Urgent Question on resumption of UK arms sales to Saudi


Categories: News

Decision comes just a year after court rules government’s actions “unlawful”

Last week the Foreign Secretary revealed a seemingly new, ethical dimension to UK foreign policy with the announcement of the Magnitsky Act which involves financial and other sanctions being imposed on anyone with “blood on their hands”.

Yet, within 48 hours the Tory government were back selling arms to the Saudi-led coalition for use in the war against Yemen. Since last week they have also refused to take meaningful action to stop their “friends” in Bahrain executing two more political prisoners despite worldwide condemnation.

Already the announcement by Dominic Raab that they were going to get tough with those who inflict pain and suffering on others, has now been exposed as worthless.

Today in the House of Commons Urgent Questions were raised about the UK Government’s decision to re-establish the billion pound arms deal with Saudi Arabia and the potential this has for further devastation in Yemen.

The decision comes just over a year after the Court of Appeal ruled the UK government’s actions in selling arms to Saudi Arabia were “unlawful”.

There have been 17,640 UN documented civilian casualties in Yemen, including 6,872 dead and 10,768 injured. The majority of these casualties – 10,852 – resulted from airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition according to the UN. This included the deaths of dozens of schoolchildren on an airstrike of a school bus. 

More than 200,000 Yemenis have been killed as a result of fighting or the humanitarian crisis which has ensued, and more than 20 million (out of a population of 29 million) need humanitarian assistance to survive.

There are also an estimated 1 million cases of Covid-19 in Yemen. This is a country on the brink of survival and the UK Government’s decision to put profit before peace now places the population in even greater danger.

The groundswell of international opinion, including the UN and most our allies, is clear that the arms trade to Saudi Arabia should be suspended due to its conduct in this war. Even parliamentary committees have questioned the legality and morality of the government’s position.

This afternoon I asked the Minister for State, International Trade, Greg Hands MP, about this change in Government policy.

I said: “Isn’t it the truth, that it is business as usual for any regime, however brutal and undemocratic, as longs as their pockets are deep enough and where this government thinks it might have something to gain.
“Isn’t that the squalid reality here?”

My SNP colleagues and I will continue to challenge the UK government in Westminster over this catastrophic failure of foreign policy and will hold it to account over its active role in this war.