Opinion - Arms Sales

Saudi Arabia remains a human rights priority country for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, particularly because of the use of the death penalty, women's rights and restrictions on freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion or belief. It is right that the UK Government raises its concerns with the Saudi Arabian authorities using a range of Ministerial and diplomatic channels of communication, including its Ambassador and the Embassy team in Riyadh.

Following the Court of Appeal judgement in a Judicial Review into the UK Government's decision-making process for granting export licences to Saudi Arabia, new licenses will not be issued to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners for the sale of arms destined for use in the conflict in Yemen. I understand the UK Government is currently considering the implications of the Judicial Review. The judgement is not about whether the UK Government has made the right decisions in granting export licences but concerns the rationality of the process used to reach those decisions.

The Government takes its defence export responsibilities extremely seriously and operates one of the most robust export control regimes in the world. All export licence applications, including those for Saudi Arabia are rigorously assessed on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria.

These strict criteria take account of all prevailing circumstances at the time of application and includes human rights and international humanitarian law considerations. The Government does not issue export licences where there is a clear risk that the goods might be used for internal repression, in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law, or where the export would provoke or prolong conflict.

In February, the former Prime Minister announced new UK aid worth £200 million to help millions of people at risk of starvation in Yemen, bringing the total that the UK has committed since the start of the four-year conflict to £770 million.

There can be no military solution to this conflict. A political settlement is the only way to provide long term stability to Yemen and address the worsening humanitarian crisis; and I know that Ministers are encouraging further constructive engagement from both parties to achieve this.

The Foreign Secretary recently hosted a meeting of the Quad nations in London. At the meeting, the Quad nations (the UK, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and the US) underlined their commitment to a comprehensive political solution for the conflict in Yemen and endorsed the agreements reached in Stockholm at the end of last year. 

I can assure you that I will continue to follow developments very closely, and engage with Ministers.