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Yemen

Volume 593: debated on Tuesday 24 February 2015

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—(Gavin Barwell.)

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for, I think, the first time, Mr Caton. I am grateful to the Backbench Business Committee for granting the debate, and pleased to see so many right hon. and hon. Members present. The Minister has of course frequently discussed issues concerning Yemen with me on the Floor of the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow West (Mr Thomas) visited Yemen as International Development Minister in the previous Government, and the right hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Sir Alan Duncan) is the Prime Minister’s special envoy to Yemen. I am pleased to see the hon. Members for Gillingham and Rainham (Rehman Chishti), for Hexham (Guy Opperman), for Croydon Central (Gavin Barwell) and for Elmet and Rothwell (Alec Shelbrooke), and my sister, my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz).

The need for the debate is greater now than when I first proposed it to the Backbench Business Committee. As we speak, Yemen is at crisis point. At no time in the past several decades have I feared for its future as I do today. In the past few weeks, President Hadi has escaped from house arrest and fled to his stronghold in Aden. The Houthi rebels are yo-yoing between forming their own Government and stuttered negotiations. The embassies of the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Italy, Germany, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have all been closed and evacuated. Supporters of various parties and tribal groups are protesting and clashing in the streets, and some are being kidnapped and killed in the clashes. Terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are grabbing power amid the chaos.

Many Members present today share my concern about that beautiful country; but the crisis is now much wider. Those who are concerned for security and stability in the middle east should play close attention to the situation in Yemen. I believe that there is consensus in the House that more needs to be done and that the British Government need to do much more. I am proud to say that today’s is the first debate of any substance on Yemen in the Commons, and it is therefore an important one.

I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on securing the debate, and I am enjoying the family outing that is this trip down Yemen lane. My serious point is that he is right to ask the British Government to do more, but does he agree that it is also incumbent on the Arab world, and particularly the wealthy and responsible Arab countries that are in control of their land, to do more to regulate and keep the peace in Yemen?

The hon. Gentleman is right. Indeed, I regard him as part of my wider family, because he is my next-door neighbour in Norman Shaw North, so I am cautious about raising my voice too much there, in case he hears me. In my speech I want to develop the argument that although Britain, being well respected, has an important part to play, it is not just up to us. It is important that we get the support of countries around Yemen—especially Saudi Arabia—if we are to make progress.

I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on securing the debate. He is a passionate friend of Yemen, and I think he has always considered me as family down in the south as well. On international assistance, does he agree about the need to consider who is backing the Houthi rebels? Iran is a key backer, and nuclear discussions with Iran should be linked to its giving up the sponsoring and harbouring of terrorism in the middle east. Otherwise we might get a short-term fix but a long-term problem for the world.

The hon. Gentleman is right—and, yes, I do regard him as part of the even wider south Asian family that I come from. We must consider who is backing the rebels and what their cause is, and deal with that.

Nobody doubts the Government’s commitment to providing support for Yemen. The special envoy, the right hon. Member for Rutland and Melton, and my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow West can proudly say that because of their tenure in office, the lives of many Yemenis were saved. Few of us in politics can say that. They were able to deliver on a promise. The Leader of the House had a critical role at the time of the Arab spring when he was Foreign Secretary. We know that the British Government did a great deal in the past. That is why we look to the Minister; I hope that the Government will be able to do more, given the history of this matter.

As the House knows, I have a strong personal interest in the long-term future of Yemen. I and my two sisters—one of whom is present—were born in Yemen, and my mother, sisters and I left in 1965, when the situation was getting extremely hostile. I remember bombs exploding as we made our way to the airport. That was a time of crisis and civil war. Yemen is a country that it is easy to fall in love with. People were extremely kind to us. We were a Catholic family from India—from Goa—who had come to live in Yemen, but were treated so well, as were all the migrant communities who came to live in what was then South Yemen in Aden. That is why I feel strongly that we need to do more.

The UK-born hostage Luke Somers, who was tragically killed by al-Qaeda while serving as an aid worker, was described by his family as loving the people and culture of Yemen. I have returned repeatedly to the country as the chair of the all-party group. When I was last in Yemen, the situation was extremely dangerous—so dangerous, in fact, that we were advised not to stay in a hotel. We were required to stay in a fortified pod; indeed, I stayed in the bed of the British ambassador—he was not there at the time. I was locked in that pod because there was a fear that we would come to danger, and I would think that the present situation is much worse.

I went on a visit as part of an all-party group delegation with the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton). He is a great photographer and he went into the old city of Sana’a, which is a world heritage site. We were worried and thought he had been kidnapped, but he had gone to the market to take photographs, because he felt so safe. I am afraid he would not be able to do that today, with the current crisis.

Yemen is a strategically vital country that faces three linked threats: political instability, a security vacuum and a growing humanitarian catastrophe. The political situation is on a knife edge. For every positive news report, there is continued violence, and there are obstacles to continued negotiations. There is no doubt that decisions made by the Houthi rebel group in the next few weeks will determine Yemen’s future. Their coup, which began the crisis, has probably gone further than they initially intended. After dissolving Parliament and declaring their intention to form a Government, the Houthis very nearly triggered a civil war. Internal pressure from political parties and tribal groups, and external pressure through the United Nations Security Council’s condemnation, with the strong stance taken by regional powers such as Saudi Arabia, have brought the Houthis back to the negotiating table. With that window of opportunity, I hope the UK and the Minister, in particular, will play a role in mediation.

Will the right hon. Gentleman clarify, as an expert on this area, as on many others, who he thinks backs the Houthi rebels, and how we can get them to stop backing this evil organisation?

The hon. Gentleman is right. We need to look at who is supporting them—he has said Iran—and find out what pressure we can put on them. Our ability to influence Iran is pretty limited. However, that is an important factor. As we know, middle east politics—he is also greatly interested in this area—is not necessarily about just the people at the front, so he is right that we should look at intentions.

A number of right hon. and hon. Members have met President Hadi since or before he became President, but he has now fled the capital. In my view—I hope that the Government agree—he is the only individual who maintains democratic legitimacy in Yemen’s current political system, if indeed we can call it a system. We need him to support any proposals, as he maintains a strong following in the country. Last week, the governors of the provinces of Aden, Lahij and Mahrah demanded the reinstatement of Mr Hadi and reaffirmed their support for Yemen becoming a federation of six regions. It is vital that pro-Houthi and pro-Hadi groups do not create the spark for an escalation of violence.

