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Arms Trade Treaty

Volume 541: debated on Tuesday 28 February 2012

9. What recent progress has been made in negotiations on an international arms trade treaty; and if he will make a statement. (96695)

The United Kingdom remains committed to a robust and effective arms trade treaty. The recent preparatory conference in New York had a successful outcome as far as the Government and leading non-governmental organisations were concerned, and we look forward to the full negotiating conference in July.

The UK delegation clearly proved crucial in making progress at the conference. Throughout the Arab spring, Governments in the region have used policing and security equipment, including tear gas and batten rounds, against peaceful protesters, sometimes with lethal effect. Will the Minister give his strong support to a genuinely bullet-proof treaty that includes those items?

We have said clearly that we want a comprehensive arms trade treaty, which would include all conventional weapons, including small arms and ammunition. The precise details of the treaty have yet to be negotiated. I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s comments about the noticeable support of NGOs. I particularly thank Amnesty International for its recent comment on the preparatory conference. It said that

“the UK championed our right to be in the room during final negotiations”.

That is a measure of our relationship with NGOs in support of a robust and effective treaty.

Mr Speaker, you and the Minister will recall that one year ago I asked an urgent question on Bahrain, when the House was shocked to learn that we were still exporting arms to the country used in the repression of its citizens. Today, people are still locked up in prison, and Amnesty reports hundreds, dozens, scores of political prisoners and tear gas being thrown into confined spaces. It is just as brutal as ever it was, yet we have resumed arms sales to Bahrain. Again, may I ask the Minister and the Government to suspend arms sales to these repressive regimes until a political and peaceful solution has been found?

If the right hon. Gentleman looks at precisely what has been sold to Bahrain, he will find that licences for any items that could be used for internal repression have been refused. Body armour, sporting targets and rifles, and naval cannon have been sold, but these things cannot be used for internal repression. We support the reform process that is under way through the independent commission that is working in Bahrain, and we support all political parties in working towards a settlement and reforms there.