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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:48 pm on 17th September 2015.

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Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs 2:48 pm, 17th September 2015

Thank you, Sir David. It is a pleasure to be able to call you that, and I am delighted to work under your chairmanship today. I begin by joining others in paying tribute to Ann Clwyd. She has a formidable reputation in this House going back many years. She has been consistent not only on this issue, but on wider humanitarian concerns. It is no surprise that she is at the forefront of this debate today. I echo the tributes paid to Robin Cook and the work that he did on this area and to Sir John Stanley, who continues to be active in these areas. I met him only a few days ago to discuss these matters.

To make it clear, I will not have the opportunity to answer all the questions, but as I have done in the past, I will write to Members personally and individually—I am looking at my officers behind me—to ensure that each question is answered in detail. I have done that before and I will honour that today. Ten minutes does not do these debates justice.

I will touch on some of the important contributions, and I echo the comments on the standard and importance of this debate. It is a healthy debate for the House to have. My hon. Friend Dr Mathias mentioned cluster munitions, as did the shadow Minister, Hilary Benn—I have got to know him so well that I wanted to say my right hon. Friend; I am pleased to see him in his place and welcome him. I can confirm that cluster munitions are not on sale in any form at the DSEI exhibition. The exhibition is patrolled to ensure that every bit of kit meets the required standard and that such equipment is not on sale.

My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham also mentioned Bahrain, an example of a country that is on the list of concern, but also a country with which we have a strong military relationship. We do sell it military equipment—air force, navy and army components—but, as in all the cases of countries that are on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office list and with which we have a defence relationship, we make sure that our robust controls are honoured. That allows us to have a strong and robust relationship with countries. Bahrain is a great example of where that allows us to be frank and up front about human rights concerns. I will write to my hon. Friend with the detail on how our experts are working with the Bahraini Government to improve human rights. That is welcome, and we can do it and be frank with them because we have built up that relationship.

Rachael Maskell talked about Daesh and the potential for UK weapons to fall into their hands. I would be grateful to know of any examples. There have been many suggestions that UK equipment might have fallen into the wrong hands, but we need to make a distinction between press reports and evidence. If the hon. Lady has any actual evidence, she should please provide that to us and we will certainly look into it. I am not aware of any evidence on that front.

The same goes for Yemen. I touched on this in an intervention on Tom Brake. The coalition was put together at the request of the Yemeni President. UN Security Council resolution 2216 states that all means and measures should be taken to support the country. The Houthis were asked to return and back away from the areas that their military had taken over. They refused to do so, which is why military action was confirmed. There is the potential that the military equipment that has been sold could be used, but that would be deemed a legitimate use of those weapons systems. It comes down to the fundamental right, guaranteed in article 51 of the UN charter and mentioned by the shadow Minister, for any country to have the means and the right to defend itself, or to provide support to other countries for the same reason.