Tag Archives: David Cameron

UK: Arms export licences for Russia still in place despite claims of arms embargo


David Cameron told MPs on Monday: 'Future military sales from any country in Europe should not be going ahead. We have already stopped them from Britain.' Photograph: Pool/ReutersDavid Cameron told MPs on Monday: ‘Future military sales from any country in Europe should not be going ahead. We have already stopped them from Britain.’ Photograph: Pool/Reuters

More than 200 licences to sell British weapons to Russia, including missile-launching equipment, are still in place despite David Cameron’s claim in the Commons on Monday that the government had imposed an absolute arms embargo against the country, according to a report by a cross-party group of MPs released on Wednesday.

A large number of British weapons and military components which the MPs say are still approved for Russia are contained in a hard-hitting report by four Commons committees scrutinising arms export controls.

Existing arms export licences for Russia cover equipment for launching and controlling missiles, components for military helicopters and surface-launched rockets, small arms ammunition, sniper rifles, body armour, and military communications equipment, the committee says. They also include licences for night sites for weapons, components for operating military aircraft in confined spaces, and surface-to-surface missiles.

The MPs demand tighter controls on weapons sales to authoritarian regimes, saying that more than 3,000 export licences for arms worth £12bn were approved for 28 countries cited by the Foreign Office for their poor human rights records. They include Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Sri Lanka.

Sir John Stanley, former Conservative defence secretary and chairman of the Commons arms control committees, said there was evidence that appeared to directly contradict the prime minister’s claim that he had already stopped all arms exports to Russia.

Stanley told the Guardian that the prime minister’s statement appeared to be a “major policy change”.

Stanley had already written to Philip Hammond, the new foreign secretary, asking him to explain why, according to official figures given to the MPs, of 285 current licences for Russia, only 34 had been suspended or revoked.

They cover items worth at least £132m but almost certainly significantly more since equipment approved by “open licences” is not counted individually.

Stanley referred to a carefully-worded statement to the Commons by William Hague on 18 March, when the then foreign secretary said the UK would immediately suspend licences just for items “destined for units of the Russian armed forces or other state agencies which could be or are being deployed against Ukraine”.

In the Commons on Monday Cameron told MPs: “Future military sales from any country in Europe should not be going ahead. We have already stopped them from Britain.”

The prime minister added: “On the issue of defence equipment, we already unilaterally said – as did the US – that we would not sell further arms to Russia; we believe other European countries should do the same.”

These statements are at odds with the information given to MPs on his committees, Stanley made clear.

The MPs also say the government “would do well to acknowledge that there is an inherent conflict between strongly promoting arms exports to authoritarian regimes whilst strongly criticising their lack of human rights”.

It asks the government to explain why it has approved arms exports to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories including for “anti-riot/ballistic shields”, components for combat vehicles, small arms, sniper rifles, and military communications equipment.

The MPs say they have been unable to complete a report of its detailed scrutiny of government policy since 2004 on the export to Syria of dual-use chemicals that could be used in the manufacture of chemical weapons.

They say the government has refused to disclose the names of the companies to whom export licences were granted unless the MPs undertook to take evidence from the companies in private.

They describe the Labour government’s decision to approve five export licences to Syria for chemicals which could be used for weapons between July 2004 and May 2010 as “highly questionable”. The decision of the coalition government to approve two export licences for dual-use chemicals to Syria in January 2012 after the civil war had started in Syria in 2011 “was irresponsible”, the report adds.

It says the most significant change in the government’s policy on arms exports over the past year is the dropping of the wording in the arms sales criteria that: “An export licence will not be issued if the arguments for doing so are outweighed … by concern that the goods might be used for internal repression”.

That wording “represents an important safeguard against UK arms exports being used for internal repression” and should be reinstated, the MPs say.

The government “should apply significantly more cautious judgments when considering arms export licence applications for goods to authoritarian regimes which might be used for internal repression”, the report by the four Commons committees concerned with arms exports – business, defence, foreign affairs and international development – concludes.

