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Saudi Arabia: Arms Export Licences - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:11 pm on 26th September 2019.

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Photo of Lord Campbell of Pittenweem Lord Campbell of Pittenweem Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Defence) 12:11 pm, 26th September 2019

My Lords, I also welcome the detailed account that the noble Earl has given of the steps that have been, and are being, taken to remedy the circumstances that bring us here today. There is some interest in the notion that the Secretary of State felt it necessary to apologise to the court. Perhaps that might become a policy throughout government. Perhaps the noble Earl might like to reflect the welcome that that has received in this House when next he goes to No. 10 Downing Street.

I guess that the noble Earl has before him the Question that I asked on 4 September and the response from the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad. On that occasion, I asked about the question of export licences and I was assured—I stress again that I am quoting the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad—that,

“we have adhered to the undertaking to grant no new licences”.—[Official Report, 4/9/19; col. 1005.]

It now appears that that statement, which I have no doubt was given in good faith, requires revision.

What is the financial value of arms being exported to Saudi Arabia since 20 June under existing licences? I ask this because the undertaking given to the court only applied to new licences. Relevant to some of the points made by the noble Lord who spoke on behalf of the Labour Party a moment ago is the question of the total amount and total effectiveness of arms originating in United Kingdom and sent to Saudi Arabia, and the use to which they are put.

The noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, said he would write to me. Again, I am sure that that was said in good faith, and I hope that that might now be pursued—perhaps more easily be pursued given the nature of the investigations that are being carried out. However much we welcome the steps that are now being taken, the truth is that this is yet another matter of gross embarrassment for this Government.