Saudi-led coalition warplanes Sanaa Yemen

Calls For Tighter Controls On UK Arms Exports

Saudi-led coalition warplanes Sanaa Yemen

Smoke rising after an airstrike from a Saudi-led coalition warplane targeting Houthi rebels in Sanaa, Yemen (Image: PA) 

A committee of MPs says a new inspection regime is needed to check how British arms exports are being used. 

The cross-party panel suggests monitoring would help the Government decide whether to grant export licences "as well as addressing questions around compliance and enforcement".

In a wide-ranging report, they also suggested stronger controls on arms dealers and called for the Government to spell out how Brexit would impact the licensing regime.

Anti-arms trade campaigners welcomed the MPs' recommendations, claiming the UK approved exports to countries such as Saudi Arabia with "very little oversight" about how the weapons were used.

Andrew Smith from the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), is involved in a legal battle with the Government over the use of British military exports by Saudi Arabia in Yemen. He said:

"Every year the UK Government licences hundreds of millions of pounds worth of arms to human rights abusing regimes around the world.

"There is very little oversight of how these arms are used or who they are used against. The arms sales being agreed today could be used to fuel atrocities for years to come."

"Right now UK fighter jets and bombs are playing a central role in the Saudi-led destruction of Yemen."

The Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC) acknowledged that end-use monitoring was not common practice, but highlighted how the US "Blue Lantern" programme saw checks made by American embassy personnel in co-operation with host governments.

The MPs said: "The Government should consider whether to begin end-use monitoring, and how that would be done, taking account of resource implications, and set out the reasoning behind its conclusions in the response to this report.

"We believe that some end-use monitoring is advisable, and that it would assist the Government in making better, more informed, export licensing decisions, as well as in addressing questions around compliance and enforcement."

The report also recommended stricter controls on arms brokers, noting that the regulatory regimes in the USA and 23 of the other EU states were "significantly more stringent that that of the UK".

They suggested a "fit and proper person test" for people applying for a brokering licence.

The MPs also noted that "Brexit will have a potentially significant impact on the UK's export-control and trade-control regimes" and asked ministers to spell out what they were doing to prepare for the situation.