It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Nuttall. I thank my hon. Friend Charlotte Leslie for her amazingly erudite speech, which I will not be able to emulate. I, too, recently went to the UAE as a guest of its Government. That is declared in my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.
My interest in this area started when I was a child. My father served in the Trucial Oman Scouts in the 1950s and, as an Arabist, spent most of his career in the middle east, in Suez, Yemen and the UAE, which was called the Trucial States in those days. The beginning of the close links between Britain and the UAE has been documented in his book, “Arabian Adventure”, in which he discusses events in the 1950s and ’60s, when he got to know Sheikh Zayed of Abu Dhabi, the founder of the UAE, through his weekly visits and recognised him as
“undoubtedly the most powerful figure in the Trucial States”.
My father says:
“I used to visit him weekly in his fort, and he would always describe the local political situation to me in an excellent manner. I always came to him with great respect and I left him with even greater respect.”
I mention that because I want to reflect on our long-term and close relationship with the UAE, which was very obvious during our trip in April. Since 1972, when I left as a child, the UAE has developed incredibly. Out of the desert have risen several cities in each state, from Ras al-Khaimah, Ajman and Umm al-Quwain in the north, through to Sharjah, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Fujairah in the east. Those states have come together and work closely, the richer states sharing their wealth with those that have not had the oil reserves but are developing in other ways.
It is with British help that businesses have become so successful. During our visit, as we have mentioned, we met Sir Tim Clark, who built up the Emirates airline, which now sponsors the Emirates Spinnaker tower in Portsmouth, and Simon Moore, who is running Jebel Ali, the port on which Dubai originally built its wealth. Dubai Ports owns Southampton port and has just built the London Gateway port. Investment is going both ways, including to the northern powerhouse, and my aim is to get more investment into the southern powerhouse and particularly Portsmouth. British people are leading at Masdar City, the first clean energy city.
We met British people working closely with counter-terrorism initiatives such as Hedayah and Sawab. Those organisations are identifying what is drawing our young people to Daesh and other terrorist organisations that have no state boundaries. Working together makes us more secure.
Many Emiratis have been educated in Britain, in our schools, universities and military colleges.