Foreign Secretary Intervenes After Unsatisfactory Replies To Parliamentary Questions On The Sale of Surveillance Technology To Iran, Syria and Other Regimes


The Foreign Secretary Intervenes…

http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/news/latest-news/?id=669255682&view=PressS

https://davidalton.net/2011/11/11/the-sale-of-surveillance-equipment-to-iran-syria-and-other-regimes-in-north-africa-and-the-middle-east/

https://davidalton.net/2011/11/30/suveilance-technology-sold-to-iran-article-for-politics-home-and-questions-in-the-house/
Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Wilcox on 22 November (HL13224), in deciding not to prevent the sale of surveillance equipment to Iran what account they took of Article 4(2) of Council Regulation (EC) No 428/2009 of 5 May 2009, and of Article 1(c) of Council Decision 2007/140/CFSP, Chapter 1 of 26 July 2010, concerning restrictive measures against Iran, which relates to “equipment which might be used for internal repression”. [BIS]

HL13628 Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have taken steps to establish whether the British company, Utimaco, the Italian company, Area, and the French company, Qosmos, have equipped the government of Syria with the power to intercept, scan and catalogue Syria’s communications data and internet activity. [FCO]

HL13572 Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Wilcox on 21 November (HL 13294) that officials of the United Kingdom Government National Technical Authority for Information Assurance met the company, Creativity Software, in March 2009, before surveillance technology was sold to Iran, (1) what was discussed at the meeting; (2) what assessment was made by the Authority of the use to which the technology could be put in controlling a civilian population; (3) which Ministers were told about the exports; (4) why the export of this equipment was not reviewed with Creativity Software as details of human rights issues in Iran became publicly documented; and (5) which other companies selling similar technology in the region were also interviewed by the Authority. [FCO] HL13573

Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench) To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with European Union member states on establishing an effective framework to deter the misuse of European technologies involved in human rights violations and to prevent the resale of American technologies, on which an export embargo has been placed, via secondary companies based in Europe. • Hansard source (Citation: HL Deb, 23 November 2011, c244W)

Baroness Wilcox (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Business, Innovation and Skills; Conservative) Regular discussions are held between member states on Council Regulation (EC) 1236/2005 (known as the torture regulation) that controls trade in certain goods which could be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The re-export from the European Union of all controlled military goods and technologies irrespective of their origin would require an export licence and be subject to Common Position 2008/944/CFSP defining common rules governing the control of exports of military technology and equipment that includes the consideration of human rights violations. For dual-use items covered by Council Regulation (EC) 428/2009, exports to third countries irrespective of their origin would generally require an export licence that would also be judged against the common position. This regulation does allow the free movement of items covered by the regulation to other member states in most circumstances. The obligation to meet USA re-export conditions would be the responsibility of the companies concerned. Enforcement of those controls would be the responsibility of the USA Government.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench) To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they intend to take to regulate exports by British-based companies which are associated with human rights violations. • Hansard source (Citation: HL Deb, 23 November 2011, c245W)

Baroness Wilcox (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Business, Innovation and Skills; Conservative) The Government take their export responsibilities very seriously, and operate one of the most rigorous arms export control regimes in the world. This regime applies to military and dual-use goods which have been designated by one of the international export control regimes. The system is designed to prevent the export of goods which could be used for undesirable end use, including internal repression and external aggression. Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are already a mandatory criterion for all export licence decisions. Export licence applications are already considered on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and UK Export Licensing Criteria, in the light of prevailing circumstances and paying particular attention to allegations of human right abuses. The UK will not issue licences where we judge there is a clear risk that the proposed export might be used to facilitate internal repression. Council Regulation (EC) 1236/2005 (known as the torture regulation) is also in operation and this controls trade in certain goods which could be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The Government keep the export control regime under review to take account of changed circumstances.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench) To ask Her Majesty’s Government what information they have about the frequency of visits by British engineers and technicians to Iran; and what is the value of service contracts between British companies and Iran. • Hansard source (Citation: HL Deb, 23 November 2011, c260W)

Baroness Wilcox (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Business, Innovation and Skills; Conservative) The Government keep records of neither the visits made by British engineers and technicians to Iran nor the value of service contracts. Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench) To ask Her Majesty’s Government how their criticism of regimes which seek to manipulate or intercept social networking sites, text messaging or electronic communications relates to the role of British companies selling such surveillance equipment to the same regimes, with the knowledge of Her Majesty’s Government. • Hansard source (Citation: HL Deb, 23 November 2011, c261W)

