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EU Torture Regulation

Volume 448: debated on Thursday 29 June 2006

A consultation document and Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) on changes needed to secondary legislation to implement provisions of Council Regulation (EC) No. 1236/20051 concerning trade in goods which could be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment was published on 2 November 2005 and the consultation period ended on 31 January 2006. The EC Regulation 1236/2005 (“the Regulation”) enters into force on 30 July 2006. The adoption of the Regulation represents a positive step forward for Europe and demonstrates the commitment of all EU Member States to introduce controls on the trade in this category of goods, following the lead set by the UK in 1997.

The Regulation prohibits the import, export and transhipment of specified goods to non-EU states, and the provision of technical assistance. The export (etc) of other specified goods will be controlled by means of the export licensing system operated by DTI.

My Department has given careful consideration to the comments made in response to the public consultation. A summary of the issues raised and the Government's response has been deposited in the House of Commons Library and is also available on the DTI website at .html.

The Regulation is directly applicable in the UK. However some changes to UK law are required to ensure a good fit between the Regulation and the existing legal framework and to provide for licensing, penalties and enforcement. The changes are described in more detail in the note I have deposited in the House. An amending Order under the Export Control Act 2002 will be laid before Parliament, to come into force on 30 July 2006 at the same time as the Regulation.

The controls introduced by the Regulation largely mirror those already in place in UK legislation. Where there is any difference, the Government have aimed when implementing the Regulation to maintain the current level of controls where it is possible to do so consistent with Community law. We have also extended UK trade controls (on trafficking and brokering) to all the goods now controlled by the Regulation including ones not previously controlled in the UK. The Regulation will introduce controls for the first time on some items such as gallows and thumbscrews. Where possible, controls on intra-EC transfers will be maintained.

Concerning changes to the scope of goods controlled by the Regulation, the Government will work with EU partners on possible future amendments regarding matters not covered by the Regulation. The consultation was concerned with implementation of the Regulation as adopted in Brussels rather than with a review of controls in this area per se. The Government have already said that they intend in 2007 to carry out a wider review of the export controls introduced in 2004 and will in that context welcome views on the scope of controls on equipment used for torture or internal repression. That consultation can consider whether and how to control effectively other items which are difficult to define with precision in legislation.