Last Friday’s preliminary agreement by the rival parties to form a people’s transitional council is a solution that the United Kingdom and the international community should rally behind. Jamal Benomar, the United Nations mediator, has described the agreement as

“an important breakthrough that paves the way towards a comprehensive agreement”.

Under that agreement, Yemen’s House of Representatives will stay in place, which will appease the former ruling party, which holds a clear majority in it. However, instead of the traditional Upper House, there will be a new transitional council that will consist of people from traditionally unrepresented sectors in Yemen’s formerly independent south—women and young people. That is positive, but the agreement is fragile: as we have seen before, if one party withdraws support, the entire deal may collapse. The United Kingdom and the international community need to keep the agreement on track. Otherwise, despite all the work we did in 2011 and all our progress since, we will be back to square one. We should not allow political progress to reverse any further.

One of my requests to the Minister is that we take the lead in maintaining the negotiations. Can we please speak to the United States and European and regional allies in particular, as the hon. Member for Hexham said, to pull the international community behind the transitional council, and offer our officials to assist the United Nations in its mediation?

The fragile political situation is strongly affected by the violence that has erupted across the country. Rival groups, both those that oppose and those that support the Houthi rebels, are clashing in the streets. I have been informed by various charities operating in the region, including Islamic aid organisations and United Nations organs, that such clashes are escalating and protestors have been kidnapped, injured or killed. Indeed, the majority of journalists have fled the country, as the risk of kidnap or injury is so high. That in part explains the appalling absence of media coverage of the country’s downward spiral.

By all indicators, levels of violence are dramatically increasing. UNICEF has informed me of a 40% increase in children being killed or maimed, a 47% increase in the use of child soldiers and repeated cases of children killed around their schools. In one example, in December 2014, 15 young children travelling to school were killed by bomb attacks. Schools are being used for military purposes as barracks, bases and firing positions.

One huge problem is the number of firearms available. There are between 8 million and 11.5 million guns in civilian hands. Yemen is second in the world for gun ownership, with 54.8 guns per 100 people. Civilians going about their lives are now regularly stopped by groups of armed men at hastily established checkpoints, as loosely affiliated tribal and armed groups fill the security vacuum. Meanwhile, tribal groups in the south have repeatedly fought with Houthi troops. It is vital that the violence does not escalate further. Groups loyal to President Hadi seized Government buildings in Yemen last week and clashed with pro-Houthi security forces, which led to a number of fatalities. That is a real flashpoint.

We in the west may not recognise the seriousness of the developments, but regional powers such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are incredibly concerned. If we are to be only a peripheral player, our ability to influence the actions of the regional powers that are pushing for a military solution will be extremely limited.

Those clashes need to end immediately, before the various factions lose faith in a non-military solution. Can we please provide more support to those forces still loyal to the Government? While an intervention involving the United Kingdom is not a likely prospect, what support or incentives can we provide to deter further violence? Can we and the international community apply carrots and sticks in any ongoing negotiations? That is needed if we are to make any more progress.

From a western perspective, one of the most worrying developments is the expanding power of extremist Islamic organisations linked to terrorist activity. One such group is al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, described by the CIA as one of the most dangerous terrorist groups in the world. That group trained Said Kouachi, one of the Charlie Hedbo killers: he received military training in Yemen in 2011.

Parts of Yemen already serve as a safe haven for the group, from which it directs operations and releases propaganda through the internet. That is a huge problem. Last year, 3,200 UK passport holders travelled to Yemen, and the group is known to train potential terrorists who want to use their new-found skills, such as bomb making, on the streets of London. By all accounts, they are benefiting from the current power vacuum.

On 12 February, an al-Qaeda-linked group, Ansar al-Sharia, successfully stormed a military base in Beihan, capturing between 1,000 and 2,000 soldiers and military equipment. The town fell after several hours of fighting. The US has had a long and positive relationship with security forces in Yemen in targeting terrorist organisations. After strikes were initially put on hold and then restarted, the long-term future of that relationship is sadly unclear.

We cannot lose such a strong ally in the fight against terrorism. One of our priorities must be to maintain that relationship, whichever group comes out on top in the political situation. We cannot allow al-Qaeda to gain any more territory or influence. The long-term answer to al-Qaeda is a strong Yemeni Government, with whom we should have a close, ongoing relationship. However, we need to be better at monitoring individuals travelling to the country, and must work with the authorities there to do so. We also need to recall that Turkey is the gateway to the middle east for individuals trying to join groups such as ISIL and al-Qaeda. We need better exit checks and co-operation.

All those factors risk an unimaginable humanitarian crisis across Yemen. It is already the most impoverished country in the region, and it has one of the worst records for malnutrition in the world. UNICEF has provided me with the latest humanitarian figures, which are dreadful: 8.4 million people lack access to basic health care services; 850,000 children under five are suffering from acute malnutrition, 160,000 of whom are at severe, fatal risk; and young girls are particularly vulnerable to abuse and female genital mutilation, with a staggering 83% of girls aged 10 to 14 experiencing some form of physical abuse. Overall, 15 million people need humanitarian assistance.

The United Kingdom has a good record in providing assistance to Yemen. I have paid tribute to the right hon. Member for Rutland and Melton and my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow West for all the work they did as International Development Ministers. However, the situation has got much worse, even since the Prime Minister’s envoy has been in office, although the Government have been very helpful. The current Minister of State for International Development has informed me that £9.5 million will be added to our existing £35 million nutrition programme. I also understand that we have fulfilled our commitments as co-chairs of the Friends of Yemen group, and that our development programmes are making a real difference, but we cannot do it alone. What of the other friends of Yemen who promised billions to the country, but, I am afraid, have delivered very little? What support is being provided by other EU countries? Could we please hold an emergency meeting of the Friends of Yemen, so that we can get an aid package together? If we do not, there will be bitter consequences for the country if it descends into civil war and for the people of not just Yemen, but the region.

