impact of arms sales would make it so much simpler to interpret the Bill's intent.
Amendment No. 39 takes us back to sustainable developmenthowever definedwhich is my favourite subject, and the favourite subject of the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie. Yesterday, we had a very interesting debate in the House on the definition of sustainable development and on whether we should accept the Brundtland definition or the Government's own definition in the International Development Bill. Nevertheless, whichever definition we choose, the Bill surely must address the issue.
In the Export Control Bill, sustainable development is the only one of the eight consolidated criteria that the Government will consider before granting an export licence that is not included in the schedule of purposes for export control. Instead, the sustainable development criterion is referred to indirectly in the clause on guidance. In Committee, however, the Minister said:
The omission of sustainable development was raised in Committee. As the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie said, legal advice has been taken from Matrix chambers by a group of non-governmental organisations. I prefer to read out the relevant sections of the advice that we have received. It is important that we have that advice on the record as it has been given, because I could not put it in the correct legal terms if I tried to paraphrase it.