This afternoon the Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon, told the House of Commons Defence Committee that criticism of the Saudi Arabian regime and its brutal bombardment of Yemen is a hindrance to arms sales. This was part of an update he gave on negotiations to sell a further batch of Eurofighter jets to the Saudi Royal Air Force.
UK has licensed £3.8 billion worth of arms to Saudi forces since the bombing of Yemen began in 2015 and the UK government is working with BAE to secure further fighter jet sales to the Saudi regime.
Fallon told the Committee “We’ve been working extremely hard on the batch two deal. I’ve travelled to Saudi Arabia back in September and discussed progress on the deal with my opposite number, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia – and we continued to press for a signature or at least a statement of intent as we’ve done with Qatar. I have to repeat sadly, to this committee, that obviously other criticism of Saudi Arabia, in this Parliament, is not helpful and …I’ll leave it there, but we need to do everything possible to encourage Saudi Arabia towards batch two. I believe they will commit to batch two and we need to work away on the timing.”
At present, Saudi forces are using UK fighter jets and bombs in the ongoing bombardment of Yemen. Since the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015, the UK has licensed £3.8 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, including:
£2.6 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones)
£1.1 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)
£572,000 worth of ML6 licences (Armoured vehicles, tanks)
Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “These comments from the Secretary of State for Defence are disgraceful. He is calling on other parliamentarians to join him in putting arms sales ahead of human rights, democracy and international humanitarian law.
The Saudi regime has one of the most appalling human rights records in the world, and has inflicted a terrible humanitarian catastrophe on Yemen. Fallon should be doing all he can to stop the bloodshed and end UK complicity in the suffering, not urging his colleagues to willingly ignore the abuses in order to sell even more weapons.
Arms sales to human rights abusing regimes like Saudi Arabia would not be possible without the support of Ministers like Fallon. If the government’s main concern is jobs then it should be shifting that support into more positive areas like renewable energy and low carbon technology, and other industries which are not dependent on war and conflict for profit.”