When Yemen faced such a crisis in 2011, the right hon. Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), then the Foreign Secretary, and the Prime Minister stepped in and made a decisive difference. I remember speaking to the Prime Minister about this, and I know that he feels strongly that the British Government’s action was important. Yemen was pulled back from the brink on that occasion and put back on the path to democracy. I feel that the United Kingdom is in a unique position to effect positive change in Yemen. Now is the time for us to step up and take that urgent action.

The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, recently said:

“Yemen is collapsing before our eyes. We cannot stand by and watch”.

If civil war breaks out, it will be as complicated and intractable a conflict as it is possible to see anywhere in the world, including in Syria, and I do not believe that we will be able to stand by and do no more. We need to be prepared to work with the international community to stop this crisis developing any further. If Yemen falls, the front line of this conflict will be the streets of London, Birmingham and Leicester. We are bound by our historical ties with this country to do more. We cannot allow this beautiful country to become a haven for terrorism and violence; I urge the Minister to act decisively and to act now.

Thank you for chairing the debate this morning, Mr Caton. I thank the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) both for securing the debate and for every single word that he said. I agree with all of it. That illustrates that this is very much a cross-party issue, and by joining together across this House to focus on Yemen, we are doing the world a very important service. As he rightly says, it cannot be parked into a corner and isolated as a poor part of the Arabian peninsula that does not matter and has no effect on everything else, because it most certainly does. Perhaps the most important sentence of his comments this morning was that, if it goes wrong, a lot else goes wrong with it. That is what needs to govern our thinking and shape our conclusions.

The right hon. Gentleman can claim 50 years of experience in Yemen. I can claim only 30, after initially going as an oil trader but then taking a political and ministerial interest in the country. When I first went, as when he was there, one could travel in Sana’a and from Sana’a to Aden. At the moment, no such journey is possible in safety, and that illustrates the country’s deterioration, on which we now need to focus.

While I was a Department for International Development Minister, I tried to raise the profile of Yemen in government for the very reasons that the right hon. Gentleman articulated: it is more dangerous and more significant than people think, and has also had a long-term humanitarian need, where many children—a high percentage under the age of five—were stunted, and where a large percentage did not know where their next meal was coming from. That was before the deterioration over the past few months. The United Kingdom has been committing a direct budget of about £70 million a year to Yemen’s needs. When we apportion what we give to the United Nations and multilateral organisations, the figure is perhaps, in effect, double that, so we are giving Yemen well over £100 million. In my view, that is necessary money. It is being well spent, or has been so far. Perhaps the money I am most proud of is the £1 million that I committed as a Minister to launch Jamal Benomar as the United Nations special representative. Over the last few years, he has been crucial to the negotiations that have held the country together until today.

To understand the country, we need to step back, perhaps a few centuries, but at the very least a few years and look at what has happened in what we call the Arab spring, because it was not the same in Yemen as it was in Libya, Tunisia or even Egypt. Across Arabia, or Arab-speaking countries, some have changed regime by violent conflict. Others within the Gulf Co-operation Council have sustained current regimes, because they have greater resources with which to reach an accommodation with their own people. However, Yemen was very much unique, in that through the GCC initiative, it was able to effect, with a minimum of conflict, a presidential transition and move from one president to another without the violence we saw elsewhere. That transition got Yemen off to a very good start in the context of the disruption that we saw elsewhere in Arabia. The GCC initiative, supported by Jamal Benomar, and by the UK and the US, has allowed Yemen—let us put it honestly—to muddle along for the last three or so years without collapsing into a complete mess. In that sense, Yemen has not been like any other country.

It started unlike any other country, because it has a weak Government at the centre and very powerful satellite interests commanded by what one might loosely call warlords within the country. That has always created a very difficult problem of balancing power and influence and of attracting enough power into the centre to give it an effective and purposeful Government who can be said to be legitimate and doing what is necessary for the people.

I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend’s expertise in the area and his work. He is talking about the different factions in Yemen. Looking at the national dialogue—where it has been and where we are now—how do we ensure that everyone who has a stake in Yemen comes round the table and effectively moves the country forward?

That is exactly the right question, because what emerged from the GCC initiative was a plan for exactly that kind of unifying national dialogue within the country. It was a plan to bring together all parts, all sections and all interests in the country to agree a path towards a constitutional settlement that could lead to proper, legitimate and respected elections. That remains the objective of what we need to see yet return from the difficulties that the country faces. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that that strand of discussion and unifying constitutional debate in the country is the glue—they are components that stand to bring the country together.

With the GCC initiative came donor pledges— $6 billion or $7 billion dollars at a pledging conference arranged by the Friends of Yemen, co-chaired by the UK and the Saudis—and an International Monetary Fund package that was on the brink of being implemented before things deteriorated. The dialogue that my hon. Friend mentioned did come to a conclusion, but it has not yet been fully implemented with the subsequent actions that are necessary to make it effect the planned changes.

The tragedy is that the GCC initiative and the stability that we hoped for in the country have disintegrated over the last six months. The Houthis— or soft Shi’a Zaydis—focused mostly in the north, who comprise a maximum of perhaps 30% of the country, have taken arms and advanced on the capital city. Yemen is not a habitual sectarian country. It is far more tribal than it is sectarian, but that does begin to introduce a possible and dangerous sectarian element in the complex power play in Yemen itself. My hon. Friend’s reference to Iran has validity, although I do not think that the absolutist terms in which he describes it reflect what is actually happening in the country. It could be said that Iran backs rather than directs the Houthis, but what matters is what is happening inside Yemen.

My right hon. Friend says that Iran backs rather than directs, but even if that is the case, it has leverage over the Houthis by backing them, and it should use that leverage if it wants to be part of the international community, in relation to the nuclear deal that is coming up.

I refer to what I said a moment ago. No life is quite so simple as that, but I understand my hon. Friend’s view.

Let us just look at what has happened. The Houthis, perhaps against people’s expectations and largely because they had overtaken a battalion in Amran and taken its heavy weapons, were able to advance on Sana’a and pretty well march into the capital city uncontested, but what they were supposed to have done, just before they did that, was to have adhered to a firm agreement that was reached on 21 September last year—the peace and national partnership agreement—which should have said, “You’ve gone this far. Now hold it, muck in and work with everyone else to find a solution.” They have not adhered to the terms of the PNPA. By advancing into Sana’a, the Houthis have displaced the Government, but they have not replaced them with any form of government that can be called such, so in effect we have a vacuum.

