Government under fire over military software exports

20 Aug 2009 View Comments
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Air force jet
UK software is used in other countries' military equipment

The government faces renewed demands for independent research into the effectiveness of export controls on military software, but has been supported for a crackdown using easier-to-enforce civil remedies against those breaching the rules.

The Commons Defence Committee has criticised ministers for failing to give a direct response to its earlier calls for third-party studies and for the government's insistence that any review must "add value" to existing analyses and "present value for money".

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The MPs’ report highlighted the issue of "whether the controls on the transfer of software were adequate, practicable and enforceable" as well as the extent to which dual-use goods - many including software or firmware not subject to control - are exported from the UK and then incorporated into equipment which had it been exported from the UK would have been subject to export control.

The committee praised government plans to use civil penalties in situations where goods have already left the UK or where frontier-based seizure and restoration powers employed by HM Revenue and Customs cannot be employed, such as electronic transfers.

The committee also voiced concern about the way UK-supplied components have been incorporated in equipment such as Apache helicopters and F-16 head-up displays which have been exported to Israel and used in operations in Gaza or the Lebanon.

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