LibLink: Martin Horwood – Lib Dems clamping down on the arms trade

martin horwoodOver at the Lib Dems’ website, Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood has welcomed today’s announcement that Vince Cable has put out a call for evidence on a new register of arms brokers, introducing tougher regulations on the arms trade. Here’s an excerpt:

Arms brokers act as intermediaries in many arms deals by bringing together potential buyers and sellers in return for a cut of the transaction. Currently UK companies require a license before they can export military goods, but brokers are somewhat of an unknown entity. Under the proposals all brokers will have to appear on a public registry, with possible requirements to attend training courses and suitability assessments.

The news comes as a relief after the Committee on Arms Export Control (CAEC), which works across BIS, the Foreign Office, Defence and the Department for International Development, highlighted in a 2013 report that current government regulation of arms brokers is “patently inadequate”. It wasn’t the first time that the CAEC has pressed for a register of brokers, but it has taken a Lib Dem Secretary of State in BIS to take their recommendations forward. …

Critics of strengthening transparency and regulation of the arms trade use arguments about British competiveness and the need to accept the reality that all countries trade arms and we would be silly not to capitalise on that. Tempting though it might be to imagine, this is not about ending our country’s role in the trade completely. However, there is no evidence that tougher regulations have adversely affected British business in the past, indeed responsible businesses welcome tougher regulation and can benefit from it. By requiring regulations like the proposed register of brokers, we are setting an example that will ultimately make our world and our country a safer place.

You can read Martin’s article in full here.

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  • Eddie Sammon 17th Apr '14 - 9:30am

    It is quite astonishing to claim that “there is no evidence that tougher regulations have adversely affected British business in the past”. You might believe this, but try to tell it to business owners or private sector employees and they will switch off.

  • This is remarkable – a positive step forward instead of impossible posturing. Good on Vince Cable.

  • Eddie Sammon 17th Apr '14 - 9:42am

    There is “no evidence that regulation has benefited British business”. Politics is not about science and we are all best staying away from snooty statements about evidence. Do price controls not affect businesses, or do share-price drops not count as evidence? There’s loads of other examples.

  • A positive step — Well done Martin Hirwood, well done Vince Cable, well done Oxfam and other NGOs.

    I echo Gareth Epps comment. As so often he makes a concise and appropriate point.

    Eddie Sammon possibly misunderstands to role of brokers in this international trade in the tools of death and destruction.

  • Good to see Vince achieving something.

  • Eddie Sammon 17th Apr '14 - 5:25pm

    John, I have a record of turning down customers who I don’t think are ethical, in fact I used to do this too much, so I don’t believe the defence trade can act without responsibility for who it sells its products to. In this respect regulation might be a good thing and Martin has a good point when he says: “responsible businesses welcome tougher regulation”.

    However, as much as I try to moderate my views, I still have a strong dislike for what I perceive to be anti-business sentiment. I would also say that it is mainly the businesses in the better financial position that welcome the tougher regulation. I’m in favour of light-touch, but going down the route of training days starts to look like over-kill to me.

    Best wishes

  • Chris Manners 17th Apr '14 - 8:23pm

    You can hardly do worse than us on this issue, but I’m sceptical.

    How do you know who the registered broker is dealing with?

  • A Social Liberal 17th Apr '14 - 10:09pm

    I agree entirely with the regulation of arms companies. Do what Robin Cook failed to do and have an ethical policy in arms sales. This doesn’t just mean not selling to those countries who are persecuting their own peoples, but ending the practice of, for instance, bribing Saudi princes so that they buy British.

    I don’t know how much the posters on here know about the arms trade, but the government issues documents called end user certificates which were designed to limit where arms can be sold to – basically to a countries governments and not to mercenaries etc. Effective issuing of end user certificates could enhance the regulations put in place by a LD government, if at the same time inspectors positions are created in order to ensure arms and ammunition go to where they are licenced to . . . and stay there!

    However, a word of warning. In order to adequately protect its people, a government should be able to independently manufacture quality arms and ammunition. Our soldiers in Afghanistan were placed in even more danger because of faulty ammunition, which was not rectified for weeks. The same thing happened in Northern Ireland when we bought faulty small arms ammunition from the Indian sub continent. The sad fact is, is that we lost the ability to make small arms ammo with, effectively, the privatisation of the Royal Ordnance. BAe Systems has already thought about moving its military aircraft operation to the US, This regulation may well be the tipping point which sees BAe and the arms industry in the UK upsticks to more friendly (to those companies) countries. You have to be prepared for this to happen.

  • Eddie Sammon 17th Apr '14 - 11:37pm

    I’ve just remembered this article, a pro small business one written by Mr Horwood.

    I don’t want to go off topic, I just want to say that evidently Martin can stand up for business, I just think we need a bit of praise for businesses whenever they are bashed, in order to not give the impression of “anti-business”. Too many in the party are still not comfortable with business. Many small businesses also want to become medium sized ones, so it is not just small ones that should be praised. Lib Dems should be passionate about Small to Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs), which a lot of these “defence” brokers will be.

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