An element that is utterly unacceptable is the placing of legitimate, continuing Ministers under house arrest. Fortunately, President Hadi escaped at the weekend, but Khaled Bahah, the Prime Minister of Yemen, remains under house arrest. He and others who have been put under house arrest must be released by the Houthis and allowed to go free. I have spoken to Khaled Bahah regularly. It is not right that he is detained under house arrest in the way he is.

We have seen a very strong United Nations Security Council statement. That is an essential part of the pressure that needs to be applied in relation to what is happening in Yemen at the moment. The next few weeks are crucial. Yemen is more on the brink today than people have said it has been for many years. Jamal Benomar is doing his best and deserves our full support. He is slaving away in Sana’a, trying to hold the country together and reach some kind of accommodation between all the competing parties, and he deserves our full support, as do all the efforts in the UN to apply pressure in relation to what is happening in the country.

This is an essential point. My hon. Friend the Minister will no doubt say more on all this, but I would like to echo what the right hon. Member for Leicester East said about the danger we are looking at. The list, when it all comes together, if it all goes wrong together, is potentially cataclysmic. We are looking at a country in the southern Arabian peninsula, close to Somalia, where there is people trafficking and things like that, where guns can run through the country and all kinds of risk can be nurtured, and at a country that might have no Government and hence be an ungoverned, anarchic space. We are looking at a country that could collapse into tribal anarchy and the absence of any kind of order and government whatever.

We are looking at the risk of tribal conflict. This country is more tribal than sectarian. That tribal conflict could become very vicious. As the right hon. Gentleman said, there are more weapons than people, and when they start firing at one another, there is no end to what could go wrong. The tribal conflict could collapse into civil war. There have been civil wars in Yemen before. The latest was in 1994. That could easily happen, even within the next few weeks, if things go terribly wrong.

We could again see, as part of the civil war, the division of the country between north and south. There are fewer people and more resources in the south and many more people and fewer resources in the north, so even if one liked the idea of a nicely contained southern Yemen, it is inconceivable that the north would accept that as an option when it would feel deprived and starved of resources.

We are looking at the danger of al-Qaeda being free to train and run riot, perhaps not just in southern Yemen but more widely across the country. We are perhaps looking at a proxy cold war, which could become a hot one, between the Iranians and the Saudi Arabians, fought out in Yemen because of their competing interests. Amid all those ingredients, we are looking at the awful danger of economic collapse and deep humanitarian disaster—not just lack of food, but disease, people trafficking and everything else that goes with it.

As I am sure the Minister will say, it is important to work with the whole of the GCC, but especially Saudi Arabia and Oman, which are the immediate neighbours, and with the United States and, lest anyone belittle it, the United Nations, which has proved so crucial both in the political negotiations and in the meeting of health and other needs in the country.

President Hadi remains the legitimate Head of State, but he has become separated from the functions of an effective Government. Somehow, legitimacy and effectiveness need to be remarried in a settlement that puts Yemen back on the path to some kind of stable government that people accept, and that can avoid the conflict and disaster that at the moment are looming if there is no such quick and effective solution.

I want to say a few words in support of the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), who has brought a hugely neglected subject to the attention of the House. This is a neglected part of the middle east, yet, as he mentioned, it is crucial to the security of the region and, indeed, the wider world. It also has a strategic trade position. Some 5% of the world’s oil trade goes through the Bab al-Mandab strait. That is obviously an important trade route. Of course, the situation has greatly worsened in recent weeks, and there was the news just last week that the United Kingdom, the United States and France have closed their embassies in the country, so the ambassador would no longer be able to offer his bed to the right hon. Gentleman if the opportunity afforded itself again in the future.

I well remember the trip with the right hon. Gentleman some years ago. It was a fascinating journey. Yemen is probably the most extraordinary country that I have ever visited. The trip involved something of a pilgrimage to pay homage to the birthplace of the right hon. Gentleman at the Queen Elizabeth II hospital in Aden, where we were able, with the aid of several television cameras, to dig out his birth records. That was after an overland trip from Sana’a to Aden, which the right hon. Gentleman promised would take only three or four hours. We started off at 9 am and arrived at 11.30 at night. The noble Lord Kilclooney, who was among our number, was convinced that we had been kidnapped by a tribe at one stage of our journey. In fact, such was the security situation that the ambassador was allowed to travel only by air and not by land, but we, being mere dispensable MPs, were able to travel by land.

What we saw on the trip, apart from an extraordinary country apparently still deeply entrenched in the middle ages in many respects, was one that was deeply stricken with poverty. One could see the potential for the encroachment of extremism into some deeply impoverished communities who had little else to survive for and were easily tempted by extremist voices that offered, on the face of it, some form of hope out of their despair. It is that form of poverty that gives rise to extremism and everything that goes with it. That is why our international aid effort in the wider world but particularly in Yemen is so necessary. I think that we can take particular pride in the resources that we have put into alleviating poverty, malnutrition and the severe problems the right hon. Gentleman enumerated.

We also visited the port of Aden. It was one of the great ports of colonial times—it was the fuelling station for the British fleet travelling to India—and yet it is now in decay, with very little activity going on. It is a vast deep-water port that still has the potential to be a major economic player as a staging post in the middle east, so it was disappointing that the Dubai ports company DP World attempted to invest in the port in 2008 and obtained the concession, only for that concession to be relinquished in 2012 because it was said that Dubai was not investing in the port but seeking to mothball it because of the effect that it might have on Dubai’s own interests. I believe that the port offers major potential for regenerating economic growth in the country, which would have huge implications if we got it right.

When we visited Yemen some seven or eight years ago, large parts of the country were effectively no-go areas, and we were unfortunately unable to visit much outside Sana’a and Aden. Yemen is the poorest country in the Arabian peninsula, but it is the second most populous. In addition to all its current problems, its environmental problems can only get worse. It is a water-poor country and will run out of water resources in the next 15 to 20 years unless some serious investment is made in water management, including desalination plants. Unlike its wealthy neighbours, it has virtually no oil.

