12/01/2017 House of Commons


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support for disabled people who are in work. Points of order will come


later. We now come to the select committee statement. The chair of


the women inequalities select committee, the right honourable


member for Basingstoke, will speak for up to ten minutes, during which


no interventions may be taken. At the conclusion of her statement I


will call members to put questions on the subject of the statement and


call Mrs Maria Miller to respond to these in turn. Members can expect to


be called only once. Interventions should be questions and should be


brief. The French bent -- front bench may take part in questioning.


I remind the house that ordinarily such a statement and questioning on


it can be a spectator to take in total approximately 20 minutes. I


called the chair of the women and equality select committee Mrs Maria


Miller. I would like to thank the backbench business committee for


this opportunity to make a statement to the house on the fifth report of


the women inequalities committee on women in the House of Commons after


the next general election in 2020. The successful preparation of all


our reports depends on the hard work of the committee's clerks and staff,


the diligence of honourable members who make up our committee and I'm


glad to see my honourable friend the member for Portsmouth South and the


member for Bath here today. Also the generosity of our witnesses, who


give up their time to prepare and take part in our sessions and I


particularly like to thank my right honourable friend the member for


Derbyshire Dales, Islington North, Moray and the honourable member from


Westmorland and Lonsdale, all of whom enthusiastically shared their


views and the work of their respective parties with the


committee. If 100 years ago, Mr Speaker, the suffragettes who fought


for women's rights fought for our right to be elected to sit in this


place were told that just 455 women would be elected to this place over


the next ten decades, I'm not sure whether they would have laughed or


cried. I think they would be proud the United Kingdom had seen two


female prime ministers but the facts are that there are as many men


sitting in this place today as there are women ever elected to be members


of Parliament. At the moment we have 195 women MPs, and 455 men. And I


have yet to see any evidence to suggest that women are less


qualified than men to represent their communities or that women


don't want to have the opportunity to be a member of Parliament to


improve the lives of those who live in their community. Therefore this


startling imbalance should cause all of us a great deal of concern,


because at best we are failing to reach out, and at worst the parties


who are in the most part responsible for selecting candidates are failing


in their due to. The select committee's report provides an


evidence -based set of recommendations to change that, to


help ensure Britain does not slip further down the global rankings for


the rubber dissipation in parliament and to promote a more representative


parliament, and to make this place a stronger place. Our report has


consciously focus on female representation but our


recommendations showed, we feel, open up discussions on how to secure


improved diversity in other areas too. A parliament with more black


and ethnic minority representation, more disabled members, ensure that


the debates we have, the laws we have are going to be better. Of


course the report builds on significant work that has already


been done relating to representation and Parliament such as the report of


the Speaker's Parliament convened by yourself. Also the cop brands of


work done by Professor Sarah Childs, who produced a good Parliament


guide. The trigger for this new report was the boundary commissions


initial proposals for reducing the size of Parliament to 600


constituencies. There is no reason why this should inversely impact


women or any other group, but these proposals would mean that more than


20 women MPs would see their seats to all intents and purposes


disappear, and if political parties don't take action, this will mean a


lower proportion of women MPs in the next general election. As of the


committeerecommendations are for government political parties and


Parliament itself, because we all have to take responsibility. Our


Kieran accommodations for more transparency from parties on the


work they are doing to improve candidate selection, and we feel


that the government should majorly bring into force the statutory


requirement for political parties to publish their Parliamentary


perversity data fit general elections as set out in section 106


of the equality act so that we can properly scrutinise the record of


parties in selecting a diverse slate of Parliamentary candidates.


Secondly that the government should seek to introduce in legislation in


this Parliament is statutory minimum proportion of female candidates in


general elections for each political party, and we have proposed a


minimum 45% of women. This measure would only be brought into force if


the number of proportion of women MPs fails to increase significantly


after the next general election. Thirdly as part of our


recommendations we have also set out a domestic target of 45% for the


representation of women in parliament and local government by


2030. This really is to inform the work being done by ONS to


established domestic indicators for the UN sustainable develop and goals


and a particular goal five, an indicator that my right honourable


friend the member for Putney and also David Cameron fought hard for


when these goals were established, goals that apply to the UK as well


as other members of the UN. To make progress these measures need to have


real teeth, which is by the committee has also recommended that


the remit of the electoral commission be extended to introduce


fines for noncompliance. In our evidence, sessions of the German and


leaders of the political parties it was evident there is enormous


support for more representative parliament, and indeed each one


agreed that Parliament would be a better place if 50% of MPs were


women. But we need to turn those warm sentiment in the bums on seats,


and I hope that is not unparliamentary language, Mr


Speaker, but what the parties lack in clear and, hence if the turn this


into play action. This Parliament is the mother of all parliaments but at


the moment and our watch, we are letting ourselves down on a global


stage. Since 1999, Britain has fallen from 25th in the world the


48th in the world, in terms of female rippers in tension. This


Parliament should have a clear aspiration to be the global leader


for female representation and diversity more generally and the


recommendations in the report can help us achieve that. The Labour


Party is committed to increasing the representation of women in


parliament and at every level in politics and there is a report that


recognises more than half of the women on these Labour benches, 43.7%


of the Parliamentary Labour Party is made up of women, and much of this


is to do with Labour's commitment to short lists. Does the one lady think


other parties should look to introduce short lists of their


Parliamentary selections, and does she agree that parties not already


taking direct positive action should do so as a matter of urgency?


is a body of evidence that parties can look at. I don't think it is for


a select lack -- FOI select committee to debate as to how they


run their own selection procedures. That is for them but they should


also be looking at the evidence. Mr Speaker, in recalling that Labour


lost one of their safest seats in 2005 over the imposition of a women


only short list, what role does my right honourable friend see in local


associations being able to choose the candidate they think is best for


that area irrespective of gender or for the voters to siding to vote for


the person they think is best to represent that area irrespective of


their gender? I thank my honourable friend for that question. He is


absolutely right. Associations and local parties have a huge role to


play in making sure they get the right person for the job in that


area. But it is very surprising to see that just one in four candidates


at the last general election was female. I think perhaps we need to


ensure that the right training is in place, the right support in place


that we have a diverse city of candidates for those associations


and parties to choose from. The SNP welcomes the publication of this


report. We firmly believe that all political parties should be held to


account for the action they are taking to improve this democratic


but is it because it is simply not acceptable in 2017 for women to be


discriminated against or underrepresented whether in the


boardroom, politics or anywhere else. The SNP is committed to the


increased numbers of MPs and MSP selected the UK and Scottish


parliaments and our gender balanced cabinet being one of the few in the


world to do so. The SM people smack Scottish Government is also tasting


decisive action to make sure women are represented in senior and


decision-making roles including in the boardroom and our programme for


government contains many ambitious commitments in support of women's


equality. Can I ask if the UK Government is considering similar


measures and when they will bring these into fruition? We think it is


important that after the next general election if there is some


progress made, -- if there is not significant progress made that 45%


of candidates should be female. She mentioned equal representation in


patent -- cabinets and I was heartened to see Justin Trudeau when


he became president in Canada saying what the jerks pectin 2016, I think


which say what should we expect in 2017? My right honourable friend


mentioned the excellent report by Professor Sarah Childs. Would you


agree some of those recommendations would also help to pre-empt more


women into Parliament? My honourable friend from Portsmouth South is


right. We are building on firm foundations here. I think that


Parliament itself has to look very carefully at its operation to ensure


that it is doing everything it can to encourage all women to come


forward. Historically we have looked very closely at things like child


care, family friendly working. I think also we should be looking very


carefully at some of the dissuading effects that the violence, online


abuse that female members experience, how that can actually


put people off as well. That is just as important, and something the


house needs to take very seriously. When John Bright first coined the


term other Parliament, he was saying that even England, which was the


mother of Parliaments, had still not brought for -- Paul Dummett proceed


to the country because the vast majority were not able to vote, so


now we are coming up to the hundredth anniversary of some women


in 1918 being allowed to vote, isn't one of the biggest problems finance?


Because many women are paid less still than men, and working class


candidates still find it very difficult to get selected because it


is a very expensive business? This is something which came out in


the report that the cost of becoming a Member of Parliament can be very


steep indeed and is therefore sometimes outside of if reach of


some people, whether they are male or female. The parties need to ask


themselves very carefully the onty obstacles they put in the way of


candidates and whether they can lessen them either through financial


support or not. My own party, the Conservative Party have looked at


them very carefully and given practical help in the past.


Can I say to my honourable honourable friend that I basically


backed what she's aiming for, but put a caution on one or two issues.


The number of women MPs what had to match the number. When my wife was


first in Parliament it was 5%. Now it is 30%. It is important not to


think that Governments should require Parliament and parties to do


things. But one of them is not putting people into Parliament. It


should be giving people the opportunities and experience,


whether they can be chosen on merit with necessary luck. My honourable


friend makes some interesting points. Of course his wife was I


think probably one of my role models when I looked at Parliament and saw


the effective nature of women and the work they did here. But I only


have to look at some other institutions like the University of


London, who only started to admit women in 1878 but has more than 50%


of its students who are female. There are other institutions who


have made a journey more successfully than we have. We ask


questions why progress hasn't been made more quickly. As national


secretary of the SND until the end of last year I saw some successes


but also some of the struggles that come with implementing all-women


short list, where some cases despite having the requirement we struggled


to find women candidates. What does she think can be done at the for


mayive point of where people might become candidates in terms of work


experience with local politicians standing for a local council or at a


local party basis? The honourable gentleman is right. The work needs


to go in early. I would like to applaud the work of 50/50 Parliament


in the campaign they are currently running, which is Ask Her To Stand.


Many honourable ladies here today will know it has been the case it


has taken somebody asking women to stand for Parliament before they've


done that and that early work, particularly standing for local


Government can be a way of effectively building people's


confidence into taking this on as a career choice.


Mr David Nuttall. A man from a working class


background could be discriminated against if all the proposals and


recommendations in her report were accepted? My honourable friend is


right and speaking as somebody who went to a council house and went to


a comprehensive, I too don't want to see this place populated by an


unrepresented group of people. But it is unrepresentative at the


moment. So we have to, I think take some tough decisions here and rather


than fail to take action because of the threat of some groups feeling


discriminated against, actually put right what is a real injustice at


the moment in terms of fee male representation. My Right Honourable


friend for her statement and the hard work in leading our committee.


The UK signed up to the universal sustainability goals where no-one


was vouched to be left behind. It is embarrassing we only have 30% here


in the UK. Will my Right Honourable friend join me on calling to focus


on parliamentary reputation as they implement the plan? I thank my


committee friend for that comment. He will know we heard yesterday in


the conversation on the goals that the credibility of our country is in


jeopardy if we don't donor to implement the sustainable goals,


particularly goal five, which was so hard fought for by the member for


Putney and David Cameron at the time. Part of that is to make sure


we have significant improvements in parliamentary reputation.


THE SPEAKER: Point of order. I have heard you on occasions, Sir,


advising ministers from the dispatch box. I wonder if you notice the


Leader of the House has a habit of either staring at the honourable


member for Wellingborough or vacantly into space when answering


questions from this quarter of the House? There is the question of


audibility, Sir. But there is also the issue of nonverbal


communication. For example, when the leader of the House was unable to


dif fren cat between a 94% in Scotland compared to 88% in England,


we would have seen us shaking our heads. When he made an unfonded


comment of the Scottish referendum campaign he would have seen us


laughing at time. So I don't want to pick out the leader of the House, in


particular, but perhaps you can give kour -- encourage all members in


responding to them when being asked questions in debates and statements.


THE SPEAKER: Statements made in this chamber should always be


communicated through a chair. The second point is that of course


people speak from the dispatch box should address, and in so doing,


look at the House, rather than behind them at the member to whom


they might perhaps be responding. Beyond that I think I will not


venure. If I were uncharitable, I would imagine that The Right


Honourable gentleman was seeking against all precedent and


expectation of him to propaganda. But because I am not uncharitable, I


can not imagine that he was seeking to do anything of the kind.


Point of order, Mr Derek Twigg. Maybe I can ask your advice, there


is a proposal to site a hospital in my constituent by the Government. It


has caused angst and concern. It is I have been pursuing questions for


The Right Honourable member for Scarborough and Whitby. The


Government seem to take a decision to put these hostels in Labour


areas, mostly Labour areas. I have been trying to ascertain which


parliamentary constituents that the hostels are in. The minister replied


on a number of occasions. The last said that he couldn't tell me


because of the safety of the asylum seekers who were there. He couldn't


give me the individual locations. This is odd because on Monday night,


the council will be considering a planning application for this asylum


hostel, which has gone through full public consultation. I can not see


how the minister can give an answer like that. If, and I put down the


question, if still refuses to answer, given the information I have


put forward today, what advice will he give me?


