Leaked report on BBC’s Newsnight criticises supposedly rigorous arms sales regime
On the BBC last night (6 September) there was an item concerning arms sales by Britain to Saudi Arabia. Readers of this blog will be no strangers to this item and we have been highlighting this trade for some time. The weapons are being used to bomb Yemen and targets include hospitals, schools and even wedding parties. British service personnel are involved in the command centre doing what is not entirely clear.
At last the Commons Committee on Arms Export Controls is asking questions and a leak of their report said:
The weight of evidence of violations of international humanitarian law by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen is now so great that it is very difficult to continue to support Saudi Arabia while maintaining the credibility of our arms licensing regime
Oxfam is among the agencies who have been critical of this trade and the results in Yemen. At least 4,000 have died, many have had to flee their homes and among the dead are women and children. Oxfam said:
The UK government is in denial and disarray over its arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition bombing campaign in Yemen. It has misled its own parliament about its oversight of arms sales and its international credibility is in jeopardy as it commits to action on paper but does the opposite in reality
Even now, the Foreign Office continues to defend the sales and Boris Johnson has reportedly defended the Saudis saying:
They have the best insight into its own procedures and will be able to conduct the most thorough and conclusive investigation
Will be able to but will they?
Of course this is linked to the powerful lobbying by the arms firms themselves and countries like Saudi (who have a representative Adel al-Jubeir here to try and persuade the Committee not to recommend banning arms sales). The current version of Private Eye (1246) has a lengthy report on what is called the ‘revolving door,’ that is the huge numbers of senior civil servants, ex-ministers and senior military people who move from their posts into companies and firms linked to their previous roles. It makes the point that sound government is eroded if ministers and other senior people are hoping to hop into a lucrative directorship or consultancy once they leave government or the services. In a four page report it lists the shear numbers moving out of government or the services into commercial posts usually linked to their previous roles. How likely are they to stop sales to Saudi if it could jeopardise their post ministerial employment?
The Committee meets today so it will be interesting to hear what they decide.
Sources: BBC; International Business Times; the Sun; Oxfam; Amnesty International