I was struck on our visit by the great links between our country and Yemen. The colonial links with Aden go back a long way. Veterans in my constituency remember being in the Army when it was withdrawn abruptly from Aden by the Wilson Government back in 1967, when things kicked off. There ensued some 25 years of chaos in the country, with various civil wars and the dismemberment of the north and the south before Yemen was eventually put back together in the 1990s. On our visit, we met many Cabinet Ministers who were highly Anglophile and highly articulate. Many had children who were at universities in the United Kingdom, if they had not done likewise themselves. They had interests in the United Kingdom and spoke fondly of it. It struck me as extraordinary that we did not have a closer relationship. Indeed, I wondered why Yemen was not part of the Commonwealth, given some of the culture and background that our countries share. There are, and there certainly were, people in positions of responsibility in Yemen who are an obvious channel for dialogue, discussion and potential co-operation with western nations and particularly with the United Kingdom. We have an open door for the British Government to continue to play a significant role in the future of that troubled part of the Arabian peninsula.

As the right hon. Member for Leicester East rightly said in his opening remarks, the future of, and the solutions to, Yemen are largely reliant on its partner states in the Arabian peninsula and the wider middle east. Yemen will require financial backing. We have heard about the abortive attempts to raise donor backing in the Friends of Yemen conference some years ago, in which we played such a strategic role.

Saudi Arabia has, from time to time, injected large quantities of money into Yemen to prevent economic collapse but also, of course, because many economic migrants from Yemen have come into Saudi Arabia. In the 1990s, at the time of the first Gulf war, the President of Yemen backed Saddam Hussein for extraordinary reasons and thereby managed to alienate himself from all the allied forces, Saudi Arabia and other middle eastern countries. Some 1 million Yemeni workers were expelled from Saudi Arabia and had to return to Yemen. That caused huge economic hardship. There was a further crackdown on illegal labourers in Saudi Arabia in April 2013, and hundreds of thousands of Yemeni workers were expelled back into Yemen, which has had huge economic implications.

The co-operation of Saudi Arabia is absolutely key to getting some form of economic stability in Yemen. At a time when the country is in the hands of militant Shi’a groups of one description or another, the Saudis are understandably loth to underwrite further loans to Yemen, because they do not know what its future will be. I gather that there are moves afoot to erect a 1,500 km fence across the whole Saudi-Yemeni border. That is a porous and fluid border, across which many al-Qaeda terrorists and others have moved from north to south and vice versa over many years. We also have to consider the role of Qatar, which invested a not insubstantial sum of money some years ago in real estate in Sana’a. One dreads to think what state that investment is in at the moment. The point is that the co-operation of those neighbouring Gulf countries, and their working in partnership, is absolutely key.

A point that hon. Members have only touched on is the strategic aspect—what might be termed the “great game” that Saudi Arabia and Iran are playing out for influence in Yemen, whether by backing a particular Government or providing other support. Yemen is in the middle of what has been called a Saudi-Iranian cold war, and the co-operation of both those countries is needed to find a solution in Yemen. It is not in the interests of Saudi Arabia or Iran for Yemen to become a training ground for terrorists who will wreak havoc in other countries—Arab and non-Arab—in the middle east and the wider western world. Yemen harbours terrorists, despite the intention of the previous democratic Government to try to clamp down on them. As the right hon. Member for Leicester East has said, the huge quantity of arms in Yemen gives rise to serious concerns. If we cannot contain and regularise the situation and bring back stability in Yemen, there will be a domino effect as terrorists trained on the streets of Sana’a—or, more likely, in desert training camps—try to do harm and wreak mayhem in the capital cities of Europe.

Yemen is a neglected and little-understood country in a location that is strategically and geographically important. As a matter of security, it plays a very significant role that we ignore at our peril. I applaud the efforts made over many years by the British Government, from whichever side of the House they have been drawn—this is not a partisan matter. It has been absolutely essential to be at the table and to try to broker partnerships to bring economic stability and security to Yemen. Hand in hand with that, the direct aid that we have given has played an essential part in trying to rescue some of the poorest people in the world, who are vulnerable to falling into the hands of terrorists.

I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say. We are talking about a difficult and frustrating situation, in which we have seen many false dawns. It is essential that we continue to take a strong interest and a strong lead in Yemen. If we can bring about a solution, it will be a great tribute to the Government’s efforts. That can be done only in partnership with all the other nations in the region, and Britain is probably better placed than any other western power to bring it about.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) on securing this debate at such a critical time for Yemen’s future. As he rightly said, Yemen matters, and not only in terms of counter-terrorist actions against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the importance of which was underlined by recent events in Paris. Crucially, Yemen matters because of its strategic importance to the region, which the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) and the right hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Sir Alan Duncan) rightly dwelled upon. Yemen also matters because of our close ties with the people of Yemen, which stretch back through our imperial past, and the urgent need to offer economic and social hope to the citizens of Yemen at this particularly difficult point. This debate is very timely.

It is important to consider the context experienced by the people of Yemen. Yemen remains one of the poorest countries in the region and worldwide. According to the Department for International Development, poverty and inequality have increased over the past 15 years, with the result that at least 10% of Yemen’s population live on less than $1.25 a day and more than a third live on less than $2 a day according to the most recent World Bank figures. It is worth stressing that those figures are from some time ago, and the current conflict will have served only to increase the scale of poverty and deprivation in Yemen. Girls and women suffer particularly severe discrimination, including high rates of early marriage and genital mutilation. According to the UN’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, some 15 million Yemenis, more than half of the population, require humanitarian assistance, and half of all children under five years old are chronically malnourished.

