[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

I visited the United Arab Emirates only last week, and what is happening in Yemen, from the military campaign to the humanitarian issues, came up in our discussions. I am interested in any and every aspect of what we are doing in Yemen. If any reports with bona fide evidence suggest that that is happening, we would be the first to ask how our arms exports are being used. That applies not only there but in every situation, which absolutely must be the case.

Margaret Ferrier discussed a specific case. She said she would write with more detail; I do not know whether I am the Minister to whom she was going to write, but I would be more than delighted not only for her to write to me but to meet her to discuss that case.

Kate Osamor spoke about Saudi Arabia. I do not have enough time to go into everything now, but I have a whole list of areas—such as human rights, labour reform, migrant worker reform, political reform, and the elections taking place in which women are participating for the first time—in which things are moving forward. They are not moving forward as much as everyone would like; sometimes progress is slow, particularly in countries with a more conservative approach where reform can be difficult, but we are making inroads and progress. I will write to the hon. Lady with specific details about what is happening in Saudi Arabia.

The Scottish National party spokesman, Patrick Grady, spoke in detail about the arms trade treaty. I think I can answer his outstanding questions in the affirmative, but, again, I will write in more detail to clarify the Government’s position in relation to all his questions.

The shadow Minister gave a very measured response, which I was pleased to hear. He underlined the importance of article 51 on the right of individual countries to defend themselves.

I am left with exactly one minute for my speech, but I will try to articulate the main messages by reiterating that, as Members would anticipate me saying, we take arms export responsibilities very seriously. We aim to operate one of the most robust, vigorous and transparent systems in the world. Our core objective in export licensing is to promote global security and prevent controlled goods from falling into the wrong hands, while at the same time facilitating responsible exports and supporting British businesses. I make it clear that as we develop relationships with various countries, we very much scrutinise what is actually happening, and if we think there is something untoward, we try to correct it.