§ The Parliamentary Under. Secretary of State for Defence (Dr. Lewis Moonie)
The MOD form 680 procedure allows defence exporters voluntarily to seek preliminary Government advice at the marketing stage on the likely prospects for eventual approval of an export licence. The procedure is also the mechanism by which the MOD authorises the release of United Kingdom classified military information in support of marketing activity.
Our export controls are greatly strengthened if our exporters market and promote their products responsibly and have the information necessary to do so. The procedure does not exempt industry from the need to apply for an export licence, but it does provide an indication of whether a licence is likely to be issued. It saves industry time, money and potential embarrassment in pursuing export prospects for which a licence is not likely to be issued. Licences are still decided on a case-by-case basis as each application is submitted.
§ Norman Lamb
May I ask the Secretary of State about the use of this procedure in relation to the sale of the 13 air traffic control system to Tanzania? The preliminary clearance under the procedure was given in August 1997 without any consultation with, or even the knowledge of, the Department for International Development. On the basis of that preliminary clearance, BAE Systems entered a binding contract with the Tanzanian Government; Barclays provided a soft loan; approximately $15 million was paid over and most of the equipment was built, thereby presenting the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry with a fait accompli when it came to deciding the export licence application. Is that how the F680 procedure is supposed to operate, and if so, is not there a need for urgent reform? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that preliminary clearance—
§ Dr. Moonie
The assessment took place in July 1997, as the hon. Gentleman said. Sustainable development was not a specific factor to be taken into account when considering F680 applications, although the impact on the economy of the recipient country was. Anything else in his question is a matter between the company that sold the equipment and the Tanzanian Government who bought it, not a matter for the Ministry of Defence. As I said, we do not give clearance: we give guidance.