Yemen

Part of Concentrix – in the House of Commons at 5:49 pm on 26th October 2016.

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Photo of Daniel Kawczynski Daniel Kawczynski Conservative, Shrewsbury and Atcham 5:49 pm, 26th October 2016

The House should remember that the countries involved in the terrible war in Yemen do not have a history of intervention. Historically, countries such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar have not intervened in other jurisdictions, despite their location in a very difficult and volatile region. They have certainly never come together, as they have done on this occasion, to collectively enter another country—in this case to take on the Houthi rebels.

We ought to pause for a moment to think about the historic consequences and the unique situation that we find in all these disparate countries. My hon. Friend Sir Gerald Howarth listed the names of the countries that have come together because collectively they see the appalling consequences of what is happening in Yemen. My contacts in Saudi Arabia tell me that many Saudis are married to Yemenis and that there has historically been a huge amount of exchange between Yemen and Saudi, and the idea that they would deliberately target civilians is one that they find appalling and shocking.

Yemen is being destabilised by the Houthi rebels. As we heard from the Foreign Secretary, they are firing Scud missiles into Saudi Arabia and carrying out the most appalling brutality throughout that country. We have heard from the SNP about the civilian casualties, but the Emirates have lost more pilots in this conflict than in the history of their nation, so they have suffered a great deal as well.

I am concerned that the coverage of the situation by our own media in this country, the BBC and Newsnight in particular, is superficial, poor, and I would even go so far as to say biased, leading to motions such as that emanating from the SNP.

We met the coalition forces at the Royal United Services Institute. RUSI kindly organised a meeting for us at which we engaged with the head of the Saudi air force, who told us, “Every single plane has cameras on it. We can pinpoint exactly where the planes are at any one time. If you have evidence that any of them have deliberately”—that is the critical word, and my hon. Friend Crispin Blunt alluded to it—“targeted civilians, that must be raised directly with the Saudis.” They are doing everything possible to try to limit civilian casualties. There is a report in The Independent today that the Americans’ recent bombing in Syria has led to over 300 casualties. Of course, civilians are affected, regrettably, when there is a bombing campaign.

We take great pride in Shropshire in training many pilots from the Gulf states—Kuwaitis, Emiratis and Saudis—at RAF Cosford and RAF Shawbury. It is not just about selling the equipment to those Gulf states. We take great pride in training those pilots to the very highest standards. They are taught by their British counterparts not just about professionalism and about flying, but about the ethics of flying those planes and the importance of what they do. I am very proud of the contribution that we make and I regret that there are Members in this House who think that we would be party in some way to deliberately targeting civilians.