Baroness Wilcox (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Business, Innovation and Skills; Conservative) The UK’s export control regime does not generally control intercept software and equipment in view of the legitimate commercial applications for which it can be used. The Government are committed to supporting freedom of expression on the internet and continue to encourage states that restrict access to the internet to uphold their international human rights commitments. One of the seven principles set out by the Foreign Secretary for the London cyber conference was “the need for governments to act proportionately in cyberspace and in accordance with national and international law”.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench) To ask Her Majesty’s Government what mechanisms exist to ensure that export policy is aligned with the United Kingdom’s foreign policy. • Hansard source (Citation: HL Deb, 22 November 2011, c224W)

Lord Howell of Guildford (Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Conservative) The Export Control Organisation (ECO) of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is the UK licensing authority for strategic exports. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office acts in a policy advisory capacity, providing the ECO with advice and analysis on the foreign policy aspects relevant to consideration of export licence applications against the consolidated European Union and national arms export licensing criteria. More detailed information can be found in the United Kingdom Strategic Export Controls Annual Report 2010, laid before Parliament on 18 July 2011. This annual report can also be found at http://www.fco.gov.uk/resources/en/pdf/publications/annual-reports/strategic-export-controls-annual-report-10.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench) To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the statement by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on 8 November that “The Government actively discourage all trade with Iran. We take any reports of exports being misused overseas seriously. It does not appear that the exporter has broken the law”, (a) what steps they took to discourage Creativity Software from trading with Iran, and when; (b) what consideration they have given to reports detailing the use of British exports in Iran; (c) which Ministers were involved in that consideration; (d) whether the Government’s Law Officers were consulted in determining whether the law had been broken; and (e) whether they intend to ban Creativity Software from further exports of telephone intercept equipment to Iran. • Hansard source (Citation: HL Deb, 22 November 2011, c234W)

Baroness Wilcox (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Business, Innovation and Skills; Conservative) Surveillance equipment, including telephone intercept equipment, covers a wide variety of equipment and software that is generally not controlled in view of the legitimate commercial applications for which it can be used. Creativity Software is under no obligation to apply for export licences unless the equipment is controlled. In those circumstances, these applications are considered on a case-by-case basis against the consolidated EU and UK export licensing criteria in the light of prevailing circumstances and paying particular attention to allegations of human right abuses. The UK will not issue licences where we judge there is a clear risk that the proposed export might be used to facilitate internal repression.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench) To ask Her Majesty’s Government what information they have regarding the use of British-made surveillance tools in political repression in the Middle East and North Africa; and to which countries in those regions such equipment has been sold. • Hansard source (Citation: HL Deb, 21 November 2011, c209W)

Lord Howell of Guildford (Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Conservative) We take any reports of exports being misused overseas seriously, but as the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right honourable friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague) reported in his Statement to the House of Commons of 18 July, there was no evidence of controlled military goods exported from the United Kingdom being used for internal repression in the Middle East and North Africa. This remains the case. Surveillance equipment, including telephone intercept equipment, covers a wide variety of equipment and software, and generally is not controlled because of its use for a wide variety of legitimate uses and its easy and widespread availability. If an item is subject to control, the licence application is considered on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated European Union and UK Export Licensing Criteria, in light of prevailing circumstances and paying particular attention to allegations of human rights abuses. The UK will not issue licences where we judge there is a clear risk that the proposed export might be used to facilitate internal repression.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench) To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with Creativity Software about their activities in Iran; who was present and on what dates; and whether they have established whether Creativity Software have servicing contracts for surveillance technology which they have sold to Iran. • Hansard source (Citation: HL Deb, 21 November 2011, c209W)

Baroness Wilcox (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Business, Innovation and Skills; Conservative) The UK Government National Technical Authority for Information Assurance provides technical advice to BIS on whether information security products are subject to export controls. In this capacity, on 31 March 2009 officials from this authority had a meeting with Creativity Software to consider products that the company wished to export. Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench) To ask Her Majesty’s Government which United Kingdom companies have sold surveillance equipment to Iran, Syria, Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia and Libya; and what discussions they have held with the companies, and on what dates, about the purposes for which such equipment could be used. • Hansard source (Citation: HL Deb, 21 November 2011, c210W)

