Agencies applaud arms promise, now call for action

This is a significant advance on the Government's 1998 White Paper proposals, and a sign that the British Government are listening to the evidence of agencies who witness on a day-to-day basis the suffering caused by unregulated arms deals . But now that the Government has listened, it must act – and swiftly.

'As soon as this commitment is put into action, it will make a real difference to countless people in developing countries whose lives are wrecked by bullets and guns sold by British arms brokers,' said David Bryer, Oxfam's Director.

It is now vital that this determination to crack down on unscrupulous arms brokers is turned into reality by its inclusion in the Queen's Speech in November. The agencies want to see a new law enacted by the next general election to ensure that all arms brokering deals require licenses. /p>

Only this would prevent British dealers and freight companies moving arms, largely from Eastern Europe to war zones in Africa. This is exactly what happened in the 1990s, with British dealers trafficking arms to those responsible for the Rwandan genocide in 1994, and, according to media reports, to the Sierra Leone rebels as recently as the end of 1999. To suppress this deadly trade, a central database of UK arms brokers should be set up, and arms sales arranged by British brokers should be subject to the licensed approval of the DTI, as is currently the case with direct arms exports from the UK.

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