THE SPEAKER: Off the top of my head, my advice is as follows, first and


this would be my principal suggestion, I think that the


honourable gentleman should go to the table office and seek its advice


as to the nature and terms of the questions to be tableded. He


muttered, I think, that he's already done that. If that has not availed


him, I am disappointed to hear it. I have again, purely without prior


notification of this matter, and therefore off the top of my head,


two further thoughts. One is that the honourable gentleman can,


without delay, seek an adjournment debate on the matter, with the


relevant minister, in which he will have a face-to-face opportunity over


a decent period to probe the minister with the relentlessness and


tenacity for which the honourable gentleman is renowned in all parts


of the House. Secondly, he can of course use Freedom of Information


opportunities to try to ascertain the facts that he wants to


ascertain. If neither of those approaches helps, I've got a hunch


that the honourable gentleman will be raising his concern with me on


the floor again. Point of order. Momentarily I felt


moved to be charitable. I always thought that when I addressed you,


Sir, in the chair, I was addressing the House. And if I may say so, my


pleasure in so doing is magnified when I address the chair when you


are occupying it. THE SPEAKER: Well! My cup runneth


over, to be complimented by a parliamentarian of the repute of The


Right Honourable gentleman really does cause me, for the rest of the


day, to go about my business with an additional glint in my eye and


spring in my step and possibly two inches taller. I'm a happy man


indeed. I've always liked The Right Honourable gentleman in the 20 years


I have known him. And I like him even more now. If there are no


further points of order, we now come, I think he better watch


himself a little bit with the Deputy Speakers in the coming days! We come


to the backbench motion on Yemen to move the motion I call the chair of


the International Development Select Committee of the House. Mr Twigg.


Thank you, Mr Speaker. Can I first of all thank the Backbench Business


Committee for granting this very important and timely debate? It is


good to see members from all parties in the House attending this debate.


Can I pay tribute to those who have worked on this issue of Yemen for a


much longer period of than I have. My interest in this has really


arisen over the last year or so because of my role as chair of the


International Development Select Committee. I am going to focus in my


speech on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and then on the specific issue


raised in the motion around alleged violations by all sides of


international humanitarian law. I will not be addressing the specific


matter of arm sales to Saudi Arabia, as I know my friend and co-sponsor


for the motion, the honourable gentleman, the member for Warwick


and Leamington, who chairs the committees on arms export controls


will be addressing this important issue if he catches your eye. The


Yemen conflict began in early 2015. Less than two years ago. But it has


its roots in the Arab Spring of 201 1. When the President was succeeded


the movement took advantage of the new President's weakness, took


control of parts of northern Yemen and later took the capital. From


there, the conflict intensified with the intervention in 2015 of the


Saudi Arabian-led coalition, backed by US, UK and French intelligence


and on the other side the huty rebels, backed by Iraq. Yemen has


been called "the forgotten crisis." For example, by Amnesty


International. It is a crisis which surely we cannot ignore.


The President of the International Committee of the Red Cross has said


that the intensity and severity of the fighting in Yemen has left the


country looking like Syria did after five years of conflict. Since the


conflict began, nearly 10,000 people are estimated to have been killed,


with roughly 4,000 civilians losing their lives and 37,000 injured.


That is an average each day during this conflict of 75 deaths or


injuries. Surely, madam, Deputy Speaker, we cannot allow this to


continue. I pay tribute to my honourable friend and the committee


for the work they have done on committee and the member for Warwick


and Leamington. The issue here is not just the scorecard of shame that


he has told the House about, it is the access for those amazing aid


organisations. And that is why a ceasefire is so important. Does he


agree with me that the most important aspect of what we are


saying today is to get that ceasefire, so the aid can get


through? I'm grateful to my friend and in


particular pay tribute to his long-standing work on this issue and


the work of the all-party parliamentary group on Yemen. He is


absolutely right to say that a ceasefire is crucial and I'm going


to come on to the issue that he raised for access for humanitarian


organisations. So at the end of 2015, the International Development


Select Committee decided to conduct an inquiry into the crisis in Yemen


and during the course of last year, we published two reports on Yemen.


The first on our own relating specifically to the humanitarian


crisis, and the second in conjunction with the business


committee, through the work of the committees on arms export controls.


One of the recommendations in our first report was the UK Government


should put pressure on all parties to the conflict to comply with their


obligations under international humanitarian law that includes very


importantly measures to protect civilians and as my right honourable


friend reminded the House just now to allow humanitarian agencies a


safe space to operate. The humanitarian situation is grave, our


own government has described Yemen is one of the most serious


humanitarian crisis in the world. The United Nations estimates that


more than 80% of the population of Yemen, more than 20 million people


are in immediate need of humanitarian assistance. 40 million


people face food shortages, 19 million don't have access to safe


drinking water, more than 3 million have had to flee their homes because


of the conflict. The situation is particularly dire or children. The


United Nations has estimated that eight children are either killed or


maimed every day in Yemen and almost half of school age children are not


in school. Exacerbating this we have the difficulty of access for import


of essential supplies such as energy, food and medicine, this


feels the humanitarian crisis. Supplies are flowing through to the


country more quickly compare to six months ago and clearly that progress


is welcome but levels remain significantly below the position in


March 20 15. This is not only damaging the economy of the country


but any further changes in their villa availability of food risk


famine. The minister is on the front bench and putting over ?100 million


into Yemen to help relieve some of the most pressing humanitarian


challenges. The UK is the fourth largest donor to Yemen and leading


the way in these humanitarian crises but we need to do more to press


other countries to fund the relief of this crisis.


If it's giving ?100 million to Yemen, which I support, what's


happening to it because presumably it's blocked because you can get


through to the people that really needed so I suppose it's in some


bank or food store somewhere. The situation varies between different


parts of the country but I remember seeing the right honourable


gentleman sitting next to him in his previous role as the Minister, we


discussed this when he came to give evidence and one of the challenges


is one that the honourable gentleman has reminded us of, getting the


access within the country saw the aid can get through, not necessarily


requiring the UK to spend more money but to make sure we do our utmost to


get the aid through and that really brings us on to the challenges of


achieving a ceasefire but also political progress in Yemen as well.


Even in these challenging circumstances it's working to


improve food and water security and provide emergency resilience to


those most at risk. Unfortunately those organisations that have been


or still are in some cases on the ground helping to alleviate the


humanitarian situation have told the select committee that their work has


been threatened by the conflict. We know that since March 20 1513 health


workers have died, 31 have been injured, the world health


organisation tells us that more than 70 health centres have been damaged


or destroyed completely, more than 600 have closed due to damage or


shortage of supplies or staff. Last year NGO doctors of the world


withdrew from Yemen because they couldn't guarantee the safety of


their volunteers on the ground. The number of non-governmental


organisations have told us that there is a shrinking humanitarian


space in Yemen making it even more difficult for them to carry out


their work. All sides of the conflict need to comply with


international humanitarian law and one of the ways they should do so is


to ensure that humanitarian organisations work unimpeded in


Yemen. Does my honourable friend share my concern that attacks have


occurred from both sides and from the Saudi led coalition even one


chord notes have been provided. The attack on the hospital even though


the cord were provided two weeks before. I thank my honourable friend


and pay tribute to the work he's done on this issue and I agree


entirely with what he says and it brings me on to the second part of


my speech to the House this afternoon. The second major


recommendation that came out of both reports and recommended by the


Foreign Affairs Committee which disagreed with us on the question of


arms sales but agreed on this issue is that there has to be an


independent United Nations led investigation of alleged violations


of international humanitarian law by both sides in this conflict. There


have been so many allegations... I wanted to make the point in my


honourable friend that all in the Foreign Affairs Committee disagreed


with the report, it was a minority. If I might pay tribute to my


honourable friend for her long-standing interest and activity


on these issues, not least for active participation in the


committees on arm export controls which perform a vital function and


should continue. When I given the Foreign Affairs Committee report has


been mentioned, I've intended to come in at this point, I want to


point out that isn't it a fact that all three reports of the business


committee, the International development committee and the


Foreign Affairs Committee agreed by majority votes. I believe that is


the case, certainly as was by a majority vote. All three reports are


in support of this motion and therefore I'm not aware of any of


those voting in the minorities in any of the was the committees doing


so because they disagreed with this recommendation and I hope the


honourable gentleman and I have framed the motion that can enjoy


support across the House because it does. Focus on this issue of it


independent investigation. The chairman of the select committee


will say it was my particular concern when we took that vote and


my decision is on record that this independent investigation take place


and that is something which I feel very strongly about to put on record


today. I thank the honourable lady who is a great member of the


International development committee and I recall her focus was very much


we needed to see this independent investigation first and that's why


she voted in the way that she did but we were all agreed across the


committee that there should be an independent international


investigation and that featured in our first report as well as in the


second. In May 2015, the beginning of the


conflict, human rights watch accused the rebels of violations of


international law in the southern Sea port city. The crimes that were


highlighted including the killing of civilians and the arrest of aid


workers at gunpoint. Since then they had been accused of a range of other


serious alleged violations of international humanitarian law, for


example the situation in the besieged city, the prevention of the


import of basic commodities, medicine, propane and oxygen


cylinders to that city. The United Nations expert panel has documented


185 alleged abuses. As my honourable friend reminded us, medicine and


some Frontier who work often in these difficult and challenging


situations suffered the attacks on different hospitals in a three-month


period. Last September the Yemen data Project said a third of all the


Saudi led raids in Yemen have hit civilian sites on the UN High


Commissioner for human rights has estimated that 66% of the civilian


deaths in Yemen have been caused by Saudi led air strikes. The United


Nations human rights Council... Angry with him and concur with his


point but the UN panel also describe the problem facing the Saudi


coalition, the GCC countries, the Houthi rebels are operating in urban


areas and against international law, there are effectively using


civilians as human shields and yes there are problems with Saudi air


strikes, they are killing civilians but that provides a more balanced


picture of how this is occurring. Indeed it does and I will seeking to


absolutely be balanced in making the point that very serious allegations


have been made against the Houthis and I gave two examples of that and


I reiterate the point of the UN panel which is that there are 185


alleged abuses, that is why this motion argues for an independent


investigation. Into all those alleged abuses. I'm not going to


have time to answer all the questions. On this point and I


didn't want to interrupt his speech, the House is learning a lot from it,


I hope you will concede this panel of experts have put this report


together didn't actually visit the country in order to put this report


together and we need to put that into context when monitoring and


understanding what's going on, don't ignore it but somehow we should add


value, they did not enter the country, they couldn't provide the


necessary intelligence we do expect from a panel of UN experts. They


didn't enter the country because of the challenges in the country that


I've been describing, didn't wilfully decide we're not going to


bother going on, with 185, this was based on serious work done by the


United Nations and am disappointed that the minister is so dismissive


of that. This is important because it does get used as a line to say


there are over 100, the Ministry of Defence has looked at every single


one of them and there were a number of them which we've asked for more


information but to clarify and give information to the House, sorry to


labour the point, but it was done on aerial photography with months in


between, therefore we cannot ascertain unless we have more


information as to whether these actual acts of atrocities were


caused by the Houthis or the coalition themselves, that's the


point and try to make. I agree with that and that's precisely why the


motion says that we should have a fully independent international


investigation into all allegations against both sides and it may well


be that some of these violations have been committed by the Houthis,


I didn't say 105 offences by the Saudi led coalition, alleged abuses


by them and the Houthis. In supporting the honourable member,


the UN panel were blocked by the Houthis from entering and the UN


panel explained that in the report that the tide of living to get it.


The Houthis also block the peace negotiators from leaving to go to


Geneva for the peace talks as well. The Houthis have been complicit in


creating this problem. He is absolutely right, I have heard


nobody in all of these debates and discussions, in the international


development committee suggesting the Houthis not to blame and that's why


the proposal is that we should haven't investigation into abuses in


all sides of this conflict. Maybe my honourable friend will be coming on


to this, but the discussions seems to be going on the basis of the


Saudi led coalition versus the Houthis comma is this not rather


missing the very unhelpful and sinister role played by the


Iranians, particularly in providing conventional weaponry and without


going into the data, I would suspect that many more people have been


killed, injured and dispossessed by the use of conventional weaponry of


which there is steady pipeline coming into Yemen from Iran when


actually by our action. I have already mentioned the role of Iran


in supporting the Houthis and any independent international UN led


investigation would certainly address the issue of Iranian


involvement but I reiterate the point I just made which is the UN


High Commissioner for human rights has estimated that two thirds of all


the civilian deaths in Yemen have actually been caused by the Saudi


led coalition. Indeed, isn't one of the very reasons why we need a full


independent investigation that were not clear about what has been


assessed and by who. The Saudis haven't given reports back on the


vast majority of the allegations that have been made whether they are


correct or not and were not clear what the government has or has not


assessed and they change their position an abrupt end on whether


they have taken an assessment or not. It needed corrections to the


House and have been revealed that they make mistakes in the efforts


they provided us. That enables me now to move the


timeline. I'm not going to give way because I want to move on to the


timeline. I'm not going to give way because I want to move on to the


United Nations human rights Council discussed Yemen in September 20 15.


