British MPs from all sides of the House of Commons have urged the government to impose an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia and expressed concern over the Saudi postponement of its investigation into civilian deaths in Yemen. The views were expressed during a parliamentary debate about the humanitarian situation in the country.
Foreign Affairs Minister Tobias Ellwood is a long-term defender of the selling of arms to the kingdom. He rose to Riyadh’s defence by saying that the delay in the completion and publication of the results of the investigation is simply down to the inexperience in carrying out a major military operation.
Ellwood’s comments were met with scorn. The chair of the Select Committee for Arms Export Controls, Chris White MP, argued that “from a UK perspective,” it is imperative that the Government “suspend[s] our sale of arms to Saudi Arabia until a UN-led investigation is completed” in order “to protect our reputation and example to the world in terms of arms export licensing.”
The Scottish National Party’s Margaret Ferrier MP called for the UK Government to “clean up its own mess” and “show an appropriate level of responsibility” through a commitment to clear Yemen of unexploded cluster munitions. In December, British Secretary of Defence Michael Fallon confirmed to parliament that the Saudi-led coalition had dropped “a limited number” of UK-supplied cluster munitions in Yemen, which were supplied to Riyadh in the 1980s.
The debate closed with the House “noting the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen and the impact of the conflict on civilians.” Members agreed to condemn “any breach of international humanitarian law” and call “for an urgent independent investigation into reports of breaches of international humanitarian law on both sides of the conflict.”