Export Control

House of Lords written statement – made on 13th July 2012.

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Photo of Baroness Wilcox Baroness Wilcox The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Dr Vince Cable) has today made the following Statement.

Further to my Written Ministerial Statement of 7 February on strategic export controls, I would like to update the House on progress implementing the three proposals to increase the transparency of the export licensing process. The three proposals are:

to insert into all open export licences a provision requiring the exporter to report periodically on transactions undertaken under these licences. The Government will then publish this information; to explore ways of making additional information (contained in standard export licence applications) public while protecting any sensitive material; andto appoint an independent person to scrutinise the operation of the export control organisation's licensing process. The role of this independent person would be to confirm that the process is indeed being followed correctly and report on their work.

The department held a number of meetings with representatives of exporters and NGOs and issued a discussion paper and questionnaire in order to obtain the widest range of views on specific aspects of the proposals. We received around 100 responses to the questionnaire and I am grateful to all those who took the time to respond. A summary and analysis of the responses, and the conclusions drawn from them, have been published at www.bis.gov.uk.

Taking each proposal in turn:

a facility will be provided on SPIRE, the export licensing database, for exporters to upload data on their usage of open general and open individual export licences. The data will include a description of the items exported or transferred, the destination, value and/or quantity, and some information about the end-user. This data will be published in aggregated form, by destination, in the Government's quarterly and annual reports on strategic export controls, and will be searchable through the Strategic Export Control: Reports and Statistics website;when submitting a licence application, applicants will be required to indicate whether any information in their applications is sensitive and should not be made public, and give reasons why. In considering whether to release this information the Government will take the applicant's wishes into account but will not be bound by them. I envisage that certain information will always be considered sensitive, such as a product's unit price and its technical specifications, and in some circumstances the name of the exporter and end-user might also be considered sensitive. The mechanism by which we make this additional information public is still to be decided; andthere was less of an understanding of how an independent reviewer would operate and the benefits that this role would bring. We will therefore return to this issue at a later date.

Work will proceed between now and the end of the financial year on making the necessary technical changes to SPIRE and the Reports and Statistics website, and in preparing guidance for exporters. We will of course aim to keep any additional administrative burden on exporters to a minimum.

Public confidence in the workings of the export licensing system is crucial. These measures will result in a significant increase in the amount and quality of information that the Government make public about controlled exports. This will enable the public and Parliament to more effectively hold the Government to account in this important and sensitive area.