The government of the Netherlands tabled a motion to the human rights


Council that would have mandated what this motion is proposing. 16


months ago the Netherlands tabled a motion that would have set up a


mission to document violations by all sides of the conflict since it


began. The Netherlands withdrew the draft on September 30, 2015, and


instead the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution tabled by Arab


states which deleted calls for an independent enquiry. On the 24th of


November 2015, the Foreign Office minister told this House that Saudi


Arabia was investigating reported allegations of IHL. Saying, these


investigations must be concluded, the situation on the ground is very


difficult and in many cases we are unable to verify what is happening


on the ground. We are wanting to encourage Saudi Arabia and other


parties that are involved and we want these cases looked into


efficiently and properly by the country itself. That is 14 months


ago. On the 3rd of February last year, almost a year ago, during


questions the right honourable gentleman the former Difid minister


said the government was supporting the implementation of the Human


Rights Council resolution and he said the government of Yemen should


investigate violations of international humanitarian law. The


following day, during a business debate, the Foreign Office minister


said again he had raised this issue directly with the government of


Saudi Arabia. That is almost a year ago. Then we conducted our first


enquiry as a committee. On July the 8th, last year, the government


published its response to the report. The government response


said, the UK Government is not opposing calls for an international


independent investigation into the alleged breaches of IHL. But, first


and foremost, we want to see the Saudi Arabian government investigate


allegations of breaches of IHL which are attributed to them. That is six


months ago. In August, following the corrections to which my honourable


friend referred, I wrote to the Foreign Secretary regarding these


corrections that have been given to P Qs and Westminster Hall debates


regarding allegations of investigations of IHL. The Foreign


Office's response reiterated what had been said in response to our


enquiry, in other words that the Saudis should investigate. Last


September during an urgent question tabled by my right honourable friend


the member for Leeds Central, the minister said Saudi Arabia as to


conduct thorough and conclusive investigations into incidents where


it is alleged to breach IHL, and praise the fact that Saudi Arabia


had released the results of eight reports in the previous month. That


was four months ago. Then in October during an adjournment debate tabled


by my right honourable friend from Leicester East, the Dfid Minister of


State reiterated that Saudi Arabia needs to be the party that


investigates violations. We are very clear that the investigation needs


to be led in the first instance by the Saudis. The government


repeatedly, over the last 14 months, have been asked about Saudi Arabia's


investigations. To my knowledge, Saudi Arabia have produced nine


reports on violations. Even though there have been many other


allegations made. Progress, I believe, on this is glacial. I find


it remarkable that the government still holds the line that Saudi


Arabia must take responsibility for investigating its own alleged


violations. I give way to the Minister. Forgive me for


interrupting again but I think it's helpful to provide further clarity


as he developed his own argument. Firstly on the Human Rights Council


itself and the formation of texts, we've seen this at the UN security


Council more recently with resolution 2334. It is consensus


that eventually leads to a text that is agreed by everybody so it can


actually pass. Secondly, it just to test your patience, to say that


absolutely these reports have been far too slow. The reason it is


because we are dealing with a country that has never written a


report like this in their lives and they are having to learn the hard


way to show the transparency that the international community expects.


I thank the Minister for those points of clarification which I


appreciate. Of course I recognise the way in which United Nations


bodies, whether the Human Rights Council or the Security Council,


operate. The point I was seeking to make was that the original text from


the Netherlands would have enabled the investigation to begin over a


year ago, because of the diplomacy hasn't happened. My argument today


is that that has been a missed opportunity. We could have started


at a much earlier stage. The point I would like to make which was made by


my honourable friend, is this process is slow because we are


talking about a fledgling state. Saudi Arabia. This is still a very


young state which is not used to this level of scrutiny and


transparency. And so it will take a long time for these reports to come


out. The honourable lady anticipates the final remarks I want to make in


this speech because she used the word slow, the minister used the


word slow, I used the word glacial. I think it is glacial, it is too


slow. The substantial point I look forward to the Minister responding


to when he speaks in the debate, at what point will the British


government take the view that we need to move to an independent


enquiry? I quoted from six months ago the government saying that the


British government is not opposed to calls for an independent


international enquiry, but first and foremost we want to see the Saudi


Arabian government investigate. We've had that for 14 months. How


much longer do we have to wait before we can move to an independent


investigation? I wonder whether he and others are aware that the MoD


had delivered two training sessions in Saudi Arabia on the process of


investigating alleged violations of international humanitarian law. I'm


sure he'd hoped that during those training sessions the MoD underlined


the importance of dealing with these matters in an expedited manner.


Absolutely and I'm sure the Minister will have more to say on that. Of


course, if that is the purpose of those sessions, and it is reminding


all parties they have obligations, it is vital that that happens. My


belief, and the view that was taken not just by the International


Development Committee but other select committees of this House, was


that we will only get the full investigation that we need if it is


completely independent. I think the time has come, has more than, and is


long overdue, for us as a country to move to support a fully independent,


international investigation. It is not acceptable for us to wait


indefinitely for the Saudi Arabians to conduct their own investigations


while people are still dying in this conflict. In talking about an


enquiry, Morocco have 15 jets, Jordan have 15 jets. It's not Saudi


Arabia, it's the Arab League as well. UAE have 30 jets and are they


involved in this enquiry? As I made clear throughout every intervention


on this, the enquiry will be into all allegations made against any


party to the conflict. It is quite clear that the Saudis lead this


coalition and for their alleged violations, they will be


investigated. My honourable friend reminded us earlier the Iranians


will also require investigation as well. Very briefly, who dropped the


bomb is then? In the allegations, who do we know who dropped these air


strikes? Predominately Saudi Arabia, there is little doubt about that.


The Saudis have the predominant airpower. But it isn't only about


the alleged violations that involve airpower, it is about all of the


alleged violations including shelling by the Houthis, that must


be investigated, actions by all sides. That is the purpose of saying


today that we want to see an independent international


investigation. I'll finish with this. I think this motion enables us


as a house to come together. It enables us to put to one side the


different points of view there are on the question of UK arms sales to


Saudi Arabia and others, this motion is not about that. And I reiterate


that while the International Development Committee and the


business select committee took one view on arms sales and the Foreign


Affairs Committee took a different view on arms sales, all three


committees took the view we should have an independent, UN led


investigation. I think today provides this House an opportunity


to send a very clear message to the government but also to the wider,


international community, that we want to see progress, in fact, we


want to seek urgent and immediate progress to enable a fully


independent investigation to take place. The question is on the order


paper. Before I call the next person to speak it will be obvious to the


House that there will be a great many people who wish to speak this


afternoon, that there is limited time. I would like to try not to


impose a time limit because the debate flows better if we don't have


a time limit. I trust honourable members to behave in a courteous


manner to their colleagues by speaking for around seven minutes.


If lots of people speak for considerably more than that, we will


have a time limit and that will be unfair to some people. I know that I


can trust Alistair Burt to begin. Thank you Madam Deputy Speaker.


Could I begin firstly by thanking the honourable gentleman the


chairman of the committee and his colleagues for a very thorough


report, that we are going to debate, for both committees and the way he's


introduced what is a difficult and complex situation. Please to welcome


my honourable friend Minister for the Middle East and International


development in their places and we will listen very carefully to their


responses. I start simply by saying I was Minister for the Middle East


between 2010 and 2013, I was also responsible for arms control within


the department. I have some background on these difficult


issues. I don't want to spend a huge amount of time on the humanitarian


statistics, simply because we are well aware of them. The honourable


gentleman got them into the public domain quite effectively. I'd also


like to thank very much the library of the House of Commons for


producing another excellent background brief. I'd also like to


thank Stephen O'Brien for his remarkable work through the UN


relief agency. Just a quote from him, to put one quite on the order


paper if I may. When he spoke about the recent attack on the funeral,


the attack took place against the backdrop of a desperately worsening


humanitarian situation, four out of every five of Yemen's 20 million


people in need of immediate assistance. He said, I was in Sana'a


and saw the heartbreaking situation for myself. Parents struggling to


put food in the mouths of their children once a date, entire


communities terrifyingly affected by conflict and without access to basic


services or livelihoods. The issue is always not simply the relief of


the humanitarian pressures. We can do more on that, that doesn't solve


the problem. I want to talk about the elements of the motion of the


conflict and the impact on civilians, and how this conflict can


be resolved. To me, that is the most important thing. If the humanitarian


crisis is to be ended it is through an the conflict. I am exceptionally


fond of Yemen. My visit from 2010-2013 not only introduced me to


some of the leaders there, but also in 2011 some of the young people,


some of the women in the squares in Sana'a who helped to start to change


the country then. Things haven't gone well and the people of Yemen


have been betrayed once again by those who have responsibility for


them in their own country. I hope the spark of reform that was there


is not lost in the Yemen of the future. And I hope that the


political settlement which will eventually come, will include those


who hadn't been included in the past. Because they have a role to


play. The reason we have the conflict is because of that betrayal


in the past, the manipulation of all sites in the conflict, of various


conflicts over a length of time. The ability to use aid money that went


into the country for the wrong purposes. The failure of governance,


the failure of a process to deal with internal grievances that


included the Houthis, all of this has led to a situation where it


suits some to continue the conflict internally but the cost is borne by


the people of Yemen. It is essential that we recognise and understand


that. It is understandable from the outside that we focus on the


humanitarian crisis, and also to a degree, that we focus on the role of


Saudi Arabia. It is essential to recognise that if we want to make a


difference, we have to look at and understand why the conflict has


persisted as long as it has. The reason it exists is because it


exists on the back of that civil strife that has been going on a long


time. It exists because Yemen is generally


important, it matters, it shouldn't be forgotten, it shouldn't be


forgotten country. In the busy humanitarian sense, this is a


country of art, culture, music, this is a country of gentle people who


given a great deal to the world, it's terrible that in our time we


associated with the conflict that we do. Secondly its geographical


position, it overlooks important ceilings and the Houthis have attack


ships in the area. If there's an stability in the region it matters


to us. This may be a far-away place of which many people may not know


very but it matters. Accordingly its location, the ability to exploit


that ungoverned space by Al-Qaeda which can direct attacks towards us


and others in the West, it becomes increasingly a matter of concern and


importance to us and the instability in the region generally, none of us


in the House need any further information about that.


Understanding that gives us an understanding of why the coalition


came together, quite it needs a UN resolution and wind the United


Kingdom has an involvement. The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is directly


affected by instability in Yemen. Firstly, it can be and has been


physically attacked between 2015 and 2016 some 37 ballistic missiles were


fired by Houthi rebels to Saudi Arabia inflicting damage. Sometimes


it's got to be purely an internal issue in Yemen and the Houthis not


considered to be well armed but they are indeed. These micelles supplied


by North Korea in the 90s have a range of 300 kilometres and are


being shot down by US Patriot defence missile systems procured by


Saudi Arabia from the United States. As the honourable gentleman


indicates, there are serious armaments in the area and causing


concern to all sides and the reason why the coalition is there and I


would maintain that it is in the United Kingdom's interest to


continue to support the coalition to support the partners in the


coalition and to recognise what is being challenged there. It is not


only the loss of a democratically supported government but it's the


degree of influence has already been mentioned by Iraq. The Iranians have


said publicly that they see the city is yet another B Holt and the risk


and of that is a regime with a very clear intent to destabilise the


region, to use terrorism to do so and to threaten stability in other


areas. The consequence of that, not only an unstable region but for


those outside is that the degree of risk to United Kingdom and others is


increased. Accordingly the outcome of this conflict, if it is a


conflict in which Iranians are successful and terrorism are


successful is not in the United Kingdom's interest. The honourable


member mentions less than 20 scud strikes which are to be deplored.


The coalition air forces are engaging in 150 air strikes and more


per day was that there is a disproportionality here which


everyone in this house should recognise. It's very easy for us in


these comfortable benches in Westminster to talk about a


disproportionality and a conflict far away. The point I'm making to


the honourable gentleman is that in the Andy King we've had a focus on


the activities of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia without truly


