Yemen

Part of Concentrix – in the House of Commons at 6:13 pm on 26th October 2016.

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Photo of Kwasi Kwarteng Kwasi Kwarteng Conservative, Spelthorne 6:13 pm, 26th October 2016

I am grateful to you, Mr Speaker, for calling me to speak in this important debate. A number of issues have been touched on very ably by right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House.

The first thing we have to consider is that Saudi Arabia—I have visited the kingdom twice in the past three years—is itself on a journey. I first went there in 2013 as part of a delegation, when it was clear that one regime was coming to an end. I and a few colleagues went there earlier this year, and it was equally clear that the country had evolved. There were new programmes in place under the direction of Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who spoke candidly about the nature of Saudi involvement in Yemen, as has his Foreign Minister, Adel al-Jubeir, very ably in many instances.

The Saudi action in Yemen is not coming out of the blue. It is not something that the Saudis are doing for the sake of it. They are doing it in response to UN resolution 2216, which other Members have alluded to, so in this instance they have the force of international law behind them.

I do not dispute that there have been incidents. I do not dispute that the Saudis have, at times, been overbearing and acted ultra vires, as we used to say—beyond their authority—and that civilians have been killed. That is greatly to be regretted, and it is an appalling violation. When there have been violations, they need to be looked at, but I do not believe that suspending the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia would help this country or the interests that are represented so ably by colleagues such as my hon. Friend Seema Kennedy, Mr Hendrick and other north-west Members. To do so would not help them or their constituents, nor would it be of any strategic value to the region itself.

In the past five years, there has been an appalling collapse of order right across the middle east. Libya has descended into chaos, and Yemen has been riven by this terrible conflict, in which right is clearly on one side. The Houthis are rebels and do not wish to conduct themselves according to international law as set out by the UN. There has been chaos in Syria. It is absolutely clear that, in this instance, Saudi Arabia is not acting unilaterally. It is acting as part of a coalition, as my hon. Friend Daniel Kawczynski suggested. Many Arab countries—not just Gulf countries, but countries such as Morocco—are involved in the action. Qatar, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are all involved—[Interruption.] They may not be the shining democracies that you would like to see in Scotland, but they are functioning Governments that are a source of stability.