Cameron to check arms export licences to Russia

Pro-Russian rebels ride on a tank flying Russia's flag, on a road east of Donetsk, Monday The defence secretary is facing calls to suspend or revoke remaining licences

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David Cameron has vowed to examine licences for the sale of arms to Russia after claims they breached a ban.

It comes after MPs warned that export licences for the sale of arms, including components for anti-aircraft guns, remained in place despite fears Moscow was arming rebels in Ukraine.

No 10 said the UK had not sold arms to Russia's armed forces since March.

The prime minister said he was confident that remained the case but the claims would be examined in detail.

He said: "I believe that we have been consistent with the terms of the arms embargo that we set out which was principally aimed at Russian armed forces and the use of goods and involvement in Ukraine but we will look very carefully at all outstanding licences and make sure that's the case and of course if it's not the case we would want to act very swiftly."

Mr Cameron has criticised other EU countries' arms deals with Moscow, and his spokesman has said the arms export licences still in place are for "non-military legitimate reasons".

Mr Cameron added that the government "will need to go through each one of these(licences) individually" to make sure they met the terms of the embargo.

William Hague

In March, then Foreign Secretary William Hague told MPs: "The UK will now, with immediate effect, suspend all extant licences and application processing for licences for direct export to Russia for military and dual-use items destined for units of the Russian armed forces or other state agencies which could be or are being deployed against Ukraine."

Authorised dealers

The cross-party Commons Committees on Arms Export Controls said 31 UK licences had been halted or suspended.

But permits covering sniper rifles, night sights, and components for air-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft guns, combat helicopters, depth charges and rocket launchers, remained in force, it said.

Arms export licences

UK arms exports to Russia

31

licences
halted

251

licences
still active

    Value of current arms & security export licences to Russia :

  • £132 million

GETTY

Exports of small arms ammunition, gun mountings, body armour, military communications equipment and "equipment employing cryptography" are also still permitted, the committee added.

A total of 251 licences worth at least £132m remained in force, it said.

The government said it was keeping all licences under review and the majority of licences that remained in place were for "commercial use".

Michael Fallon: "We have one of the strictest arms sale policies in the world"

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said some of the items, including the anti-aircraft guns, were destined for the Brazilian Navy, which would access the equipment at Russian ports.

"This government has never exported missiles or missile parts to the Russian military," he said.

Export licences for rifles and ammunition covered hunting and sporting rifles supplied to private individuals and to authorised dealers for resale, the spokesman added.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said Britain did not export arms to the Russian armed forces "that could be used for internal repression".

"That's always been an absolutely standing policy. We have one of the strictest arms sale policies in the world. There is no equipment at all now that's being sold to Russia that could possibly be used to Ukraine," he told BBC News.

Anti-aircraft gun The government says anti-aircraft gun components were destined for Brazil

Mr Cameron has criticised European countries such as France which are continuing to pursue defence sales to Russia despite Moscow's backing for the separatists.

Tennis match

But France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius hit back on Monday, suggesting Britain should look at the number of Russian oligarchs in London before criticising his country.

Downing Street rejected charges of "hypocrisy" over the prime minister's approach to Russia, saying there had been no criticism of Mr Cameron from "around the EU table".

"The PM and other EU leaders are entirely focussed on what should be done following the terrible loss of life rather than raising other issues," said a source.

Mr Cameron is under fire over a £160,000 donation to the Conservative Party from the wife of a former member of President Putin's government, who bid for a game of tennis with the prime minister and London mayor Boris Johnson at a fundraising ball in London.

A Tory spokesman said the party was not considering repaying the donation, from Lubov Chernukhin, because it was within the rules and would be declared to the Electoral Commission.

The spokesman said Mrs Chernukhin's husband Vladimir, who was a Russian finance minister, was sacked in 2004, had fallen out with President Putin and did not have links with the Putin regime. He said the couple were now both British citizens.

The spokesman said he was confident all the donations from donors with Russian links were in order and complied with the rules.

Moscow's support for pro-Russian groups in Ukraine has come under renewed scrutiny after the fatal crash of Malaysian airliner MH17 with 298 people on board, which the UK and US believe was shot down by a surface-to-air missile launched from a rebel-held area.

The prime minister has said EU nations should consider stopping all military sales to Russia, while Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said an embargo on future arms contracts was under consideration following a meeting in Brussels on Tuesday.