understanding why it's engages, why the coalition is there and by the


United Kingdom has an interest in this and I simply wanted to put that


on the record, it does not in any way minimise the reason and the need


for humanitarian law to be respected, for the activities of


those who engage in warfare to conduct according to the rules but


it does come into the argument which is really made as to why on earth we


are engaged anyway and why the outcome of it matters to do United


Kingdom. Just finally. I have enormous respect for him and his


experience and listening very carefully to what he has to say but


for me the crucial issue here is about respect for international and


humanitarian law, what is his answer to the point that I raised and what


point would be like to look at these matters independently rather than


leaving it to the Saudis to lead the investigation? I think that point


comes when the United Kingdom government is not satisfied that the


Kingdom of Saudi Arabia can fulfil its obligations. At that stage I


don't believe that position has been reached. I'm sure the minister will


talk about the nature of our engagement with the Saudi Arabia and


how it affects as he says a state and indeed a group of states through


the GCC that are engaged in a conflict in a manner they haven't


been before. There is an important point, if we expect people another


part of the world to be responsible for their own defence and security


then they are going to have to get on with it and they're learning some


of the processes, that is happening at present and secondly the nature


of our engagement, I refer all colleagues to the report by Frank


Gardner of the BBC just before Christmas he reported and published


something on the BBC website, it's very good, most of us recognise that


Frank Gardner is a pretty independent voice parties looked at


the nature of engagement, the openness of the Saudi authorities in


dealing with him, explaining what they do, the openness of the Foreign


Minister Saudi Arabia coming to this house of which any member of this


chamber had access to to talk about these issues to question in a manner


not before is an important step forward. So everything we know is by


no means perfect, by no means clear but the steps that have been taken


by the British Government to encourage full disclosure have been


important. I must close because Madam Deputy Speaker was generous


and I want to finish on this. We are beginning to learn that the


importance of ending a conflict is paramount to the people who are


affected by it but there are good outcomes and their are less than


good outcomes and unless we are involved is something we can see


outcomes to conflict that are not in our long-term interest and not in


the interest of stability in the area, that is why we should continue


to support our allies who are working through the coalition,


continue to be engaged fully with them and to recognise that Aaron 's


rest is lie in a situation where does not create a terrorist cell in


Yemen, does not see Hezbollah type operation active in Yemen and that


those states that Opel is that a right to consider that their


long-term stability and ours is best satisfied by a solution which ends


the conflict and puts in place a democratic government supported by


you many is and political process, not the outside interference of


Iran. If anyone should be allowed to


exceed their six minutes as the honourable member for North East


Bedfordshire. He's worth all the minutes that he speaks about this


very important subject because we recognise those of us who'd been in


the all-party Yemen group and I've chaired it or almost as long as


President Szalai was president of Yemen, 26 years. He has always been


when he was in government and indeed now he's out of government very


aware of the importance of this beautiful country and his personal


concern that it is being hacked and it is suffering every single day. He


describes Yemen as the forgotten war. I'm extremely proud of being a


member of this house because what has been very clear over the last


few months is that Yemen is not the forgotten war in this house. Foreign


Office questions on Tuesday of this week, 48 hours ago, 26 minutes in


total of the 45 minutes available work dedicated to some aspect of the


situation in Yemen. In addition to members of the all-party group, the


member for Portsmouth South, a fellow we hosted Yemen day for the


first time in a number of years when we had excellent speeches from the


two ministers representing the government today. From


one importantly we could interact with members of the year


Yemeni community. It's the people of Yemen who are suffering. It's the


families of the people of Yemen who live in different parts of this


country, some in Liverpool, I'm not sure if any in Warwick in Leamington


but I'm so pleased that the honourable member has co-sponsored


this debate but they're all over the country and they feel powerless to


do what they need to do in order to bring this matter to the attention


of this house and the international community. So I'm delighted that yet


again we're having a debate on Yemen and that this on Thursday afternoon,


when it is not usually this well attended, so many members are coming


and we probably could have had a much longer debate mad and they


probably could have had a much longer debate Madam Vicky the


Speaker. I want to confine my remarks -- Madam Deputy Speaker. I


want to convey the urgency of a ceasefire and the importance of a


ceasefire and well, the Shadow Foreign Secretary said at Foreign


Office questions on Tuesday and the focus of the opposition fund which


is also the focus of the government. I hate it when we fight over Yemen,


whether it is on party lines on whether it is about the role of


Saudi Arabia or what is happening as far as the investigations are


concerned and we clearly need investigations as the motion


suggests. I want is desperately to unite behind one concept, the


importance of the ceasefire. A few weeks ago I was at the UN security


council because of the ability of Matthew Rycroft to get


parliamentarians in, I watched my fights ever after 30 years in this


house, my first-ever live session of the security Council and every


single member of the security council wanted to do something in


support of a ceasefire. It was unanimous. All the permanent


members, everybody, they had little digs at each other and asked for a


role but the most important thing is that all the countries spoke with


one voice. And that's why it's so important that the draft resolution


that is really our resolution because we are at the pen holders


should be tabled before the United Nations as a matter of urgency. And


I know what the Minister said to the shadow minister that really terrible


resolutions when we know they will be implemented but I don't have the


figures as to how many resolutions of the UN have actually been


implemented. They have got about 2500. But the fact is we need that


resolution because the best way to guarantee that people are focusing


on the peace process and the ceasefire is if the United Nations


speaks with one voice. That is why I seek a timetable from the government


today a timetable to ensure that we get that resolution for the Security


Council. I was delighted with the ceasefire that was brokered over


Syria that the Russians and the Turks were able to make sure we had


peace in Syria. That was wobbly but this was followed by the UN


endorsing the ceasefire. If you can have it in Syria, why can't we have


it in Yemen? And if we take the Foreign Secretary at his word and


I'm very pleased with the role he's played and the honesty with which


the Foreign Secretary has spoken about Yemen, then the British


Foreign Secretary working with the new Secretary of State and with the


Russians who are now the friends of the Americans or will be after the


20th of January, the Chinese will go along with it, I met the Chinese


ambassador recently and asked if China would support the ceasefire


and he said they would and the French are on board. Five permanent


members are going to be on board and the other countries are so


supportive, I think we can get this through. So pleased when he replies


could he tell us when that timetable is going to be achieved. My final


point is about the aid agencies, the chairman of the International


Development Select Committee has read out the scorecard a shame, the


3.3 million women and children who are malnourished, the 370,000


children who are in immediate risk of starvation, the 7 million who do


not know where their next meal is coming from, the 10 million who have


no access to safe drinking water, the four fifths of the entire


population, 21 million, equivalent to the populations of London,


Birmingham, Liverpool and Glasgow combined who are in desperate need


of urgent assistance and these incredible organisations from


medicines through to Islamic relief, the world foundation of KF IMC.


Oxfam, the disasters emergency fund, all these people trying as the


honourable member, another person who knows about Yemen so well when


he served there, where is the aid going, the aid cannot get in


effectively unless the planes land at Sana'a and unless the ports can


accept the aid. We have to have a ceasefire. If there is a goal I have


this year and my new Year 's resolution, if we can have a


collective New Year 's resolution for the House is that by the 31st of


December we will have peace in Yemen a proper political solution and


until we get that members of this house will continue to raise this


subject so the forgotten war is never forgotten and we bring peace


to this beautiful Oedipal country. -- beautiful. Stewart.


The south-east tip of the Arabian Peninsular has been a matter of


importance to us for at least 200 years. It was crucial to the


functioning of the British Empire, and particularly after 1869 with the


Suez Canal opening, when the route to India was much shorter. When oil


came to replace coal, Aden became even more important. Time passed and


the Aden Protectorate became part of our Empire. And indeed the British


government had to ruin it through 23 sheikdoms, tribal areas. These


tribal areas, 23 of them, were not great friends with one another, and


that remains to this day. We can't just think of them, as the Houthis,


they are all different tribes. That's the problem, that's where I


came in. In the 50s when the honourable gentleman and his sister


were born, when I was there in Aden... LAUGHTER I understand you


were born there and your sister might not have been? I'm sorry, the


honourable gentleman's system might not have been. I was definitely not


born there and I was a little boy there. My father was with the Aden


Protectorate and... I give way. The worst thing about giving an


intervention from the sedentary position is the honorary gentleman


didn't hear what I said. We were both born there. It's just he said


we were born when he arrived in Aden I was just making the point the two


events weren't connected! LAUGHTER Thank God for that! My interest in


Aden comes from my time when I was a little boy. I loved the place. It


was a great place to grow up between 1954-57. What a fabulous place to


be, if you were on the right side. Since 1990 Yemen has gone from bad


to worse and has become a sort of cockpit which some say is a fighting


area between the two branches of Islam. That may be the case but


don't think they are oh no -- they are the same on both sides, they are


not. It does stretch credulity the uranium regime has defined the


Houthis as Shia -- rode the Irani and regime. It is more mischief


making Barnby Orthodox theological position. And into that cockpit,


more mischief making comes with the arrival of AQAP and Daesh. These are


not native to Yemen. These are not people who really should be a


Yemeni. These are people who came in from outside. And actually, it is a


great tragedy that the Security Council resolution 2316, which was


passed unanimously, has not had much effect. In a way it is a disgrace on


the world. It had so little effect. I give way again to a gentleman who


talk such sense on this subject. You referred to Isis, of course prices


are developing in a vacuum. What the UN panel identified was where this


vacuum exists, where the Houthis threaten from one side and there is


no stabilisation force on the ground, that people, towns,


communities, are turning to the black flag as a way of community


against what is a sub sect of Shia, the Houthis, coming at them. They


are using it as a defence mechanism. That is the problem, an absence of


any government and people wanting to protect themselves. As ever it's the


little people who are suffering in this war. 7000 people have died,


apparently. To me, that rings bells with a number of people killed at


Srebrenica which I was kind of involved with all those years ago.


When Srebrenica occurred, the world suddenly got its backside in gear


and sorted it out. I go back to my original point, which is let's hope


2017 sort this out. Because clearly, Madam Deputy Speaker, there is a


political solution that must be had somewhere rather. Firstly, people


have got to meet both sides have got to meet. They've tried and it's very


difficult, but that's the only way forward. This diplomat from


Mauritius seems to be respected on all sides. That is the first thing


you require, a chairman or chairwoman who is respected.


Negotiations must actually be protected. My second point is that


those people negotiating should be able to do so in safety. They've had


some problems in the Gulf, so perhaps moved to Geneva, the


traditional place for negotiations if necessary. The third point must


be a ceasefire that will hold. The recognition of ceasefires, is that


although they are written on paper, they inevitably won't hold. They


will never be perfect and therefore we almost should expect the -- that


if there is a ceasefire there there will be breaches and we've got to


live with that. I will give way. As the honourable gentleman been able


to seek the draft text of the resolution the British have drafted


and not yet put before the Security Council? Clause one calls for a


ceasefire and references the UN route map. Has the honourable


gentleman seen up and agree that maybe the basis for negotiations? I


haven't read it but it sounds very sensible and logical. Everything has


got to be sensible and logical in sorting out problems. Of course I've


already alluded to the fact, AQAP and Daesh are not local. There is a


point of joint between the protagonists, they all hate these


people who have come in from outside. They are part of the enemy


and they should not be involved. My fifth points is that we should


withdraw, there should be a withdrawal of Armed Forces from


Sana'a and other towns. This will be very difficult but it probably


involves the fact we require UN peacekeepers of some sort. I think


of the model of the British going into Rhodesia and separating people.


That's good. We can't do it because whoever the peacekeepers are,


probably should be from an Islamic State. But good, military officers,


and good, military troops, should go in, if there is to be some kind of


resolution. The UN will have two grip this one. Obviously a political


solution is the objective. I very much hope that this year we will get


it. For goodness sake, if Yemen is a forgotten war, colleagues, if Yemen


is a forgotten war, let's not make it forgotten and let's actually make


it a forgotten war by next year because it's over. Thank you. Mike


Gibbs. Madam Deputy Speaker I, unlike several who have spoken in


the debate already, have never been to Yemen. But I was last September


in demand. What is interesting about Oman which has a border with Yemen,


is that Oman has managed in a very difficult situation to stay out of


this conflict. The Iranians are trying to smuggle weaponry into


Yemen through Oman. Yemenis fleeing from the conflict are being treated


in Omani hospitals. And there is a potential for the issue to have a


wider role. Interestingly, and this is probably not widely known, the


Omanis are not or Sunni, they are a particularly small group of people,


and they have a particular distinctive position within the


history of Islam. But so did the group we now call the Houthis.


Although it is quite clear that this is a regional conflict with Saudi


Arabia and the GCC countries, and as my friend said, countries from North


Africa also involved as part of the UN mandated comic UN supported


coalition, on the other side you have Irani and Hezbollah, and


Hezbollah are commanders -- have commanders who died in Yemen. In a


sense, what we have seen in Syria with an alliance of a group who


worry particular branch, close to Houthis but complicated -- Shiism


but complicated, in alliance with Iran and Russia. In the Yemen we


have something similar. We have a coalition of Sunni governments,


supporting a government which is weak, in what has become a failed


state. On the other side you've got a coalition with the former


President, meddling and refusing to accept the transition to the new


government. Former President. You are in a position where the idea of


a political solution is probably even more difficult than Syria.


Because the United States is not in any real position to influence the


outcome here, whereas Russia has an influence in Syria. This potentially


has serious ramifications. The Houthis fired missiles at ships of


the United Arab Emirates. They also fired missiles at the United States


naval vessels. There is a potential of the widening of this conflict,


and as a regional security issue, it is quite right that the United


Nations Security Council has too engage with it. The situation,


however, is not one where we can simply say that Saudi Arabia and


Irani can solve this. Because the actors internally are not simply


proxies for Irani Saudi Arabia. Therefore, to crudely say we should


condemn the British government's support to the Saudis, or, on the


other side, we should condemn the Iranians's support for the Houthis,


is not going to take us anywhere. And I suspect, sadly, even if we


were to have a regional deal whereby Irani and Saudi Arabia have a big


bargain, and they agree a common position on the Israel Palestine


conflict, you would still find this conflict in Yemen might still be


continuing because of these factors. It needs urgency, international


involvement, and remember, these people are amongst the very poorest


people in the wilds. They are suffering not just warfare, but they


are also suffering terrible poverty, partly because of mismanagement and


misgovernment over many years. Chris White. Thank you. I am pleased to


have secured this debate alongside the honourable member for Liverpool


West Derby and bank the Backbench Business Committee for granting us


this opportunity. The conflict in Yemen between the Saudi led


coalition and the Houthi rebels has created grave instability and


danger. Amnesty International has stated the conflict has seen


violations of international humanitarian law committed by both


sides with impunity. UN reports suggest around 60% of air strikes


during the war have been conducted by Saudi led forces. The committees


on arms airport controls had an enquiry last year on the sale of UK


arms to Saudi Arabia. It is clear to me that there is an urgent need for


the government to suspend such licences, pending the results of an


independent UN led investigation into potential breaches of


international humanitarian law. This was the position taken by the joint


report of the Business, Innovation and Skills and international


development select committees, in conclusion of that enquiry.


Meanwhile, since the report, the government has repeated its view


that the Saudis should be allowed to conduct their own investigations.


is a Saudi led joint incidents assessment team has only initiated


something around 15 investigations, almost two years into the conflict.


