Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Campaign response – UK’s export of tear gas, rubber bullets and riot shields to the US; Stop arming US state violence

Thank you to constituents for writing to me about their concerns over the UK’s export of tear gas, rubber bullets and riot shields to the US.

I share their concerns about the deterioration in race relations in the US, and also the spike in violence and rioting that we have seen across American cities.

The right to peaceful protest is a key tenet of any democracy and I have spoken in favour of this essential right to be respected in places where there is clear state suppression of protest and dissent, such as Hong Kong.

Some demonstrations in the US are by and large peaceful and I do not condone the use of force against unarmed, peaceful protestors. But where protests turn violent and out of hand as a direct result of the actions of protestors, there are reasonable steps that I believe any democratic and law-abiding society need to take in order to prevent damage to property or people.

What is also clear is that unlike places such as Hong Kong, the US has a criminal justice system that allows for police officers to be held accountable and even prosecuted for their actions taken against civilians.

I also note that the Secretary of State for International Trade has now stated the following on this issue: 

“UK takes its export control responsibilities very seriously and operates one of the most robust and transparent export control regimes in the world. We rigorously examine each export licence application on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria.

The Consolidated Criteria provide a thorough risk assessment framework and require us to think hard about the impact of providing equipment and its capabilities. These are not decisions we take lightly, and we will not licence the export of items where to do so would be inconsistent with the Consolidated Criteria

We publish information of all export licences issued, refused and revoked on a quarterly and annual basis as official statistics on GOV.UK. The most recent publication was in April, on licences issued until the end of December 2019.”

Therefore, I disagree with constituents that we need to suspend the above export licences to the US. But I can assure them that I will be monitoring the situation closely as it unfolds and ensure that my position on this matter is informed by latest developments.