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Arms Trade: Saudi Arabia

Question for Department for International Trade

UIN 291083, tabled on 25 September 2019

To ask the Secretary of State for International Trade, what steps she plans to take to ensure that her Department does not violate the court order on banning the issuing of new export licences to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners for arms that could be used in Yemen.

Answered on

30 September 2019

As the Secretary of State said in her statement to Parliament on 26th September, as soon as the issue was brought to her attention on the 12th September, she took immediate action:

  • Taking immediate steps to inform the Court and Parliament;
  • Putting in place immediate, interim procedures to make sure the error could not happen again;
  • Instigating a complete and full internal review of all licences granted for Saudi Arabia and its Coalition partners since 20 June;
  • Asking the Permanent Secretary to commission, on her behalf, a full independent investigation.

This investigation will: (i) establish the precise circumstances in which these licences were granted; (ii) establish whether any other licences have been granted in breach of the Undertaking to the Court or the commitment to Parliament; and (iii) confirm that procedures are in place to ensure that no further such breaches can occur. The Director General Policy Group at the Department for Work and Pensions has been appointed to lead this investigation.

During the course of this investigation, licence applications for Saudi Arabia and its Coalition partners will be referred to a new weekly meeting of senior officials from DIT, FCO and MOD. (Some will have been refused by this point, for example where they fail to meet one or more of the Consolidated Criteria.) This meeting will reach a recommendation for Ministers as to whether applications are within the scope of the Undertaking and the Parliamentary Statement, applying a further checklist of questions which are designed to ensure that: (i) current and full information is available to enable an assessment of whether the items in question are for possible use in the conflict in Yemen; and (ii) if there has been any change in circumstances in the conflict in Yemen, this is properly included in the assessment. All recommendations to grant licences for the export of items to Saudi Arabia and its Coalition partners will now be referred to Ministers for decision.

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