The number of credible allegations are well over 100. Furthermore,


feedback that the team is limited to press releases and press conferences


rather than comprehensive reports. During the Defence Secretary in a


statement on the 19th of December I ask my right honourable friend the


circumstances under which the government would pause arms sales to


Saudi Arabia. If we have evidence of international humanitarian law being


breached, I point to the devastating twin attack on the funeral hall in


Sana'a killing 140 and injuring as many as 500. According to UN the


attacks were minutes apart targeting a location where it was known that


senior Houthi officials were assembling between families and


children. The US has launched a review into that attack and have a


position as guided munitions worth around $350 --'s $50 million citing


systemic and endemic problems with Saudi targeting in Yemen. -- $350


million. For an attack to not be able to distinguish those fighting


in a conflict and civilians points to international humanitarian law


being broken. We should be an example with our licensing regime


the response of these challenges. Criteria of our arms export


licensing regime are busy authorisation to arm themselves if


there is a clear risk of a violation of international humanitarian law. I


asked the minister and his response today what point is this threshold


met. The evidence that the committee of arms export controls heard was


the compelling in suggesting that this is very much a clear risk. I


have heard arguments that claim if we don't supply arms a nation with a


weaker licensing regime will do so instead. I would pre-empt any such


point today and suggest this is no way to approach any situation, not


least the sale of weapons. We must be accountable for our own actions,


particularly if we are to be an example in cementing. Cementing the


rule of law into our practices was that such a position does not fulfil


our obligations of the criteria and the law and unless we wish to become


one of these other weaker countries we should maintain that position. A


legal opinion in December 2015 by matrix Chambers argues that the sale


of UK arms constitutes a violation of our obligations under national,


international and EU law. I pre-empt the widely recognised point that our


strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia is one that must be


maintained. I absolutely agree with this position but would say that


this does not extend to as acting as its proxy defence. We pride


ourselves in a relationship with Saudi Arabia but that must not be a


mechanism to deflect criticism. Our close ties should not be used to


support... Thank you very much for giving way. The primary purpose of


this debate on my own personal feelings is the people of Yemen and


the objective is clear. It is a ceasefire. That's the primary


objective in order to relieve the situation in Yemen. Stopping arms


sales to Saudi Arabia as a bogus argument and will put to him this,


you've seen the arms sales of Russians to President Assad and you


seen the devastation in Aleppo. I find it incredible that you can make


the argument about ethical arms sales and our ethical arms sales and


then allow Saudi Arabia using our petrol pounds to go and buy arms for


whoever they want and you see the devastation if they were to buy


Russian arms in Aleppo, it's a ridiculous argument. Thank you for


the final point. I would suggest were the honourable member talks


about ethics, he is missing my point entirely. This is not necessarily


about ethics, this is about the rule of law and the criteria for our arms


exports licensing carrot here are -- criteria. Would you still might like


to make a point? I would echo the comments of my Lancashire neighbour.


Also, the question of the relationship with Saudi Arabia, with


the honourable gentleman not recognise that through the good


offices of government ministers like the Minister in his place, the


behaviour of Saudi Arabia has changed and accepting they are no


longer going to use cluster bombs. I would answer very briefly to say


that the government had already been in discussions with Saudi Arabia


regarding cluster munitions in 2010 and I don't think the Saudi Arabian


government took a large amount of notice of our government persuasion


until after the events when these munitions were identified. The chair


of the committee is making a strong speech and I wonder if he agrees


with me that there's a much wider principle, this house on both sides


and governments have led the world in arguing for the arms trade is


treated and the other arms export control criteria so we have a rules


-based system for our defence industry to operate within, one that


adheres to humanitarian principles. Does he not agree that principle is


at stake if we don't adhere to it? I'm sorry, I'm probably getting well


past the Deputy Speaker's patients. The Defence Secretary's statement on


the 19th, to go back to the specific question learned that the


government's findings that British made cluster munitions had been used


by the Saudi led coalition in May 20 16. This has a number of


implications as is cause for concern but challenged the Minister on the


responsiveness of our exports resume. It's on unacceptable that an


international ally uses a weapon manufactured in Britain with


complete disregard for the 2008 Convention on cluster munitions of


which the UK is a signatory. I will continue, my apologies. If I get a


strange look I will give way shortly. We are duty bound by the


2008 Convention to prevent use of cluster munitions and die as what


steps were taken to him as the Saudis of our opposition of the use


and convince them to decommission these weapons. I recognised the


government has not sold cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia since 1989


but it is important to consider the durability of arm munitions. I will


give way. We do know that the UK Government stopped supplying cluster


munitions to Saudi Arabia in 1989. However we also know that the UK


Government continued to maintain those horrific weapons until 2010,


now that the minister will tell us why that contract was in place for


21 years but the crucial point I think is and does the member agreed


me that the accountability should extend beyond simply sales but


maintenance contract also. I would agree with the honourable member


that it will be instinctive year the Minister's response for that. The


humanitarian crisis requires an urgent and comprehensive response


from the international community. Everyone in this chamber agrees with


that. As each month goes by and casualties grow, the case for an


independent UN led investigation into potential breaches becomes all


the more compelling from a UK perspective and to protect our


reputation, an example to the world in terms of arms export licences, it


is right we suspend our sale of arms to Saudi Arabia until the UN led


investigation is completed. Just before I call the next figure I


should remind the House a few honourable gentleman this afternoon


have used the word you when really they meant one or they should have


said the honourable gentleman or the honourable lady. Now I haven't


interrupted people because I don't wish to spoil the flow of their


arguments but it must be noted that that is inappropriate use of


language and the debate does work much better if we keep it in the


third person. Yemen is one of the oldest


civilisations within the Gulf. A unified Yemeni state was not formed


until 1990. I urge members to look at the timeline for this. It has a


history of war, assassinations, political, civil and internal


conflict and then thrown in earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and


landslides. It has a history and the toll of misery in many respects.


Then in 1992 along came Al-Qaeda. We have a little of Al-Qaeda initially


but then following the 2000 attack on the USS call violence grew from


Al-Qaeda. In 2009 Saudi and Yemeni branches merged to form Al-Qaeda in


the Arab and insular and the death toll has risen yearly. --


peninsular. The northern -based Houthis, the insurgency against the


government started to grow in 2004. The Houthis adhere to a branch of


Shia Islam. The president of Yemen following unification with the South


in 1990. He was forced to leave office in 2012, since when he's


fought alongside the Houthis two control Yemen. During his time in


power he amassed a fortune between 30 and 62 billion. The report claims


the assets including gold, cash, property and other commodities are


held in various names in at least 20 countries. In 2012 the President was


inaugurated as Houthis the took over large parts of the country. The


president is supported by the Gulf cooperation Council and the military


alliance said is often led by Saudi Arabia. In April 2015 the UN


security Council impose an arms embargo on Yemen's rebels and allies


including the former president and his son. That arms embargo has been


broken many times by the Iranians. The 2016 global terrorism index


lists Yemen as fitting the sixth highest level of terrorism in the


world. Of the 20 most fatal terrorist attacks in 2015, two were


in Yemen carried out by Houthi extremists. In 2015 1591 Yemen were


killed in terrorist attacks and the groups carried out 90% of the


attacks. The Houthi, Al-Qaeda and now a new group, the Isa affiliates.


Houthi Still claimed responsibility for 63% of the deaths and 62% of the


attacks. The majority of which targets private citizens and


property. There is no doubt that violence as Gulf Yemen. The country


has a history of conflict between its religious, ethnic groups. Its


leadership has a history of failing the ordinary people of Yemen. It is


naive to suggest that Yemen is not also a proxy battle for dominance


between Sunni and Shia powers of drawing in wealthier and more


powerful regional countries. The Houthi have also launched attacks on


Saudi Arabia, their neighbour. I'm not going to repeat all of the


information that we've had about the famine and disease and the death


toll is that we're seeing as a result of the conflict. This


disastrous situation has reached a stalemate.


Ceasefires and peace deals have been made and broken. There doesn't seem


to be any side that sees a real interest in reaching and maintaining


a settlement. In a region where the horrific barrel bombing of civilians


in Aleppo, a rising tide of refugees, murder, rape, torture is


of followers different religious groups are frequent, the warring


parties in the conflict have me Houthi no real impetus in getting


behind peace initiatives. The UN special envoy has worked hard, and I


appreciate that. There's little in the motion before us today that I


don't think anyone in house would not support. I'm not going to get


into a tit-for-tat argument about whether or not the Saudis are the


main problem here, is the coalition the problem here. The problem is, we


don't have a clear road map to resolve this conflict. I looked at


what I thought was a very, very good report from Chatham House. It's one


of the UK's best independent think tank. It is a group that can be


trusted to take an impartial view. They point out, as others have, that


the conflict is multipolar, fuelled by regional and international


support from various parties involved in the fighting. The broad


consensus among international policymakers is the it can be


brought to a sustainable end is through political mediation. But we


need to have tensions that are rife, not only between the two warring


factions, between the two ex-presidents, we need to tackle


those tensions, because the groups are also deeply divided. So, if you


come down on the side of the Houthi, or you come down on the other side,


ultimately an ongoing civil war will still emerge. We need a peace


process that is more inclusive. I have to say, I wish we would all


listen much more to the member for North East Bedfordshire who happens


to be one of the great experts in this region. There needs to be a


prioritised, elite, we need to move away from prioritising elite level


mediation and security concerns, particularly counterterrorism edged


tips, to look at the economic needs of the population --


counterterrorism initiatives. The process will need to give equal


right to bottom up, grassroots local approach to peace building,


alongside top-down, elite led interests, and ensure the political


security and economic tracts of the transition are interlinked rather


than dealt with separately. Failure to expand representation and to


focus on local government will lead to renewed hostilities at a local


level, that could push Yemen in a step closer to becoming a chaotic


state. There are many reasons why we in the UK need to look with great


attention at what is happening in Yemen. If you look at the map, Yemen


sits on a narrow waterway linking the red Sea with the Gulf of Aden


through which most of the world's oil and trade traverses. Security


and stability in the Straits is vital to the whole of the world's


economies. Whoever controls the Straits has a potential stranglehold


on world colonies. This is a matter of urgent attention to the world. In


my view, it is only the United Nations that can speak on behalf of


the world. It is to the United Nations that we must turn, and to


the United Nations the responsibility for building that


bottom down, rather than top-down, coalition of support, for the people


of Yemen, is where we must give our support. Rather than dividing into


attacks on Saudi Arabia, attacks on Iran. Let's focus on the peace needs


of the people of Yemen. Colleagues have used this phrase forgotten war


a number of times during this debate. But like to pay to be to


many members on all sides of the House to keep bringing the issue of


Yemen back to the chamber to ensure it isn't forgotten. There is an


acute humanitarian crisis, I don't want to go over those details again,


many right honourable members who have spent time in Yemen have given


the details. I would like to put on record my thanks and all of ours to


the great contribution of our government the ?100 million of Dfid


money that has been spent... I can't unfortunately hear the sedentary


interventions. I'm very proud we have made that commitment to 0.7%.


It is a huge part, says a lot about the coalition government, this


government, and our commitment to be an outward looking, global nation.


Particularly after the referendum result. Stability and peace in


Yemen, it's what we are all here discussing, it is our aim, that's


what's right for the people of Yemen. I've had argued its greatly


in the interests of all our constituents as well. We've seen


that when you have a war zone, when there are failed states, that is


where these terrorist organisations thrive. It was Afghanistan, now it


was Syria. Where we've got Daesh was Syria. Where we've got Daesh


growing up, now they can't get any foothold in Syria they are moving


into Turkey. We are providing people who want to kill our constituents


with a training ground. The stability of that state can only be


in the best interests of how we achieve that. I'm very happy to give


way. I wholeheartedly agree, does she share my disappointment there


continued to be a small number of members in the House who continue to


say we should scrap the aid budgets, scrap Dfid? It is very much in our


national security interests and those people suffering in those


countries we continue to fund. I agree and I can see a bit of


cross-party love growing up. LAUGHTER I don't think he's going to


agree with the rest of my speech, but on this week totally agree. This


is having a profound affect on the people of Yemen but this has a


profound effect on the people of Saudi Arabia and the wider nation.


They are suffering from migration and the effects of disease,


terrorism on their borders. We've seen, and I've said before in my


intervention, Saudi Arabia is a state which has existed only in the


decades. It is a state that is in a state of transition. We had projects


from some of its leaders about how they will go to further democracy,


more representation from women. And from other groups. I think that as


an ally, we should support them in that and we should support their


government. I was heartened when the Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister came


and spoke to members before Christmas about his openness and


about how he recognised there is a great challenge in this country. We


do not want a situation where Jeddah and Riyadh are controlled by Daesh


or AQAP. This is a war which is legal, President Hardy, we can argue


about how effective he is as a leader, is the leader that. --


President Hadi. I know the honourable gentleman and I differ on


the role of selling armaments to Saudi Arabia and I would echo some


of the other comments on that. One must understand that relationships


that are brought up in the Middle East, they take a long time, they


rely on trust. We have to keep talking to people. And these


historical relationships through trade and diplomacy really do take


an awful long time. Has she seen the the European Council on foreign


relations that has said it is absolutely vital that Europe and the


EU keeps a good relationship with the GCC and the Arab League. That is


under 2216 and the intervention in Yemen. If we are to resolve this


problem, it is about relationships and building relationships, not


destroying relationships like the member for Warwick and Leamington


spa wants to do. I agree it is about relationships and it's about


influence and guidance. The arms export control, what is written in


the law is very important and my right honourable friend who was


instrumental in overseeing it when he was the minister, that is


important and we need to do that. All the Arms export it goes through


a rigorous process. The coalition which was their fighting, led by


Saudi Arabia but with aura vulnerable other Arab countries, is


defending its borders and its interest. Because we've heard since


what happened in the early 2000s that we want to get out of the


Middle East, they need to be self-sustaining, independent, more


democratic. I just need to finish this point before I lose my train of


thought! We need to allow them to do that with the guidance that one


would expect from an ally and a friend. Having our personnel back


explaining about compliance with international humanitarian law,


explaining about targeting, this is very important. Again, I don't


really like saying what might Labour neighbours... If we aren't in there,


who do we really think would be there doing that? This relationship


is fundamental, and it is fundamental in terms of trade,


security, intelligence and cooperation we get. I'm not going to


speak for longer because I know there are more expert voices in this


House, I thank the honourable members who are here today speaking


in this debate, and I thank all of us must always think, what are we


talking about. Is it actually going to protect Yemenis in the long run?


