Syria

Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs written question – answered on 5th September 2013.

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Photo of Katy Clark Katy Clark Labour, North Ayrshire and Arran

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will investigate whether any UK-manufactured chemicals have been used in any chemical weapons deployed in Syria.

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

The Government operates one of the most rigorous arms export control regimes in the world, and has been at the forefront of implementing an international sanctions regime on Syria. All export licence applications are considered by the Government on a case-by-case basis and in line with the provisions of the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria. We will not grant a licence if the export would contravene any of our international legal obligations, including our obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Since the conflict began, the Government has issued only two licences for chemicals to Syria, for sodium fluoride and potassium fluoride, in January 2012. The exporter and recipient company demonstrated that the chemicals were for a legitimate civilian end use—which was for metal finishing of aluminium profiles used in making aluminium showers and aluminium window frames.

The licences were revoked following a revision to the sanctions regime which came into force on 17 June 2012. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) advise that no goods were exported to Syria under these licences before they were revoked.

We have reviewed all licences for chemicals to Syria between 2003 and the start of the conflict. Five licences were issued, which were all for sodium fluoride for use in cosmetic products. The quantities involved were commensurate with the stated end-use and there was no reason to link the end users with Syria's chemical weapons programme. No subsequent evidence has arisen to cast doubt on the assessments made at the time.

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