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Westminster and Whitehall

Last updated: 16/07/2020

Arms Trade in Parliament

The key Government and Parliamentary structures

Government Ministers

Three Government departments have responsibility for arms export issues:

Department for International Trade

The UK government’s promotion of military exports is co-ordinated by UK Defence and Security Exports which has 110 civil and military staff. UKDSE is part of the DIT along with UK Export Finance, which offers interest support and financial insurance, and the Export Control Organisation which issues export licences.

Secretary of State for International Trade is Rt Hon Liz Truss MP. She leads on military and security exports.

Ministry of Defence

The MoD offers expert advice and assistance on military and technical matters to the UKDSE. It also co-ordinates cross-Government work on major export campaigns – the Eurofighter Typhoon, complex weapons and F-35 support – as well as leading MODSAP, the MoD’s Saudi Armed Forces Project, has 200 staff supporting the UK’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia. It also advises those considering export licences on the possible diversion of the exports to third countries, and on the potential risk of the export to the UK or its armed forces.

Secretary of State for Defence is Rt Hon Ben Wallace MP.
Jeremy Quin MP is Minister for Defence Procurement, overseeing arms export matters and equipment purchases.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

The FCO has responsibility for considering the foreign policy impact of the proposed exports, including the human rights implications. It also has general responsibilities to promote UK exports.

Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs is
Rt. Hon Dominic Raab MP.
The responsibilities of the other members of the Ministerial team include:
Dr Andrew Murrison MP – the Middle East and north Africa.

Opposition frontbench

The Labour frontbenchers with relevant responsibilities are:

Shadow International Trade Secretary – Emily Thornberry MP;
Shadow Defence Secretary – John Healey MP;
Shadow Foreign Secretary – Lisa Nandy MP.

Select Committees

Each Government Department has a Select Committee monitoring its work. These multi-party committees of backbench MPs also hold inquiries into specific aspects of their Department’s work. The following are the Committees whose work is usually most relevant to the arms trade.

Early Day Motions

These are a kind of parliamentary petition which show the strength of feeling on an issue, and whether or not there is cross-party support. They are usually only signed by backbenchers. MPs can add their names to an EDM on any day Parliament is sitting until the end of the parliamentary session.

Current EDMs relevant to CAAT’s work are:

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