Defence trade union joins Oxfam and Amnesty International in call for tighter control of arms exports

The call comes as Patricia Hewitt, Secretary of State for the Department of Trade and Industry, today goes in front of a parliamentary committee to defend the government's new controls on arms exports.

In a letter in today's Financial Times, Amicus, Oxfam and Amnesty International jointly call on Patricia Hewitt to honour the Government's election manifesto pledge to curb the activities of arms brokers and traffickers 'wherever they are located'.

The organisations urge the Government to close loopholes in the proposed regulations that will allow brokers to avoid most controls simply by stepping out of the UK to conduct their deals. They also call for arms transporters to be covered by the new regulations.

In today's letter, the organisations jointly urge Patricia Hewitt to, 'scrap the double standards and close these dangerous loopholes.'

Derek Simpson, General Secretary of Amicus Trade Union, said,

'Amicus are working with Oxfam and Amnesty International because not only are the loopholes bad news for people in countries where unregulated arms end up, they also bring the regulated industry into disrepute and so are bad news for those we represent. Patricia Hewitt should close the loopholes, not only to help those in conflict zones, but also to help protect British jobs.'

Justin Forsyth, Oxfam's Policy Director, said,

'In their manifesto, the Labour party promised to regulate arms brokers and traffickers 'wherever they are located'. The government must deliver on their promise or face being responsible for arms being delivered to the world's worst conflict zones and more deaths as a result.'

Amnesty International UK Director, Kate Allen said:

'Unless arms control laws apply to UK citizens when they are outside the country, they will simply be ignored. Arms brokers and transporters must be effectively regulated, or they will continue to sell weapons that are used to repress, persecute and massacre.'

The new law, as proposed by the government, does not cover shippers and transporters, so the activities of people like the notorious gunrunner Christopher Barratt-Jolley will remain unregulated. Barratt-Jolley recently went to jail for flying £22 million worth of cocaine into Britain, but also flew weapons into countries like Angola and South Yemen.

'Extra-territorial' controls would regulate brokers wherever in the world they sign the deal. There are already 'extra-territorial' controls in UK law for crimes such as paedophilia, terrorism and corruption. Other European countries introducing controls, such as Finland and Poland, are making them fully extra-territorial. The USA already has a fully functional extra-territorial system.

Further information

  • Half a million people are killed in conflict each year and Britain remains one of the world's biggest exporters of weapons.
  • In their 2001 manifesto, the Labour Party promised to curb the activities of arms brokers and traffickers 'wherever they are located'. The Government has since announced that it does not intend to introduce controls on UK arms brokers operating outside the UK (except in the few cases where countries are subject to legally binding arms embargoes or where the brokers are dealing in weapons of mass destruction, long-range missiles or torture equipment).
  • Patricia Hewitt will today appear in front of the Quadripartite Committee of the House of Commons to answer questions on the Export Control Act. Oxfam and Amnesty International will also be giving evidence to the committee today.
  • In January 2003 the Government announced the dummy orders of the secondary legislation of the Export Control Act. The primary legislation of this Act was passed in July 2002. The secondary legislation is where many of the finer details of how the Arms will be controlled will be confirmed. A consultation period is now underway.

More on AI's campaign for tighter arms controls is available online.

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