The economic situation, if gloomy now, does not look much more optimistic for the medium or longer term. Most central Government revenue comes from oil production, which is set to decline sharply in the coming years. Yemen faces major problems from declining water resources and rapid population growth. Limited competition, considerable corruption and, above all, insecurity all mean that the private sector remains marginal. Civil society, too, is far from strong in Yemen. The grim social and economic outlook for Yemenis is, as other hon. Members have already pointed out in considerable detail, exacerbated by the huge political and security uncertainty facing Yemen. The rise of Houthi rebels, the presence of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the manoeuvrings of different tribal groups have all contributed to the sense of uncertainty and insecurity in Yemen. The close interest of Saudi Arabia and Iran in Yemen adds a further level of potential complication.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East alluded to my work in a previous role, when I had responsibility for our aid programme in Yemen. Among other things, I remember chairing what appeared to be a successful aid conference at Lancaster house almost 10 years ago. I visited Yemen to see our aid programme on the ground, and met the then President, Mr Saleh. I remember that visit well, not least because of the gold-plated AK47 on the wall next to the President’s office—it was apparently a gift from Saddam Hussein to the one leader who had recognised his brief conquest of Kuwait— but I remember my time in Yemen best for a wider visit to Sana’a old town. As the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham and my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East said, Sana’a is a remarkable city. Even during that visit, the better part of 10 years ago, the insecurity was tangible.

In the past four years, insecurity has markedly increased. Following uprisings in the wake of the wider Arab spring in 2011 and the series of deadly clashes between protesters and Government security forces, President Saleh signed a transition agreement brokered by the Gulf Co-operation Council, which was led by Saudi Arabia and included the transfer of power to his deputy, Mr Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. In March 2013, as the right hon. Member for Rutland and Melton rightly said, a national dialogue conference convened with the aim of drafting a new constitution. The conference concluded in January 2014 and agreed a document on which the new constitution would be based.

Following the unrest of 2011, President Hadi was able to establish some stability, although the complex alliances and groupings in Yemen meant that the security forces remained very divided, and even then the Government struggled to cope with the challenges posed by the Houthi rebels and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Even that fragile arrangement collapsed in September 2014, when armed Houthi rebels seized control of large swaths of the capital, Sana’a. The Yemeni Government signed a peace and national partnership agreement, which involved the formation of a new Government and required Mr Hadi, acting as caretaker President, to appoint a new Prime Minister. The agreement also led to the appointment of political advisers from the Houthi and southern movements. The agreement was welcomed by the UN, and the Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, urged all parties to implement the agreement without delay.

The situation has worsened dramatically since the turn of this year. In January, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East said, Houthi rebels rejected a draft constitution proposed by the Yemeni Government and seized control of state TV. President Hadi and his Government resigned. The President’s residence was attacked and he was placed under house arrest, as were the Prime Minister and many Cabinet Ministers. Earlier this month, the Houthi rebels dissolved Parliament and announced that a five-member presidential council would replace the President.

Jamal Benomar, the UN envoy to Yemen, rightly said on 11 February:

“We believe the situation is very dangerous. Yemen is on the brink of civil war”.

I therefore welcome reports that a UN-brokered deal was struck on Friday to agree on a compromise legislative council, although I understand that that falls short of a full new Government with clear leadership. I am told that Mr Benomar believes the agreement may pave the way for a comprehensive political agreement. I understand that the agreement keeps the existing Parliament in place but adds a people’s transitional council as a sort of second legislative chamber, drawing in members from the Houthi movement and other under-represented groups such as young people, women and those from southern Yemen. What apparently has not been decided is how a new President or Cabinet will be chosen. Mr Hadi was under house arrest until very recently and, like others in this Chamber, I welcome the fact that he has managed to escape. I share the view of the right hon. Member for Rutland and Melton that Mr Hadi’s colleagues, including the Prime Minister, need to be released immediately by the Houthi rebels. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s view on the prospects for the deal. What steps is the UK taking to encourage discussions between the various groups to try to build consensus for further agreement?

Jane Marriott, until very recently the UK’s ambassador to Yemen, recently stated:

“The GCC Initiative provided the mechanisms for an inclusive political dialogue involving those groups who hadn’t signed it, including the Houthis and Herak. The UK was in regular contact with all groups, including the Houthis, during the National Dialogue. They, like all groups, had legitimate grievances that were not being addressed quickly enough.”

I recognise that, with the closure of our embassy, maintaining contact with the different players in Yemen has been difficult, but it would be useful to hear what contact has been maintained. Further, what discussions have the UK Government had with the Saudi Arabian Government, in their role as co-chairs of the Friends of Yemen, on the support they are able to provide to encourage further political progress? As my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East rightly asked, will the Friends of Yemen meet again before the Dissolution of Parliament next month? What discussions have the Minister or his colleagues had with our EU colleagues, who will also play a critical role in providing further humanitarian aid and encouraging a collective way forward?

As the hon. Member for Gillingham and Rainham (Rehman Chishti) said, Iran has been accused of supporting the Houthi movement. There are clearly links, but it would be helpful to hear the Minister’s assessment of the allegations about Iran’s role in Yemen’s recent history. What discussions has he or ministerial colleagues had with Tehran—perhaps in the margins of discussions about the nuclear deal—about progress in Yemen?

Lastly, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East raised concerns about the continuing presence and strength of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. There is concern that the progress made by the Houthis has helped AQAP strengthen its position. If accurate, that is particularly troubling. My right hon. Friend also rightly discussed the need for better oversight of individuals travelling to Yemen. It would be good to hear the Minister’s reflections on that point. My right hon. Friend and others who have spoken today have done the House a service in raising the situation in Yemen. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.

It is a pleasure to work under your chairmanship, Mr Caton. It is also a pleasure to respond to this informative and interesting debate, which shows this House at its best. The amount of knowledge presented by the various contributors shows that it is an important issue and that Britain has a role to play. I thank the Backbench Business Committee for selecting this debate, and I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) for pursuing the issue not just today but on numerous occasions when he has brought it to the Floor of the House. I hope that he continues to do so.

It is right that this House is debating developments in a country that is a key partner for delivery on counter-terrorism objectives. I will, if I may, place the country in historical and geographical context. As I am sure hon. Members know, Yemen lies at the southern end of the Arab peninsula, bordering Saudi Arabia to the north and Oman to the east. In biblical times, Yemen was known by Noah as the land of milk and honey. The three wise men are said to have presented baby Jesus with myrrh and frankincense from the mountains in Yemen. Others claim that it is the home of the queen of Sheba.

