Part of Parliamentary Sovereignty and EU Renegotiations – in the House of Commons at 3:05 pm on 4th February 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Kirsten Oswald Kirsten Oswald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Armed Forces and Veterans) 3:05 pm, 4th February 2016

I think that conflict in any area is cause for concern, but today we must focus on this particular conflict, and on the question of where the United Kingdom Government’s responsibility lies. I believe that it is inconsistent for them to give aid to Yemen with one hand while, with the other, selling weapons that will be used to bomb the country to smithereens.

The Minister and the UK Government need to come clean about the specific involvement of the UK military in arms sales, training and logistics in relation to Saudi Arabia’s military operations in Yemen. I do not think that conflict by proxy is the policy of the Conservatives, but given what is happening in Yemen, it is difficult to see how that is not the case. The Belgian Government have felt able to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia, yet we continue to ignore human rights issues both in Saudi Arabia and in respect of Yemen, and continue to sell arms.

The delay in the establishment of the Committees on Arms Export Controls may have had an influence on the position. The Committees should have been established months ago, as has been highlighted by the continued pressure exerted by my right hon. Friend Angus Robertson. Let me ask the Minister this: what has been the cost to human life of that delay?

I agree wholeheartedly with the Chair of the International Development Committee, who said in his letter yesterday:

“It is a longstanding principle of the rule of law that inquiries should be independent of those being investigated.”

It is very disappointing that the UK Government did not take the opportunity in September 2015 to endorse the proposal of the Government of the Netherlands for the establishment of an international fact-finding mission to investigate the conduct of the war. That would have provided the information sought by the Minister, who recently said that if weapons systems had been abused and genuine intelligence was available to verify that, action would be taken in relation to export licensing.

It is time for the UK Government to stop running away from scrutiny, and to take urgent action to suspend all sales of arms to Saudi Arabia until it can demonstrate that they are not being used against civilians, and not being used in violation of international law. The UK must do more to alleviate this humanitarian crisis and ensure that there is access to areas where people are besieged and starving, and every effort must be made to ensure that the delayed peace talks begin. We cannot stand by any longer as Yemen descends further and further into terror and chaos. It is time for the UK Government to step up and do the right thing.