Yemen

Oral Answers to Questions — International Development – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 3rd February 2016.

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Photo of Laurence Robertson Laurence Robertson Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee 11:30 am, 3rd February 2016

What recent assessment she has made of the humanitarian situation in Yemen.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne The Minister of State, Department for International Development

Eighty per cent. of Yemen’s population are in need of humanitarian aid, and 7.6 million people face severe food shortages. Some 320,000 children under the age of five are severely malnourished, there are 2.5 million displaced people, and there were 8,000 civilian casualties last year. Yemen must be one of the least eligible places to be.

Photo of Laurence Robertson Laurence Robertson Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

I thank the Minister for setting out the worrying situation in Yemen. There are other problem areas of the world, such as Syria, but Yemen is one of the world’s hidden problems. What can the Government do to enable NGOs to at least get food aid and clean water into Yemen to those who are so desperately in need?

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne The Minister of State, Department for International Development

We started by doubling our aid last year, and last week the Secretary of State announced that that aid would increase by a further £10 million to £85 million. In September, she led a side event at the UN General Assembly, at which she secured from other donors a further £85 million. We are working on the UN verification and inspection mechanism to ensure that more food and shipping get into Yemen.

Photo of Stephen Twigg Stephen Twigg Chair, International Development Committee

That additional aid is welcome, but at the same time we are supplying arms to one side in the conflict. Is it time that this country supported an international, independent inquiry into concerns about the abuses of international humanitarian law, and in the meantime suspended all arms sales to Saudi Arabia?

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne The Minister of State, Department for International Development

We have the supported the UN Human Rights Council resolution that requires the Government of Yemen to investigate those matters, with the support of the UN.

Photo of Helen Grant Helen Grant Conservative, Maidstone and The Weald

Is DFID’s good work in Yemen being undermined by UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia?

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne The Minister of State, Department for International Development

What undermines UK aid, and what makes that aid ever more necessary yet harder to deliver, is the violent and unlawful removal of the Government of Yemen. Only a peace process to restore that will end the suffering.

Photo of Gisela Stuart Gisela Stuart Labour, Birmingham, Edgbaston

If we are concerned about arms exports to Saudi Arabia, which fuel the conflict in Yemen, why are the Government not pressing ahead with setting up the cross-party quadripartite committee on arms exports, so that Parliament can control that better?

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne The Minister of State, Department for International Development

As the Prime Minister pointed out, we have the most stringent and robust arms export regulations in the world. We have supported the UN Human Rights Council resolution, and we are committed to the investigation of every abuse or abrogation of international law.

Photo of Diane Abbott Diane Abbott Shadow Secretary of State for International Development

The Minister will be aware that Saferworld, Oxfam, UNICEF, and Save the Children take the position that DFID’s work in Yemen is being undermined by

UK arms sales. How can the Minister continue to insist that a UK-replenished Saudi arsenal being dropped on Yemen is not an impediment to development?

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne The Minister of State, Department for International Development

As I said to my hon. Friend Mrs Grant, the undermining of our ability to deliver aid is a consequence of warfare. That warfare arises because of the violent removal of the lawful Government of Yemen, not because we have sold arms to the Saudis.