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Arms Export Licences (Saudi Arabia)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:24 am on 26th September 2019.

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Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade 11:24 am, 26th September 2019

Indeed, Mr Speaker.

The Government did know; they just did not tell the Department for International Trade. Which Department knew? Which Minister had the responsibility to tell the Secretary of State, and why are they not sitting alongside the right hon. Lady, making an apology to Parliament?

The evidence presented during the court proceedings earlier this year and the recent revelation prove that the Government have failed to abide by their own undertaking. On two occasions since the Court of Appeal’s verdict, licences have been awarded in contravention of the determination precisely because a careful assessment was not carried out. Will the Secretary of State explain why the reports in 2015—the widespread reports that Saudi troops had been deployed on the ground and were leading the co-ordinated efforts of coalition forces in Yemeni territory—were not properly investigated and assessed by her Department? I note her letter to the Committees on Arms Export Controls; the inference is that no such investigation had ever been carried out.

The previous Secretary of State, Dr Fox, advised that potential breaches were monitored in a number of ways, one of which was through on-the-ground military and diplomatic staff and our positive close relations with Saudi Arabian officials. The Saudi Arabian officials must have known that their country’s troops were on the ground, so why was that not communicated in the close positive relations that our staff had with them?

I welcome the fact that the Secretary of State has launched a full inquiry, but it will not have escaped her notice that the arms export fair took place in London just a short while ago. Some £6.3 billion of arms have been exported to the coalition by this Government— £5.3 billion-worth to Saudi Arabia. What further deals were done there? The Secretary of State has said that it is possible that more illegal deals may have taken place, but does she actually think that instead of it being possible, it is highly probable?