Yemen conflict; arms exports and Saudi Arabia

I have had a number of constituents write about arms exports and Saudi Arabia.

I share your distress regarding the plight of the people of Yemen – indeed I spoke in PMQs this week with regard to this complex conflict, which you can see on my Facebook page www.facebook.com/AlistairBurtforNEBedfordshire   but I do not believe that imposing a blanket arms embargo would resolve the situation.

The Government takes its defence export responsibilities extremely seriously and operates one of the most robust export control regimes in the world. All export licence applications, including those for Saudi Arabia are rigorously assessed on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria.

These strict criteria take account of all prevailing circumstances at the time of application and includes human rights and international humanitarian law considerations. The Government does not issue export licences where there is a clear risk that the goods might be used for internal repression, in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law, or where the export would provoke or prolong conflict.

The Court of Appeal has overturned a High Court judgment that arms export licences granted to Saudi Arabia were not unlawful, a decision which the Government does not agree with and will seek to appeal. While the Government considers the implications of this judgment, no new licences for arms exports will be granted to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners that might be used in the conflict in Yemen. It is important to note the judgment was not about whether the Government has made the right or wrong decisions about granting exports licences, but about the process used to reach decisions.

I am confident that by adhering to the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria, the Government will continue to ensure that UK arms exports to Saudi Arabia are not used for internal repression, violating international humanitarian law, or for provoking or prolonging conflict.

Meanwhile all efforts must continue to conclude swiftly the conflict in Yemen, which is far from one-sided, and when the consequences of failure are very serious indeed.

I am grateful to constituents for taking time to write on this issue.