Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 4 Oct 2007

Vol. 638 No. 5

Control of Exports Bill 2007 [Seanad]: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

It is my pleasure to bring before the House the Control of Exports Bill 2007 for consideration and debate. In a modern global economic environment committed to the principles of trade liberalisation, export controls are an anachronism. As one of the most open economies in the world, with exports of goods and services equal to 86% of gross domestic product, GDP, Ireland has a vested interest in promoting a global trading environment unhampered by bureaucratic obstacles. As a strong supporter of trade liberalisation, Ireland continues to work with its EU partners and other like-minded countries within the World Trade Organisation to eliminate trade barriers and to promote the free movement of trade and services.

Why then does the Government seek to impose controls on the export of certain goods and services? Its adherence to the principle of free trade is tempered by its equally strong commitment to arms control and global disarmament. The global community has a shared need for a stable, secure, inclusive and co-operative international environment. To this end, Ireland and other like-minded countries have undertaken to regulate trade in military products and in goods that have civil and military applications.

The challenge for any administration seeking to introduce an effective export control system is to strike a balance between the two competing policy demands. On one hand the Government has an economic imperative to facilitate trade and ease administrative burdens while on the other, it desires to implement fully its foreign and security policy objectives with regard, for example, to the promotion of non-proliferation and universal human rights.

In striving to reach this balance, the Government's starting point is the external environment. Ireland's existing legislation pertaining to export controls dates from 1983. While a mere 23 years have elapsed, much has changed on the planet. In 1983, Europe and the world languished in the depths of the Cold War. After the fall of the Iron Curtain and the democratisation of central and eastern Europe, one had every reason to anticipate a period of sustained global peace and stability. Sadly however, the tragedy of the attacks on 9 September 2001 and subsequent events have brought the realisation that new threats to international peace and security have emerged. It has become apparent to all that the enemy is no longer confined to massed armies without. Increasingly, one must guard against wanton acts of terrorism within that affect people going about their daily lives. Thanks to the wonders of modern communications, one cannot deny knowledge of atrocities perpetrated on innocent civilians in Darfur and other conflict zones. Last week, Ireland's television screens were filled with haunting images from Burma. Closer to home, the horrors of the recent Balkan conflict, including the massacre at Srebrenica, have dispelled any assumptions that Europe had advanced to a state that made it immune to the inhumanities inflicted on the inhabitants of other continents.

Another challenge to be faced has been the blurring of the distinction between military and civilian goods. States and non-state parties that have been denied the possibility to import weapons directly have sought to develop their own weapons programmes by acquiring items not designed or developed exclusively for military purposes but that nonetheless can have military applications. Twenty years ago, the Government had a clear understanding of what it wished to control, be it guns, bullets, tanks or bombers. However, Ireland has been shaken out of its complacency. Rather than being a missile launched from a B2 bomber, the weapon that struck the Twin Towers was a civilian passenger jet. The London underground explosives in July 2005 were encased in nylon backpacks rather than weapons grade steel. It is now understood that we live in an era when anything and everything can be used as a force for evil. In the right hands a hurley or a cricket bat can be wielded with sublime grace while in the wrong hands, up a dark alley, either can become a lethal weapon.

In the light of these developments and out of concern at whether the existing 1983 legislation was adequate for the needs of a 21st century export control system, in 2003 my Department commissioned Forfás to undertake a review of Ireland's licensing system for military and dual use. The overall objective of this exercise was to prepare a recommendation for the Government as to how best Ireland could modernise and strengthen its export licensing controls so as to ensure full compliance with our international obligations.

Forfás contracted Fitzpatrick Associates, Economic Consultants, in conjunction with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI, a highly respected authority on issues such as conflict and security, to prepare a report with four specific objectives: first, to consult with Departments, end users, international organisations and specialised institutes, both national and international, involved in the licensing of military and dual-use goods, and with interested parties, to determine the most appropriate export licensing system to be put in place in Ireland; second, to prepare background material for a public consultation process in order to allow members of the public to make submissions or contributions on the optimal method of licensing military and dual-use goods; third, to study international best practice in export licensing control systems in other countries; and, fourth, to submit a report outlining the results of both sets of consultations and the review of international best practice in export licensing systems for military and dual-use goods.

The work of the consultants was guided by an interdepartmental group comprising officials from my Department, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Defence, and Justice Equality and Law Reform, and the Revenue Commissioners. The group provided assistance and support to the consultants. However, I must emphasise that they had complete editorial independence and the report's conclusions and recommendations were those of the consultants.

As part of this review process, roughly 40 public consultations were held with individual organisations in Ireland. These included exporters, representative bodies, State agencies and others. In addition, some 14 organisations responded to an invitation to members of the public to make submissions.

In the case of industry, the key lessons learned were as follows. Only a small number of companies had any involvement with the licensing system. Those companies who used the system were generally happy with it, while having some suggestions as to how it could be improved. Specific topics identified in this regard included more advance information on developments in the system, greater clarity as to what was controlled and on end users of concern and the need for an electronic application system. Companies in general also emphasised the need to minimise bureaucratic requirements and pointed out the need to balance new restrictions against the possibility of making Ireland an unattractive location for certain highly mobile ICT activities.

As with industry, interest on the non-governmental side was limited to a small number of NGOs. In general, they were critical of what they perceived to be a lack of transparency in the decision-making process and outcomes in terms of detailed information on actual exports. They also criticised gaps in the system on such issues as brokering, licensed production overseas and service exports, as well as the absence of end-use monitoring and checking.

As part of the benchmarking exercise, a review of literature and information on export licensing systems in a range of countries was studied. A more detailed examination was conducted on the licensing systems in place in the United Kingdom, Austria, Sweden and the United States. It emerged that many of the problems that were challenging to Ireland were also a cause for concern in other countries. These included controlling exports of intangible technology, putting into practice the EU's catch-all clause which controls non-listed items if they could be used in a weapons of mass destruction programme, enforcement of licence controls on non-compliant companies and promoting greater co-operation between licensing and customs authorities.

The final report of the Forfás review was published in May 2004. A key finding was that there was no "one size fits all" solution for implementing export controls, rather it is vital to factor in unique national circumstances such as the legal systems and size and scope of the production activities affected when designing an effective system.

The report identified a number of strengths and weaknesses of the Irish system. On the plus side, we have a relatively accessible straightforward system staffed by knowledgeable personnel and the turnaround time for licensing applications stands up well to international comparison. Against that, however, the review recommended action to address a number of weaknesses, in particular the need for new legislation to address the needs of a modern complex export control system.

While the Control of Exports Bill provides the foundation for such a system, my Department has also acted on other non-legislative recommendations of the Forfás review. In line with the review, responsibility for the export licensing function has remained with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. However, much has been done to improve co-ordination with the other Departments and State agencies, in particular the Department of Foreign Affairs, which is consulted on all licence applications with foreign policy considerations, and the customs authorities of the Revenue Commissioners. The interdepartmental group established to oversee production of the report has remained in existence with a brief to promote and monitor implementation of all the review's recommendations. As this process nears completion, it is my intention to transform this group into a standing interdepartmental committee which will take forward responsibility for co-ordinating the work of the Departments and agencies in the area of export control. A priority of the interdepartmental group is the establishment of a technical advisory panel to act as a specialist resource for my Department on technical questions related to the licensing process.

