Thank you to those of you who have been in touch asking me to sign EDM 1726 on UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia. As an opposition whip I am not able to sign EDMs, but I thought it would be useful to outline my views on this issue.
As you may know, UK licensing criteria for arms sales require a consideration of whether there is a clear risk that the items might be used in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law (IHL).
I share the serious concerns about potential violations of IHL in Yemen. This is why my Labour colleagues and I have been calling for an independent, UN-led investigation into alleged violations of IHL in that conflict, including air strikes on civilians by the Saudi-led coalition, for over two years.
We have also been urging the Government to impose an immediate suspension of arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in the war in Yemen pending the outcome of the kind of investigation we are calling for. It is the Government’s responsibility to apply its own criteria on arms sales and any perception that it is failing to do so will seriously undermine the UK in the eyes of the world. I believe there is renewed pressure on the Government to consider this course of action following the horrific murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Human rights should always be at the heart of our foreign policy, and I share concerns about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and the decisions taken by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. I will continue pressing the Government to challenge the impunity we have seen from Saudi Arabia on these issues and to persuade it to change its ways.