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Petition Suspend future sales of tear gas and other crowd control equipment to the USA

In line with the suspension of future sales of tear gas and other crowd control equipment to Hong Kong, a decision made by the current Government, can the Government commit to the same course of action in light of the current situation in America.

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In June 2019 the UK suspended future sales of tear gas and other crowd control equipment to Hong Kong until an investigation into the alleged police brutality and human rights abuses had been held. The foreign secretary said no new export licences would be granted until concerns of human rights abuses had been "thoroughly addressed". Can the government commit to upholding the same scrutiny and investigations into the alleged human rights abuses in the USA.

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Government responded

This response was given on 30 July 2020

HM Government has been sorry to see the violence that has taken place in the United States of America and will continue to monitor developments very closely.

The export of tear gas and certain crowd control equipment is subject to the issuing of an export licence. HM Government 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. This, of course, applies to our exports to the United States of America.

All export licence applications are carefully assessed on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria (https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm140325/wmstext/140325m0001.htm) (“the Consolidated Criteria”) – set out to Parliament in 2014 by the then Secretary of State, Vince Cable – taking account of all relevant factors at the time of the application, including the prevailing circumstances in the recipient country. In making our assessments, we draw on a wide range of relevant available information, including reports from Non-Governmental Organisations and our overseas network.

The export of tear gas and certain crowd control equipment to the United States of America is being reassessed by officials as a matter of priority in light of recent events, in line with the standard practice of HM Government, which reflects our rigorous approach to our export control responsibilities. This reassessment will consider whether relevant extant licences are still consistent with the Consolidated Criteria and, in particular, the requirement not to grant licences if there is a clear risk that the items might be used for internal repression. As a result, no pending or new licence applications for the export of crowd control equipment to the United States of America will be issued until the reassessment has been completed and the relevant decisions have been taken.

On completion of the reassessment, the Secretary of State may take decisions on whether (a) to amend, suspend or revoke any existing licences for the export of crowd control equipment to the United States of America; and/or (b) to continue to grant new licences for such exports (subject to conditions, if necessary), but HM Government will not license the export of equipment where to do so would be inconsistent with the Consolidated Criteria, which requires us to take into account respect for rights and freedoms in the country of final destination.

We are sorry to have seen the violence that has taken place and continue to monitor developments in the United States of America closely. Every democracy faces challenges; the key is how they are dealt with. The United States of America have robust institutions and extensive processes to uphold the rule of law. There is democratic oversight, accountability and extensive public scrutiny, including by an active civil society and media. This will continue to be the case, so it is important not to lose sight of the fact that America remains a beacon for freedom, opportunity and democracy.

Department for International Trade

This is a revised response. The Petitions Committee requested a response which more directly addressed the request of the petition. You can find the original response towards the bottom of the petition page (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/324208)

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Original Government response

HM Government has been sorry to see the violence that has taken place in the United States of America and will continue to monitor developments very closely.

The export of tear gas and certain crowd control equipment is subject to the issuing of an export licence. HM Government 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. This, of course, applies to our exports to the United States of America.

All export licence applications are carefully assessed on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria; https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm140325/wmstext/140325m0001.htm (“the Consolidated Criteria”), taking account of all relevant factors at the time of the application, including the prevailing circumstances in the recipient country. In making our assessments, we draw on a wide range of relevant available information, including reports from Non-Governmental Organisations and our overseas network.

HM Government will not license the export of equipment where to do so would be inconsistent with the Consolidated Criteria. This includes making sure that there is respect for rights and responsibilities where equipment is being exported.

We are able to review licences – and suspend or revoke as necessary – when circumstances require, and this is done in line with the Consolidated Criteria. We have suspended or revoked licences when our assessment has changed, which shows how seriously we take the guiding principle of responsible export controls.

HM Government may also take more restrictive export licensing positions, taking into account the wider foreign policy context and issues in question. Alongside assessments against the Criteria, this was the case for Hong Kong in June last year, when the then Foreign Secretary made his statement.

We are sorry to have seen the violence that has taken place and continue to monitor developments in the United States of America closely. It is important not to lose sight of the fact that America remains a beacon for freedom, opportunity, democracy and openness.

Department for International Trade

This response was given on 23 June 2020. The Petitions Committee then requested a revised response, that more directly addressed the request of the petition.

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