Acting on the recommendation of the Forfás review, a project to develop an on-line export licensing system has been under way for the past year and I am pleased to announce that this system, on-line export licence application system, OELAS, will be released to exporters in the next few weeks. We have worked hard to improve the flow of information to the exporting companies and in this regard my Department organised the first ever export control seminar in June 2006 in Farmleigh and launched a users guide and customers charter to export licensing.

I also want to inform the House of recent developments at European level. As the House will be aware, the export of dual-use goods from Ireland and other EU member states is governed by a Council Regulation, EC 1334/2000, adopted under the EU's Common Trade Policy in June 2000. The Commission, working with the member states, has drafted an amended or recast version of the dual-use regulation, which was transmitted to the Council in December 2006 and which is currently under consideration by the member states. I welcome the opportunity offered to Ireland and to our partners to revise and update our dual-use controls in response to the lessons learned from the implementation of the regulation and to enable us to respond collectively to emerging threats. I am confident that the new dual-use regulation will help to cement the EU's position at the forefront of the worldwide efforts to promote the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Turning back now to the Control of Exports Bill, in January 2005 the Government approved in principle the drafting of new legislation in line with the recommendations of the Forfás review. As the House will be aware, all Government proposals for primary legislation are now subject to regulatory impact analysis, RIA, to determine whether the new regulation will have the desired effect. RIA helps identify any possible side effects or hidden costs associated with regulation and quantify the likely costs of compliance for individuals or companies. It also helps to clarify the costs of enforcement for the State.

Prior to the general roll-out of RIA across all Departments and offices in June 2005, my Department participated in the pilot phase by offering the proposed Control of Exports Bill as a suitable test case. A RIA was undertaken which looked at three options for regulating export control: first, maintain the status quo, that is, to continue to rely on the 1983 Act; second, introduce new legislation which would update penalties, broaden the definition of exportation to include intangible transfers and introduce audit and inspection powers; and third, introduce new legislation along the line of option two but with added controls on arms brokering and technical assistance.

It was quickly concluded that option three was the only one which would ensure that Ireland's export control system was in line with best international practice and would enable us to meet our international obligations. The absence of any evidence to suggest that Irish-based firms were engaging in brokering or technical assistance activities led us to determine that the economic impact of these new controls would be negligible. Two key steps of a RIA are a public consultation process and an examination of enforcement and compliance issues. We were fortunate that these had been examined in some detail as part of the Forfás review.

Working on the basis of the Forfás review recommendations and the findings of the RIA, the general scheme of the Control of Exports Bill was prepared in my Department and was approved by the Government on 19 July 2007. The text of the Bill was approved by the Government in February this year and passed all Stages in the Seanad by 1 March. Unfortunately, it was not possible to schedule time in this House for the Bill before the general election. However, I am pleased to lay this Bill before the House so early in the new term. It is my sincere hope the Bill will complete all remaining Stages as quickly as possible so that we can get it onto the Statute Book at the earliest opportunity. I look forward to working closely with Deputies to achieve this objective.

I wish to explain the provisions of each section of the Bill. Section 1 sets out the definitions of certain terms. Where possible, we have aligned definitions with those in use in EU legislation. Of most interest here is the definition of exportation, which has now been broadened to allow controls to be imposed on both intangible transfers of technology, for example, transmission of software over the Internet, and for goods in transit. This latter provision will enable Ireland to comply with a recommendation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540.

Section 2 sets out the general procedures for the making of regulations and orders and enables regulations and orders to be made for the purpose of giving effect to EU legislation. The European Communities Act is habitually used by my Department for the making of statutory instruments to give effect to trade sanctions and arms embargoes that are the subject of Council regulations. It has also been used to provide for penalties for breach of Council Regulation 1334/2000, the dual-use regulation.

The disadvantage of relying on the European Communities Act is that, until recently, it only allowed for the creation of summary offences. This concern has now been addressed with the adoption earlier this year of the European Communities Act 2007, which provides for the creation of indictable offences and which enables Ministers to make a statutory instrument under relevant domestic legislation to give effect to a European Act. It is no longer necessary, therefore, to include a specific provision to this effect in the Control of Exports Bill and the Government will introduce an amendment on Committee Stage to delete the relevant part of this section.

Section 3 enables the Minister to make orders or regulations to control brokering activities in accordance with EU Common Position 2003/468/Common Foreign and Security Policy, CFSP, of 23 June 2003. It provides for controls to be imposed on brokering activities undertaken in the State and outside the State if undertaken by an Irish citizen or company. The issue of extra-territoriality was a key consideration when framing this section. A person, normally resident here, could, for example, arrange for an arms transfer while temporarily outside the State of goods that at no point transit through Ireland. In the absence of appropriate legislation, on his or her return to Ireland, no prosecution could follow, notwithstanding that an arms embargo might have been breached or that Irish export control laws might have been evaded.

There are, of course, certain challenges with regard to the enforcement of extra-territorial controls. However, on balance, I considered it preferable to have such controls in place so that if documentary evidence concerning illicit arms brokering does become available, for example, as a result of the sharing of intelligence between law enforcement agencies, then the State has the capacity to mount a successful prosecution.

Section 4 enables the making of orders or regulations to prohibit or to control the export of specified goods and technology. Generally such orders will take the form of a list of goods to be controlled. However, it will also be possible to have, for example, a “catch-all” clause, similar to that contained in the dual-use regulation, where export controls can be imposed on non-listed goods and technology where there is reason to believe they may be used in a weapons of mass destruction programme.

The list of goods to be controlled, and their categorisation and description, derives in the first instance from the relevant international export control regimes in which Ireland participates. The relevant regime for conventional arms and dual-use goods, for example, is the Wassenaar Arrangement founded in 1996 and comprising 40 participating states, including almost all EU member states, together with the United States, Russia and other highly developed countries such as Canada, Australia and Japan. Other regimes include the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime and the Australia Group for chemical and biological weapons. Ireland participates actively in all these regimes and this year is chairing the expert group of the Wassenaar Arrangement, which has specific responsibility for reviewing and amending its control lists to take account of new technologies and related developments.

Section 5 provides for orders or regulations to be made to control technical assistance, such as repairs, maintenance, development, manufacture, assembly, testing, training and instruction and consultancy services in accordance with EU Joint Action 401/2000 Common Foreign and Security Policy, CFSP, of 22 June 2000. The joint action commits member states to imposing controls on technical assistance in connection with certain military end uses. Subject to a detailed scrutiny of the implications for exporters and my Department, I am willing to look at the possibility of broadening this control. In this regard I will take account of proposals currently under consideration at EU level, in the context of a revision to the EU dual-use regime, to impose controls on technical assistance with regard to dual-use goods.

Section 6 makes general provisions with regard to the issue or refusal of licences. It will also enable regulations to be made governing licence application procedures. These may include, but are not confined to, the form and manner of a licence application, provision for on-line applications, supporting documentation required, processing times, duration of a licence, revocation of a licence, record keeping requirements and provision for an appeals procedure. The imposition of licence fees is also provided for, although I do not envisage their introduction at present. I am committed to the introduction of published regulations on licensing procedures as a means of increasing transparency in the operation of the licensing system.

