Yemen: Political and Humanitarian Situation

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:52 pm on 5th July 2017.

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Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Labour, Leicester East 4:52 pm, 5th July 2017

I hope to follow your instructions, Mrs Moon. It is easy to do so on this tragic subject, because my hon. Friend Stephen Doughty has spoken so eloquently and passionately about an issue that affects the people of Yemen—the tragedy that is occurring in the middle east, which we in this House seem so powerless to deal with. The fact that 20 Members are here today signifies that this House is concerned about Yemen. It is close to our hearts, and we need to ensure there is a political solution to end the humanitarian crisis that has gripped that country.

I commend the Minister on his new appointment. He was a Minister in the Department for International Development, but he is now leading on Yemen, as far as the Foreign Office is concerned. He has responded to many Adjournment debates on this subject, which I, as chair of the all-party group on Yemen, and other Members of this House have initiated. I pay tribute to Alison Thewliss for the work she does as the secretary of the all-party group.

As this is the first debate on this subject since we have returned, I should pay tribute to Flick Drummond, a fellow officer who worked so hard and, like me and Valerie Vaz, was born in Yemen. I also pay tribute to a trio of Members of the Scottish National party, who were not born in Yemen but took up this issue strongly: Angus Robertson, Alex Salmond and Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh. We will miss their voice, but the good point is that we have Members here who will speak on behalf of Yemen today and in the months ahead.

I have only one point to make, which is to ask the Minister to ring up our permanent representative at the United Nations and to speak to the Foreign Secretary to ensure that we get a resolution before the UN at the next Security Council meeting so that we get a solution now. Unless we have that resolution, signed up to by all the countries of the middle east, Yemen will be broken into pieces. It is already fragile. It is already a catastrophe. One child dies every minute and 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict. We only have to hear the voice of Mr Mitchell to know that. He managed to get into Yemen to meet people there, including former President Saleh. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will have the opportunity to catch your eye, Mrs Moon. The fact is that the situation will continue unless the United Nations acts. It will only act if Britain decides it is to act.