Written statement to Parliament

Arms Trade Treaty update

Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt has updated Parliament on progress on the Arms Trade Treaty.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP

Alistair Burt said:

The campaign for the Arms Trade Treaty has enjoyed the strong support of Members in both Houses for over seven years. From before the first Diplomatic Conference in July, 2012 through to the Final Diplomatic Conference earlier this year, the Arms Trade Treaty has been a top priority for this Government with Ministers lobbying hard for a robust agreement that could achieve the broadest possible support. With the Minister of State for International Development, I attended the Diplomatic Conference in July 2012 and I attended the Diplomatic Conference in March this year to support the efforts of our diplomats and to urge the international community to agree on this important issue. The negotiations were hard fought and compromises were necessary on all sides, but the treaty that emerged is robust, implementable and will make a significant difference to international peace and security.

In April, the treaty was adopted with overwhelming support at the United Nations General Assembly. On 3 June, I was extremely proud to sign the treaty on behalf of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on the day it opened for signature. As one of the seven Co-Authors of the Resolution that first brought this issue to the attention of the United Nations, we have led the international efforts which have resulted in this agreement.

In accordance with the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 and as part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s ratification process, the Government has today laid before Parliament the Arms Trade Treaty under Command Paper number CM8680 with an Explanatory Memorandum which sets out the background to the treaty, ministerial responsibility for implementation, and financial implications resulting from ratification.

A properly regulated arms trade will help states to meet their legitimate defence and security needs to protect their citizens. The Arms Trade Treaty will make a difference. It is the first legally-binding, truly global commitment to control exports of conventional arms. By introducing internationally-agreed standards for the arms trade it will reduce human suffering by preventing arms from being used in serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. It will also help to combat terrorism and crime by steadily reducing the unfettered proliferation of weapons.

Since opening for signature on the third of June, over seventy states have signed the treaty and Iceland has become the first to complete ratification. Our commitment to the treaty now is as strong as ever, our goal has always been to secure a robust treaty that can be implemented by all. We will only accomplish our aims if the Arms Trade Treaty is rapidly and effectively implemented. Fifty ratifications are required to bring the treaty into force. We will be working hard to encourage states to sign and to ratify, to ensure swift entry into force. Like the negotiations on the treaty itself, this will take time and require the considerable efforts and persistence of a broad coalition of supporters. Universal adherence to the Arms Trade Treaty must be our ultimate goal.

Published 15 July 2013