Section 7 deals with the appointment of officers authorised to enforce the Act and grants them necessary powers such as the right to enter premises, including vehicles, to inspect goods and technology and to require the production of documents and records. This section also allows for joint inspections with members of the Garda Síochána and Customs and Excise officers.

Section 8 creates summary and indictable offences and significantly increases the financial penalties from a maximum of £12,700 under the 1983 Act to up to €10 million and-or five years imprisonment for breaches of the Act.

Section 9 introduces a provision for an annual report on the operation of the Act to be prepared and to be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. This is in line with a key recommendation of the Forfás review and responds to calls for greater transparency in the area of export controls. I welcome the opportunity which will be provided by the publication of the annual report to provide accurate information on the export of military and dual-use goods from Ireland and to counter some of the misapprehensions which result from sensationalist media coverage of this issue.

Section 10 is the standard provision for expenses. Section 11 provides for the repeal of the Control of Exports Act 1983 but confirms the validity of the Control of Exports Order 2005, SI 884 of 2005, which contains the current list of controlled military goods. Section 12 provides for the citation of the Bill when enacted as the Control of Exports Act 2007 and for its entry into force, in all or in part, to be made by ministerial order.

I have outlined the contents of the Control of Exports Bill. I am satisfied that it will be comprehensive legislation which will equip Ireland with the tools required to manage an efficient, effective export control system. Nevertheless, some commentators may take issue with the omission of certain topics which they consider should also have been included and I wish to address some of these concerns.

A number of non-governmental organisations have called for the imposition of controls on what they refer to as "licensed production overseas". This is the practice whereby a company based in one jurisdiction permits a second company located elsewhere to manufacture its products under licence. The issue was considered in the context of the Forfás review and ultimately the consultants concluded that "while provision to govern licensed production abroad is legally feasible, this is not a priority concern in the circumstances of the Irish industrial base".

In deciding not to specifically provide for the inclusion of controls on licensed production overseas, my Department also took into account that controls already apply to the export of goods and technology required for the development, production or use of military equipment and other equipment subject to export controls. Such controls would apply to exports of goods and-or technology for use in connection with overseas production. Furthermore, these controls will be enhanced with the imposition of controls under section 5 of the Bill in accordance with the EU's joint action on technical assistance.

The NGO sector frequently seeks information on actual exports by named companies. Let me be clear that I do not consider it appropriate to provide such data. Information submitted by companies in connection with export licence applications is provided in confidence. It is almost always commercially sensitive and security and international relations issues may arise. I am also concerned that the disclosure of such detailed information could prejudice or impair enforcement of and compliance with applicable Irish and European legislation. I am, however, committed to providing information in the annual report to the Houses of the Oireachtas on the aggregate value of actual exports of goods under licence, sorted by category and country of destination. I am firmly of the opinion this will present a far more accurate picture than reliance on licensed values, which by their nature tend to be considerable over-estimations.

There have also been calls for increased end-use monitoring. Responsibility for this task is a burden shared by my Department and other State agencies, and by the exporting companies themselves. I assure the House that my Department takes very seriously its obligation to ensure strategic goods exported from Ireland do not fall into the wrong hands. The sharing of information on potential end-users of concern is a strong component of preventative action by the EU and the international export control regimes. Where there is reason to doubt the bona fides of the end-users, we simply deny an export licence. We will also deny a licence where we have reason to believe there is a risk of diversion of the goods in question to an end-use or end-user other than that stated on the licence application. This accords with Criterion Seven of the European Union Code of Conduct on Arms Exports. This code also binds us to take into account such criteria as the existence of internal conflicts, regional peace and security and respect for human rights when considering whether to permit the export of controlled goods.

We encourage exporting companies to adopt responsible practices to ensure their products are not being used for nefarious purposes. In line with best international practice, we promote the implementation of effective internal compliance programmes by Irish exporters and advocate enhanced pre-shipment controls and the use of risk analysis programmes. I welcome the opportunity offered by the Bill to enshrine in regulations current administrative practices requiring the submission of regular reports from companies and the production on demand of supporting documentation, which can only enhance our effectiveness in the area of end-use monitoring.

In a perfect world, there would be no need for controls and we could go about our daily business untrammelled by wars, conflicts or random acts of violence. Sadly, we do not live in a perfect world and Ireland and other like-minded countries have found it necessary to impose some constraints on our economic activities to meet these threats to peace and security. As I stated at the outset, the particular challenge we face is to put in place an effective export control system that reconciles our commitment to arms control and disarmament with our natural desire to advance our economic interests. However, our policies must not only be effective, they must also be proportionate.

Let us not forget we are a small neutral country, with a low level of armed forces and military spending in general, and we are not involved in purely defence-related industry. Against this, we have very successfully established ourselves as a location for ICT, pharmaceuticals and other high-tech enterprises, and we are committed to promoting research and innovation. We are ranked as one of the top countries in the world in which to do business and we do not wish to impose a burden of control that would diminish Ireland's attractiveness in this regard. Neither do we wish to acquire a reputation as a country with lax controls on the export of strategic goods.

Ireland has always been a voice on the international stage for disarmament and arms control. We recognise our interests are best served by a stable, secure, inclusive and co-operative environment and we continue to work with our fellow EU member states and other countries to address the challenges to global security posed by the threat of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their possible use. Last December, Ireland co-sponsored a resolution at the UN General Assembly setting out the next steps towards the goal of an international arms trade treaty. We have long been one of the strongest supporters of such a legally binding instrument, negotiated on a non-discriminatory, transparent and multilateral basis, to establish standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional weapons. The European Union is fully committed to this process. Together we are working for a treaty that will contribute significantly to tackling the undesirable and irresponsible proliferation of conventional arms, which undermines peace, security, development and full respect for human rights.

The Bill is our tangible commitment to having in place a robust export control system that can best meet the challenges we face at a time of rapid geopolitical and technological developments. I commend the Bill to the House.

Fine Gael welcomes the Bill but reserves the right to strengthen it through amendments on Committee Stage. In assessing the Bill we must take account of two factors. The first is our economic and trade interest in minimising administrative costs, reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens on legitimate exporters and ensuring Ireland does not unnecessarily reduce its attractiveness to international mobile investment, particularly in the area of high-tech knowledge age dual use goods and services. The second factor concerns our interest in controls to minimise the danger that military or dual use goods produced in Ireland would be used in an undesirable way internationally, and our interest in meeting international, legally binding political commitments and generally protecting and enhancing Ireland's good name and reputation.

The Bill has many worthy aims. It regulates arms brokering in Ireland and by Irish citizens abroad. It will introduce controls on the sale of technical help software and other technologies that could be used for military purposes. It will also give Government officials the power to inspect and audit companies involved in exporting military goods or dual use technologies, including chemicals, high performance computer components and telecommunications software, all of which may have civil and military uses. The penalties for breaching the export laws are to be increased from a fine of just over €12,000 to a two-year jail sentence.

The arms industry itself is not purely evil or unpleasant and in many cases it can be a legitimate industry providing important defensive components for countries to defend their borders and their citizens. It is important to note that many neutral countries, for example, Sweden, have extensive arms industries, and in many ways it is part of their neutrality to be capable of producing arms to defend their borders without have to rely on other countries to do so. It is also important to recognise the connection between research and development and advanced technology in expanding economies. It is important any Bill we introduce does not go too far in restricting industry or the development of Irish trade in this regard. That said, as a country with an ethical foreign policy, it is important we honour our responsibilities.