On Tuesday night a UK government spokesperson said: “This government has never exported missiles or missile parts to the Russian military. The UK has granted an export licence for the Brazilian navy which enables their vessels to be repaired in 23 countries around the world, including Russia. This covers a wide range of equipment, including components for navy vessel missile launchers but these are exclusively for use by the Brazilian navy and not by Russian forces.”

The spokesperson added: “In March the former foreign secretary announced the suspension of all export licences to the Russian armed forces for any equipment that could be used against Ukraine. This report covers exports in 2013 before the suspension was in place. The majority of export licences that remain in place for Russia are for commercial use but we are keeping all licences under review.”

The spokesperson continued: “We will not a grant a licence where there is a clear risk the equipment might be used for internal repression.”

The Guardian.

Fracking Britain: without debate, the Government imposes its ‘right to rule’


Anti-fracking protest at Barton Moss - but as far as the Government is concerned, dissent is unimportant. Photo: Manchester Friends of the Earth via Flickr.Anti-fracking protest at Barton Moss – but as far as the Government is concerned, dissent is unimportant. Photo: Manchester Friends of the Earth via Flickr.

The UK Government’s policy is to frack at all costs, against public opinion and compelling evidence of environmental damage and poor returns, writes Paul Mobbs – a timely reminder that as far as the Government is concerned, it has a God-given right to rule over us, no matter what we think or want.

I’m sitting in the café at St. Mary’s Church, Putney . When travelling to London there are a few non-corporate cafés I frequent. Normally Friends House, or few places on the edge of central London.

On my recent travels through London I’ve been trying to get here as it’s a nice place to sit and ponder – with its own unique and prophetic story to tell.

For the past three days I’ve been at the Frack Free South Wales gathering. In Wales I met a lot of people who, just a few months ago, didn’t know about ‘fracking’ and the Government’s project to carve-up the country for hydrocarbons exploration.

Despite an uncooperative and often indifferent mainstream media, we’ve got the message across at the grassroots.

Many more people now know there’s a problem with unconventional energy sources; and that there will be no public debate on its implementation or its impacts upon health and the climate.

Now I’m trying to get people, especially the ‘fractivists’ carrying the movement, to focus on ‘what comes next’ – to be proactive instead of reactive.

What happens next?

The Government’s strongly anti-environmental / pro-fossil fuels agenda has been coming for some time. As I’ve been talking about for a year or so, we just have to trace the influences on policy to see where it’s come from and where it’s heading.

It started with David Cameron’s recruitment of the Australian lobbyist Lynton Crosby – the architect of Cameron’s new policy to “get rid of the green crap”. That grew into a set of policies which made the environment expendable in order to maintain, forlornly, the great mantra of ‘growth’.

To learn more, there are many parallels with the dismantling the ‘green agenda’ in Australia, and also Canada. [update - the day after writing this happened]

What I’ve tried to get people to understand is that we’ve been here before – where social movements sought to oppose a seemingly insurmountable political agenda.

If we want to understand ‘what happens next’ there are two relatively recent examples we can learn from.

The GMO lesson

Firstly, the campaign against genetically modified (GM) crops, the response of the agribusiness lobby, and how that influenced Government policy.

In 1996 I got a list of the sites across Britain where genetically modified crops were being tested from the Health and Safety Executive – and put it on my web site.

A short while later, spontaneously, people started to pull up the crops. One of the groups I subsequently became involved with was genetiX snowball, which drew many influences from the peace movement.

genetiX snowball was a great campaign… Then came the civil injunctions from the High Court. Continue reading

BBC News: Russia – how tough a response?


Members of Vladimir Putin's inner circle have been targeted by existing sanctionsMembers of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle have been targeted by existing sanctions.

The rhetoric could scarcely sound tougher but will the reality come close to matching it?

David Cameron, writing in yesterday’s Sunday Times. said that “for too long there has been a reluctance on the part of too many European countries to face up to the implications of what is happening in eastern Ukraine.”

“It is time to make our power, influence and resources count,” he wrote.

