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Arms Exports

Volume 704: debated on Thursday 23 October 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the current European Union code of conduct on arms exports; and whether they propose to make it more effective and legally binding.[HL5276]

The Government believe that the code of conduct provides an excellent framework within which decisions on conventional arms exports can be made. It produces clear statements of principle on issues relating to export control (including on human rights, conflict and sustainable development), and these set benchmarks for licences to be judged against. However, the code of conduct is currently only politically binding. We believe it should be given legally binding status. This can be done by adopting it, at EU level, as a common position. We continue to press other member states to try to achieve the necessary consensus to enable this to happen. The text of the common position has already been subjected to UK parliamentary scrutiny, so the Government could move quickly to adopt it once consensus is reached.