In researching this issue, I discovered an interesting comment from the Minister of State, Deputy Michael Ahern, who stated that Ireland does not have an arms trade. Of course, that is untrue and is disingenuous, as we know from the reports of Amnesty International and Forfás. Admittedly, some reports may go a little too far, with one even suggesting that the production of Ray-Ban sunglasses in Waterford is somehow part of the arms trade as they are worn by US Air Force pilots. While I do not accept this, the Forfás and Amnesty reports have demonstrated there are extensive operations in Ireland related to the production of equipment for military use.

As outlined in the Minister's statement, the Bill omits some key requirements for an effective exporting and licensing control system. One important area not addressed is a monitoring system for end-users of these exports. Unclear also is the degree to which the legislation will exercise control over Irish citizens simply relocating outside Europe and thereby bypassing European checks. Fine Gael shares the view that we must recognise Ireland's existing export control for arms trading is inadequate and lacks transparency. This has created a situation whereby there is an absence of democratic overview by the Oireachtas and members of the public, who cannot discover what has been exported from Ireland and the uses to which it has been put.

In 2004 Forfás published a report entitled Export Licensing of Military and Dual Use Goods in Ireland. It clearly stated that the estimated value of actual exports of controlled military products and components is in the region of €10 million to €20 million annually. The report also states that areas of the system are in need of improvement and notes specifically the absence of dedicated primary national legislation governing the military licensing system, a number of recognised gaps in terms of what is controlled under the legislation, scope for a more proactive approach, especially in the provision of advance information and advice, scope for greater involvement on an advisory and consultative basis to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment in the range of relevant State resources outside the Department, and strengthening of the relationship between the Department and Customs and Excise to ensure the most effective controls possible are being applied.

Other areas to be considered include more proactive and wider enforcement, especially regarding possible exporters who are not applying for licences, rotation of staff between the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Enterprise, Trade and Employment for the purpose of developing corporate memory and expertise, increased and more structured access in the process to appropriate specialist technical and other expertise, and increased transparency in the decision-making process. I am not convinced that these weaknesses are addressed in the provisions of the Bill.

The legislation has a series of shortcomings. For example, it provides for only basic legal enforcement by means of ministerial orders, none of which has been published or circulated in draft form to Members. It does not appear to provide for ongoing parliamentary scrutiny of the formulation of these orders, the categories, equipment, services, activities to be regulated or the exemptions to certain regulations. The Minister alone will have the power to define export controls with little oversight from the Oireachtas.

It is also noteworthy that the Bill covers only physical exports and the supply of technical assistance but does not introduce control over mechanisms specifically covering the supply of military services and personnel. It introduces for the first time a statutory requirement that the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment actively report to the Oireachtas on its export controls but does not specify the details to be included in such reports. In the past, the Department has released information on export licences which did not require sufficient protection for human rights or military security.

The Minister of State will be aware that a code of conduct on arms exports has been drafted at EU level but not yet adopted as a Common Position by the Council. In 2006, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for the code of conduct to be made into a Common Position. I encourage the Ministers for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Foreign Affairs to work towards this objective.

We must accept that, as a small country, the value of the Irish arms trade is a drop in the ocean in terms of the global value of arms exports. Progress is only possible at the European and international level. I endorse the European Parliament's call for an international arms trade treaty. It is clear that international treaties are the only effective means of addressing these types of issues. For example, the adoption in 1997 of the Ottawa Convention on landmines has resulted in a noticeable and documented reduction in the number of people killed and injured by landmines. The Department of Foreign Affairs would achieve better results if it were to prioritise achieving international agreement on arms control. It should use Ireland's role and position in the European Union to advocate making the existing code of conduct in the EU a Common Position and to champion the introduction of an international arms trade treaty which would be binding not only on small, neutral, ethical countries such as Ireland but on all countries.

I welcome the Bill as it is necessary to amend current legislation in this area. The Fine Gael Party intends to table a number of significant amendments on Committee Stage aimed at strengthening the Bill by giving more power and oversight to the Oireachtas and ensuring the Minister does not have free reign.

I congratulate the Minister of State on his appointment and look forward to engaging positively with him in the years ahead. The Labour Party broadly welcomes the introduction of the Control of Exports Bill 2007. Deputy Michael D. Higgins, the president of my party and its spokesperson on foreign affairs, and our colleague, Proinsias De Rossa, MEP, have been long-term advocates of imposing export controls on military goods and have expressed disappointment at the Government's tardy response on this vital issue. Deputy Michael D. Higgins will discuss in detail the ethical considerations arising from this legislation. However, export controls reflect an important aspect of the philosophy and ethical approach of the Labour Party. Ethical and moral considerations must be brought to bear in determining how exports are evaluated, particularly in the context of their end use and destination. It is important, therefore, that products are tracked. This requires rigid investigation, control and monitoring, areas in which the legislation is clearly weak.

While the Labour Party welcomes the broad thrust of the Bill as a step in the right direction, we reserve the right to table appropriate amendments. We will seek specifically to amend section 3(2)(b) to clarify the term “citizenship” in light of differences in the meaning of terms such as “residency”, “domicile” and “citizenship”. These nuances may appear whimsical to outside observers but they are vital in ensuring the legislation is effective and rigorously implemented.

As the Minister of State noted, we are in the midst of rapid geopolitical and technological developments across the world. Many of the old shibboleths have been excised. The weapons trade is seriously undermining development across the world and there is some evidence that traffickers in this trade considered Ireland to be a base they could use with impunity. It is, therefore, long past time that positive action was taken in this regard. The Bill has been several years in gestation and has been introduced not before time. My colleagues have been to the fore in applying pressure to have it introduced.

The purpose of the legislation is to provide for the control of the exportation of goods and technology and the provision of brokering activities and technical assistance. As the Minister of State outlined, this is to be achieved by means of regulations. The Bill also provides for the control of technical assistance related to certain military end-users and arms brokering as provided for by the Council of the European Union in a Common Position set out on 23 June 2003.

The competitive global economy affords us opportunities to gain access to markets across the world on an equal footing. This has arisen as a result of the dismantling of trade barriers to permit the free movement of capital, goods and services and people to the extent that they are not subject to certain exemptions, regulations, controls and limitations, most of which are tied to national security interests, health factors and other grounds permitted under the articles of the European treaties. However, we cannot allow untrammelled or uncontrolled free trade in every area of activity as to do so would render as nought Ireland's status as a neutral country. We must be extremely careful and while we must promote economy activity and the generation of employment, this must not be done at the expense of moral and ethical considerations. Unregulated trade in military goods, hardware and other such products, particularly in light of the implications of the advent of e-technology, would create a moral dilemma regarding products with both civil and military applications.

For many years, the Labour Party has held to its fundamental commitment to the control of arms and global disarmament, which is essential in the context of world peace and stability and reflects our strong neutral ethos. Neutrality must mean something and not just be a word thrown out to suit particular times.

