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Arms Trade

Volume 699: debated on Friday 22 February 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they plan to strengthen controls over British arms exports by (a) controlling all sales by British extra-territorial arms brokers, including military vehicles and other equipment; (b) covering the military activities of United Kingdom-owned foreign subsidiary companies; (c) requiring official approval for the re-export or transfer of military goods of which the original export was authorised; and (d) requiring that approved arms and equipment exports do not prejudice the sustainable development of poor countries. [HL1905]

On 6 February 2008 the Government published their initial response to a public consultation carried out as part of the 2007 review of export control legislation. The response can be viewed on BERR's website at

The initial response makes a number of specific commitments to enhance the controls and covers the issues raised at points (a) and (b). However, as stressed in that response, there are a number of areas where further research and analysis is required.

The Government are extending the current extraterritorial controls to encompass the activities of UK persons anywhere in the world in relation to small arms. It is currently considering extending this beyond small arms to possibly encompass other weapons. In doing so, it will need to ensure that any new regulations are proportionate to the risk.

The Government's initial response states that they remain of the view that to attempt to control directly the activities of UK-owned foreign subsidiaries—in effect to treat them as though they are based in the UK—is not legally viable and would be virtually impossible to enforce.

Similarly on point (c), the Government are not convinced that requiring exporters to seek re-export approval from the UK authorities is necessary or feasible, since such a system would be onerous to operate and extremely difficult to enforce in practice outside the UK's legal jurisdiction.

It is however possible that the Government's continuing analysis will result in further changes that will impact on these issues. The Government aim to issue a further response later in 2008.

On point (d), the Government consider that Criterion 8 of the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria, which requires the Government to take into account “whether the proposed export would seriously undermine the economy or seriously hamper the sustainable development of the recipient country” already provides adequate protection against the risk that exports of controlled goods will prejudice the development of poor countries.