[Mr David Amess in the Chair] — Arms Sales (Human Rights)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 1:30 pm on 17th September 2015.

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Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd Labour, Cynon Valley 1:30 pm, 17th September 2015

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. I chair the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s committee on the human rights of parliamentarians. At our biannual conferences, we have delegations from the countries where parliamentarians are in jail, not able to carry out their mandates or, in some cases, have been murdered. We follow up their cases, and Bahrain, in the next three weeks, will be on our agenda again in Geneva.

I mentioned the licences that the Government were forced to revoke in 2011, when the Arab uprisings took place. However, even then not a single licence to Saudi Arabia was revoked. The Government presumably did not want to undermine one of their most lucrative defence export markets, as well as other security, intelligence and trade arrangements. That was despite the fact that UK armoured vehicles supplied to Saudi Arabia were being used to protect vital infrastructure in Bahrain, arguably giving the Bahraini forces a free hand to attack protesters. I emphasise that there is even more reason to re-examine licences now, with the Saudis’ use of military force in Yemen.

Today, the biennial Defence and Security Equipment International exhibition, one of the world’s largest arms fairs, which generates millions in arms deals, is taking place at the ExCeL centre in London’s docklands. It is organised by a private company, Clarion Events, but the Government’s arms sales agency, UKTI DSO, has issued the official invitations to 61 countries. Those include countries on the Foreign Office’s list of countries of concern on human rights grounds, such as Colombia, Iraq, Pakistan and, inevitably, Saudi Arabia, plus others where human rights are a major issue, including Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Turkey, which I shall return to discussing, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Ukraine.

Clarion says that there are 1,500 international exhibitors, comprising suppliers from 121 countries, Israel being among them with a big pavilion. They will be displaying the full range of military equipment and components, taking part in seminars and building the relationships that facilitate the deals. That DSEI is a global arms fair is emphasised in the letter of understanding between UKTI DSO and Clarion:

“Since DSEI is an international exhibition, the necessity of achieving a fair and equitable share of delegation time between exhibiting UK companies and overseas exhibitors affects both the short term perception and long term survival of the event. DSEI needs to continually develop and maintain its position as the leading global market place. For this to happen, both UK and international companies need to feel they have equal and reasonable access to delegations.”

Arms sellers meet arms buyers at DSEI. If they agree a deal whereby the equipment does not come into the UK, it is not subject to any UK export controls. If the equipment is a UK export, it will go to one of well over 100 countries across the globe for which UK export licences are granted. The FCO’s “Human Rights and Democracy” report, which I have here, identified 28 “countries of concern”. In 2014, the UK approved arms export licences to 18 of these, including Israel, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

I turn briefly to a specific example that worries me greatly. Turkey may be a member of NATO