Until the advent of the Bill, Ireland's arms control systems lagged behind those of major arms exporters. The Government, which promised legislation, was warned by my colleagues Deputy Higgins and Proinsias De Rossa, MEP about the incentive for arms brokers elsewhere to move here in the absence of legislation. The Government may not believe such moves occurred. Judging by the Seanad debate, to which Deputy Varadkar referred, there is no arms trade in Ireland. The factual position is different. The Government-commissioned 2004 Forfás report on arms control systems identified several gaps in our laws, in particular those addressing arms brokers. Successive Amnesty International reports have reached the same conclusions.

The need for a new legislative framework for the monitoring and control of military and dual-use exports was apparent. There must be clear guidelines on the identification of all materials and components and Irish manufacturing equipment must not fall into the hands of undemocratic or oppressive regimes to be used against their people.

Worldwide spending on arms is estimated to have surpassed €850 billion in 2006, approximately 15 times the amount spent on overseas aid. This figure, spent at a time when the arms industry was increasingly able to avoid export controls, is greater than the amount spent at the height of the Cold War. Each year, 500,000 men, women and children die through the use of small arms and light weapons.

In October 2006, the United Nations passed a resolution to commence work on establishing an international arms trade treaty. While Ireland has played an honourable, historical and pivotal role in the world, which has been recognised at UN level, all EU member states are obliged to work flat-out to implement the resolution and to establish an effective, legally binding international arms trade treaty that lays down minimum global standards for arms transfers. I welcome that the Government is in the process of doing so, as it means progress has been made since this Bill was debated in and passed by the Seanad in February and March, respectively. On behalf of my party, I want to ensure that every effort is being made to establish a legally binding arms trade treaty. In his summation, will the Minister of State elucidate on the progress made so far and how we can promote an important and central tenet of our policy?

Deputy Higgins has been to the forefront in pointing out how Ireland has been involved in the international arms trade despite the Government's frequent denials. The assertion made during the Seanad debate that Ireland is not an arms provider in the normal international sense does not square with the fact that Irish-based companies exported military equipment with a value of €30 million in 2005. The figure did not fall in 2006, although my colleague may have up-to-date figures.

What efforts has Ireland, an important member of the EU, made to object to or restrain the Union, one of the world's largest sources of armaments? We must use the influence we have gained during the past 80 or 90 years to try to restrain the EU's armaments and munitions industry.

Under this legislation, the strongest expert checks must be in place if we are to ensure that military and dual-use goods reach their declared end users instead of brutal and oppressive regimes. This is a significant challenge, but monitoring is of importance to the Labour Party, which will seek stronger legislation. The Minister of State might reply in that respect. The current legislation is outdated. Since its origins in 1983, there has been a considerable increase in terrorism and atrocities perpetrated on innocent civilians. Recent examples include the Balkan conflict, atrocities committed against millions in Darfur and events in Burma. We must be cognisant of all relevant world activities.

I must be honest in that I read the summary of the Forfás report, but it made a number of recommendations of a non-legislative nature, including the establishment of a technical advisory panel in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment in respect of the licensing process. The aptly titled OELAS has been established and will soon be up and running. On behalf of the Labour Party, I welcome the Department's adoption of the report's recommendations and the establishment of a standing committee.

The Minister of State addressed section 8 on penalties, which provides for an increase from €12,700 under the 1983 Act to €10 million and five years imprisonment for breaches of the Act. At one point, the European Communities Act only permitted summary matters to be addressed, but this Bill will expand the provisions to indictable offences. I welcome the imposition of these penalties because one can introduce all of the legislation in the world. While my party is in favour of this element of the Bill and supports the overall legislation, we will reserve the right to table amendments if we deem it so desirable to ensure the strengthening of the legislation and that its avowed objective is comprehensively achieved.

In a time of great uncertainty amid terrorist threats and numerous conflict areas, those involved in the arms industry are becoming rich. It is an obscenity. We cannot turn our backs or behave like ostriches by failing to recognise that the rapid face of capitalism is at work in conflict areas. Somebody is accumulating significant riches as a result of atrocities and human suffering.

I wonder whether we or the Government live in the real world, as Ministers' replies to the effect that Ireland does not have an arms trade offends reality. Like my colleague, Deputy Higgins, Jim Loughran of Amnesty International wrote an excellent article on this issue in January 2005 in which he exposed the myth perpetrated by many, including Ministers. We should acknowledge our indebtedness to Amnesty International for doing invaluable work. In Mr. Loughran's article, he stated the arms trade is out of control and that each week sees the production of yet another report documenting how the international arms trade fuels conflict, undermines development and creates poverty. He stated:

Arms kill more than half a million men, women and children on average each year. Many thousands more are maimed, or tortured, or forced to flee their homes.

He indicated that world leaders should act now and supplied extracts from a number of Amnesty International reports on European arms exports in 2004.

The EU code of conduct failed to prevent Austria from transferring rifle production to Malaysia and the production of French helicopters under licence in India which were subsequently transferred to Nepal. EU arms embargoes failed to prevent the incorporation of German engines in military vehicles available in Burma, China and Croatia. Amnesty Ireland produced a report, Undermining Global Security, which pointed out many loopholes in the export controls in place across Europe which are intended to ensure that exports and dual-use goods do not contribute to the abuse of human rights. The report stated that Ireland was part of the problem. Deputy Michael Higgins wrote about the problem at the time of the report's publication. We must accept that we have these problems.

The Labour Party has a number of concerns on certain aspects of the Bill. Where in the Bill is there an effective export licensing and control system and comprehensive system to monitor end users of arms exports? How will we exercise control over Irish citizens who circumvent checks put in place within the EU by relocating themselves outside the Union? We appreciate that these are technical questions and the Minister of State's comments in that context, but we feel they should be addressed. Effective legislation on controls and monitoring depends on the adoption of similar legislation throughout the EU. The House must ask if all other member states intend to bring similar laws onto their statute books. Given our tardiness in responding, other member states should be putting legislation in place by now. The Bill's effectiveness depends on this all-Europe approach and it will be interesting to see what happens given the significant involvement of some member states in the manufacture and trade of arms.

I am also concerned about technological components which, while they appear relatively harmless and may be exported for normal use, are capable of being transformed into something sinister when integrated as components of armaments or other devices. Such technology can have devastating and horrific if unintended consequences. We must ask how we can prevent these scenarios from emerging. The Labour Party holds that Ireland should clearly oppose any involvement in the production or sale of any product the main function of which is military. It would be a positive moral standpoint to adopt and underpin our independence when we engage in our positive role as mediators to achieve the peaceful resolution of disputes across the globe. We should send a clear message from the House in this regard.

An appeal was made to the Minister of State's predecessor in the Seanad to broaden the remit of the Bill and to avoid focusing on narrow issues of arms brokering. We should also focus on the control of activity relating to the production and sale of military equipment. I would appreciate it if the Minister of State would address that appeal in his reply on this Stage or on Committee Stage. Section 3(2)(b) of the Bill refers to activities carried on outside the State by individuals who are Irish citizens or companies registered in the State. What provision is made to cover circumstances in which a person engages in brokering activities outside the State where the person is resident in but not a citizen of Ireland? It appears there is a lacuna in the Bill in this context and it is important to ensure it is addressed on Committee Stage.

