Export fee plan slammed

Defence companies condemn a DTI proposal for exporters to pay for licences

The defence industry has criticised a suggestion that exporters should foot the bill for administering export licences.

The Department of Trade and Industry put forward the proposal for the export licensing system to be paid for by industry in a consultation document, Strategic Export Controls.

The move has now been condemned by the Defence Manufacturers Association. `The system is a function of government that it performs in the national interest, which many in industry already regard as being a burden,’ said the DMA.

`To ask industry to consider a suggestion for it to have to pay for the privilege of being subjected to this service is somewhat perverse.’

In the wake of the Scott Report last year, the DTI suggested charging for the export licensing system because it incurs a cost on the Government.

Graseby, a company in Watford, Hertfordshire, which makes metal detectors, described a system of charging as `taking privatisation beyond what is ethically and morally sensible’.

It said charging would render the Government commercially liable for its decisions, especially if a company lost orders through the department’s `misjudgement’ or `bureaucratic incompetence’.

However, the DTI has been urged to make the system of export licensing more efficient. GKN Westland claims that only 1% of its licence applications are turned around in the 10-20 days recommended by the department.

In addition, the DMA has called for a simpler legislative system that would target sensitive goods more effectively and expand the Open Licensing System, which, by limiting the number of licences needed for each export, would speed up the system’s administration.

Reformation of the licensing system will be put on hold until after the general election.