HC Deb 08 November 1999 vol 337 cc420-1W
Dr. Cable

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the Government's policy is on the manufacture for sale abroad by UK companies of defence and security goods that are illegal in the UK; what action is taken against such companies; and if he will make a statement. [97483]

Mr. Charles Clarke

The kinds of weapons used by military and security forces are prohibited under the provisions of section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968. This means that no company may manufacture such weapons without the written authority of the Secretary of State. In order to obtain such an authority, an applicant must show that there is a compelling reason for possessing prohibited weapons, that the applicant is fit to be entrusted with prohibited weapons and that they will be stored under conditions of security commensurate with the danger to the public posed by such weapons.

Authorities are carefully conditioned to restrict to the minimum genuinely needed, the numbers and types of prohibited weapons the authority holder is allowed to possess. They are also specifically conditioned to restrict the purposes for which the holder may possess prohibited weapons and how the weapons may be disposed of.

It is an offence punishable by up to six months' imprisonment, a fine of up to £5,000 or both for a person to breach any of the conditions of an authority. Unauthorised possession of prohibited weapons is punishable by up to ten years' imprisonment, a fine or both. Where it is believed that an offence may have been committed, the information would be passed to the police for investigation. Any decision on whether or not to prosecute in an individual case is a matter for the police and the Crown Prosecution Service.

Export sales of such weapons are subject to the export licensing regime. Applications for export licences for prohibited weapons are considered carefully by the Department of Trade and Industry in consultation with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence.