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Thursday, 18 April, 2002, 22:24 GMT 23:24 UK
Peers defeat arms export curbs
Legislation will control weapons sales
Government plans for new legislation to tighten control of arms exports have suffered a double defeat.

Proposals for export licences for military equipment to developing countries have come under scrutiny from the House of Lords.

There is no intention to create a loophole allowing the government to ignore any particular issue

Lord SainsburyTrade Minister

Peers voted by 145 to 120 in favour of tightening up a requirement that ministers must take account of "sustainable development" when issuing licences for military equipment overseas.

Peers also voted by 150 to 108 to partially exempt academics from a measure aimed at controlling information that could be used to build weapons.

Tighter regulation

The House of Lords was voting on the Export Control Bill which seeks to impose stricter controls on arms exports to strife-torn parts of the world.

The government has previously been criticised over arms deals
The Bill also introduces a new system to regulate arms deals.

It follows Sir Richard Scott's 1996 report on the arms-to-Iraq affair, which recommended a complete overhaul of the export licensing system.

The defeat over exports of military equipment to developing countries comes in the wake of the row over government proposals to sell a military air traffic control system to Tanzania.

The Cabinet backed the move, but International Development Secretary Clare Short argued that such an advanced system was unnecessary and the cash could be better spent.

Lord Sainsbury said: "There is no intention to create a loophole allowing the government to ignore any particular issue.

"We are confident it does not offer any government the opportunity to ignore sustainable development, where that would be contrary to our obligations under the EU Code of Conduct.

"On the question of Tanzania, I want to make it clear that the government will not grant a licence in this case, if to do so would have been in contravention of the consolidating criteria.

"Sustainability was one of the issues taken into account and the judgment was reached on that basis."

But Liberal Democrat Lord Redesdale said not all cases were as cut and dried as the export of a military vehicle to the US.

The "academic freedom" amendment prompted Trade Minister Lord Sainsbury to complain this left a large hole in the legislation.

He had said that the Bill's restrictions would not apply to information already in the public domain or that was being published at a conference or academic journal.

See also:

13 Aug 01 | Business
UK embroiled in Tanzania row
21 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Tanzania 'needs costly radar system'
22 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Scott attacks arms trade reform failure
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