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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:12 pm on 17th September 2015.

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Photo of Angela Rayner Angela Rayner Labour, Ashton-under-Lyne 2:12 pm, 17th September 2015

I am pleased to speak under your chairmanship, Mr Amess. I praise everybody who has contributed to this important debate.

I am not a particularly religious person, but my politics and those of my party are probably shaped more by Methodism than by Marxism. Matthew 5:9 is a guiding principle as pertinent today as it was when it was written:

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”

Amnesty International estimates that roughly 500,000 people are killed every year by firearms in the battlefield, as a result of state repression, or by criminal gangs. Many more millions around the world die after being denied access to things that most people in my constituency take for granted, such as healthcare, water and food, because they are trapped in conflicts fuelled by the poorly controlled flow of arms. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, it is estimated that more than 5 million people have died since 1998 as an indirect result of the armed conflict.

The new politics that puts people before unfettered profiteering demands that it is time for the march of the peacemakers. Some may ask why it is a concern for my constituents in Ashton, Droylsden and Failsworth. Some may talk about job creation and economic growth stemming from the arms trade. I say that hundreds of my constituents have written to me over the last few weeks demanding that the current Government show more compassion for the families, women and children fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria. I agree wholeheartedly that the Government need to do more and that we should take our fair share of those seeking sanctuary and refuge, but I also say that we must do more to deal with the causes of the migration crisis by tackling head-on the countries that supply arms to regimes and nations with appalling human rights records.

On the question of job creation, the arms industry is in decline while new and emerging industries require research, investment and development. The greatest investment in conflict resolution is the creation of jobs and the building of houses, good schools, hospitals and road and rail infrastructure. That is the peacemaker approach.

When I came to this House, I promised my constituents I would do all that I could to protect, and provide for, the next generation. They deserve a future. The issue affects us all; we are all children of one world. I am concerned that despite the grand words and intentions in the arms trade treaty, an event such as the DSEI arms trade fair carries on in ignorant bliss.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend Ann Clwyd on securing this important debate and on her work in this area. I remind those here and beyond that, as she mentioned in her opening remarks, the treaty requires

“that no state authorises arms transfers to those committing genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and serious violations of human rights law, or turns a blind eye to dealers supplying arms likely to be used to commit serious human rights violations."

In the march of the peacemakers—the new politics for which so many in our nation and in my constituency are crying out—we must ensure that we press the UN and all signatories to the arms trade treaty to implement the treaty obligations fully. We also need to invest both aid and time in the industries of peace, stability and sustainable growth to create a safer world for all. I ask the Minister to do all that he can in that vein.