Some people would argue that groups of people sitting around a table discussing issues that are happening elsewhere in the world is the very opposite of what will change things for the better. Perhaps what is worse than a talking shop that does not achieve very much is one that has the potential to do so, yet appears closed for business. According to this part of the Parliamentary website, Parliament is carrying out an inquiry into the “Use of UK-manufactured arms in Yemen“. The inquiry is set up to “look at the size of arms sales to the gulf region and ask questions about the role the trade plays in advancing UK interests there. It will also examine if weapons manufactured in the UK have been used by the Royal Saudi Armed Forces in Yemen, if any arms export licence criteria have been infringed and discuss what action should be taken in such cases.” The Committee involved in this inquiry is the Committee on Arms Export Controls (CAEC).
Saudi Arabia are using airstrikes in their conflict between forces loyal to ousted president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, led by Saudi Arabia, and Houthi rebels backed by Iran. There is mounting evidence that civilian areas are being targeted. Last week, the United Nations said the previous civilian death toll of 6000 in the 18-month conflict was conservative and said it was likely at least 10,000 had been killed. Nearly three million people have been forced to flee their homes and almost eight million people are suffering from malnutrition. Mwatana is a Yemeni human rights organisation who regularly submit evidence of the conflict to CAEC. This weekend video evidence has emerged of some of these airstrikes being used in a college, which was filmed back in January. The footage has been provided to CAEC along with other evidence that remnants of bombs found at the college indicating they were made by GEC Marconi. Experts said the bomb was a PGM-500 Hakim produced in the UK for the United Arab Emirates by GEC-Marconi Dynamics in the 1990s. GEC-Marconi Dynamics, now part of MBDA Missile Systems declined to comment.
The problem seems to be that according to the website, CAEC has no public meetings planned, the last piece of spoken evidence was heard in late April and the last piece of evidence published, was in mid July. Whilst MPs like the rest of us are entitled to have a summer break, and many organisations suspend meetings in August, the killings have continued and the weapons have still being sold. Last year, the British government approved more than £3 billion worth of arms sales to the Saudis. It seems clear that we need this talking shop to reopen and to do more than talk. The evidence is mounting and pointing a very clear finger at our Government for agreeing to these sales, knowing that they were being used in a war that has led to a situation where some 14 million of Yemen’s 26 million population need food aid. The Chair of CAEC is Chris White, MP for Warwick and Leamington, let us hope his constituents will press him to convene the Committee sooner rather than later and use their influence with the Government to halt further sales whilst coming to their decision about this use of British Armaments.