The Labor government of newly elected Prime Minister Tony Blair followed through on a campaign promise July 28 when it established new criteria governing arms exports. Foreign Secretary Robin Cook announced that Britain would not export arms to states that "might use them for internal repression or international aggression" and would prohibit the export of items used for torture.
Cook said that the new criteria would not be applied "mechanistically" and that other factors would be considered when evaluating arms requests. The government provoked criticism for opting not to apply the new policy to agreements made by the previous government, which allowed a controversial sale of 16 Hawk jets and 50 armored vehicles to proceed to Indonesia, a state routinely criticized for its human rights record.A British official said that the new policy would have a limited effect on British arms sales, and that the future significance of the policy will be the greatest for states with poor human rights records. In 1996, Britain was the second largest exporter of arms in the world according to a recently released U.S. Government report. ( See p. 22.)