'Grossly inaccurate'

Sir John Stanley, the Conservative MP who heads the committee, said the relatively small number of licences which had been withdrawn reflected the "circumscribed" nature of the UK's moratorium, which he said referred only to equipment which could be deployed against Ukraine and did not cover Russia's wider defence needs.

While he said that Britain had been in the vanguard of European countries in taking action to curb defence sales to Russia, it had still not gone far enough.

"Russia is an authoritarian regime. We should have been applying a more cautious approach for some time in regard to Russia," he said.

Sir John has written to Mr Cameron asking if he will be suspending or revoking the remaining licences. He has also written to Business Secretary Vince Cable asking for details of the "end-user for each licence".

The committee also strongly criticised the award of licences for the export of chemicals which could be used in the manufacture of chemical weapons to Syria.

It said the award by the previous Labour government of five licences for the export of sodium fluoride had been "highly questionable", while the decision of the current government to issue a further two licences for sodium and potassium fluoride after the civil war had begun was irresponsible.

It said that the current government's claim that it had no grounds to refuse the licences was "grossly inaccurate".

The committee - which is made up of the Commons foreign affairs, defence, international development and business, innovation and skills committees - also expressed concern ministers had watered down their policy on the export of equipment to countries where there were concerns it could be used for internal repression.

It said that a "broad" test that an export licence should not be issued if there was "concern" the equipment could be used for internal repression had been dropped from the latest set of government guidelines issued earlier this year, and only the "narrow" test that there had to be a "clear risk" of repression remained.

A government spokesman said the UK aimed to operate one the most robust and transparent export control systems in the world, and that "every application is examined rigorously against internationally-recognised criteria and particular attention is paid to human rights risks".

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  57.  
    10:29: '75% of manifesto' passed BBC Radio 5 live
    Ed DAvey Ed Davey gets an early morning cup of tea in the Radio 5 Live studio.

    Ed Davey - referencing the trebling of tuition fees earlier in this government - says it is "easy to pick that one out" to criticise the Lib Dems, but he says voters should focus on the "75% of the manifesto commitments [from 2010] that we delivered" under the coalition agreement.

     
  58.  
    10:27: Solution to housing problem Sky News
    Grant Shapps

    Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps is now on Murnaghan. He says the solution to Britain's housing problem is pushing people to make brown-field sites available for self-build programmes. He pledges 100,000 new starter homes, which can be purchased at 80% of market value, will be built if the Conservatives get into power. "Government support" and forcing the market "to step up to the plate" will make up the estimated £3.6bn cost of this project, Mr Shapps says.

     
  59.  
    10:26: Tuition fees BBC Radio 5 live

    Ed Davey says the Lib Dems would refuse to sign up to the "stupid" policy of Labour's to reduce tuition fees, in the event of coalition negotiations after the May election. He says it is better to spend £2bn on something other than benefiting the "richer graduates" of universities.

     
  60.  
    10:21: MI5 role in jihadi John radicalisation 'nonsense' Sky News

    Over on Sky's Murnaghan programme, Dr Afzal Ashraf, a consultant fellow at the defence and international affairs think-tank the Royal United Services Institute, says it is "complete nonsense" to suggest that MI5 would have driven Mohammed Emwazi to join Islamic State.

     
  61.  
    10:19: Davey on hate preachers BBC Radio 5 live

    Following reports today that there is a row in the coalition between Theresa May and Vince Cable over so-called 'hate preachers' on university campuses, Ed Davey says "the consensus view - which the Tories used to sign up to" is that prosecutions should only occur if a speaker crossed the line into directly inciting violence. He tells John Pienaar "if you change that line, that's a dangerous attack on free speech".

     
  62.  
    10:14: Labour green record 'hopeless' BBC Radio 5 live
    Ed Davey

    Ed Davey tells John Pienaar that the Labour Party has a "fairly hopeless record" on green issues. The Lib Dems, Mr Davey says, "want the next parliament to be the greenest government ever", and to that end his party will be setting out five green bills in their manifesto.

     
  63.  
    10:10: Tuition fees BBC Radio 5 live

    The Times columnist Jenni Russell tells John Pienaar she can't understand why Labour have chosen to promise to reduce university tuition fees, which she describes as "a very strange way to spend a couple of billion pounds" given that - according to her - the issue isn't a live political hot potato any more.

     
  64.  
    10:03: 'Different types of immigration' The Andrew Marr Show

    While criticising the government's "failed" immigration targets, Yvette Cooper admits that immigration is too high. Refusing to be drawn on specifics, she says that Labour's immigration policy would "target different types of immigration." The government has taken "the wrong approach" by lumping "all migrants" into same migration target, she argues.

     
  65.  
    10:02: Surveillance powers The Andrew Marr Show

    Yvette Cooper says that intelligence agencies already have strong legal powers to implement surveillance on terror suspects. While Labour support updating surveillance powers for new technologies, she says these must have "proper checks and balances." That is why Labour have asked for the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson QC, to review the law and recommend changes.

     
  66.  
    @JPonpolitics John Pienaar, 5 Live presenter

    tweets: On Pienaar's Politics from 10am, I'll be joined by the Energy Secretary, @EdwardDaveyMP and @grantshapps. Watch: http://www.bbc.co.uk/5live

     
  67.  
    09:56: Security services' 'hands tied' The Andrew Marr Show
    Yvette Cooper

    Yvette Cooper says Labour will bring back "the relocation part of control orders" to help "disrupt" terror plots in the UK, by moving suspects "away from their networks, away from the radicalisation, the extremist networks they might have been working with". The security services have had their "hands tied" by the current government, she says, pointing out that despite the "considerable risk" of a terror attack only one person is on a TPIM. This demonstrates that control powers are "simply not strong enough". But she adds that such powers - even if altered in the direction Labour wants - "should not be routinely used".

     
  68.  
    09:50: 'Shocking but not surprising' The Andrew Marr Show
    Kalsoom Bashir

    Kalsoom Bashir, co-director of Inspire, says it is "shocking but not surprising" that young girls are being attracted to join Islamic State, as the group have a "campaign specifically targeting young women" by "hooking into their vulnerabilities." School girls - such as Shamima Begum, Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana who are believed to be travelling to join Islamic State in Syria - are too "religiously illiterate" to know the difference between "Islam and Islamism" or "facts and lies".

     
  69.  
    09:37: 'Galvanising' extremism The Andrew Marr Show
    Helen Ball

    The UK senior national co-ordinator of counter-terrorism, Deputy Assistant Commisioner Helen Ball, says the Syrian civil war has had a "galvanising" effect on people becoming radicalised. Counter-terrorism investigations have "increased enormously" since the conflict began, while the police service are uncovering "more plots all the time". She adds the police miss the power of the "control order" - which kept terrorism suspects in their homes without access to phones or internet. She adds that it would take an "enormous number" of officers to provide surveillance on a suspect for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

     
  70.  
    09:30: Immigration 'dismay' The Andrew Marr Show

    Cardinal Nichols says he is "dismayed" that immigration has become such a big issue in politics ahead of the upcoming general election, and says all parties should have their views on immigration "tested." He adds that "the human person" must be always kept foremost in mind when discussing the issue, and he says without the "positive contribution" made by the "vast majority" of immigrants, London would "grind to a halt".

     
  71.  
    @michaelsavage Michael Savage, Times chief political correspondent

    tweets: Key ? on Labour's tuition fees - is there better way to spend £3bn? Tories/Lib Dems could now use same pensions raid to fund something else.

     
  72.  
    09:29: Politics 'everyone's business' The Andrew Marr Show
    Vincent Nichols

    Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, defends religious institutions getting involved in politics. He tells Sophie Raworth politics is "about the wellbeing of our country and that's everyone's business." He adds: "It urges people to ask what society we want to be and what role we see for ourselves in the wider world."

     
  73.  
    @patrickwintour Patrick Wintour, political editor of The Guardian

    tweets: Labour's tuition fees cut gets pasting in Sundays, but supported 3 to 1 in YouGov poll, despite voters knowing does not aid poor students.

     
  74.  
    09:21: Full surveillance 'not possible' The Andrew Marr Show
    Margot James

    On the subject of British citizens travelling to fight for terrorist movements, Conservative MP Margot James says it is unfortunately "simply not possible to subject all potential targets to the degree of surveillance that we would need in order to prevent them travelling to Syria" or other jihadist hotspots.

     
  75.  
    09:20: Paper review Daily Express

    The Sunday Express reveals how security forces finally identified Emwazi, who has appeared in several videos showing beheadings carried out by the Islamist group. The paper says spies worked out who he was after he used his student number to download discounted software after arriving in Syria. It also carries an interview with UKIP leader Nigel Farage , who calls for security services to be "given tools" to fight extremism.