Brexit aside, I feel as though this House has spent more time on Yemen


than most other issues. That is not a complaint, I would spend as long


as I could debating be disastrous situation facing people in Yemen.


Sadly for me the evidence is this government isn't entirely listening.


The misleading of the British people and international community over


Saudi Arabia's intervention and use of cluster weapons in particular is


a blot on the record of current and former members of this government.


Ministers stuck to their stock phrases of denial, before the


Defence Secretary was forced open the worst possible Christmas present


and revealed that ministers had misled this House on a number of


occasions. I wonder what is the likelihood of any such minister


facing sanctions for their part in that cover-up? I'm not holding my


breath. Perhaps the ministers concerned were to quit the


honourable member for Bournemouth East, he said earlier this week,


inadvertently, disingenuously misleading the House, although I'm


sure that was probably not the case. At least none of the ministers were


so misleading as the spokesman for the Saudi coalition who claimed that


Saudi Arabia's British cluster bombs were obsolete and had been


destroyed. In fact he declared that Tornado strike aircraft were not


configured to drop their weapons. Now that our Defence Secretary has


admitted British cluster bombs were used, it is interesting to wonder


how, if the Saudis had no aircraft configured to deliver them. To get


to the truth of the matter, we may find the governments denial only


lasted as long as Saudi Arabia had any British made cluster bombs left


to use. Someone appears to have made a calculation that the use of these


weapons may be just enough to deliver the kind of victory that the


Saudi and UK Government should deny their use until that have been


achieved. Given the continuing situation in Yemen, I have to


conclude that breaking the code of denial could be because Saudi Arabia


has now only a few cluster bombs left to deploy. If it's not the case


that stocks have been exhausted and there is evidence the Saudis still


hold such weapons, will the government commit to doing all it


can to have them withdrawn from service and destroyed, and for Saudi


Arabia to sign the convention on cluster munitions? That is what the


government is committed to doing, article 21 expressly obliges them to


encourage non-members to ratify it. I encourage them to come back to


report on progress on obtaining Saudi agreement to signing up to the


convention. Interestingly the Convention uniquely allows


signatories to cooperate but it doesn't require them to do so.


Surely if we believe that cluster bombs shouldn't be used and


especially not indiscriminately against civilian targets, is very


clear we should not be working in a coalition doing exactly that. In


addition to cluster bombs, the people of Yemen face another threat


from increasing use of armed reins, especially in targeting so-called


high-value Al-Qaeda figures. While the strikes have been part of US


operations in other countries, those carried out in Yemen have been


criticised for having far fewer safeguards than those in other


countries. If that is the case will the government use its bilateral


discussions with the Americans to press for a change in their


approach? As the incoming administration in Washington take


shape, many fear events are moving in on an helpful direction.


Unfortunately it seems these are true reflections of his views, for


instance that fear of Muslims is irrational. The most concerning


aspect was not just a horrible nature of the statement but the


shallow hate-mongering video that he was promoting to the world. I have


some news for general fund, the president is a Muslim and saw two


other leaders Saudi Arabia. Appointing somebody to play a key


role in a conflict such as that in Yemen who states it is rational,


take all those involved in the conflict frankly defies belief. In


an earlier debate in Westminster Hall, the Right Honourable member


chided those of us expressing concern about the Saudi coalition's


tactics and behaviour and he suggested the situation was too


complex for us to understand. He is of course entirely right that the


situation is hugely complex, all the more need for an independent


investigation but some issues are very clear and saw some of the


actions that we must take because the UK's involvement in this


situation is deeply regrettable. We must investigate. We must suspend


arms sales to said Arabia and clarify exactly what the UK military


personnel has been and we must do everything we can to build a


consensus around individuals and institutions that can build a new


future for Yemen. In that respect and please the United Nations


rational and by two Yemen has called a new round of talks at the end of


the month to advance the Constitutional process and I'm sure


the House will join me in wishing participants well in their


endeavours. I cannot say that it's a pleasure to take part in this debate


about Yemen today. Must a year ago we discussed this very subject in


this chamber and yesterday I reviewed what was said debate


undergoes a source was a source of great sadness that I can read that


my speech of 12 months ago because nothing has changed. Except the one


thing the suffering of the people in Yemen has got worse and it is


unimaginable suffering. Another thing has changed, many more members


of Parliament are taking a keen interest in this forgotten conflict


and members of the public including my constituents are aware of the


atrocities taking place. The BBC's report was terrifying in showing


what's going on, it's so easy to put parts of the world out of the public


eye especially when there's a crisis nearby and Syria. My own interest


lies because I've always felt a special affinity for the country and


I'd like to return. I know the right on for Leicester East feels the same


and they hope will be some of the first MPs to visit in the


devastating Civil War. The situation continues to disintegrate and even


with the United Nations road map this continues to be an


implementation. I continue to be hopeful that by diplomatic means


this can be resolved but that depends on the willingness of


external powers to make that happen just as it does on the willingness


of two sides in Yemen itself. The transfer of power could have been a


fresh start and was brokered by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf


cooperation Council. Hundreds of thousands of people peacefully


demonstrated for democracy by the internal situation deteriorated led


by the former president and the Houthi sore Yemen is in a desperate


state. Having started as an attempt to put the democratically elected


government in place it's now become a failed state with many different


actors including Iran, Russia, Al-Qaeda, all creating chaos. Even


worse humanitarian crisis. I would like the Minister to comment on his


beach at the end of this debate to let us know what's going to happen


following the inauguration of the United States president who appears


to have a shaky grasp of issues the region. Secretary of State John


Kerry spent much time working on the road map but I feel the UK


Government might have to take the lead if we want to get a quick


resolution to this humanitarian crisis, there is a real groundswell


of support in this house and beyond for us to do just that. We have a


very close relationship with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries as a


critical friend that we have already pushed Saudi Arabia to be more


transparent and investigate each violation and publish the results.


Will she join me in commending the work of those RAF personnel who have


been guiding the Saudis in relation to rules of engagement, it's


absolutely critical that we are they are changing the nature of the


conflict and is because that long-standing commitment that is


possible. If we just simply criticise the Saudis, the conflict


will get worse. We totally agree, we have a long-standing relationship


between Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries. We can work side-by-side


to create peace. We will need independent investigation into


reports of breaches of international humanitarian law because of the


violation by the Houthis but let's concentrate on getting the road map


back on track first. Can the Minister confirm there are people on


the ground who can verify each violation because I'm concerned


there are difficulties of getting international experts in Yemen. We


found about the humanitarian crisis and other speeches and I'm grateful


to all the charities who work so hard in Yemen and updated regularly.


I'm pleased the news channels have started to alert the public on this


Civil War. Unfortunately pull in Yemen cannot escape. They are too


poor or cannot cross borders because the only borders... Yemen has all


been one of the poorest areas in the world. For the conflict 90% of food


is imported with the closure of ports and lack of cranes, as when 40


million people are no food insecure and have of them classified as


severely food insecure, 7 million people. And sure we've all read


about family scavenging on rubbish dumps just to survive. Because of


the pressure the government has put on the coalition the blockade of


ports has eased but imports are still significantly pre-conflict


levels. Restrictions on access and insecurity are not helping and I


urge the government to continue the pressure on the coalition and the


Houthis two allowed aid to move through the country. Until flights


resume into Sana'a and aid is allowed to flow, the humanitarian


crisis will continue, and confident Yemen has the capacity to thrive


again as it has done so in the short term and it has been peace. And


those other major producer foil, responsible for three quarters of


government income and there may be possibilities of exploiting other


worlds, agriculture depends on fuel to drive irrigation pumps to produce


cereal. It is estimated by the famine early warning system that


planting a Stableford sucks is down 30%. This is not influenced by


climatic conditions since rainfall has been healthy levels, it been at


war and its consequences of destroying agriculture. Now the


international community will want to help get Yemen back on its feet but


that won't happen until we show leadership. I hope the UK Government


will take that role immediately as there are too many people that


depend on it. It's also in our national interest as Al-Qaeda and is


night will use it as a base when they had been evicted from Syria and


Iraq. There's no time to waste and I hope the house will continue to push


for further action to save what could be a thriving country. Clearly


the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen is unimaginable and a


number of members have preferred to some of the statistics involved, the


only one I would refer to is the fact there are 90 million people.


This is a huge crisis and one which the international community is


responding to partially responding to. When the minister responds I


hope he could update the House on the progress being made on the


United Nations appeal which currently in the last to six I have


seen is only just under 60% funded. I hope you could update us on that.


I want to focus my comments and some members will not think it is the


appropriate focus on the Saudi actions and why because clearly the


military action that is taken by the Houthis and Saudis is a major


driver. There's no that whatsoever that Houthis the are committing


serious human rights abuses and the minister was right to point out in a


written answer that in relation to the attacks on Saudi Arabia there


have been 90 Saudi Arabian deaths. That's cross-border attacks and more


than 500 people injured but I think it's right that we should focus our


attention on the Saudi actions because they are allies and they are


using the weapons we are providing them with. I'm only going to limit


my remarks to a few questions which I hope the Minister will receive


some answers or some inspiration for to respond to that the end of this


debate and that's firstly whether the UK Government now if UK planes


were used in the delivery of cluster munitions. This question has been


paused before, I don't believe an answer has been given but I will


take that to mean that probably they have in specific operations and I


hope the Minister can say whether the government with the use of UK


supplied aircraft to deliver cluster munitions whether there are any


legal obligations under the cluster munitions act that would appertain


to those activities. And whether the use of UK aircraft in that way would


be covered by the UK cluster munitions probation. A number of


members say cluster munitions were only sold to the Saudis up to a


certain period but we know that 500 cluster munitions were delivered


over a three-year period. What we also know is that they were only


safe and suitable for service until 2008 and I wonder if the Minister


could say anything when he responds as to what that means. In terms of


the increased risk of civilian casualties because if they are only


safe and suitable for servers until 2008 that must mean that more recent


years would increase the risk of civilian casualties because


presumably that means that ordinance would not explode on impact. I


hope... ? And try to lean on my previous military experience but as


a general rule I wouldn't want to go near anywhere near any munition


which has passed its sell by date. I will write him with a more detailed


answer but from what I understand is that the munitions were talking


about did not fully blow up in the mechanisms they should have done,


the fact that the did that meant they failed to actually work,


therefore this is advice to any country that has got stocks in their


armouries, once the sell by date has gone clearly they should be removed


but in this particular case they are not signatures to the cluster


munitions convention and from that perspective it's not illegal


although we obviously advise against it to use cluster munitions. I


understand that and certainly some members on this side would challenge


the Minister on whether their use can be in any circumstances deemed


legal. It's regrettable that the Minister is arguing in effect that


in some circumstances their use can be considered legal because I think


most people would consider their use or the impact of there used to be in


discriminant in terms of their impact. A further point on cluster


munitions... Following his argument in considerable and I'm grateful for


him giving away and he knows that I'm going to make a counterpoint.


Qatar are involved in this operation into Yemen, we supply coastal


defence systems to Qatar, should we suspend coastal defence systems


sales to the state of Qatar because they are involved in this particular


action? Indeed, I anticipated what his line


of enquiry might be. The focus of what I am saying today is on what


the Saudis are doing. And the use of cluster munitions and whether there


is sufficient evidence, for instant, to call for a suspension of their


arms sales. I believe there is sufficient evidence to call for, to


support the point that was made about the need for an independent


enquiry. I think that there is. The point I wanted to make in relation


to cluster munitions was whether the minister could explain whether he


understands the basis on which the Saudi Arabians refused in 2010 to


swap their cluster munitions for more precise bombs. Which I


understand the MOD offered to do, in terms of a free swap without any


cost implications. What was the government's understanding of the


reason why at that point the Saudis refused to take up that offer. The


final point I want to make is in relation to the joint incident


assessment team, which as I made clear in early intervention, the


government have had involvement with in terms of providing advice about


how to investigate IHL matters. The Minister may be aware that one of


the people on JIAT is Mansour Al-Mansour, who understand played an


unfortunate role in Bahrain in terms of a series of trials which some


have described as being, to use the exact quote, that during that trial


process due process violations occurred at the pre-trial and trial


levels that denied most defendants elementary fair trial guarantees.


With the Minister like to comment on whether he thinks that person and


others are suitably qualified to adjudicate on civilian casualties in


Yemen. Clearly, the credibility Jiat must depend on the credibility of


its individual members. Is the right honourable gentleman aware that


Masour Al-Masour is known in Bahrain as the butcher? There are clearly


significant concerns about his role and suitability for sitting on Jiat.


