I beg to move,
That this House
has considered the implications for human rights of promoting arms sales.
I am particularly pleased to be having this debate under your chairmanship, Mr Amess; we have been in the House for about the same amount of time, so it is a great pleasure. I am also pleased to see so many hon. Members here to discuss this very important issue. I will keep my speech relatively brief to allow everybody to get in who has something to say, so that as many Members as possible can share their views about the implication for human rights of promoting arms sales.
As many hon. Members know, I have always been passionate about human rights and have argued against arms sales to human rights violators ever since I became an MP. As chair of the Committee against Repression and for Democratic Rights in Iraq—known as CARDRI—in the 1980s, I argued against the supply of military equipment to Saddam Hussein, a man who, at that time, was gassing his own people, had executed a British journalist and generally oversaw a very repressive and brutal regime. Iraq was, of course, also then at war with Iran.
I was horrified when, in 1986, the then Conservative Government invited a five-strong Iraqi delegation, led by its director of armaments and supplies, to the British Army equipment exhibition in Aldershot. Of course, in 1990 Saddam’s troops invaded Kuwait, and he became no longer a friend, but an enemy of the west. Lord Justice Scott’s report a few years later detailed the involvement of the UK Government and British companies in arming him. However, Saddam had not changed overnight in 1990.