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UK Parliamentary Debate

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Parliamentary Vote on 26 October 2016

Motion: That this House supports efforts to bring about a cessation of hostilities and provide humanitarian relief in Yemen, and notes that the country is now on the brink of famine; condemns the reported bombings of civilian areas that have exacerbated this crisis; believes that a full independent UN-led investigation must be established into alleged violations of international humanitarian law in the conflict in Yemen; and calls on the Government to suspend its support for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces in Yemen until it has been determined whether they have been responsible for any such violations.

Result: Ayes 193, Noes 283 (so motion failed)
See details of how MP's voted here
House of Lords debate, 13 October 2016
Oral question 4: Reassessing the licensing of UK weapons sales to Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the conflict in Yemen, 11:35:44 to 11:42:53
House of Lords debate, 28 January 2016
Urgent Question: Arms sales to Saudi Arabia
13:49:08 to 14:03:47

Angus Robertson, the SNP's leader at Westminster, raises the conflict in Yemen at Prime Minister's Questions
20 January 2016

UK Government Report, 2 February 2016

On Wednesday 27 January 2016, the UK’s International Development Committee, chaired by MP Stephen Twigg, heard evidence from non-governmental organisations, from the Department of International Development (DFID) and from Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and the UK Government's response. On the same day, the Guardian published an informative article by Stephen Twigg entitled 'Yemen: the devastation of a nation, largely ignored'.

On 2 February Stephen Twigg wrote the following report which describes the situation very accurately, and clearly exposes the UK’s paradoxical foreign policy towards Yemen. With its left hand of aid, the UK government demonstrates a compassionate response to help Yemen’s unfolding humanitarian catastrophe. At the same time, with its right hand it defends its sale of arms to Saudi which is fuelling the conflict and making aid ever more necessary.
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View full report
On the positive side, both PM David Cameron and Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond were recipients of the above report. Such an expose of the government’s paradoxical policy reflects growing pressure on those at the top to come clean. They cannot hide behind carefully spun scripted statements for ever.
The first meeting (above) starts at 1pm, and the committee questions a panel of four expert witnesses on the Yemen crisis, as follows:

Julien Harneis, Head of UNICEF Yemen
Josephine Hutton, Regional Programme Manager, Middle East, Oxfam
Grant Pritchard, Director of Advocacy, Media and Communications on Yemen, Save the Children
Roy Isbister, Head of Arms Unit, Saferworld

I found this meeting encouraging in that it demonstrates that DfID (the Department for International Development) has a real desire to understand the facts about Yemen and to provide humanitarian assistance to the Yemeni people. However, it is also very clear from this meeting that the UK has a paradoxical policy towards Yemen. On the one hand, DfID is providing humanitarian assistance. On the other hand, the policy of the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) to support the Saudi-led coalition and to continue its licencing of arms sales to Saudi is undermining the efforts of DfID. The first meeting makes it very clear that the UK must stop its arms sales to Saudi.
The second meeting (above) starts at 2.00pm, and the committee questions the following members of the UK government:

Rt Hon Desmond Swayne MP, Minister of State for International Development
Juliette John, Head of DFID Yemen, Department for International Development
Tobias Ellwood MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Nicholas Alton, Deputy Head of Arabian Peninsula and Iran, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

This second meeting is very disappointing in that it demonstrates the government's clear and unwavering support for the Saudi-led coalition, as well as justification for its refusal to support the Dutch call for an independent enquiry into human rights violations in Yemen. The meeting closes with Stephen Twigg saying, "On that rather unsatisfactory note, I think we have run out of time", which about says it all.

You can view a typed transcript of both meetings here.

You can download Stephen Twigg’s report here:

http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/international-development/ChairtoSoSregardingYemen.pdf

This is a good report to reference if you decide to write to your local MP about UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

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