PMQs: SNP attack UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia amid Yemen crisis

Damian Green addressing MPs during Prime Ministers questions. Picture: Getty Images
Damian Green addressing MPs during Prime Ministers questions. Picture: Getty Images
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The UK Government has received £4.6 billion from selling arms to Saudi Arabia since the war in Yemen began, the SNP Westminster Leader has claimed.

Ian Blackford raised Theresa May’s trip to the Middle East during Prime Minister’s Questions as he called on Britain to suspend licences for arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

First Secretary of State Damian Green hit back, arguing that the UK had “one of the most rigorous and robust defence sales regimes in the world” and that the defence industry was “an extremely important creator or jobs and prosperity, in Scotland as well as in other parts of the country”.

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Mr Blackford, the MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, said the war had created a devastating humanitarian crisis and Yemen was now on the brink of famine.

He asked the Mr Green how much money the UK Government had received from arms sales from Saudi Arabia since the war with Yemen began.

He added: “The UK Government has received £4.6 billion in selling arms to Saudi Arabia since the war in Yemen began. A war which has created a devastating humanitarian crisis.

“Yemen is now on the brink of famine and Unicef has said that 150,000 children will die by the end of this year.

“Doesn’t the First Secretary agree that the best thing that the Prime Minister can do with her meetings today is follow the example of the Netherlands and suspend licences for arms sales to Saudi Arabia?”

Mr Green responded: “I’m obviously aware of the very terrible situation in Yemen at the moment, but this country has one of the most rigorous and robust defence sales regimes in the world.

“It was recognised in a court case last July and we are absolutely determined to continue the most rigorous and robust system in place because that’s the right thing to do, both for our prosperity and to ensure we keep proper control on arms sales.”

Mr Green said the companies and therefore workers received the money and such a move would “certainly entail significant job losses”.

He added it was important to continue the humanitarian efforts to try and alleviate the terrible conditions in Yemen.

Mr Green said: “We are the fourth largest humanitarian donor to Yemen and the second largest to the UN appeal, and I would also remind him that the involvement of the Saudis in this conflict came at a request of the legitimate Government of Yemen and has UN Security Council backing.

“That’s why we support it, this is a conflict supported by the UN Security Council and I would hope that he will have some respect for the Security Council.”

Thousands of people have been killed in the conflict, which pitches a coalition led by Saudi Arabia in support of the internationally-recognised government of Yemen against Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

Meanwhile, Emily Thornberry alluded to allegations against Theresa May’s deputy before adding at Prime Minister’s Questions: “I really am not going there.”

The shadow foreign secretary noted Damian Green looked “rather perturbed” by her opening question as she deputised for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at PMQs.

First Secretary of State Mr Green, standing in for Mrs May during her absence on a trip to the Middle East, is subject to a Cabinet Office inquiry over allegations he made inappropriate advances to a young female activist and that pornography was found by police on a computer in his office.

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