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Export Licences

Volume 301: debated on Friday 21 November 1997

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To ask the President of the Board of Trade, pursuant to her answer to the hon. Member for Don Valley of 30 October 1997, Official Report, column 870, to what extent she attributes the errors in export licensing data to (a) computer and (b) human error. [15315]

A number of factors contributed to the situation:

  • (i) the computer was developed primarily as a licence application processing system (detailed information is retained in the licensing papers);
  • (ii) even simple data searches were found to require expert knowledge of the computer system;
  • (iii) information transferred electronically from preceding computers was shown to have contained significant errors, as was the input of new data;
  • (iv) in the interests of processing efficiency, and given that the full list of goods subject to licensing scrutiny was always detailed in case papers available to all Departments participating in the licensing process, only the most significant items of an application were recorded on the computer.