HC Deb 27 July 1999 vol 336 cc307-8W
Mr. Berry

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, pursuant to his reply on 19 April 1999,Official Report, column 456, what measures have been instigated by his Department to ensure that they provide accurate information about the export of tear gas and other not control equipment. [93522]

Dr. Howells

As noted in my earlier answer, the export of tear gas is controlled under a variety of entries in the legislation, depending whether it is bulk tear gas or tear gas incorporated in any of a range of possible devices. The term not control equipment could describe a wide range of items and, as noted in the answer of 23 March 1998,Official Report, column 76, to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett), several of the entries in Part III of Schedule 1 to the Export of Goods (Control) Order (the so-called Military List) might be capable of playing some role in not control.

In her answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Caroline Hint) on 30 October 1997, Official Report, columns 870-71, my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Mrs. Roche) explained that, because of the problems that had been identified with the Export Control Organisation's databases, all information relying on data derived from those databases and given in response to Parliamentary Questions or in correspondence should be read in conjunction with a caveat set out in her answer.

However, the information on export licensing decisions between 2 May and 31 December 1997 set out in the Government's Annual Report on Strategic Export Controls, which includes a summary description of all military equipment licensed for export during this period as well as the ratings of the goods concerned, is not subject to the caveat set out in my hon. Friend's answer of 30 October 1997, notwithstanding that it relied on data obtained from the Export Control Organisation's databases. On the contrary, as stated in the Annual Report, the information may be treated as definitive subject to the constraint that there is always a risk of human error in the compilation of such a large body of data".

Furthermore, as noted in my hon. Friend's answer of 30 October 1997, among the steps taken to improve the situation she described was the decision to develop a new database for recording information about standard individual export licences. This database became operational on 1 March 1999 and will be used to supply information for future Reports. Because the database allows for information to be accepted and transferred electronically, it will be easier for exporters to submit their licence applications and it will greatly enhance the integrity of the data, although human error can never be eliminated altogether.

Finally, I should note that the information on physical exports of military equipment from the UK included in the Annual Report was in part supplied by HM Customs and Excise and in part based on information provided for the UK's contribution to the UN Arms Register; the Export Control Organisation does not compile records of licensed exports.

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