Skip to main content

Yemen

Volume 648: debated on Tuesday 30 October 2018

The situation in Yemen is tragic and we are deeply concerned by the humanitarian impact. We play a leading role in efforts to find a peaceful solution by supporting the UN special envoy Martin Griffiths, calling a special session of the UN Security Council, and pressing all parties to join peace talks.

In the past three years, the UK has granted military export licences to Saudi Arabia worth a total of £5 billion. Given that the Saudi-led invasion has pushed Yemen to the brink of famine, with thousands of civilians killed in the process, does the Minister feel any guilt that those arms sales have helped to enable the Saudi regime to perpetrate war crimes? Or, as with the American President, does money trump ethics for this Tory Government?

I shall say two things. First, on arms sales, which have been discussed comprehensively in this Chamber and elsewhere, every licence is considered on an individual basis. A very comprehensive set of controls are gone through and the United Kingdom sticks to that process. Secondly, the hon. Gentleman referred to an invasion by the coalition. Let me be clear: an insurgent movement usurped a legitimate Government, who were then backed by the UN in order to relieve that Government, and the coalition responded to that call to take action to protect the Government and to protect the civilians in Yemen, who are being comprehensively abused by the Houthi insurgency. The hon. Gentleman should not refer to it as an invasion, as that is just not what it was.

Has our new Foreign Secretary had a chance to review the position of the British Government at the United Nations in respect of Yemen? Will he move from a position of supporting the Saudi coalition where Britain is complicit in creating a famine, to one of constructive neutrality to secure a ceasefire and meaningful constitutional negotiations, as the UN special representative, Martin Griffiths, is consistently urging and trying to secure?

On 15 March, the UK proposed and co-ordinated a United Nations Security Council presidential statement, which called on the parties to agree steps towards a ceasefire. That remains our position. Calling for a nationwide ceasefire will have an effect on the ground only if it is underpinned by a political deal between the conflict parties. Given the lack of agreement between those parties, passing a ceasefire resolution risks undercutting the UN envoy’s efforts to reach a political deal and undermining the credibility of the Council. As soon as the right opportunity arises, we will bring forward a resolution.