Ed Miliband, speaking in Washington DC on Monday, agreed, saying “the international community has not done enough to show that Russian aggression cannot be allowed to stand” and “European unity must not be an excuse for European inaction”.

Whilst Nick Clegg said at his news conference this morning that the EU had so far failed to “act with the right collective resolve,” adding that “we believe the time has now come for sanctions to be tightened further and that is precisely what we will be seeking to deliver in the meetings in the EU later this week”.

So that’s clear enough then. There’s just one problem. The next round of sanctions will not be determined by Britain but by the EU’s 28 member states.

Caution

Russia has substantial financial interests in LondonRussia has substantial financial interests in London.

As my colleague Gavin Hewitt – the BBC’s Europe Editor – points out on his blog, Europe has been very tentative in what it’s willing to do to take on Russia and there’s no reason to think that caution won’t continue.

He writes that “Italy with its fragile economy, which continues to hover close to recession, is very dependent on Russian energy. Germany has 6,000 firms which do business in Russia. Some of its leading industrialists have been vocal in opposing sanctions. France has resisted pressure to halt delivery of two Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia.”

You might think that The Netherlands would be leading the way in taking on Russia. Their attitude will, of course, have been changed by last week’s national tragedy but remember that the EU country with the largest trade deficit is, you guessed it, the Netherlands.

The last figures showed that figure to be over 16 billion euros (£12.6bn), according to data from Eurostat.

Some EU countries argue that the most effective sanctions would be financial, stopping Russia accessing the City of London. That, of course, would hit the UK and not the rest of the EU.

City of London
You may recall that in March I revealed the existence of a photograph of a document which a senior official was carrying into a meeting in Downing Street which said that “the UK should not support, for now, trade sanctions or close London’s financial centre to Russians”.

Nothing has changed since then, I’m told.

So, sources tell me that we should expect some gradual movement in Brussels tomorrow rather than a dramatic tightening of the screw.

This is not just for selfish economic reasons but also because many EU countries argue that their best – or maybe their only – hope of getting access to the crash site and getting co-operation with the investigation is to maintain a dialogue with President Putin

In a news conference on Monday, Angela Merkel’s spokeswoman, Christiane Wirtz, said industry-wide sanctions were not being considered but Berlin was prepared to target individual companies.

After speaking to Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande, Mr Cameron said he was “very clear that the EU will be ready to take further steps in terms of other areas, other areas of … some forms of advanced industrial goods that might have dual uses for defence purposes as well”.

In other words, even the deaths of almost 300 people in a crash which most EU countries blame Russian-backed separatists for will not lead directly to what many people will see as a tough response.

BBC News.

#Urban #warfare feared in #Ukraine fighting


A Donetsk People's Republic fighter says goodbye to his family who are departing as refugees to Russia in the city of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine Wednesday, July 16, 2014.A Donetsk People’s Republic fighter says goodbye to his family who are departing as refugees to Russia in the city of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine Wednesday, July 16, 2014. Ten busloads of Internally Displaced People from the towns of Karlovka, Maryinka and Donetsk left Wednesday morning for the Rostov region in Russia to ask for refugee status there. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Insurgents bade tearful farewells Wednesday as they loaded their families onto Russia-bound buses and began hunkering down for what could be the next phase in Ukraine’s conflict: bloody urban warfare.

While the pro-Russian rebels in the east have lost much ground in recent weeks and were driven from their stronghold of Slovyansk, many have regrouped in Donetsk, an industrial city that had a population of 1 million before tens of thousands by some estimates fled in recent weeks for fear of a government siege. The rebels also hold the city of Luhansk.

Despite the government’s desire to minimize civilian casualties, Ukraine’s forces could find themselves dragged into grueling warfare inside the cities in their battle to hold the country together.

“To respond to this phase … we evidently must change tactics,” said Valeriy Chaly, deputy head of the presidential administration. He refrained from specifying how.

Insurgents in Donetsk appeared be bracing for a bitter fight as they shipped their relatives out of the city.

