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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 6 December, 2000, 12:36 GMT
Arms exports law to be changed
Soldier
New laws will not be introduced until after the election
The government has taken the first steps towards introducing new laws on arms export, including regulating the use of the internet to buy arms.

Ministers are to publish a draft bill outlining proposals for tightening up the existing legislation, which has been criticised as out-of-date and dates back to World War II.

Sir Richard Scott, who warned in his 1996 arms-to-Iraq inquiry report that the law needed to be reformed, recently criticised the government for not acting quickly enough to introduce changes.

However, because the Bill is only being published in draft form, it will almost certainly have to wait until after the General Election before becoming law.

The Export Control Bill would:

  • introduce controls on trafficking and brokering of weapons
  • prohibit trafficking and brokering of equipment used in torture
  • provide new powers to prohibit any trafficking and brokering of equipment under embargo or on its way to embargoed destinations
  • introduce controls on the export of military technology over the internet, by fax or telephone.

    'Unacceptable delay'

    Sir Richard recently demanded an "urgent" overhaul of the system for handling arms exports.

    He said the four years of inaction since his report was an "extraordinary and unacceptable" delay.

    His 1996 report detailed how ministers in the previous government were able to conceal from parliament arms sales to Iraq amid a controversial intelligence services operation.

    While Labour published a White Paper in 1998, Sir Richard said that most of the action on his recommendations took place under the former Conservative government.

    Foreign Secretary Robin Cook built much of his reputation in opposition attacking the then Tory government over the arms-to-Iraq affair.

    The Tories may take advantage of the fact that the government is likely to have failed to introduce the necessary legislation changes before the next general election.

    The government had come under fire from campaigners for continuing to sell weapons to many military governments in developing countries.


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    20 Jul 00 | UK Politics
    17 Jan 00 | UK Politics
    18 Dec 99 | UK Politics
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