As I said at the outset, the Labour Party believes that a strong monitoring system must be implemented to oversee the end use of products. I am interested to know how the European Union code of conduct on arms exports gels with the contents of the Bill. There may be aspects of the code we should ensure are enshrined in our legislation. These could be introduced in Government or other amendments on Committee Stage. On the corollary point, if the European code is inadequate, we should raise the matter at EU level. Our goal must be to tighten control of end-use and dual-purpose products.

It is timely to bring forward this legislation, which the Labour Party will support. While admittedly there are some technical issues which arise, we welcome the Bill. We anticipate a constructive Committee Stage debate on which we hope some of the points that have been made by my colleague and I will be incorporated in the Bill. Our focus is on strengthening the legislation to achieve what is a worthwhile objective.

I congratulate the Minister of State, Deputy McGuinness, on his recent appointment. He is a constituency colleague of mine in Carlow-Kilkenny and I wish him well. I welcome the bringing forward to the House of a Bill the Green Party believes is long overdue, especially in the unsettling geopolitical world in which we currently find ourselves. I think especially of Burma.

There are many useful elements of the Bill. The Green Party welcomes especially the proposed production for the first time of an annual report. We are especially pleased to note that the annual report will be laid before the Dáil and that there will be ample opportunity to debate and scrutinise the arms industry in Ireland. The Green Party welcomes also the proposal to submit the annual report for discussion by the joint committee covering enterprise matters. The provision will introduce a new level of political and public scrutiny of an industry which has long avoided investigation. The joint committee will be empowered to receive experts on the industry and their input will shed further light on the workings and ramifications of the industry as a whole. While the departmental report and committee scrutiny will result in greater transparency and accountability, the Green Party will continue to insist on annual debates and further increases in parliamentary scrutiny of this industry. I welcome the openness and transparency in the conducting of the legislation through the Oireachtas.

There is further scope within the ministerial orders provided for in the Bill to regulate and control the exportation and brokering of specific goods. Hopefully, such orders will address many of the fears voiced by civil society on the illegitimate end use of certain goods and the trade in the tools of torture. It is especially important for the Green Party to ensure that nothing in the Bill compromises or negatively affects human rights. The Bill contains scope for the Oireachtas and Government to tighten the leash on the export of dual-use goods which can be used to repress human rights in places like Burma, of which we have been reading every day for the past couple of weeks.

As someone who has spent time on the Thai border, I have looked across the blue mountains in the Burmese countryside and thought of the freedom fighter Aung San Suu Kyi. This month sees the passing of the 11th year of her house arrest. As a recently-elected woman Deputy in a free, open, functioning democracy, I send my support to the Burmese people and their opposition leader. I hope desperately that the Bill ensures nothing is exported from Ireland that has an end use which is prejudicial in places of strife like Burma. I speak from the heart as a woman democrat.

I anticipate further progress on Committee Stage when I am sure we will have time for the further teasing out of the implications of the Bill by all of us who are concerned about the international arms trade and exports from Ireland of dual-use products. We will have time for greater scrutiny still in the joint committee. As my party's spokesman on enterprise and employment, I hope to have an input at the joint committee. The Green Party wishes to ensure that human rights are not compromised by the Bill. The Minister of State will do everything in his power to ensure we have comprehensive legislation. I look forward to tracking the Bill as it progresses through the Oireachtas.

I wish the Minister of State, Deputy McGuinness, well in his new portfolio. This is my first opportunity to congratulate him on taking up the mantle.

On 10 August 2006, the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Michael Ahern, stated that Ireland does not have an arms trade nor does it want to promote one. In reply, Amnesty International said the Minister of State's claim was deeply unfortunate and that Ireland remains the only EU country with no controls on arms brokering. His statement unfortunately echoes the head-in-the-sand approach to governance that we have seen over the past ten years, although the Bill is hopefully an indication that the Minister of State and the Government have moved a step closer to joined-up thinking. Only by acknowledging that Ireland has an arms trade can such a trade be controlled.

I am concerned about the question of how much the Minister of State's misconstruction of the true state of affairs has influenced certain inadequacies in the Bill, which makes no provision for issues such as a monitoring system for end-users of potential exports. The degree to which the legislation will exercise control over Irish citizens relocating out of Europe, thereby bypassing European checks, is unclear. There is also no provision to inform the public on what is being exported from Ireland or about the end-uses of such exports. The need for this Bill also arises from the fact that the EU does not yet have a common peace and defence policy. National governments decide on these issues, with a variety of approaches being taken throughout the EU as a result. Ireland must take a full and active role in the development of any common defence policy.

The Control of Exports Bill presented to Seanad Éireann on 22 February 2007 represented a necessary update on the previous legislation, the Control of Exports Act 1983. In contrast to the dual-use area, where under the European Communities (Control of Exports of Dual-Use Items) Regulations 2000, licensing officials have extensive inspection powers, there is no statutory right under this Act for licensing officials to carry out an audit of companies that export military items. New legislation was recommended in the report of a 2004 interdepartmental review chaired by Forfás on export licensing of military and dual-use goods in Ireland. The review of Ireland's export controls system for military and dual-use goods was undertaken with a view to recommending how best we can modernise and strengthen the controls and ensure full compliance with Ireland's international obligations.

Amnesty International's Irish section welcomed the Bill but outlined a number of issues in its August 2007 report, Controlling a Deadly Trade. The Amnesty report made several recommendations on effective legislation to control the trade in military, security and police goods in Ireland. While broadly welcoming the Bill, Amnesty was critical of its failure to provide several definitions which are to be made by ministerial order and was concerned that the as yet unpublished definitions would not be adequate to control some of the military and security goods and services in which Irish companies are involved. It also pointed out that details provided by ministerial orders will not be subject to the same level of scrutiny as those provided for in the Bill.

The arms industry is a massive global business which manufactures and sells weapons and military technology and equipment. It is estimated that over $1 trillion is spent on military expenditures and arms worldwide each year. The control of arms campaign founded by Amnesty International, Oxfam and the International Action Network on Small Arms estimates that over 6,000 million small arms are in circulation and that more than 1,135 companies based in at least 98 different countries manufacture small arms. An estimated 500,000 individuals die in small arms conflicts each year, or approximately one death per minute.

This is the nub of the matter for Ireland. Thankfully, we do not feature on the list of the world's largest arms exporters nor could we be considered as manufacturers of large amounts of arms. However, there are companies in operation in this country whose products come under the provisions of this Bill. The economic impact of the proposed legislation on the approximately six Irish companies which export military items is expected to be negligible. These companies are already obliged to comply with existing exporting rules so there should be no increased administrative or financial burden.

In light of our professed neutrality and to copperfasten our licensing activities and export policy, I strongly support the establishment of a dedicated committee to bring together all relevant Departments to monitor such policies, modelled on a similar committee which has already been successfully established in the UK.

I may share my time with Deputy Ó Snodaigh, if he arrives.

I welcome the opportunity of speaking on this topic. The first point I want to make concerns the structure of the debate but before I proceed, I congratulate the Minister of State and wish him every success in his appointment.

It has always intrigued me that international arms are discussed within the ambit of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The issues that arise fundamentally concern human rights, but as I listened to the Minister of State's speech, the question arose for me of whether he is applying the human rights test or the impediments to exports test. Depending on the test used, one arrives at different positions.

