Bill will control Internet arms business

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Indy Politics

The export of weapons technology over the Internet could be subject to official regulation for the first time under proposals announced today in the Queen's Speech.

The export of weapons technology over the Internet could be subject to official regulation for the first time under proposals announced today in the Queen's Speech.

An Export Control Bill will set out plans for the overhaul of Britain's outdated controls on arms exports.

However, because the Bill is only being published in draft form, it will almost certainly have to wait until after the General Election before legislation reaches the Statute Book.

The failure of Government to bring forward legislation in the current Parliament has been bitterly criticised by human rights campaigners.

Sir Richard Scott warned in his 1996 arms-to-Iraq inquiry report that the existing controls, based on emergency powers introduced in 1939 at the start of the Second World War, were hopelessly out of date and in need of reform.

But although Foreign Secretary Robin Cook built much of his reputation in opposition attacking the then Tory government over the arms-to-Iraq affair, the Government has not found time for legislation.

The draft Bill will set out proposals for controls on the transfer of military technology by "intangible" means such as e-mail, fax, telephone and - in the case of weapons of mass destruction - in person.

Current controls on the transfer of technology only apply if it is exported in physical form, such as in paper documents or on computer disks.

The Bill will also introduce controls on trafficking and brokering in weapons, outlaw the trafficking and brokering of equipment used in torture and provide new powers to enforce overseas arms embargoes.

It will also enhance the transparency of export licensing policy by placing the purpose of export controls on a statutory basis and it will allow for parliamentary scrutiny of new controls introduced by secondary legislation.

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