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Export Control Policy (Review)

Volume 531: debated on Monday 18 July 2011

I told the Foreign Affairs Select Committee on 16 March 2011 that the Government would commission a thorough review of the UK’s policy and practice with regard to the export of equipment that might be used for internal repression, in particular crowd control goods, in the light of events in the middle east and north Africa and concerns in Parliament and the public about UK policy.

This review has now been completed. It was conducted by Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials in close consultation with their colleagues across Whitehall, and it examined our policy on arms exports. Its purpose was to determine whether improvements could be made to reduce further the risk of misuse of UK-origin controlled military goods and to increase confidence that goods exported from the United Kingdom would not be used for internal repression. It looked specifically at events in the middle east and north Africa region.

The review concluded that there was no evidence of any misuse of controlled military goods exported from the United Kingdom. There were some reports of the use of UK-origin crowd control vehicles in Libya, but these reports remain uncorroborated.

Consultations with our overseas posts revealed no evidence that any of the offensive naval, air or land-based military platforms used by Governments in north Africa or the middle east against their own populations during the Arab spring, were supplied from the United Kingdom.

However, the review also concluded that further work is needed on how we operate certain aspects of the controls. The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills has responsibility for our export licensing operations. The Secretary of State and I will consider how this should be done, and once that process is complete I will update the House on our proposals.