EXCL Ministers under fire as new figures shed light on 'shameful' Saudi arms sales

Posted On: 
18th January 2019

Ministers have been blasted for allowing more than £4.5m-worth of arms and defence exports to Saudi Arabia to go ahead in spite of the Kingdom's fierce war with Yemen.

Millions of people in Yemen have been left in need of humanitarian assistance as the battle between Yemeni rebels and the Saudi led coalition drags on.
Credit: 
PA

Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith branded the move "simply unacceptable" after new figures revealed the Government signed off on millions of pounds-worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia in the third quarter of 2018, despite growing international concern about the humanitarian situation in Yemen.

A Saudi-led coalition has been battling Yemeni rebels since they ousted a Riyadh-backed government in 2015.

EXCL: Ministers under fire after UK allows £2.5m of spy equipment sales to Saudi government

Jeremy Hunt set to confront Saudi Arabian leaders over murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Boris Johnson under fire over £14,000 all-expenses paid trip to Saudi Arabia

The fighting – which has left more than 10,000 dead and an estimated 22m in need of assistance – is described by the United Nations as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

But despite concerns, new figures released by the Department for International Trade show that it has continued to green-light arms exports destined for Saudi forces.

The latest figures from the Department show that, between July and September 2018, over £4.5m worth of equipment and armaments – including components for mortars and turrets – were cleared for export.

Other licences for targeting equipment, projectile launchers and body armour were also given the green-light.

In September, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt claimed that Saudi Arabia had a "vital role" to play in securing peace in Yemen. He added: "In the end, we all have a common interest in solving a truly appalling humanitarian crisis in Yemen."

Nia Griffith, who leads Labour's defence brief, told PoliticsHome the sales were a "source of shame" for the Government.

“In light of the very serious situation in Yemen, it is simply unacceptable for the UK to export arms to Saudi Arabia that could be used in that conflict," she said.

“Labour has demanded an immediate investigation into allegations that both sides of the war in Yemen may have broken international law. It would not be appropriate to continue with exports while that investigation takes place.

“But it is a source of shame that the UK government has repeatedly refused to tackle the Saudi regime head on. Tory Ministers must make clear that the country’s actions have consequences.”

UK 'COMPLICIT'

Earlier in the year, the Government signed a deal worth £5bn with Saudi’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman for the sale of 48 Eurofighter Typhoon jets

And in December, PoliticsHome revealed that £2.5m worth of UK spyware equipment had been sold to the regime - despite the UK Government’s worries about human rights abuses carried out by the Saudi authorities.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department of International Trade said: “The Government takes its export responsibilities very seriously operating one of the most robust export control regimes in the world.

“Risks around human rights abuses are a key part of our licensing assessment and the government will not license the export of items where to do so would be inconsistent with any provision of the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria.

“All export license applications are considered on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated Criteria, based on the most up-to-date information and analysis available, including reports from Non-Government Organisations and out overseas network.”

But Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against Arms Trade told PoliticsHome: “The Saudi regime has one of the worst human rights records in the world. It has tortured critics, killed journalists and carried out terrible abuses against women and LGBT people. Despite this, it is by far the world’s largest buyer of UK arms.

“By arming and supporting the regime, the UK government is making itself complicit in the repression and atrocities inflicted against Saudi and Yemeni people. How much worse does the situation need to get before Theresa May and her colleagues finally take action and end the arms sales?”