I would like to conclude by saying that I think there is a huge amount


of evidence that suggests the UK should suspend arms sales. And as


was the point I'd like to finish on the first point made in this debate,


that there is now an overwhelming case for an independent enquiry into


Saudi activities in Yemen, and I fail to understand why the


government don't show the same enthusiasm for such an independent


enquiry as they did in relation to Sri Lanka, where of course our


government, rightly in my view, made a strong case for just such an


independent enquiry. I would like to start by thanking colleagues for


bringing forward this debate today. The member for Liverpool, West Derby


and the member for Warwick and Leamington. Although I don't


entirely agree with their views on this matter, and I think they will


recognise that, I do think it is an opportunity to debate and bring back


into the public domain the issue of Yemen. I was also very, very


interested to hear the very thoughtful contributions by the


member for Bridgend and North East Bedfordshire. Sadly neither are in


their places at the moment but I thought they both brought forward


very, very thoughtful, contributions to today's debate. I really wanted


to focus on the humanitarian aid side of the situation in Yemen.


Given that I serve on the International Development Select


Committee. This comes in a week when I have heard the term humanitarian


crisis used. For me, what is happening in Yemen is a humanitarian


crisis. Not some of the issues we've heard raised in this chamber today.


In Yemen, it is two years since hostilities began to escalate. The


suffering of children and their families continues. Today over 18


million are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance, and many


of these, very sadly, our children. Some have described as as a


children's emergency. The United Nations has estimated more than 4000


civilians have been killed. More than 7000 have been injured. It's


been estimated that over 3 million Yemenis are internally displaced.


They and many, many more suffer from food insecurity. Close to half of


Yemen's health facilities are either closed or only able to function


partially. I'm nearly 2000 schools remained closed, due to damage and


destruction. As a member of the International Development Committee


we often talk about the need for education for children, and through


the sustainable development goals there is the term leave no one


behind. In Syria we have concerns about no lost generation. I fear


that in Yemen we may have another lost generation of children, who due


to the conflict, their long-term future may suffer through lack of


education. Last year on our committee, we heard evidence from a


number of NGOs and from members of the Yemeni Dyas Borough. Some of


their stories were really, really striking -- diaspora. The stories


and evidence about the need for water, the food and for urgent


medical supplies, things we take for granted in our ring country. -- our


own country. Low levels of imports such as fuel and medicines, simply


add to the already existing humanitarian crisis. As do the


problems that Yemen's ports as well. Still in many ways, this conflict


has been described continuously as the forgotten war. So I believe that


debates like today really do help to continue to raise awareness... Of


course I will. She has stood up and spoken for young people who are


severely affected by this, particularly this forgotten war in


Yemen. I hope she's going to talk about the outrageous, disgusting use


of child soldiers in Yemen. And the UN report and Unicef have identified


two groups, the resistance groups, not the UAE and Saudi armies, the


resistance groups, and particularly identified the Houthis. The average


age of those child soldiers, the predominant age is 6-8 years. It is


absolutely outrageous and I hope she will pass comment on that. I'm


grateful for the honourable gentleman's intervention. While that


specific point was not in my speech I think he raises a very, very


important point. The impact of war and children, not turns in the --


not just in terms of lack of education and impact on their


livelihoods, but also those dragged into war, and become a part of it.


It's a very powerful point. I would say in the Unicef report that what


was provided in the evidence was the Houthis particularly were purchasing


young people from foreign countries and bringing them in to Yemen to


fight as child soldiers. He makes his point very eloquently and I hope


he will be speaking later in the debate, and elaborating more on


that. As I said, today's debate, and debates like it, really do help to


raise awareness. I believe they've raised awareness in this chamber on


a number of occasions throughout the last year to 18 months. Also it has


raised the awareness beyond this chamber, to those members of our


constituencies, through the media as well. I fear it is so often


overshadowed, quite understandably, by other events in the Middle East


region. Of course I am referring to Syria. And yet according to save the


children, Yemen is the country with the highest number of people who


need humanitarian needs and assistance in the world at this


moment in time. Conflict drives food emergencies and it's clearly


impacting on the broader humanitarian crisis in Yemen. It


also makes it extremely difficult for NGOs, aid agencies and Dfid to


deliver aid safely. Those they've humanitarian corridors of vital and


we must continue to press for those. At this point I think it would be


fair for me to recognise the tremendous work and commitment of


Dfid staff. The work they do in delivering UK aid to those who need


it in Yemen. With over ?100 million in aid, through schemes such as the


social fund for development, the Yemen humanitarian resilience


programme, the programme to address malnutrition in Yemen, and


protection support through the UNHCR. The UK is one of the leading


donors to Yemen, in fact it's the fourth largest. Surely, this is a


good indication of some of the good work that international development


can do for those most in need. We must continue to use our leadership


role to influence those other donors are as much as possible, to


encourage them to step up to the plate, too. That brings me onto the


wider point of a political settlement, and a cessation of


hostilities. The UK has strong relationships in the region, and I


would urge us to continue to use our influence in the region, to help


bring about the lasting peace settlement that I believe we all so


desperately are searching for. Particularly the people in Yemen.


Today, we've also heard about and debated the security situation, we


know that this is a brutal conflict. I do think we should recognise that


there are allegations about violations of international


humanitarian law, and that is what they are, allegations. They must be


investigated, but surely we must not let that overshadowed the real


answer to this crisis. That is a ceasefire, peace and long-lasting


stability, not just in Yemen but in the region. In doing so, in making


sure that we avoid a situation whereby a vacuum is created into


which those whom we would not wish to enter could do so. There has been


some very powerful contributions today and I welcome the chance to


discuss Yemen in further detail. It has been talked about as a forgotten


crisis, not in this House and not in Cardiff South. We have a long


history of a Yemeni community in Cardiff who have long expressed


concerns with me. But also a community that is willing to reach


out to Yemen. I was delighted before Christmas to go along and support


the DTC campaign raising funds for Yemen, which had already been very


publicly supported by Grangetown primary school, the tram shed and


the Cardiff Devils ice hockey team. An unusual coalition but had come


together to make clear they didn't want to see the full that seems we


have seen over Christmas people starving. Those horrific scenes


referred to. I agreed by the comments made by many honourable


members across the House about a need for an absolute focus on


securing a ceasefire and peace settlement. It's only three that


that we can truly address the horrors we are seeing there. That


situation that Stephen O'Brien described as a humanitarian


catastrophe. Oxfam International say that 7 million people do not know


where their next meal is coming from. We've all seen those horrible


images on our screens. The UN and the WHO estimate 18.8 million Yemeni


sisters -- Yemeni citizens are in dire need and protection. Health


facilities reported there have been almost 44,000 casualties, an average


of 75 people killed or injured every day. 3.15 million internally


displaced people. The import restrictions on imports. The crisis


in access to food that has been caused by food shortages. And Oxfam


report that almost half a million infants and young people are in need


of immediate treatment for severe, acute malnutrition. The war has led


to the collapse of imports of food and Yemen imported 90% of its food


supplies prior to the escalation of the conflict. In November 2015, the


country imported enough food supplies to meet demand but in


October 2016, the imported food cupboard only 40% of the demands. If


the plunging trends continue unabated, in four months many of the


aid agencies are warning food imports may come to a complete stop.


We've also seen the risk of a cholera outbreak because the


restrictions on the imports of fuel are having a catastrophic effect on


sanitation. We are seeing an extremely worrying rise in


gender-based violence, especially sexual violence, domestic violence


and early marriage. An increase of 70% more incidents reported to date


and Impact on the conflict on children


is appalling. 113-year-old, she said I see the damage everywhere and I


see how many people are affected by the bombs, I feel scared when I see


weapons and when I hear the sound of planes in the sky, when you hear


that sound it means a big explosion will follow and people will be


killed. Hospitals and schools are damage to, life is very difficult in


Yemen right now and that's a very powerful testament from one of the


people living through the conflict and the UN tells us 3000 children


have been killed just since March 2015 and I want to pay tribute to


the team working in Yemen. Our committee at the court found that


they have been instrumental in supporting and facilitating the


humanitarian relief effort through its timely and flexible response and


it commended the department, it's doubled its humanitarian commitment


and makes the UK the fourth-largest owner last year and it's why we have


two adhere to our aid commitments, not only morally right but in our


national interest and global interest. However, I believe and I


have believed for a long time that this excellent work going on risks


being undermined by the continued arms sales to Saudi Arabia which are


being used in Yemen. I accept the very serious concerns that have been


raised about the wider nature of the content, I don't have an agenda


against our defence industry are Saudi Arabia but the reality is the


UN estimates over 60% of civilian casualties were the responsibility


of attacks by the Saudi led coalition and we might as well look


at the current evidence, we've heard in the last few days about a Saudi


led coalition air strikes which was reported to have killed five people


including two children near a primary school in the north of Yemen


and that's just in recent days. We've heard absolutely about the


atrocities committed by the Houthis and I want to be clear, I recognise


those and condemn them, we had about the issue of child soldiers,


disgusting stories, blockading humanitarian access, using landmines


and indiscriminate weapons against civilians just as cluster munitions


are in the appalling attacks on the borders which have been killing


civilians. We're not selling arms to the Houthis, we're selling arms to


the Saudi led coalition and human rights watch report that 61


allegedly unlawful coalition actions and air strikes resulting in the


death of 900 civilians, attacks on markets, schools and hospitals and


one of the Honourable members asked early on who is dropping these


bombs. Human rights watch suggests US supplied munitions were used in


23 of those locations and UK made weapons in two including one produce


as recently as 2015 have been fined and those locations. Let's be


absolutely clear, the UK is a signatory to the arms trade Treaty,


we led the fight for this internationally and I'm proud there


was cross-party support for it but successive governments have driven


us forward and we signed up to the EU consolidating criteria and we


have our own regulations on that and they are very clear. The call


opinions say that the UK is potentially now in breach of the


arms trade treaty Article 6.3 because they ought to have had the


necessary knowledge that serious violations of international law were


taking place and on the basis of a breach of article seven then there


is a clear risk that future weapon is could be used to facilitate


serious breaches of international law and that in such an ongoing


crisis now feasible mitigation measures were deemed possible. It's


a very clear position, we are signed up to these restrictions and we've


had a series of obfuscations, a series of confusion is not only from


the Saudis themselves but also from the UK Government changing their


position on abrupt end as to whether they conducted assessments are not


the nature of the assessments and when they were conducted and


admittance is from the ministers and others we have seen little progress


or slow progress in this and it's simply not acceptable. The Saudi


Arabian Foreign Minister Kim twice a the honourable member, the former


Foreign Minister pointed out and that was a great opportunity to


question them and he gave his assurances there would be responses


and we've not seen it, 180 documented incidents and some of


these will prove to be not true but that's absolutely quiet we need a


thorough investigation into what has been going on and the progress to


date weather from the Saudi government or indeed from the UK


Government who I believe does know what's going on in this situation


and has conducted assessments and has got information in their


possession that would indicate whether or not atrocities against


civilians have been committed, we need absolutely some independent


verification of what has going on and until we get that I completely


support because that there has been for a temporary suspension of arms


sales because of those principles that are laid out in the arms trade


treaty. I very much hope Madam Deputy Speaker when the minister


gets up he will provide some clear assurances as to what assessments


are going on and what investigations are going on on whether he is


convinced the UK is adhering to its legal obligations. We know there are


legal proceedings ongoing and it's absolutely crucial the UK Government


is clear before those proceedings, what it knew when it knew it because


we have to have assurances that we're adhering to our international


obligations but finally I would say that the solution to this crisis is


only going to come through a negotiated solution. All of our


efforts must be focused on that. There's a great degree of unity


around that in the House and the need for humanitarian and


responsibility and the need for an independent investigation. We have a


part to play in this, we are selling arms to one of the parties and until


we see that stopped I will remain unsatisfied. We've heard from many


members this afternoon the reference to the phrase the forgotten war but


as my honourable friend made clear this house has been doing everything


it can to ensure that war is not forgotten and although he's not in


his place I want to pay tribute to the right Honourable member for


Leicester East for all he's done over many years to highlight the


plight of the people in Yemen. It's a country in a region I know well


having couple run the region and also to Yemen and around Yemen and


it's therefore with a particular sadness that I regard the situation


in that country as my honourable friend set out in her speech, I


could make the same remarks to those I meet a year ago in the same debate


in which she spoke. The honourable member for Liverpool West Derby set


out as always with brilliance and inside the background to this


situation and particularly I would draw attention to the fact he did so


in a very measured and balanced tone and that is absolutely crucial to


this debate. The prewar situation in Yemen was always complex. The


president described governing Yemen as dancing on the Head of State


snakes, so complex is the make-up of that country. -- on the head office


makes. The most populous country in the Middle East yet it has the


lowest annual income per head. It has significant economic challenges


and a young male population seem very limited opportunities, even


before the war for it to prosper. It's also a country which is heavily


reliant on foreign imports and which is heavily armed even before the


war. All of this created a challenge for that country before the conflict


broke out and it is even more challenging now and we see it


sitting in a geopolitical context in that region surrounded by a complex


power network of different states and alliances which make it all the


more important we focus on it. Possibly uniquely in this as I do


not intend to repeat even though they are important points that have


already been made at length by other honourable and Right Honourable


members and B made very well. I would briefly touch on two things.


