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Arms Trade Treaty

Volume 561: debated on Monday 15 April 2013

As the hon. Lady will now know, on Tuesday 2 April the arms trade treaty was adopted by an overwhelming majority vote, with 154 states voting in favour at the United Nations General Assembly. Once implemented, this robust and effective legally binding treaty will establish a common baseline for the regulation of arms transfers.

I very much welcome the work that the Government have done on the treaty, and I am sure that the Minister will want to acknowledge the central role played by the previous Labour Government in promoting it. Will he confirm that the agreed terms of the treaty will be implemented in full in the UK at the earliest opportunity and also say when we can expect legislation on this matter?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her congratulations, which we should pass on to colleagues in the Foreign Office who led on this issue. We welcome the treaty wholeheartedly. The arms export licensing regime operating under this Government and the previous Government is one of the most rigorous in the world and ensures that we will comply with the treaty’s obligations. It is good for British defence contractors, as it establishes a level playing field at a higher standard. We will have no difficulty implementing the treaty. It does not become effective until 50 states have signed it, and we will work hard to encourage that to happen as soon as possible.

The outcome of the talks has been broadly welcomed, as the Minister recognises. Labour has always argued that “conventional arms” should include ammunition, munitions, parts and components. Can the Minister confirm that the Government’s interpretation of “conventional arms”, as it will apply to the UK arms trade in implementing the treaty, will also cover those elements?

Yes I can. The treaty covers all seven categories in the UN register of conventional arms, as well as small arms and light weapons, ammunition, munitions, and parts and components.