In terms of the human rights test, significant progress has been made on international conflicts in a number of areas. The most successful international instrument is without doubt the Ottawa Convention, which is important with regard to the prohibition on landmines because it mentions their production, sale and distribution. Effectively, it contains a knowledge of distribution clause which makes it very different from other conventions in that it is more implementable. If, for example, an aircraft carrying landmines passed through any Irish airport, a particular kind of offence is committed. It is one of the strongest conventions and has been proven successful.

Applying the test in the limited time available to me, why do I say the convention stands apart in terms of its strength? It is because the others are weaker. I will immediately make a statement regarding the European Union. There is a deficit regarding information pertaining to the common foreign and security policy but no information is less shared than that relating to arms exports. As a previous speaker said, this is a major, highly competitive industry and I do not have time to go into minute detail but I will explain the context of what I refer to as the double deficit in accountability.

Many matters in the European Union are handled intergovernmentally and a huge deficit therefore arises between member governments and their parliamentary assemblies. Regarding common foreign and security policy, there is the additional deficit created by the fact that many decisions are delegated. For example, permanent representatives in Brussels take decisions on some matters and further sub-groups take decisions relating to some security matters. Not all members of the sub-group are given information relating to arms sales and distribution.

The behaviour of the European Union regarding the disciplines and the common good is scandalous. The issue of Burma was raised by previous speakers and people should ask how German components find their way into military equipment used by the junta there. One of the great scandals of our time, and a tragedy of which I am all too aware due to briefings I receive, is what is happening regarding Africa. One fifth of global debt is arms related and the greatest shows and sales conferences are aimed at the poorest countries. The previous speaker correctly referred to the €1 trillion spent on arms that, as I said, constitutes one fifth of world debt. The 200 wars that have taken place since the end of the Second World War are increasingly ethnic conflicts within states that are inundated with arms, many of which are sourced in the European Union. The European Union does not share information relating to arms exports nor do Germany, France and Britain. In the text of the speech a balance is attempted that does not begin with tests of human rights or international law but instead seeks to test what can be done that will least impede an export activity. The export of arms is an immoral activity and one from which we should dissociate ourselves.

I welcome this Bill but it is important that we scrutinise ministerial orders. There are suggestions one must be satisfied with the judgment reached on the bona fides of an applicant for a licence, but I reject this. If one goes down that road one will find oneself unable to inspect planes at Shannon Airport because it would be deemed insulting to a friendly nation. Governments must be entitled to seek, publish and share information, and I do not believe a sensitive export criterion should take precedence over a human rights criterion or a criterion relating to international law. These are the tests of the legislation that we will apply in scrutiny of the ministerial instruments.

There are colourful passages in the Minister's speech on the fall of the Iron Curtain and the democratisation of central and eastern Europe. These may be accurate and I welcome the democratisation of all parts of Europe, but the area of arms production, distribution and sales is the least accountable area of the European Union through the mechanisms of the European Parliament, the common foreign and security policy and from member states back to their parliaments.

We must hold firm on the principle of knowing the end-use of arms and components because it is only through knowing the end-use that one can answer questions relating to the circumstances and conditions under which the product was sold. If one decides it is not necessary to inquire as to the end-use of products sold one leaves oneself open. People will find it strange that I say this but there may be technologies that developed for military use but can be adapted to peaceful civilian use. It is important that we allow for such possibilities but they are not relevant here as we are discussing whether we should take shelter in an inadequate European Union system or be satisfied in, by and large, asking the right questions without monitoring the end result, which leaves us open to criticism.

The explanatory memorandum relating to sections 3 and 5 of this Bill refers to the European Union common position 2003/468/cfsp, common foreign and security policy, of 23 June 2003. The House knows that this is an example of the absence of accountability through the intergovernmental conference process. Regarding the joint action referred to in section 5, 401/2000 of 22 June 2000, parliaments in Europe cannot point to where such matters are discussed. For example, the common foreign and security policy is completely veiled regarding accountability. To my knowledge, no action of the Commission is discoverable or transparent, according to the interpretation and implementation mentioned in sections 3 and 5. This means that, in practice, some of the largest, formerly imperial, exporters of arms, Britain, France, Germany and Italy, never share information relating to arms exports with any Irish representative, departmental official, parliamentary official or European official. This stands as a contradiction to the position taken by Ireland.

I reject phrases that creep into speeches referring to Ireland as a small country and suggesting we remember how small we are. If Ireland took the position it took on the non-proliferation treaty at the United Nations in the great days of Irish foreign affairs or the position it took on the Ottawa Convention it would become clear that small countries have the greatest interest in peace because they do not make their cases through the threat of force and the disgraceful arms industry. We should eschew such languages in speeches.

Regarding the reputation of Ireland, references were made in the speech to the threatening environment in which we live. We will be called upon to take a position soon on the nuclear agreement between the United States, US and India. This is a decision that will be taken by the Nuclear Suppliers Group, of which Ireland is a member, and a single negative vote will veto the agreement. The Nuclear Suppliers Group will be asked to make an exception to permit the development of 14 nuclear reactors that will not be open to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Government has escaped scrutiny so far by going from one meeting to another without having to declare its position on this matter. The choice facing the Government is to stand with the non-proliferation agreement or with new mechanisms that will undermine that famous agreement with which Ireland is associated. There are good aspects to this Bill and I generally welcome it, but we must work further on it on Committee Stage.

Most of the NGOs and critics who have written on this area have mentioned that it is not direct breaches with which we are dealing but issues of brokerage, which raise the matters of incorporation, residency and citizenship. The Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Foreign Affairs and Enterprise, Trade and Employment should co-operate to make sure that all capacity is removed from any such individuals in order to make it impossible for an individual to live here, own shares and indirectly be contributing to the scandalous and disgraceful activities which we, in the mainstream, want to prevent. I will now hand over to Deputy Ó Snodaigh.

Go raibh maith agat a Theachta.

This Bill has been a long time coming and one of the reasons for that is that for too long there was a denial that there was any arms trade here.

It is legal now.

For far too long hypocrisy prevailed in this House while those lecturing republicans who were involved in a war about an arms trade were allowing an arms trade of a much deadlier nature to be carried out with the support of the Government. Thankfully, through the peace process, we have relative peace in Ireland, yet it has taken a long time for the introduction of this legislation, which hopefully will bring peace to other countries which have suffered the effects of weapons, produced under licence here, that have been used to torture individuals. I will not take lectures or snide comments from Government Deputies or Ministers, when one reads about an Irish registered company brokering deals during the civil war in Liberia or notes that Irish companies make parts for Apache attack helicopters used to attack populations in the Gaza Strip and the like.

The introduction of this legislation is to be welcomed. I commend Amnesty International and AFrI, in particular, two groups I know were to the fore in highlighting the contradictions that existed in Government's approach where, on the one hand, it was said there was no arms trade here and, on the other, the Government was saying it attached priority to human rights in terms of Ireland's foreign policy. At least that is behind us and there is a considerable job of work facing us.

The legislation needs to be tightened up and to have teeth for it to be effective. It is not good enough for most of the teeth in the Bill to be provided for by way of ministerial order or statutory instruments. As the Bill goes through the House, whether on Committee or Report Stage, we need further explanation of the extent of such orders or, if possible, their detail in the full text of the Bill to ensure the system of licensing and control of exports of equipment is as transparent as possible. Such equipment has dual use purposes and has been shown in the past to be used in human rights abuses abroad. Also, such equipment has been used for military security and policy, the MPS equipment. There is also the direct military equipment, the production of which has created jobs in Ireland which is welcome. However, with the production of such equipment there is a responsibility not only on the Government which licenses it but on the companies that produce it to ensure that its end use is right and proper.

