HL Deb 23 July 2001 vol 626 cc173-4WA
Lord Hylton

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What particular proposals they will make at the United Nations Conference on Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, to be held in New York on 9 July; and whether they will include the following items:

  1. (a) close co-operation between the major arms exporting states;
  2. (b) control over international arms brokers;
  3. (c) restriction of exports to armies lacking adequate discipline;
  4. (d) support for the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) and other nongovernmental organisations; and
  5. (e) encouragement and funding of regional collection and destruction of weapons and ammunition, especially when combined with local development projects. [HL168]

The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean)

The Government attach great importance to supporting efforts to reduce the uncontrolled spread and use of small and light weapons. The UK and its European partners have consistently maintained that the current UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects should adopt a politically binding programme of action containing concrete measures to deal with both the supply and demand side of the trade. The UK has made substantial contributions to proposals put forward by the EU and which reflect the noble Lord's concerns. These include export control and export licensing criteria—this would include the issue of diversion to end-users of concern; work towards a legally binding instrument on the marking, tracing and brokering of small arms; management of stockpiles and surpluses, and destruction; disarmament; demobilisation and reintegration (DD&R) of ex-combatants; and assistance for implementation of concrete measures, through, for example, weapons collection and destruction, capacity-building for border control, customs and law enforcement etc.

FCO officials have been in frequent and close consultation with EU partners, both bilaterally and through the regular EU working groups which discuss these issues. We also have many formal and informal contacts with, for example, the US and others in various arms control regimes and working groups, through which officials are able to discuss the subject of small arms and light weapons and other related issues. We also had contact with the US during the meetings in the preparatory process for the conference itself. In February this year, the UK hosted a small arms and light weapons policy brainstorming seminar to which a wide selection of countries was invited. The then Foreign Secretary addressed that meeting.

The Government also acknowledge the important role which NGOs and civil society can play in this field. We are working to see their interests reflected in the conference's programme of action and in its follow-up.

The Government have developed a forward looking small arms strategy as part of the Global Conflict Prevention Pool mechanism. Ministers have agreed to support joint FCO, MoD and DfID proposals to address the proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons to the tune of £19.5 million over the next three years. These funds will support the outcome of the UN conference as well as addressing concrete supply and demand issues, research and support for NGOs, including IANSA, and civil society groups.