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Export Licences

Volume 621: debated on Wednesday 22 February 2017

1. What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for International Trade on the granting of export licences to Saudi Arabia. (908730)

The hon. Lady will be aware that a judicial review into UK arms exports to Saudi Arabia is currently under way, and that we cannot comment on ongoing legal matters. The role of the Department for International Development in the export licence process is to provide advice on criterion 8 of the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria, which assesses whether a country can afford the export.

Following the recommendation made by the International Development Committee and the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee in November, what progress has been made in formally including DFID in cases in which the proposed arms transfer might ultimately be used, as is the case with Yemen and equipment supplied to Saudi Arabia?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. Specifically on DFID’s involvement, we engage across government on some of the really significant issues that are associated with Yemen, particularly on the humanitarian aspect. As I mentioned in my opening answer, there is a case under way right now, so I cannot comment on those ongoing legal matters.

Given the situation in Saudi Arabia, and indeed in China and other countries, does the Secretary of State not think it rather hypocritical to be carrying on about Trump—or is that out of order, Mr Speaker?

As my hon. Friend will have just heard me say very specifically with regard to Saudi Arabia and to export licences, a judicial review is under way and we cannot comment on ongoing legal matters.

Famine looms over Yemen, as the Secretary of State will know. What is the UK doing to ensure that aid is not being impeded by the Saudi-led coalition?

The right hon. Lady may be aware that the UK has not just funded the Yemen appeal, but led the way in the UN with our support. We are the fourth largest bilateral donor. DFID and the British Government have been very clear and direct on the matter of working on the ground and of making the case to the Saudi Arabian authorities that they must not impede humanitarian aid and support. We have been working with many of our international partners to monitor the access routes to ensure that supplies can get into Yemen, which, as she knows, is vital at this difficult time.

On the subject of granting export licences to Saudi Arabia and indeed to other countries, does DFID make representations about matters such as civilian casualties and breaches of international humanitarian law?

I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that we do more than make representations, and we do so not just through Government, but directly. I have dealt directly with the authorities in Saudi Arabia and with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia relief fund, and made some very specific requests with regard not just to the situation on the ground and the conflict, but, as I have already said to the right hon. Lady, to getting support to the people who need help in this crisis.