[Sir Nicholas Winterton in the Chair] — Arms Export Controls

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:10 pm on 26th March 2009.

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Photo of John Stanley John Stanley Conservative, Tonbridge and Malling 3:10 pm, 26th March 2009

The hon. Gentleman is asking about an issue that can only be adjudicated on in a court of law, but he will know that I am not a court of law. What I am saying is that the way in which the operation was conducted and what I was told were the rules of engagement made it, I believe, certain that significant numbers of civilians would lose their lives—and they did.

I come to the criteria in the combined code, which is the basic policy framework for the Government. Will the Minister carry out a review of arms exports to Israel? In doing so, will he look closely at two criteria in particular and say whether the British Government are compliant? I refer him to criterion 2 (c), which states that member states shall

"deny an export licence if there is clear risk that the military technology or equipment to be exported might be used in commission of serious violations of international humanitarian law."

I also ask him to look at the Government's policy in relation to the whole of criterion 7, which states:

"Existence of a risk that the military technology or equipment will be diverted within the buyer country or re-exported under undesirable conditions."

Those are two absolutely key criteria against which the Minister should evaluate the Government's policy on arms exports to Israel.

In conclusion, the British Government may have been in breach of one or more of the EU's criteria under the combined code for some years. However, having seen what I have seen in Gaza, I am in no doubt that they are in breach of the code now.