Thank you for your letter of 31 March to Julian Brazier, enclosing correspondence from your constituent, Mr Tom Franklin of 4 Frazer Court, York YO30 5FH, about the possibility of illegal weapons being exhibited at the Defence and Security Exhibition international Exhibition 2015 (DSEl 2015) held in London in September 2015. I am replying as this matter falls within my portfolio.
l understand the concerns raised by Mr Franklin. I would like to reassure him that every effort was made to ensure there were no illegal weapons at the DSEl 2015 defence exhibition. At every DSEl event officials from a number of Government Departments and Agencies work closely with Clarion the event organisers in advance of, and during the exhibition to ensure that exhibitors comply with UK legislation. The priority is to ensure that exhibitors are made aware of UK and EU legislation well in advance of the event in order to prevent breaches of the law. Exhibitors’ stands are subject to rigorous compliance checks by the DSEl compliance team before and during every event, and staff from BIS, HMRC and other Government Departments attend each day to help ensure that exhibitors understand and comply with their export control responsibilities. These efforts did not identify any breaches of export controls at the 2015 event.
Mr Franklin states that illegal weapons were shown to be exhibited at DSEl 2013. I would like to point out that no exhibitors were proven to be selling prohibited items at DSEl 2013. Rather, the event organisers found literature on the stands of two foreign exhibitors depicting certain items, including electric shock batons and leg irons, which are prohibited for sale in the UK. As a precautionary measure, the two companies were expelled from the exhibition and the literature in question was confiscated and passed to HMRC officers. UK trade controls prohibit ‘any act calculated to promote the supply or delivery of any category A goods (which includes certain prohibited military and paramilitary items) ‘. . .where that person knows or has reason to believe that such action or actions will, or may result in the removal of those goods from one third country to another third country'. Simply having an item displayed in a brochure or literature does not by itself prove that an offence has occurred. Whilst these goods may be prohibited in the UK and the EU, they are not prohibited worldwide. Consequently it is not unusual that non-EU companies attending the DSEI exhibition may deal in these items outside of the EU and therefore have them depicted in their standard literature.
Companies attending DSEI are warned in advance of the event that these items cannot be sold in the UK. Expelling the companies from the exhibition and confiscating their literature effectively made sure that the companies could not promote those goods at DSEI. In these instances, HMRC officers did not consider that it was appropriate, proportionate or viable to take any further action against the companies concerned.
This approach was supported by the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills when he wrote to the Chairman of the Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC) in 2012 stating that ....if unacceptable material is found on display, we will ensure that the exhibition stand in question is closed down. "
In advance of DSEI 2015, the Export Control Organisation in BIS agreed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Clarion which set out their role and responsibilities, as well as those of the exhibitor companies, in respect of export and trade control legislation. The agreed MOU for DSEI 2015 has been placed in both libraries of both the Houses of Common and Lords as a deposited paper, reference DEP2015 0666. A similar MOU has been signed for DSEI 2017.
Additionally Clarion also published its compliance conditions for exhibitors on its website see. http://www.dsei.co.uk/build-subpage/compliance for DSEI 2017.
The decision on who gained entry into DSEI 2015 was made by Clarion. The admissions policy is available on the DSEI 2017 website http://www.dsei.co.uk/visiting/admission-policy.
DSEI is a commercial biennial exhibition of defence and security equipment. it is one of the most prestigious defence and security exhibitions in the world, attracting international industry representation. The UK Government supports responsible exports that meet the legitimate defence and security needs of other countries, while preventing exports which might fuel regional or internal conflicts, threaten national security, or have human rights implications. This is in line with article 51 of the UN charter, which states that every country has a right to defend itself. As not every country has or wants its own defence industry, some level of international trade in defence and security is necessary. UK Government support for exhibitions like DSEI is consistent with the policy of supporting responsible exports and helps UK companies meet the legitimate defence and security needs of other countries.
The Government takes its responsibilities very seriously and operates one of the most robust and transparent arms export control regimes in the world. Defence and security exports are conducted responsibly in accordance with strict national international protocols and standards. All applications for export licences, including to the countries mentioned by your constituent, are rigorously assessed on a case by case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing and take into account the conditions prevailing in the destination and region. A key part of this assessment involves consideration of human rights. We have confidence that the UK’s thorough export licensing system is able to distinguish between the exports for legitimate defence and security products and those which pose an unacceptable risk to human rights. Commercial relationships do not, and will not prevent the Government from speaking frankly and openly to the governments of countries about issue of concerns, including human rights.
The Lord Price CVO
Cover letter from Julian Sturdy MP:
Dear Mr Franklin,
Further to our correspondence regarding the DSEI arms exhibition l have recently received a response from Lord Price, Minister of State for Trade and Investment, regarding I enclose a copy of his letter to me for your information.
in response to the questions you raised with me which i passed on to the Minister, he states that every effort was taken to ensure that no illegal weapons were exhibited at DSEI 2015, and he outlines the checks and regulations that have been puting place. With regard to DSEI 2013, the Minister clarifies that no illegal weapons were exhibited, and no attendees were proven to be selling prohibited items at the event.
I understand that literature depicting some illegal items was found on the stands of two foreign exhibitors by HMRC officers, who confiscated the material. As a precaution the two exhibitors were expelled from the event which I welcome. Whilst it is not illegal for these companies to depict these items on their literature, as they may deal in them outside of the EU, the Secretary of State has been clear in his support for HMRC’S approach.
With regard to the criminal proceedings which were brought against you, i should explain that as an MP i am forbidden in involving myself in any legal matters which is covered by the sub judice principle. This reflects to relationship between Parliament and our independent court system.
Whilst i will not comment on the judgement you described in your e-mail, l have passed it on to the Committee on Arms Export Controls as requested.
I hope you find this information helpful and thank you again for contacting me.