Baroness Wilcox (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Business, Innovation and Skills; Conservative) The UK’s export control regime does not generally control such software and equipment in view of the legitimate commercial applications for which it can he used. We therefore have no information on what non-controlled equipment has been sold to these countries. Meetings with companies to discuss a range of export control issues are held on a regular basis with government representatives including on whether they require an export licence.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench) To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether Creativity Software have sold surveillance technology to the Government of Yemen; what was sold and when; and whether they will list all export licences, detailing (a) the names of companies, (b) the dates of transactions, and (c) the sums of money involved for the sale of surveillance technology to Yemen, Iran and Syria over the past five years. • Hansard source (Citation: HL Deb, 21 November 2011, c210W)

Baroness Wilcox (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Business, Innovation and Skills; Conservative) Surveillance technology is not intrinsically controlled under the UK export control regime as there are a number of legitimate commercial applications for which it can be used. We therefore have no information on what has been sold to the Government of Yemen by Creativity Software. There has been no export licences issued to Creativity Software to Yemen, Iran or Syria over the past five years.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench) To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they introduced the British company, Detica, to the previous Government of Tunisia; and whether surveillance technology was subsequently sold to the Government of Tunisia. • Hansard source (Citation: HL Deb, 21 November 2011, c210W)

Baroness Wilcox (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Business, Innovation and Skills; Conservative) No record has been found of the Government introducing Detica to the previous Government of Tunisia. Surveillance technology is not intrinsically controlled under the UK export control regime as there are a number of legitimate commercial applications for which it can be used. Detica does not, under the UK export control regime as it stands, need permission to export this kind of equipment. Because no permission is required, the Government therefore have no information on what has been sold to the Government of Tunisia by Detica. The Government keep the export control regime under review on this and other issues, with regard to whether the law should be changed to require permission to be sought in future. • Hansard source (Citation: HL Deb, 21 November 2011, c211W)

Oral Question… Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench) My Lords, in considering the kind of sanctions that might be imposed on Iran, will the Minister say whether that will include surveillance technology-the sort which has been sold to Iran by the British company Creativity Software, and which has been used in the past against democracy activists and human rights campaigners, leading to their systematic torture? What pride does it bring to this nation that we have been selling such technology to Iran? • Hansard source (Citation: HL Deb, 15 November 2011, c579)

Lord Howell of Guildford (Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Conservative) We are discouraging every kind of trade and business with Iran, not only those covered by sanctions but also investment by oil companies, for instance, and a whole range of others as well. The specific product that the noble Lord mentioned is one that I will certainly examine, but my overall understanding is that we are discouraging in every possible way all areas of trade with Iran, over and beyond both the EU and the US sanctions.“> https://davidalton.net/2011/11/11/the-sale-of-surveillance-equipment-to-iran-syria-and-other-regimes-in-north-africa-and-the-middle-east/

Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench)

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with European Union member states on establishing an effective framework to deter the misuse of European technologies involved in human rights violations and to prevent the resale of American technologies, on which an export embargo has been placed, via secondary companies based in Europe.
Hansard source (Citation: HL Deb, 23 November 2011, c244W)

Baroness Wilcox (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Business, Innovation and Skills; Conservative)

Regular discussions are held between member states on Council Regulation (EC) 1236/2005 (known as the torture regulation) that controls trade in certain goods which could be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The re-export from the European Union of all controlled military goods and technologies irrespective of their origin would require an export licence and be subject to Common Position 2008/944/CFSP defining common rules governing the control of exports of military technology and equipment that includes the consideration of human rights violations. For dual-use items covered by Council Regulation (EC) 428/2009, exports to third countries irrespective of their origin would generally require an export licence that would also be judged against the common position. This regulation does allow the free movement of items covered by the regulation to other member states in most circumstances. The obligation to meet USA re-export conditions would be the responsibility of the companies concerned. Enforcement of those controls would be the responsibility of the USA Government.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench)

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will publish the exchange of correspondence between the Prime Minister and Simon Davies of Privacy International concerning the sale of surveillance technology in the Middle East and North Africa, and place copies in the Library of the House.
Hansard source (Citation: HL Deb, 24 November 2011, c278W)

Lord Strathclyde (Leader of the House of Lords, House of Lords; Conservative)

The Prime Minister’s Office has not received any correspondence from Simon Davies of Privacy International. If correspondence is received it will be dealt with appropriately.