Cameron refuses to launch inquiry into arms sales to Saudi Arabia

Speaking at PMQs, David Cameron said: 'We have the strictest rules for arms exports [of] almost any country anywhere in the world'

David Cameron has refused to launch an inquiry into British arms sales to Saudi Arabia, saying arms exports are "carefully controlled".

A UN panel investigating the Saudi-led coalition's bombing campaign in Yemen uncovered "widespread and systematic" attacks on civilian targets in violation with international humanitarian law.

Speaking at Prime Minister's Questions, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for the Prime Minister to launch an inquiry into arms exports to Saudi Arabia in light of the report's conclusions, and to suspend arms sales until the review had concluded.

Mr Corbyn said: "The report has documented that coalition forces have conducted air strikes targeting civilians and civilian objects in violation of international humanitarian law - including camps for internally displaced persons and refugees, civilian residential areas, medical facilities, schools and mosques. 

"These are very disturbing reports. In the light of this, will the Prime Minister agree to launch immediately an inquiry and a full review into the arms export licenses to Saudi Arabia, and suspend those arms sales until that review has been concluded?" 

Mr Cameron replied: "As the Right Honourable gentleman knows, we have the strictest rules for arms exports [of] almost any country anywhere in the world.

"And let me remind him we are not a member of the Saudi-led coalition, we are not directly involved in the Saudi-led coalition's operations. British personnel are not involved in carrying out strikes.

Promising to look into the report, he added: "But our arms exports are carefully controlled and we are backing the legitimate government of the Yemen, not least because terrorist attacks planned in the Yemen would have a direct affect on people in our country.

"I refuse to run a foreign policy by press release, which is what he wants, I want a foreign policy which is in the interests of the British people."

British arms companies took advantage of Saudi Arabia's military campaign in Yemen by increasing arms sales to the country's autocratic government by over a hundred times.

Commenting on the UN report, Amnesty International UK’s Head of Policy and Government Affairs Allan Hogarth said: “We’ve been calling for an independent international inquiry to investigate alleged violations by all parties to the conflict in Yemen, and the UN panel will certainly add weight to that call.

“As a major supplier of weaponry to Saudi Arabia, the UK government ought now to do what it should have done months ago - suspend export licences for all further UK arms bound for Saudi Arabia that could be used in Yemen.

“We also want to the see the UK government supporting these mounting calls for an independent inquiry into the bloody conflict in Yemen. Thousands of civilians have already died and it’s been utterly dismaying to see Downing Street brushing aside extremely serious concerns about the reckless conduct of Saudi Arabia in this devastating conflict.”

During PMQs, Mr Cameron also sparked outrage by referring to the Calais refugees as "a bunch of migrants".

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