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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:02 pm on 17th September 2015.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn Labour, Newport West 2:02 pm, 17th September 2015

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for the first time, Sir David. It is a special joy to support my right hon. Friend Ann Clwyd, who has a heroic record of working for Indict and CARDRI. She took on a lonely task, and she behaved with genuine heroism by going to inspect the wars for herself. It is a shame that previous leaders of our party have never been as aware of her talent as the present leader may be. Her best days are ahead.

My right hon. Friend mentioned Yemen. We should be greatly concerned that, in a country of 21 million people, 84% of the population are in need of humanitarian aid. It is an extraordinary crisis that has had very little attention. What is going on in Yemen? A group, the Houthis, are regarded as rebels, and the Saudis have gone in, supported by us, and are creating a terrible situation. At least 4,000 people have been killed in the past few months. Last week, on “Newsnight,” we saw a water-bottling plant that was bombed, with the workers turned into carbon. All that was left of them was their burned bodies, and we had a hand in doing that.

The extraordinary thing, as my hon. Friend Rachael Maskell said, is that the Government are behaving in two different ways: they are providing humanitarian aid, which we do very well—the Government should be congratulated on their record of maintaining the 0.7% aid budget—but, on the other hand, they are feeding the war machine that is causing death and creating refugees.

There is a nasty regime in Azerbaijan under Aliyev. I spoke to him a year ago, and he told me that it is untrue that Azerbaijan imprisons journalists, demonstrators and opponents. He promptly went home from that meeting, which took place when, absurdly, his country headed the Council of Europe, a body in charge of human rights, and arrested dozens more journalists, demonstrators and opponents. Yet there is a campaign in this House to get as many Members as possible to join the all-party group on Azerbaijan. Members of that group are welcome to go on the caviar trail, and they will be very well looked after while they are in Azerbaijan.

The arms trade contributes to undermining the work of this House. When the war drums are beating, we are all blackmailed into supporting new wars because there will be jobs at stake in our constituencies. We hear from those workers and are told that, if we are against the war, we are against jobs in our constituency. The powerful arms trade lobby is deeply corrupting. The Government are trying to edge us into a new war, into blundering into the four-sided civil war in Syria, with God knows what consequences. Just two years ago they wanted us to fight Assad, and now they want us to take on ISIL—they are both deadly enemies—but the House no longer trusts Government information. We lost 179 of our brave British soldiers in pursuit of non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. We went into Helmand in 2006, having lost just four soldiers in battle up to that point, on the assurance that not a shot would be fired; in fact, millions of shots were fired and we lost 454 soldiers. Again, we were told two years ago to prepare for war with Iran because it was going to attack us with its non-existent long-range missiles carrying non-existent nuclear weapons.

We in this House must look to the arms trade. Yes, there are benefits to be gained from that trade, but we must resist the temptation to go ahead and support oppressive and murderous regimes in the name of profit. A sensible line must be drawn between our great record on humanitarian aid and our record of unnecessarily shoring up wicked regimes that create the problems of deprivation, cause deaths and create a large number of refugees. We must have a consistent, rational policy that makes sense.