Humanitarian Law (Yemen)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:36 pm on 5th September 2016.

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Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs 3:36 pm, 5th September 2016

Let us take a step back and make it clear why Saudi Arabia is leading the coalition to support President Hadi. It is allowed to because of UN resolution 2216, of which the right hon. Gentleman is fully aware. Were it not for that, the atrocities that we see and the devastation that is taking place would be a lot worse. The Houthis would have pushed far down through Sana’a, the capital, and all the way to the port of Aden. It would be a humanitarian catastrophe.

Having said that, we absolutely need to make sure that our allies and partners are honouring international humanitarian law, which is why we have regularly raised these matters. I invite the right hon. Gentleman to join me when the Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister comes to this place on Wednesday to address any questions that are put by parliamentarians; it is at 10 o’clock and the right hon. Gentleman is more than welcome to come. I will make sure, because I will be moderating the event, that he is able to put some of these questions to the Foreign Minister.

On the general point, the right hon. Gentleman simply repeated the difference in the two lines, which I have endeavoured to correct. I have answered more than 90 parliamentary questions on this matter. We found out that two of them were incorrectly written, with a further trawl showing that four more were incorrectly written, and we immediately decided to correct the matter. I agree that the timing, first in replying to the various heads of the Committees, was slower than it should have been. If he knows me, he will know that I would not sit on this matter; the reason for this was simply that there was a change of government, and there were delays—I did not even know whether I was going to continue in this portfolio. As soon as I became aware of the situation, I made sure that the necessary information was out there and that we did a further trawl to make sure nothing else was erroneous. I then wrote to the relevant Committee Chairs and to the right hon. Gentleman.