Theresa May told to stop selling bombs to Saudi Arabia after request for policy ideas

Greens call for cross-party inquiry as opposition parties unite on the issue

Jon Stone
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 11 July 2017 18:21
Comments
The Prime Minister at the G20 summit on Saturday
The Prime Minister at the G20 summit on Saturday

Theresa May’s request for policy ideas from opposition parties has been answered with a suggestion to look again at arms sales to Middle Eastern autocrats.

Following a High Court ruling on Monday that the Government’s continued sale of arms to Saudi Arabia is lawful Green MP Caroline Lucas said a cross-party inquiry was needed to examine the controversial issue.

Calling for an immediate halt to arms sales while the inquiry took place, Ms Lucas told The Independent that opposition parties were “increasingly united” in their condemnation of the sales.

At last month’s election, the manifestos of all major British opposition parties explicitly called for arms sales to Saudi Arabia to be ended.

“If Theresa May is serious about working with other parties than she will immediately commit to an inquiry on arms sales,” the Green Party leader said.

“Her Government cannot hide behind niche legal arguments or weak justifications any more - we need a full scale review of the impact of British arms sales across the globe. In the meantime she should also suspend arms sales to repressive regimes and Parliament should re-establish the Committee on Arms Export Control.

“The opposition parties are increasingly united in our condemnation of arms sales to repressive regimes - with only the Tory leadership continuing to roll out the red carpet for dictators and make the case for flogging weapons to autocrats. But it's clear that the sands are shifting on this issue, and that politicians from all sides are catching up with the widespread public anger about British-made weapons being used to kill civilians and fuel conflict.

“The Government have nothing to fear from a cross-party commission on arms sales, unless of course they have something to hide.”

Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas

Earlier this week the Prime Minister appealed to Labour and other parties to “come forward” with their own ideas for policy and to “contribute, not just criticise”.

The High Court yesterday said there was insufficient evidence to suggest that British weapons sold to Saudi Arabia would go on to be used to commit war crimes. The judgment issued by the court relied heavily on secret evidence given in closed court by the Government which could not be examined or challenged by campaigners.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against the Arms Trade, said: “For far too long, successive UK governments have offered an uncritical political and military support to the brutal Saudi dictatorship and its repressive rule. The consequences have been devastating for the people of Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

“More now than ever, parliament needs to do all it can to scrutinise and question this toxic relationship and to expose its deadly consequences.

“We are always being told that the UK stands for human rights and democracy, but UK arms are being used in atrocities in Yemen. UK fighter jets and bombs have played a central role in one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world."

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