19 Jul 18. The Defence Committee has today criticised the ‘closed minded approach’ of the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) to a Statute of Limitations as it publishes the Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP’s response to the Committee’s submission to the NIO’s legacy consultation. Last month, the Committee’s submission to the legacy consultation renewed calls for veterans and others facing investigations into Troubles-related fatalities to be protected by a Statute of Limitations. The submission, consisting of a strongly-worded covering letter and a copy of the Committee’s April 2017 report Investigations into fatalities in Northern Ireland involving British military personnel, reiterated the Committee’s unanimous view that the best solution to the “vicious cycle of investigation and re-investigation” was a Statute of Limitations covering all Troubles-related incidents, up to the signing of the 1998 Belfast Agreement, which involved former members of the Armed Forces, accompanied with a truth recovery mechanism. The submission also expressed the Committee’s disappointment and surprise that the legacy consultation failed to include the section on alternative approaches to the past, previously promised by the Government in its November 2017 response to its report, which stated that a Statute of Limitations would specifically be considered. While acknowledging that the “current system of addressing the past is not working well for anyone”, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland’s response continues to rule out the option of a Statute of Limitations, favouring instead a new model of investigations under the proposed Historical Investigations Unit. Responding to the Secretary of State’s letter, the Chairman of the Defence Committee, the Rt Hon Dr Julian Lewis MP, commented: “Although it is courteous to respond so promptly to our submission while the consultation is still underway, the speed of this reply and the length of the Secretary of State’s letter suggest that its outcome has already been predetermined in favour of a cycle of further investigation and re-investigation.
“Unfortunately, the Secretary of State’s letter is unsatisfactory and seems to be an attempt by the NIO to shut down debate on this important topic. This is particularly evident in the closed minded approach towards a Statute of Limitations, coupled with a truth recovery mechanism. This blanket rejection also ignores one of the cardinal points about this debate—namely, the impact of the Northern Ireland Sentences Act which ensures that anyone convicted of murder or manslaughter during the Troubles cannot serve more than 2 years of a life sentence. The Secretary of State’s approach is in stark contrast to the recent announcement by the Defence Secretary of the establishment of a dedicated team at the MoD to consider the issue of the legal protection that can be provided to serving and former service personnel.”
The Committee will continue to focus on this issue, as part of its broader inquiry, ‘Statute of limitations—Veterans protection’, which will consider the wider use of what has become known as ‘Lawfare’ against Service personnel in international conflicts.
17 Jul 18. Committees publish wide-ranging joint report on the Government’s arms export controls policy. A new report by Parliament’s Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC) comments on a variety of issues – including the regulation of arms-dealers; the quality of information in the public domain; concerns regarding auditing and end-user monitoring; concerns about the role of brokers / agents / advisors; concerns about enforcement and the capacity to enforce; and tackling alleged corruption in the arms trade. These issues were looked at in the context of the Committees’ review of the Government’s most recent annual reports on strategic export controls. The Committees’ Chair, Graham Jones MP, said, “During our inquiry we heard from the defence industry, academic experts, campaign groups and the Government itself. The Committees have together agreed a report that looks in depth at this very sensitive area and makes a series of detailed, constructive suggestions to improve policy and procedures. Although the UK has one of the toughest arms-control systems anywhere in the world, this in-depth analysis has highlighted some of the gaps in those controls. I am delighted that there was a consensual view across the Committees on what is a very thorough report. There are, however, outstanding questions and the Committees intend to look into these further in the future.”
CAEC consists of four House of Commons Committees meeting together to scrutinise the Government’s controls on exporting, and dealing in, both weapons and items with a potential military use. These Committees are the Defence, Foreign Affairs, International Development and International Trade Committees.
In their report, the Committees:
- draw attention to the potentially significant impact of Brexit on UK arms export controls, and ask the Government to show that it is planning for the legal and other consequences of the UK ceasing to be part of EU arrangements in this area;
- recommend the Government consider tightening the regulation of arms-dealers;
- ask the Government to provide information about situations where licensing decisions are made by Ministers, rather than by officials;
- recommend that the Government consider introducing a presumption that certain licences will be denied for exports to countries that have not signed the Arms Trade Treaty or are on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s list of Human Rights Priority Countries;
- are critical of the Government for presenting data in formats that are very difficult to use – and say that the Government has misrepresented data in relation to prosecutions over export-control offences;
- ask the Government to review the resources given to HM Revenue & Customs for the enforcement of export controls;
- express dissatisfaction at the Government’s admission that it carries out no auditing of overseas operations by UK companies in connection with licences, recommending that the compliance-audit regime be extended accordingly; and
- recommend that the Government consider whether to start monitoring where arms exports finally end up.
In addition, the Committees heard evidence linking middle-men in the arms industry to alleged corruption and diversion of arms to destinations for which they’ve not been licensed. The Committees noted they couldn’t judge the truth of these allegations, but took them very seriously, asking the Government to consider adjusting the criteria used to assess licence applications to incorporate a criterion specially relating to corruption.
House of Commons and House of Lords Hansard Written Answers
Asked by Nia Griffith
Asked on: 12 July 2018
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Environment and Industrial Strategy, with reference to the oral contribution of the Minister for Defence Procurement of 9 July 2018, on Leaving the EU: Defence and Military Aerospace Industry, Official Report, column 694, how many civil servants are part of the cross-departmental group; and from which departments those civil servants are drawn.
Answered by: Mr Sam Gyimah
Answered on: 18 July 2018
A cross-Departmental steering group has been established to oversee the work to develop options for a UK GNSS. The steering group comprises 11 officials from the UK Space Agency, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Ministry of Defence, the Cabinet Office, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Infrastructure and Projects Authority.