MPs deliver warning about arms control
A cross-party committee of MPs has warned that the government's plans to regulate the arms industry may not prove fully effective.
The warning will be welcomed by pressure groups such as Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) which includes many Christians, who have highlighted shortfalls in the government's policy.
Campaigners for cancellation of Third World debt have also prevously emphasised the damaging effect that government subsidised commercial arms sales can have on Third World countries.
The Commons committee on strategic export controls - which is comprised of the defence, foreign affairs, international development and trade and industry committees - said that current proposals to toughen British law were an "inadequate halfway house solution".
Proposals for secondary legislation under the Export Control Act would cover the regulation of British citizens abroad if they were trading in long-range missiles and torture equipment, or trading with an embargoed destination.
But the MPs warned that "there is a distinction between trade in torture equipment and trade in, for example, small arms, which will only sometimes be reprehensible".
"But the reprehensible trade in small arms is as damaging to the lives of millions of people around the world as trade in the types of equipment to which the government intends to apply extraterritoriality - if not even more damaging."
"We conclude that it would be a missed opportunity if the government failed to regulate all UK citizens and companies who are involved in trafficking and brokering activities abroad which, if conducted in the UK, would not be granted a licence."
The regulations set out by the government would only cover an "incomplete set of limited circumstances", the committee said.
"The arm of the law should reach out to British subjects based overseas who are involved in all those aspects of the arms trade which any civilised nation would regard as reprehensible - including the proliferation of small arms."
Foreign Office minister Mike O'Brien indicated that the government was aiming to make the arms control regulations "even more modern and effective".
"This government has made unprecedented improvements to the transparency and accountability of UK arms export control. However we are not resting on our laurels, and we continue to work towards further improvements," he said.
The Conservative party however was keen to emphasis the damaging effect that regulation could have on the commercial arms industry.
Shadow defence minister Gerald Howarth backed a warning that the MPs also gave that the plans could prove bureaucratic.