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Tighter controls on arms trading and transport announced

Tighter controls on arms trading and transport announced

DEPARTMENT FOR BUSINESS, ENTERPRISE AND REGULATORY REFORM News Release (2008/145) issued by The Government News Network on 21 July 2008

Tougher controls on the trading and transportation of arms were today announced by the Government. The measures include an extension of extra-territorial controls to cover light weapons, plus a tightening of controls on the transport and UK transit of highly sensitive goods. The developments were outlined as part of a further response to a public consultation on the UK Strategic Export Controls.

The announcements build on the recent move to add so-called sting sticks to the UK list of torture equipment and the decision by the UK to start working within the European Union to introduce a new 'torture end use' control which will make the export of any equipment believed to be for use in torture licensable and therefore give the Government the power to refuse it.

Business Minister Malcolm Wicks said:

"The irresponsible and illegal trade in sensitive weapons can have unspeakable consequences - destroying families and disrupting the efforts to combat poverty.

"The measures we have taken following the 2007 Review, including those announced today, show that we're delivering on our commitments to bear down on this issue. The tougher controls are wide-ranging and we want our measures to be both highly effective and enforceable.

"I am already particularly pleased that we have been able to take prompt and decisive action to apply the strictest controls on cluster munitions, in the spirit of the Dublin convention. Legislation has already been laid to do that, and will come into effect from 1 October.

"These changes will bring in tighter controls on the most sensitive goods that pass through our country, and UK citizens trading in small arms and light weapons will need a licence, wherever in the world they are; and we will work with the EU to change the Military End Use Control so that further measures are put in place to minimise the risk of non-military goods being used by the military, police or security forces for internal repression, breaches of human rights or against UK forces or our allies in the most sensitive destinations."

The following commitments, made in February, will come into force from 1 October 2008, when legislation will be implemented to:

* Create a new three-category trade controls structure, retaining the strictest controls on goods that are inherently undesirable (Category A) and introducing a new Category B to control extra-territorial trading in other goods that are internationally agreed to be of heightened concern.
* Extend the extra-territorial trade controls (to apply to any UK person anywhere in the world) on cluster munitions by placing these in Category A, and on small arms and Man Portable Air Defence Systems (MANPADs) by placing these in Category B; and bring a wider range of activities related to the trading of non-military explosive goods to embargoed destinations under control.

Then, from 6 April 2009, further steps will be taken to:

* Move light weapons into Category B of the new trade controls, to control trading by any UK person anywhere in the world, and move Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Long Range Missiles (LRMs) into this category.

* Introduce additional controls on transport in the highest risk circumstances.
* Adjust the scope of current exemptions for goods that pass through the UK in transit and transhipment, by removing exemptions for all highly sensitive (Category A) goods and removing exemptions for destinations of concern for Category B goods.
* Negotiate an enhanced 'EU Military End Use Control' where licences will be required for export of any non-controlled goods from the EU when the exporter knows they are intended for use by the military, police or security forces in listed destinations, and there is a clear risk that the goods might be used for internal repression, breaches of human rights, or against UK forces or those of allies.

The Government's further response is part of its post implementation review of new UK controls introduced in 2004. As well as changes to the UK controls, work will be taken forward in parallel to negotiate stronger torture and military end use controls across the EU.


Notes to editors

1. The Government's further response paper can be found at:

2. On 6 February 2008 the Government published an initial response. In its response the Government made a commitment to strengthen controls in a number of areas and analyse further control options that are now addressed in the future response.

3. The UK's strategic export controls support the Government's counter-proliferation objectives. They are based on the Export Control Act 2002 and its secondary legislation which came into effect in 2004. The review fulfils a Government commitment to undertake a Post Implementation Review three years after their introduction in accordance with Cabinet Office 'Better Regulation' Guidelines.

4. The public consultation was launched on Monday 18 June 2007 and closed on 30 September 2007.

5. After further analysis of the views and recommendations received to the public consultation there are certain changes the Government has decided not to make:

* Ancillary services - the Government has concluded that the sole provision of finance or insurance services and general advertising and promotion should not be controlled for the new Category B goods. However, active or targeted promotional activities aimed at securing a particular business deal will be controlled.

* A pre-licensing registration system for arms brokers - the Government is not yet fully convinced that the benefits of a pre-licensing registration system would justify the burden it could impose on legitimate business, particularly in view of steps that it is already taking in other areas.

* The current provision in the trade controls that limits the controls on certain activities to those which are done in return for the "receipt of a fee, commission or other consideration" will be retained, although the Government will amend the current legislation to clarify what is meant by the term "commission or consideration".

* Harmonising the definitions of technology - the response concludes that the current definitions differ for legitimate reasons and so it would be inappropriate to harmonise them. However, the Government commits to update guidance to clarify the reasoning behind these differences.

6. The Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform helps UK business succeed in an increasingly competitive world. It promotes business growth and a strong enterprise economy, leads the better regulation agenda and champions free and fair markets. It is the shareholder in a number of Government-owned assets and it works to secure, clean and competitively priced energy supplies

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