HC Deb 08 July 1992 vol 211 cc333-4
20. Mr. Alton

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will review the arrangements made by his Department to check the authenticity of end user certificates.

Mr. Needham

Export controls in the United Kingdom are strictly enforced. My Department and other Departments involved keep under constant review the measures necessary to ensure their continued enforcement.

Mr. Alton

The Minister will have seen the disturbing allegations in The Independent concerning the illicit use of equipment manufactured in the United Kingdom. Given the scale of the problems illustrated in the articles, will he assure the House that he will undertake an overhaul of the existing end user arrangements as they are clearly not working satisfactorily?

Mr. Needham

I understand the hon. Gentleman's question, and his concern, but some 56,000 licence applications on military goods have been presented by the purchasers of those goods in the past five years. Those certificates form only a small part of the information on which the Department relies.

I wrote in reply to the article in The Independent, asking about Mr. Kelsey's sources of information, but so far I have heard nothing.

Mr. Churchill

Is my hon. Friend aware of recent reports in the Sunday Times suggesting that a major British defence contractor falsified documents to export items which would help a third world country to achieve nuclear weapon status? Should that not be cracked down on most firmly, and should not such firms be put on notice that they cannot expect Government defence contracts if they circumvent our laws in that underhand way?

Mr. Needham

If our laws are so circumvented and information is supplied which is knowingly incorrect, it is a criminal offence.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Should not the principle of end user certification be extended to the export of food products for humanitarian purposes? Will the Minister confirm that under arrangements approved by the Foreign Office and the Department of Trade and Industry it is possible for British food producers to export food to Iraq —where the client is Saddam Hussein and his agencies —for consumption by the republican guard? Is that not the position now being implemented by the Department?

Mr. Needham

The Department acts as the agency for issuing licences. Food which goes to Iraq must be accepted by the UN sanctions committee and must pass the humanitarian causes requirement before it is allowed. If the hon. Gentleman is aware of a particular case, I shall be only too happy to look into it.