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Arms Transfers

Volume 201: debated on Friday 20 December 1991

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made towards establishing an international register of conventional arms transfers.

On 9 December the United Nations General Assembly voted by an overwhelming majority to establish at the United Nations a universal and non-discriminatory register of conventional arms transfers, covering the transfer of specific major weapons systems. This follows directly from the initiative which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister took at the Luxembourg European Council on 8 April. We played a leading part in drafting and lobbying for the United Nations resolution, whch we tabled with our European Partners and Japan. The register will introduce greater openness and make it easier for the international community to monitor excessive arms build-up in any one country. We expect all responsible governments to recognise the value and importance of the decision taken by the General Assembly, and provide the necessary information for the register.The register comes into effect from January 1992. It requests all participant states to record their imports and exports of certain major weapon systems and provide this information to the United Nations Secretary-General on an annual basis. The categories of weapon system affected are tanks, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, armoured combat vehicles, large-calibre artillery and missiles and missile systems. In Britain's case, the disclosure of such information will require additional powers. The Government intend to bring the necessary legislation before the House early in the next Parliament. The legislation will require disclosure of all exports and imports within the categories named above with effect from 1 January 1992.