Yemen

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:26 pm on 20th November 2017.

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Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Jointly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development) 4:26 pm, 20th November 2017

Again, I come first to the hon. Lady’s last point: how will this conflict come to an end? This conflict will come to an end when both sides are brought together by people who make it clear that there is no military solution to it, and that there has to be a political one. That is what the United Kingdom has sought to do for many months, through meetings with appropriate parties here in London, in New York and in the region. We share her frustrations because, like others, we can see the impact.

I will comment on one or two of the hon. Lady’s other perfectly proper remarks. First, the key test for our continued arms exports to Saudi Arabia in relation to international humanitarian law is whether there is a clear risk that the items that are subject to the licence might be used in a serious violation of international humanitarian law. That situation is kept under careful and continual review, and, like all other aspects of the United Kingdom’s arms control policy, it is subject to rigorous examination here and by the law.

Secondly, the hon. Lady is right to raise the question of access, as we have done. The restrictions on access do not mean that our work now is meaningless, as she indicated; I am sure that she does not mean that. We are working through partners who are there on the ground, but distribution is, of course, harder. That is the case not just in coalition-controlled areas, but in Houthi-controlled areas; I have to remind the House that there are two sides to this.

Lastly, I will deal again with the subject of arms exports, because I know that it is fundamental. I related this to Jo Swinson the other week, and I shall do the same thing again; I do not mean to be harsh about it. If we thought that our not sending support to our allies—who are facing attacks on their own soil, from missiles imported into ungoverned space, where they are trying to support an elected Government against the insurgency—would send the right signal in the region and would prove to be of any use, it would be a course of action, but I do not believe that that is the case. I do not believe that if we were to take that action, it would not fundamentally undermine a number of other regional issues and make our allies wonder, when they faced an attack on their Heathrow, whether we were making the right judgments. We have to pursue other means of bringing the conflict to an end, and that is what we seek to do.