§ Sir George Young
To ask the President of the Board of Trade what assessment she has made of progress towards meeting her targets for issuing export licences for military equipment. 
§ Mrs. Beckett
Licences to export strategic goods are issued by the President of the Board of Trade and the Export Control Organisation of the Department of Trade and Industry is the Licensing authority. Relevant individual licence applications are circulated by the DTI to other government departments with an interest, as determined by them in line with their policy responsibilities. These include the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development.
In his announcement of 28 July 1997, Official Report, cols 26–29 of new criteria of the assessment of export licence applications my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made clear that the criteria would not be applied mechanistically and that individual applications would be considered case by case. In the months following the announcement, this led to an increase in the time taken to assess some applications. The Government appreciate the inconvenience and uncertainty that results from any delay in the processing of individual applications and my department together with the other departments involved, is continuing to work to reduce processing timescales generally.