One fighter, who declined to give his name, told The Associated Press that not having his wife and young daughter with him would free him to concentrate on the battles ahead.

“It is easier for us this way. It is easier to fight. Your soul is not ripped into two, because when they’re here, you think about war and about your family — if they are OK or not,” he said. “When you know that they are safe, it is easier to go to fight.”

In other developments:

The U.S. imposed new sanctions1 on Russia’s lucrative energy and defense sectors, as well as certain banks. The penalties significantly expand on previous American sanctions, which were limited to Russian individuals and companies.

Separately, the 28-nation European Union leaders was expected to decide Wednesday night whether to toughen its own punitive measures against Russia, which is accused of fomenting the unrest in Ukraine by supplying the separatists with fighters and heavy weapons. Moscow denies the allegation. “We need to send a very clear message with clear actions,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said.

— The Pentagon said Russia is building up its forces along the Ukraine border again, with 12,000 troops massed there, reflecting a steady increase in recent weeks.

U.N. Security Council spokesman Andrei Lysenko said that in Luhansk, rebels lobbing artillery at government troops are taking up positions in residential and industrial zones.

The potential results of that tactic were evident earlier this month in Slovyansk, where apartment blocks used by the rebels were wrecked by return fire.

Taking the fight into the heart of rebel-held cities would involve a type of combat for which Ukrainian soldiers are not believed to be adequately prepared.

“It’s a very complicated strategic task — not only when it comes to tactics, also in terms of equipment. When rebels are putting missile launchers on school rooftops, what do you do?” said Orysia Lutsevych, a research fellow at Chatham House in London.

Matthew Clements, an analyst with security affairs consultancy HIS, said Ukraine may, instead of entering Donetsk and Luhansk, surround the cities, “cut the separatists off from supplies of fighters and equipment, and undertake gradual operations against the cities and suburbs in an effort to wear the separatists down.”

Disrupting supply lines is a particular priority for Kiev as the rebels have lately come into possession of advanced weapons, including tanks and multiple rocket launchers.

A hail of rockets that Ukrainian officials said came from a Russian-made launcher killed at least 19 government servicemen last week.


 

Associated Press writers Julie Pace and Matthew Lee in Washington; Mstyslav Chernov in Donetsk, Ukraine; and Matthew Knight in London contributed to this report.

Associated Press.


  1. After four months of sanctions that have achieved nothing what do the west hope to achieve with even more sanctions? They need to look into other ways to help Ukraine because so far they have not helped at all. 

David Cameron orders new inquiry into #Westminster #child #abuse claims


David Cameron orders new inquiry into Westminster child abuse claimsDavid Cameron said anyone with information about alleged child abuse by MPs should go to the police. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

David Cameron has ordered a fresh investigation into what happened to a missing dossier of alleged paedophile activity involving politicians in the 1980s.

The inquiry follows pressure from former ministers and campaigners against child abuse to find the dossier, which was handed to the then home secretary, Leon Brittan, by the Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens.

Cameron said he understood the concerns that had been raised. “That’s why I’ve asked the permanent secretary at the Home Office [Mark Sedwill] to do everything he can to find answers to all of these questions and to make sure we can reassure people about these events.

“So it’s right that these investigations are made. We mustn’t do anything, of course, that could prejudice or prevent proper action by the police. If anyone has information about criminal wrong-doing they should, of course, give it to the police,” he said.

But Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP who exposed the late Liberal MP Cyril Smith as a paedophile, said another internal inquiry was a case of trying to limit the damage, and would not win back the public’s confidence.

The MP for Rochdale said: “[Cameron's] statement today represents little more than a damage limitation exercise. It doesn’t go far enough. The public has lost confidence in these kind of official reviews, which usually result in a whitewash. The only way to get to the bottom of this is a thorough public inquiry.”

Dickens, a longstanding campaigner against child abuse, passed the dossier of allegations to Brittan in 1983. Brittan has said he passed it on to his officials and raised concerns about some of the allegations with the director of public prosecutions.  Continue reading