CONCERNS have been raised that Britain’s oversight on arms exports suffers from a critical “weakness” – as the UK Government continues to approve weapon sales to Israel.

The Sunday National can reveal there is disquiet at the Commons Business and Trade Committee over new arrangements which require it to scrutinise Government policy on arms exports.

It comes after the Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC) was abolished this January.

Its responsibilities have been absorbed by the Business and Trade Committee, chaired by Labour MP Liam Byrne.

READ MORE: SNP depute leader: ‘Let’s consider withdrawing MPs from Westminster’

Byrne wrote to Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch in February, expressing concern about his committee taking on CAEC’s work – and appearing to urge the Government to engage with MPs.

In his letter, Byrne also raised concerns about reforms within Government on its arms export controls, asking what work - “if any” - the Export Control Joint Unit carried out after it was stripped of its responsibility for enforcing sanctions on Russia.

He also asked for the Government’s response to the recommendations of a report into its weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.

It comes as the Government faces increasing pressure over its continued sale of weapons to Israel – which has been accused of carrying out genocide in its assault on Palestine.

The International Court of Justice refused to throw out South Africa’s case against Israel - which accused the Middle Eastern state of genocide – and urged Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to take steps to ensure it does not commit war crimes in Palestine.

The issue was raised by Labour MP Zarah Sultana last week in Parliament – who urged the UK Government to suspend arms sales to Israel.

The National: Andrew Mitchell, minister of state for development and Africa (PA)

Taking questions on the situation in the Middle East, Foreign Office minister Andrew Mitchell (above) repeatedly referred to the “arms export control committee” – which has been interpreted as a reference to the committee disbanded in January.

The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) suggested Mitchell had “misled” Parliament with his comment.

CAAT also questioned how the public could “possibly believe genuine oversight of arms exports is taking place”.

A spokesperson for the campaign group said: “At a time when parliamentary oversight of UK arms exports is absolutely critical, the weakness of scrutiny in this area has never been clearer.

“If even ministers themselves do not realise that the Government has dissolved accountability mechanisms like CAEC, how can the public possibly believe genuine oversight of arms exports is taking place?

“The most concerning aspect of the new arrangement, whereby the Business and Trade Committee takes on all of CAEC’s previous work, is that it appears the Government has done it with little to no follow-up on the commitments made to the previous committee, as outlined by current Business and Trade Committee chair Liam Byrne in a letter to Government.

“The Government has continued to export arms to Israel without pause, despite the ICJ ruling that Israel is plausibly committing genocide.

“For almost five months, ministers have evaded MPs’ questions and misled parliament regarding reviews of arms export licences to Israel. The lack of parliamentary scrutiny of arms exports is one of the key factors in allowing this unconscionable situation to continue.”

The UK Government was approached for comment.