In modern times, Britain has had strong historic links with Yemen. Aden was colonised during the 19th century and developed into an important staging post on the sea route to India, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) mentioned, but Britain was later forced to leave Aden following local insurgency in 1967. More recently, times have been less pleasant. After an eight-year civil war between the Saudi-backed royalists and Egyptian-backed republicans, the republics of North and South Yemen were established in 1970. In 1990, the Marxist South Yemen merged with the northern republic. Four years later, unhappy with northern oppression, the south fought and lost a brief war of secession.

Yemen was struck by further political upheaval in 2011, when thousands took to the streets to force out the then President Saleh after three decades in power. Saleh resigned at the end of 2011 as part of the Gulf Co-operation Council initiative deal, which signalled the start of Yemen’s political transition. Since then, that political transition has been making steady progress. The national dialogue conference, which several hon. Members have mentioned, agreed a vision for Yemen that went on to form the basis of the new constitution, a first draft of which we saw in January this year, as the Opposition spokesman mentioned.

Regrettably, since last September the Houthis, a political and cultural Shi’a Zaydi religious movement from the north of Yemen who make up one third of the population and who ruled the north until 1962, have staged a takeover of the legitimate Government of President Hadi and key state institutions, putting the transition process in jeopardy. We cannot accept the Houthi use of military means to achieve political aims. It is a clear violation of the 1994 Yemeni constitution and the principles of the GCC initiative.

Descent into further conflict is now a strong possibility, and the threat posed by al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula to the Yemeni state, as well as to our own national security, remains real. Recent events in Yemen threaten our ability to deliver our core objectives in Yemen: to disrupt al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula and its ability to launch aviation-based attacks against the UK and partners, to address the urgent humanitarian situation facing the poorest people in that country, and to bring about greater stability through a more inclusive political system that respects the rule of law.

We still want a stable, democratic and prosperous Yemen. Yemen is a key partner in the UK’s national counter-terrorism objectives against al-Qaeda, and we contribute large amounts of development aid, including more than $300 million over the past three years to help 16 million Yemenis who do not have access to basic food or services. Humanitarian developments as well as stable politics are fundamental to securing a stable and peaceful future.

The dust has not yet settled from the Houthi takeover; events continue to evolve. The worst-case outcome is that the Houthis may unilaterally come to dominate the Executive and continue their expansion into the largely Sunni governorates of the south. That could lead to a bloody civil war and greater instability.

On finding a peaceful long-term solution in Yemen, does the Minister know whether the Houthis are prepared to accept UN resolution 2201, which would ensure that all parties must come together and that the Houthis must withdraw from all Government institutions immediately?

I am developing my argument, and I will certainly come to that, but yes, the core of what we are doing is working with the UN special envoy. Indeed, we were integral to the drafting of that resolution. That is exactly where we want all parties to arrive, but particularly the Houthis.

In recent months, there has been an increase in al-Qaeda attacks, mainly targeting the Houthis and giving a more sectarian tone to what is essentially a struggle for power and territory rather than an ideological battle. Instability in Yemen increases the risk of opportunist al-Qaeda attacks and allows al-Qaeda to exploit the power vacuum and project violence beyond Yemen’s borders. A better outcome for Yemen would be a more representative Executive that returns to the political road map in line with the GCC initiative. To achieve that, all parties should re-commit to the principles of the GCC initiative, the NDC recommendations and the peace and national partnership agreement, which the Houthis signed before they moved into the capital. They should also agree to UN Security Council resolution 2201.

Although the Houthis have engaged in the political process, for instance by taking part in the NDC talks on the new constitution, they have repeatedly failed to implement the measures to which they have agreed. Their actions to date have spoken far more loudly than their words. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Sir Alan Duncan), I commend the efforts of our former ambassador, Jane Marriott, and her staff to deliver our core counter-terrorism, stability and humanitarian objectives in such a difficult operating environment.

Recent events in Yemen will hinder our ability to deliver our objectives there, and it is with regret that we have had to suspend embassy operations temporarily and withdraw diplomatic staff from Sana’a. We will continue to work remotely in support of Yemen’s transition under the leadership of our new ambassador, Edmund Fitton-Brown. We hope to return to Yemen as soon as the security conditions improve, and will make an announcement in due course.

On the practicalities, now that our staff have been evacuated from Sana’a, what is the new process by which someone seeking to apply for a UK visa, perhaps to study or to visit a relative here, can obtain one?

We will make an announcement shortly on where the new embassy will be located; once that happens, the normal processes will then apply. However, the right hon. Gentleman makes an important point and, if I can, I will write to him with more details.

The Friends of Yemen brings together many countries around the region, and Britain is proud to co-chair that organisation. It met at the UN General Assembly in September last year, and all the countries involved were committed to encouraging the Houthis to enter into dialogue with the other stakeholders. My hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham talked about the slow pace at which funds are being released, such that they are not coming through, even though I understand they had been pledged in 2012 at a previous UN General Assembly. Money is available but it needs to be unlocked, and the institutions need to be in place in the capital of Yemen, so the money can be transported and spent in a transparent and appropriate way. Those aspects of the process have broken down, but we should not forget that those pledges, which amount to about $10 billion, were made in 2012. I understand that less than $5 billion was actually committed, as such, so there are international funds available, but they will only be used once the political situation in Yemen has indeed improved.

I apologise for missing the earlier part of the debate. While my hon. Friend the Minister is addressing this issue, may I ask him a question? The placing of funds from the Friends of Yemen into Yemen crucially depends on the commitment of Yemenis themselves to having the means to deliver money to the poorest people, to ensure that jobs exist. In the past, too many states have put money into Yemen and found that it was not being used effectively, because of problems within government. Is the Minister more assured now that that point is really understood, so that this money can be unlocked? Not only political will but economic competence in delivery is necessary and key to ensuring that that money is used effectively.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that intervention, and I pay tribute to the work he did in the region as a Minister in the Foreign Office. He makes a powerful point. The unique position Britain finds itself in, compared with other countries, and the leading role it should play has already been mentioned. Part of that role has been to communicate with the Houthis and, indeed, with the other stakeholders to make them all aware not only of the wider consequences of civil war but of the positives. Once the structures are in place and there is stability, then we can unlock these funds.

