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Ceasefire in Yemen

Volume 664: debated on Tuesday 3 September 2019

The petition of Residents of the United Kingdom,

Declares that Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian situation, where over 91,000 people have been killed in the war in Yemen, a further 24.1 million need humanitarian assistance and over 14 million are on the brink of starvation; further that the Court of Appeal decision of June 20th 2019 deemed arms-exports licences to Saudi Arabia as “unlawful”.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to pursue an immediate ceasefire in Yemen, the implementation of the Stockholm Agreement, and to honour the decision of the Court of Appeal;

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Keith Vaz, Official Report, 24 July 2019; Vol. 663, c. 1402.]


Petitions in the same terms were presented by the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) [P002499], the hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Douglas Chapman) [P002505], the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg) [P002506], and the hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) [P002507].

Observations from the Minister for the Middle East and North Africa (Dr Andrew Murrison):

The Government are deeply concerned by the ongoing conflict in Yemen. We are providing £200 million in response to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen this financial year (2019-20). This brings the total UK commitment to Yemen to £770 million since the conflict began in 2015. This new support is providing vital food assistance right across the country to those most at risk of dying from starvation and disease, meeting the immediate food needs of more than 1 million Yemenis each month over the year, treating 30,000 children for malnutrition, and providing over 1 million people with improved water supply and basic sanitation. To ensure the UN can continue to cover urgent needs this year, the UK has brought forward funding from our £200 million pledge and by the end of August will have provided 87% of the funding we pledged to UN agencies this year.

The Government continue to lead diplomatic efforts to achieve a political settlement, which is the only way to bring long-term stability to Yemen and to address the worsening humanitarian crisis. The UK fully supports the peace process led by the UN Special Envoy and encourages the parties to act in good faith to implement the agreements made in Stockholm. We urge all parties to engage constructively to overcome obstacles and to find a political solution to end the conflict. A nationwide ceasefire will only have an effect on the ground if it is underpinned by a political deal between the parties.

The Government take their export control obligations extremely seriously and we operate one of the most robust export control regimes in the world. The Court of Appeal judgment found against the Government on one of the three grounds of appeal: that the export licence decision-making process contained an error of approach in respect of considerations over past alleged violations of IHL as part of our assessment of “clear risk” under criterion 2c. The other grounds were dismissed. The Government disagrees with the judgement and had received permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. Alongside this, we are carefully considering the implications of the judgment for decision-making. While we do this, we will not grant any new licences for exports to Saudi Arabia and other members of the Saudi-led Coalition of items, which might be used in the conflict in Yemen. The role of the Court has been to review the process by which the Government reached their decisions—not to assess whether the decisions were right or wrong on their merits. The Court has not ordered that existing licences must be suspended but that the Government must reconsider their decisions. The Court expressly clarified that the outcome of that consideration was not a foregone conclusion.