     
  76.  
    09:13: Paper review The Daily Telegraph

    The Sunday Telegraph leads on a revelation that "an al-Qaeda terrorism suspect closely connected to 'Jihadi John' [a.k.a. Mohammed Emwazi] is living in London, having used the Human Rights Act to prevent the Government from deporting him". The paper also reports that two contemporaries of Emwazi's at his former school have since died while fighting alongside terrorists in Somalia and Syria respectively. Education Secretary has ordered an inquiry into the Quintin Kynaston academy in north London as a result.

    Sunday Telegraph front page
     
  77.  
    09:00: Paper review The Guardian

    Mohammed Emwazi had earlier been able to flee Britain despite being a member of a London-based terror cell that had links to the failed 21/7 attacks on the capital in 2005, according to the Observer. Associates of a 12-strong group spent time at a terror camp in Cumbria a year before the bid, the paper says. And it also reports that Labour is on course for an "absolute majority" in the House of Commons, according to a new poll commissioned by the paper.

    The Observer
     
  78.  
    08:57: 'Bizarre' response to minimum funding guarantee
    Stephen Crabb Stephen Crabb said Welsh ministers were being offered 'exactly' what they had asked for

    Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb has described Welsh ministers' response to a promise on minimum funding as "bizarre". On Friday, the UK government proposed a funding "floor" - guaranteeing a minimum Welsh government income. The Conservatives now want Labour Welsh ministers to call a referendum on devolving part-control of income tax. First Minister Carwyn Jones - a Labour politician - denounced the funding offer as a "vague promise", but Mr Crabb said it was a response to specific Welsh government demands.

     
  79.  
    08:49: Paper review Sunday Times

    Inside the Sunday Times, a group of the paper's reporters looks at the "bewildering transformation" of Mohammed Emwazi from a "socially-inept computer programmer" to infamous murderer. The paper leads on an alleged row in the coalition between the Conservatives and the Lib Dems: "New rules drawn up by Downing Street to force universities to ban all 'extremist' speakers from their campuses are being blocked by Vince Cable, the business secretary." And it also carries a story about a plan by some senior Tories to "Save Dave" in the event the prime minister wins more votes but fewer seats than Ed Miliband's Labour in May.

    Sunday Times front page
     
  80.  
    08:45: Paper review

    The Mail on Sunday leads with further details of the background of British-born Mohammed Emwazi, a.k.a. 'jihadi John'. The paper's security editor describes how as far back as 2010 Emwazi was convinced the security services were tailing him. Looking elsewhere, the paper's Ian Birrell writes about the recently-assassinated Boris Nemtsov, an opponent of Vladimir Putin's in Russia.

    Mail on Sunday front page
     
  81.  
    08:21: BBC One, 11:00 GMT Sunday Politics

    Today's political coverage on the BBC starts, of course, with Andrew Marr - but by no means finishes there. Join Andrew Neil on the Sunday Politics sofa at 11:00 GMT on BBC One, where he'll be joined by: Labour's Liam Byrne, the shadow universities minister; UKIP leader Nigel Farage; the Conservative former Defence Secretary Liam Fox; and the journalists Isabel Oakeshott, Nicholas Watt, and Janan Ganesh.

    Sunday Politics guests
     
  82.  
    08:20: BBC One, 09:00 GMT The Andrew Marr Show
    Yvette Cooper

    It's been a frantic week in the political world, with election fever spreading to more and more people. UKIP kicked off its spring conference; Labour announced it would reduce tuition fees by a third; and new immigration statistics proved embarrassing for the Conservative Party. But it wasn't a week spent entirely slinging mud - the coalition outlined a new devolved settlement for Wales, in a news conference that saw a show of unity and good humour between David Cameron and Nick Clegg. Join Andrew Marr at 09:00 GMT on BBC One to review the past week and look ahead to the next. His guests today include Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper; Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster; and the actress Kristen Scott-Thomas.

     
  83.  
    08:04: Good morning Alex Hunt Politics editor, BBC News Online

    Hello and welcome to a fresh Sunday's political coverage - there are only nine more before the election takes place. Sam Francis and Adam Donald will bring you all the main news and comment from the papers, and all the key moments from the morning's programmes such as The Andrew Marr Show, Pienaar's Politics and Sunday Politics. Don't forget you can get in touch by emailing politics@bbc.co.uk or via social media @bbcpolitics

     

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