My honourable friend the Minister of State for Energy (Malcolm Wicks) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The Government will today—Wednesday 6 February 2008—publish their initial response to the public consultation on UK Strategic Export Controls.
On Monday 18 June 2007, I announced to the House the launch of a public consultation on strategic export controls. In this consultation, the Government sought views both on the controls they introduced in 2004 under the Export Control Act 2002—to establish whether they are having the intended effect without imposing unnecessary or disproportionate burdens on business—and on a range of options for further change.
Prior to the closure of the consultation period on 30 September 2007, the Government received a total of 23 substantive responses from a range of groups, including industry and non-governmental organisations, and over 5,000 brief emails and letters. These have now been published on the BERR website at www.berr.gov.uk/europeandtrade/strategic-export-control/legislation/export-control-act-2002/review/index.html.
Since the public consultation period closed, the Government have been analysing the responses and considering the case for change. The initial response commits the Government to introduce change in a number of areas of significant concern. Notably it puts into action the commitment announced by the Prime Minister, in his Mansion House Speech on 12 November 2007, to extend export laws to control brokering and trafficking of small arms by UK persons anywhere in the world and to give consideration to extending these controls to cover other weapons of concern.
The initial response also commits the Government to:
extend the coverage of extra-territorial trade controls to include trading in MANPADs (ie portable weapons designed to fire missiles at aircraft) and those cluster munitions which cause unacceptable harm to civilians when carried out by UK persons anywhere in the world;
rationalise the licensing treatment of long range missiles and unmanned air vehicles;
add “sting sticks” to the current UK list of torture equipment, to which the most stringent controls are applied; and
start EU negotiations to introduce a new “torture end use control” which will allow all EU states to bring under control any item which is known to be for use in torture.
The Government are currently undertaking further research and consultation with a view to reaching an agreement on some of the other change options that have been proposed. We hope to publish a further response to the change proposal in spring 2008.
Once the Government have finalised their position, they will aim to introduce the new legislation in three stages. The addition of sting sticks to the UK list of torture equipment is relatively straightforward to implement; this will be our first priority and we will act with immediacy. In the next stage we will then focus on the more complex changes to the controls on small arms, MANPADs and cluster munitions, so that change in these areas of high concern is also implemented speedily. In the final stage, the Government will introduce any further changes that may be necessary following further consideration, for example the potential extension of extraterritorial trade controls beyond small arms, to other types of weapons; the case for strengthening of controls on the export of non-controlled equipment for military end use in destinations of concern and introducing a register of traders in military equipment.