The real potential of this Bill remains to be seen because much of its impact will be determined by the quality and content of the regulations that follow, and that is dependent on the Minister responsible. I urge the Minister, if he is intends to stick to the passing of ministerial orders or statutory instruments to give full effect to this legislation, to pay heed to a document produced in the previous Dáil by the Department of the Taoiseach, namely, Regulating Better, a Government White Paper setting out six principles on better regulations. One of its actions on statutory instruments states that the Government will "give consideration to the more effective scrutiny of Statutory Instruments by the Houses of the Oireachtas". We do not have that mechanism in place other than in the form of the Sub-Committee on European Scrutiny. We have a duty to better scrutinise the statutory instruments and the ministerial orders, which are the teeth of much legislation that is passed in this House. I hope the Minister takes cognisance of that and puts in place some mechanism whereby the House can scrutinise whatever orders or instruments will be passed in future.

The legislation is welcome and hopefully the points raised by Amnesty International and others who studied this legislation will be taken on board. In that way, we would end up with legislation that will be an example to other countries that have grappled with such legislation and had difficulties because of the nature of dual use goods, but who have taken on board that it is the end use rather than the dual use that is the key consideration.

The Stockholm institute has produced a best practice guide for such equipment. I hope some of its guidelines will be better reflected in the legislation when we come to deal with it on Report Stage.

Tá súil agam go dtarlóidh an athrú sin agus go mbeimid in ann teacht ar ais anseo ag deireadh an próiséas seo le Bille gur féidir linn bheith sásta leis agus bródúil as. Ba cheart don reachtaíocht seo a bheith mar sampla don chuid eile don domhain. Impím ar an Aire an méid sin a thogaint ar bórd agus déanamh cinnte go mbeidh leasuithe dá réir déanta ar Chéim an Choiste agus ar an dTuarascáil.

Listening to Deputy Higgins inspired me to contribute to this debate. However, I was surprised by elements of the last contribution. Only Dáil Éireann has the right to declare war, therefore, there was no war over the past 30 years. It is all very well to moralise about other people exporting arms, but are we certain that the IRA did not export expertise in bomb-making and other guerrilla warfare-terrorist tactics and techniques? Many questions are unanswered about places such as Colombia where three members of, let us call it, the republican movement — although I do not believe there was very much republican about these activities — were found in Colombia in FARC-held territory where the human rights abuses are absolutely appalling. During the summer, 11 locally elected politicians were taken out and shot by FARC and other politicians have been held hostage for a period, as in the case of Ingrid Betancourt. I wish spokespersons for Sinn Féin would not moralise from a height without adopting a self-critical attitude to some of the activities they have defended and stood over in the past.

I welcome the Minister's comprehensive speech on the Bill which sets the legislation in context. It is a matter about which public opinion is concerned. As a country with a strong neutral tradition, we do not wish to be in the arms export business beyond what is required for police-style activities, whether carried out by our army or police. Nor do we want firms, be they of multinational or domestic origin, to be involved in the manufacture of weapons or in any aspect of the arms trade. At the same time we must be realistic. Many components have a multiplicity of uses and I accept and support the Minister's statement that a degree of pragmatism must be employed in this regard. Obviously, we would not support or finance any activity dedicated to arms production.

We have some control over what happens in our jurisdiction. However, we have relatively little influence in this sphere over what happens in Europe. There is a massive contradiction between the arms sales needed by important arms industries in several member states and the foreign policy objectives of the European Union. There is little doubt, judging from the past, that arms produced in Europe are used in conflicts where there are high casualties and by thoroughly unpleasant regimes. I do not detect any serious intent by some of our partners with important arms industries to do much about the issue. Economic interest trumps all others.

A few years ago, a British Foreign Secretary came into office announcing an ethical foreign policy, but that did not last long and became more of a joke than reality. It is a pity that even states that come across in the European context as genuinely peace loving nonetheless get into situations where they export arms to countries and situations where, speaking from an ethical viewpoint, we should not be involved.

The prospect of persuading other countries to our point of view on this is minimal. Any change depends on public opinion in the countries concerned. Often public opinion is relatively passive and does not take much interest, despite the best efforts of NGOs like Amnesty International and others. All we can do is try to keep our own house in order as well as we can, inevitably employing a degree of pragmatism which will dismay the purists. However, beyond a certain point it is neither sensible nor possible for us to go.

I thank Members for their good wishes on my appointment as Minister of State. I look forward to the challenge and to working with spokespersons and will do what I can to make our engagement more informative and to meet and discuss any issues of concern.

Some issues raised will be dealt with in the form of amendments on Committee Stage and I am willing to consider amendments in order to achieve what we can through the Bill. Irish citizens will be subject to controls, even if located abroad and this is covered in section 3(2)(b) of the Bill. Ministerial orders will be put in place to provide for consultation and will come before the Houses for debate.

On transparency, the first annual report will be placed in the Oireachtas Library for comment by Oireachtas Members. That debate will inform further annual reports in terms of direction and content, which will improve transparency. The report will be debated in the Dáil or Seanad and the regulations in the report can be debated by Oireachtas committees at any stage. Members with an interest in the area may bring appropriate professionals to committees for an exchange of view. Issues can be raised, therefore, in various ways and thereby improve transparency.

Ireland abides fully by the EU code of conduct on arms exports. One Deputy raised the issue of end-use monitoring, to which I referred in my opening remarks on this debate. As stated, we will bring in regulations and controls on the industry in terms of its responsibility in this regard. Section 7 refers to audit and inspection and broadens the scope of control to include military goods.

I assure Deputy White, my constituency colleague, that we do not contemplate the export by licence to Burma of goods which could be used for internal repression or violation of human rights. I agree with what she said about Burma. She also raised the issues of transparency and the annual report. We must always be open, in the context of this debate, to changes in the legislation, to changes in the annual report and to keeping in line with best practice, as is the intention of the Department.

The European approach was mentioned. All European member states are committed to abiding by the EU code of conduct on arms exports and to controlling military goods on a common EU list. Ireland abides fully by the code of conduct in a way that is completely compatible with all EU regulations.

Deputy Penrose raised the issue of brokering and Irish companies abroad, which I addressed earlier in the context of Irish citizens. I understand the point he was making and we can explore it in greater depth on Committee Stage. The issue of Irish companies abroad was raised in the Seanad and the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Michael Ahern, gave a commitment to examine it at the time. My Department is currently examining the issue, as is the Attorney General. It is a complex issue but we will use the opportunity Committee Stage will offer to go into more detail on it.

Support for the arms trade treaty is a central plank of Ireland's foreign policy, and is driven forward by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern. The backdrop to the Bill is regulation in the European Union so we will have to reflect on the issues in that context. Mention was made of military exports and in 2006 military exports amounted to €14.7 million.

I am grateful to Members who contributed to the debate. It is my first Bill before the House and I am pleased it went so well. I hope Committee Stage, which is just as important, will go equally well.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

Next Tuesday, subject to agreement with the Whips.

Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 9 October 2007.