However, an indication of the instability in Yemen is that Britain had to evacuate its embassy, along with the Americans and indeed others; the EU has evacuated its base as well. Until those embassy officials are able to return to Yemen, I am afraid the process of releasing and appropriately spending these funds, which are much-needed to help those caught up in the war, will be much slower.

The regional implications of instability in Yemen are serious, as hon. Members have mentioned. The increasingly sectarian nature of the conflict between the Shi’a Houthis and the Sunni tribes in the south will play into the hands of Al-Qaeda. We must work closely with allies such as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states to ensure that there is a co-ordinated and multinational response to the situation in Yemen.

A number of hon. Members mentioned the important role Iran can play in the situation we face. We are in dialogue with Iran and we need to ensure that it understands that it has a constructive role to play, to make sure that we do not see a further degrading of the situation in Yemen into civil war.

We also continue to work through our embassy staff, the UN special envoy—Jamal Benomar, who has been mentioned—and key allies to encourage all factions to work together to agree a political solution within the framework of the Gulf Co-operation Council initiative, including a clear timetable for constitutional reform and indeed elections. We remain concerned by the continued house arrest of Prime Minister Bahah and other members of the Cabinet, and we are actively calling for their immediate release.

No country can tackle terrorism alone, and Yemen is no exception. The scale of the challenge is huge and in the longer term continued instability in Yemen may mean an increased risk of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula launching external attacks, including here in the UK. AQAP remains a major part of the global, multimillion-pound kidnapping trade, which directly targets the UK, the EU, the US and nationals of other western countries. Through its extremist propaganda, AQAP also seeks to radicalise Muslims around the world and incite extremist violence. That was illustrated, as hon. Members have mentioned, in the horrific attack in Paris on 7 January.

Addressing the underlying instability in Yemen and the country’s political and economic problems is essential to countering the AQAP threat effectively. We have temporarily suspended counter-terrorism capacity-building activity with the Yemeni security forces, but we are exploring ways to re-engage with them in such activity, in a human rights-compliant manner. Members will appreciate that, for operational reasons, I cannot comment in detail on this activity.

We know that the majority of Yemenis want the same things people elsewhere around the world want: a say in how their country is run; an education for themselves and their children; the chance to have a good job; and the chance to live in a peaceful and prosperous state. Therefore, economic stability is as critical as political stability. Sadly, however, the economic situation in Yemen is deteriorating fast, with almost zero growth, debt at 50% of GDP, rapidly declining foreign reserves and growing fuel shortages.

First, I apologise for not being here earlier. This is a subject dear to my heart, as my dear friends, the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) and the hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz), know. I am not sure I can spell it correctly, but all three of us remember Bikerji Cowji—the toy shop we all went to as children.

I know my hon. Friend the Minister cannot say why our counter-terrorism training has been suspended, but it is crucial that we get involved to help the Government in Yemen get a grip of counter-terrorism. It is so important, so we should go back there as fast as we can.

My hon. Friend is very experienced in these matters, and he makes an important and powerful point. Yemen has been an enormous incubator of terrorist groups; sadly, the potential for civil war in the country is also enormous. Working with our allies to ensure that we can return and work with the Yemenis themselves is therefore a priority. However, we must remember that we need a Government in Yemen to work with, and at the moment there is not one. There is a President, as such, and the President himself continues in that office. Nevertheless, there is confusion as to the direction we are going in, which is why we are calling upon the Houthis and others to recognise the UN resolution we are working towards implementing and to come back to the table, to provide the political basis from which peaceful dialogue can take place.

Without key reforms, the future Government of Yemen will struggle to manage not only terrorism but the country’s finances in the face of low oil prices and a burgeoning salary bill—issues we discussed earlier. International support remains crucial if Yemen is to avoid economic disaster. As has been reiterated across Westminster Hall today, we must remain engaged in what is going on in Yemen.

It is also important that Yemen avoid humanitarian disaster. I pay tribute to the work of the hon. Member for Harrow West (Mr Thomas), the Opposition spokesman, while he was at the Department for International Development; he brings a lot of expertise to this debate. With some 16 million Yemenis in need of humanitarian aid, Yemen’s humanitarian crisis is second in scale only to Syria’s. However, there is a real risk that humanitarian needs will increase in the coming weeks and months if the economy deteriorates or the conflict intensifies. The UN appeal is only 60% funded, and it is crucial that the international community maintain or even increase its support to Yemen at this time.

My hon. Friends know that we have provided £185 million in aid to Yemen during the past three years through DFID programmes. We are currently able to continue to deliver the vast majority of those programmes, particularly our humanitarian and nutrition programmes, although we are keeping in close touch with our partners as events develop.

The international response to recent events has been strong and united. The UN Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2201, which was led by the UK and Jordan. It deplored the unilateral actions taken by the Houthis and urged them to engage in good faith in the UN-brokered political negotiations, to withdraw their forces from Government institutions and to release safely those who remain under house arrest. Regrettably, the EU, GCC and US missions have also had to suspend their operations due to the deteriorating security situation.

The future of the Yemen state is more uncertain than ever. The current political crisis has re-energised those groups in the south who long to return to the days of an independent South Yemen. The UK and the UNSC remain in support of the unity, sovereignty and independence of Yemen. There are secessionist sentiments in parts of the south, and we support calls for a new state structure that would give greater autonomy to the south of Yemen, as agreed in the National Dialogue Conference. However, the future structure of the state is ultimately a question for the Yemeni people.

Despite the huge challenges Yemen is facing today, I think there is a solution to get Yemen back on the right path. This includes, first, the immediate end to violence and intimidation, particularly in the oil-rich province of Marib, and the release of the remaining Cabinet members under house arrest. I am pleased that President Hadi is now safe and well and free from house arrest.

Secondly, there should be a swift, peaceful political transition. We urge all parties, particularly the Houthis, to implement the GCCI, the NDC outcomes and the peace and national partnership agreement that they signed originally in 2014. All parties should engage in good faith in the UN-brokered negotiations.

Thirdly and finally, there should be a new Executive to take urgent steps to improve the economic and humanitarian situation. The political road map must now become a reality. I assure hon. Members that despite the temporary suspension of our embassy operations in the capital, Britain will continue do what it can to help Yemen achieve a better future for all.