Britain is pushing for an international arms trade treaty to curb “unscrupulous, greedy and immoral” sales.
The treaty, which faces resistance from some countries, is meant to prevent the export of arms where they will support human rights abuses, conflict and corruption.
The UK is to lead negotiations on the treaty at the United Nations in July.
The proposed controls will cover a wide range of defence kit, from fighter jets to rifles and ammunition, and require states exporting arms to satisfy impact criteria – covering development as well as conflict – which will be closely monitored.
States will be required to prosecute anybody involved in corrupt brokering and provide detailed reports on arms exports.
In a speech at the International Institute for Strategic Studies yesterday, International Development Minister Alan Duncan said: “It is scandalous that there is currently no international regulation of the arms trade.
“The UK has one of the strongest arms export control systems in the world, which is why we are at the forefront of these negotiations.
“It is time to stamp out unscrupulous, greedy and immoral practices which lead to bloodshed and war.”
Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen said Britain must take on the “handful of sceptical states” that do not want to tackle the international arms trade.
“This historic new treaty can only be effective if it stops weapons ending up in regions where they are likely to contribute directly to serious human rights abuses, war crimes or poverty,” she said.
“The UK must hold firm on its commitments to only deliver a robust and effective arms trade treaty. There can be no compromise on people’s lives.”
Brinley Salzmann, director of defence trade association ADS, said the treaty must be “effective, implementable and widely adopted” if it is to succeed.
“An initiative that genuinely seeks to establish a global benchmark, consistent with the high standards UK industry is expected to operate under, is to be welcomed and supported,” he added.