One is the background and Saudi Arabia's involvement and then I will


talk perhaps a little about the future. It is absolutely right as I


think all Honourable members who have spoken that we remember there


is fault on both sides and that simply attempting to apportion blame


to one side or another does not advance the cause of peace and I


would condemn as every other member would any deaths of innocent


civilians and it's right that when the car they are properly


investigated. As has been alluded to and I can set it out no more


effectively, eloquently or erudite link on my right honourable friend


the member for North East Bedfordshire the background. This


came about from the attempt to take over the country by the Houthis and


the march on Sana'a and the request from the government to get aid and


the response from the coalition and we must render that just as there


are consequences of action which what we are focusing on today there


would have been significant consequences of inaction on that


occasion had the Houthis been allowed to take over the country,


significantly worse conditions for the people of Yemen but also greater


regional instability and I risk to add national interest. We should


also not forget that Saudi Arabia is regularly attacked in the context of


this conflict across its border and has the right to defend itself and


its right the coalition acted and stepped in and acted in defence of a


legitimate government and regional stability. It's right the coalition


acted and stepped in and acted in defence of a legitimate government


and regional stability. Its right to remember that Saudi Arabia plays in


that region and to our national interest in the partnership we have


with them in intelligence matters and in taking on terrorism. That


engagement and that relationship is vital to our national interest. It's


not an uncritical relationship, as all our relationships with our


friends are. We will be critical in a measured way is appropriate but


not participating in a constructive way that would be significantly


detrimental to our national interest, to the people of Yemen and


to regional stability. I would conclude by focusing on the three


key elements as we look towards the future. A ceasefire to allow aid to


get in the country and talks to take place is absolutely vital and I


don't think any member of this house would disagree with that and I would


particularly pay tribute both to the right Honourable member for Rutland


and Melton for the work you did in his previous role in pressing the


case for a ceasefire and to the Minister for his tireless work. The


people of Yemen could have no better friend in this country than the


Minister for the Middle East to try and bring peace to the region. The


second element once we have the ceasefire must be to deliver a


long-term political settlement that will hold. The reality is that


settlement must emerge from within Yemen itself and the people of Yemen


and not be imposed from outside although of course countries and


friends of ours such as Oman have a significant role to play I believe


in facilitating such a long-term peace settlement and it must ensure


that all tribes and all groups within Yemen are represented and


that none are excluded. And finally it is important that we focus once


we have that settlement in place on the rebuilding of Yemen and giving


hope to the people of that country. That will involve investment in that


country from outside, it will involve security, it will I believe


have two involve a clear focus on fuel because so much of what goes on


in Yemen is reliant on diesel fuel. Is this also not a prime example of


where UN resolution 30.25 comes into play which involves the engagement


of women in rebuilding our society after there has been conflict and in


setting out the piste conditions because it is women and children who


have been many of the victims in this war, is this not a wonderful


example of how women can be involved in rebuilding Yemen? I could not


disagree with it honourable lady in many ways she makes a point well,


effectively and absolutely right about the role that women can play


in rebuilding a country of the conflict but of course everyone in


that country needs to play a role in helping to rebuild it. I hope that


as we have the biggest today, when we next debate this matter we will


have seen significant progress and I know that is what the Minister


desires, I know it's what the British Government desires and what


the people of Yemen desire and I hope that the 20 17th will bring


peace to that trouble country. There's a hidden element through


this debate. This house and the UK Government can hope to influence


Saudi Arabia in its conduct and the other states of the Gulf Council. We


have less hope and opportunity of influencing the Houthis and the


various elements active in Yemen also including Iran. No one on this


side of the House who wishes to be critical of Saudi Arabia is blind to


the crimes committed against humanity and against their own


people by the Houthis and other elements of the coalition government


there. If we are talking about Saudi, it's


not because we are ignoring the other side and its crimes. But if we


are to be able to move the debate on, all we can do is to influence


Saudi as a major ally of Saudi, as a major weapons supplier and market


for Saudi. That's why we are doing it. So I think arguments from some


members who have tried to present the discussion in terms of some


people are arguing against the Saudis and forgetting about the


others, that's not where we are going. We can influence Saudi. The


argument is from people on this side of the House that the oven and --


that the government has been negligent in how it has tried to


influence Saudi. I'll give you some evidence. December 13, the United


States government vetoed the sale of 16,000 guidance systems for


munitions that were going to be sold by US companies to Saudi Arabia.


That tells me a couple of things. Why does Saudi need 16,000 guidance


systems for bombs? It is something to do with the disproportionality of


the air offensive they had been conducting. That is getting in the


way of a settlement. What began as a civil war, yes, with some


implications around the Saudi border, what began as a Civil War


has been turned into a humanitarian disaster by the scale of the action


the Saudis have undertaken. The fact they are continuing, after there is


very little left a bomb, I think suggests an unwillingness in the


Saudi regime to come to some sort of compromise before they have been


able to propose the settlement they want. I think it is incumbent on the


UK to try and put pressure on the Saudis to reduce the scale of the


bombing, to say you have do do something else. If the United States


can do it, so can we. The spokesman for the United States when they


announced the veto on the weapons sales in December said, we will not


give a blank cheque to the Saudi regime. My criticism of the


government is precisely that it's trying to give a blank cheque to the


Saudi government. Does the honourable gentleman Bacall, and he


makes his point well, does he recall in the statement given by the


Secretary of State for Defence that he did make clear what the United


States government have done was to suspend a particular license, but


continued to supply military jets, helicopters and other ammunition to


Saudi Arabia. It's not a blanket. I'm aware of that and


simultaneously, with banning the guidance systems, the US agreed a


major contract to supply battle tanks to Saudi Arabia. That just


makes my point, that the whales to macro way you deal, if you presume


Saudi Arabia is an ally, the way you deal with them is not to give them a


blank cheque, but to say it's carrot and stick. The British government


hasn't done that. The present government spent a long time arguing


that British cluster weapons hadn't been used. Once that was


definitively proved, it's moved back to saying Saudis to conduct its own


enquiries. We have been training the Saudi air force, we helped set up


the command and control system for the Saudi air force for the last 40


years. If they aren't getting it right now, it's for political


reasons. Not because of any defections within the system. So


waiting on the Saudis to investigate is actually... We have to put


political pressure on the Saudis to come to the table, to reduce the


scale of their bombing, to move towards some kind of ceasefire, and


to do it properly. If we don't do that, we let them off the hook. As


long as the British government is being so soft on the Saudis in this


context, then we will never get through the international enquiry.


The member for Liverpool West Derby crystallised this debate at the


beginning by saying, at what point does the British government move on


from demanding the Saudis investigate the failures in the war


to actually having an independent enquiry. That is the simplest thing.


Even more modest a request of Her Majesty 's government bans are


spending on cells temporarily. Final point. As long as the British


government continues to underwrite this excessive Saudi bombing


offensive, then more and more becomes likely that British


personnel, British individuals... Does he not agree that the Saudis


are able to purchase arms from abroad, from whoever, by selling


petrol to nations like the United Kingdom. Perhaps he's been to a


local petrol station near here and filled his car up with Saudi Arabian


petrol. Did he ask at the petrol station, was it ethical petrol and


was it funding arms purchase by Saudi Arabia? Fortunately in reply I


can say I don't possess and have never possessed a driving licence.


LAUGHTER That was rather flippant in the context. I am not trying to


identify Saudi as the only culprit in this difficult situation. I'm


saying the only people we can influence is the Saudi regime.


That's why I'm making the point I am and why I think the motion, the


specific dynamics of the motion, is to get the British government to


underwrite and support such an independent enquiry. My final point


is on the culpability of British service personnel. But the 2010


cluster munitions act, and other like... Makes it clear it's an


offence to assist in naval or induce other persons to make use of cluster


bombs. That's quite a wide definition. As long as the British


government goes on underwriting the Saudi air offensive, the more it


becomes a possibility that British personnel could fall under that


heading. The honourable gentleman is making some important points but


does he not agree with me it's not just with regard to cluster


munitions but the wider sales and compliance with the arms trade


Treaty. When you look at the Freedom of information request, officials in


the Foreign Office were clearly exercised due to the high-profile


nature of the subject and the attention it's getting from


Parliament, the media and the courts, it is advised we have the


correct answers. They are clearly worried about their legal position.


If that is why we are seeing such obfuscation from them? I think in


his own contribution he made the wider legal case very well. My worry


is for British personnel, if a legal case begins. The minister alluded to


section nine of the act which gives a defence for British personnel


involved in an international conflict with allies, who might not


be party to the UN cluster convention. The problem is it is a


theoretical defence. I don't think that section nine actually could be


interpreted beyond the point where you knew that a member of a


noncompliant state was using British cluster weapons deliberately, and


for a long time, and causing great civilian casualties. I think that


becomes a more Opec position in the law -- O -- opaque position. Madam


Deputy Speaker, thank you. I thank the honourable members for securing


today's important debate through the Backbench Business Committee. The


humanitarian crisis in Yemen is continuing to worsen despite all of


the Parliamentary time we've spent over the past months discussing it.


The situation is continually deteriorating, despite all of the


reassurances from a government that millions of pounds are being spent


on aid. The suffering of the many people seems to have no end in sight


in the near future. Meanwhile, according to figures from Oxfam,


some 14 million people are food insecure, with around 7.5 million on


the brink of famine. Unless something radically changes this


situation is only set to worsen in 2017. Yemen is a country which was


heavily dependent on food imports prior to the conflict, and the war


has had a truly devastating effect on food security. What is making its


way into the country simply isn't enough to meet daily demand. The


decimated infrastructure of the country is making it impossible to


get food to all who need it. It is unjust roads which are being


destroyed, ports have been targeted by the Saudi led coalition. Their


strikes on ports have led to only one of the six loading cranes still


remaining functional. Prior to this, aid groups complained the coalition


naval blockade stopped relief supplies entering Yemen. There is


further evidence to suggest aid agencies are not being given proper


opportunity to deliver this aid. About a year ago Oxfam and other


NGOs were sent a diplomatic note stating if they were delivering aid


anywhere close to where Houthis were operating, they were doing so at


their own risk. In effect the Saudis were saying they wouldn't take


responsibility for bombing aid workers if they were near Houthis.


This is surely a breach of international humanitarian law and


has when civilians are unable to receive aid. Hunger should not be


used as a weapon of war, the famine early warning Systems network warned


that to mitigate severe ongoing food insecurity and prevent famine in


Yemen this year, the international community and local actors must


protect the ability of private traders to import staple food. That


more resources are needed to support the continuation and expansion of


humanitarian response, and that traders and humanitarian actors have


access to conflict zones. The UK needs to play its part and heed


these recommendations. The Saudis are a key ally of the UK and we


should be working to ensure they are acting responsibly in the conflict.


Such responsibility includes military operations, and action


should be proportionate to military threat. Yet we continue to hear


reports that would suggest this isn't the case. Serious questions


need to be asked of the Saudis about they're targeting. There are


certainly too many documented cases of indiscriminate bombings which


have led to thousands of needless civilian deaths. And injuries.


Including many children. This conflict is certainly not one-sided


but the fact remains that we are a key ally of the Saudis and have


licensed ?3.3 billion worth of armed fails since they intervened in


Yemen. We cannot shirk responsibility, that is particularly


the case for UK supplied weapons where they are being used in the


conflict. Too many questions remain properly answered about the use of


cluster munitions. I have perceived the government on this issue since


last June and I'm sick of its cluster bluster. Members of this


House deserve nothing less than full transparency. In June last year I


asked the MoD by way of written question, when the UK last


maintained cluster munitions held by Saudi Arabia. The Secretary of State


delivered a sink synced and blunt response but the UK has never


maintained cluster munitions held by Saudi Arabia -- succinct and blunt


response. A Freedom of information request was submitted by Amnesty


international to the MoD. Contained within is confirmation that up until


2008 there was contracted manpower support in place for the


maintenance, handling and storage of cluster bombs. I will be seeking


urgent clarification from the MoD on this and seriously hope I have not


been misled by the Department. Furthermore, it is revealed in the


Freedom of information response that the MoD offered to replace all of


the Saudi stocks of cluster bombs with guided bombs as recently as


2010. The Saudis continually refused his offer. The MoD must provide


answers to the House urgently as to why this offer was allowed to be


declined without repercussion. What her subsequent arms export


licences being issued with a question when the Saudis have sole


we also need concrete answers from them on how many of the bombs have


been dropped in Yemen and absolute transparency on the targeting data


of such air strikes. Furthermore, will be UK Government take sole


responsibility for ensuring that any and all UK produced cluster


munitions dropped in Yemen are cleared working alongside the mining


institutions including the Yemen executive mine action centre and NPC


the direct funding they received from the UK. In short, what I'm


asking of the government is for an undertaking to clean up its own mess


and to show an appropriate level of responsibility. Our foreign policy


needs to put the innocent civilians of Yemen first and foremost no more


than ever. Our efforts can help avert a full-scale famine but the


time to act is no one to help to secure a ceasefire. At first like to


thank the member for West Derby for bringing this and the member for


Warrican Leamington spa and my honourable friend from Leicester


West said the contribution of the member for North East Bedfordshire


which was each and every minute whilst a valuable contribution to


this debate. The primary purpose of this debate is to end the killing,


to end the suffering, to get a ceasefire to stop the humanitarian


crisis is just not the primary purpose, is pretty much the sole


purpose what we're here to do there are some other ancillary issues but


that is what we're to do this as a humanitarian crisis, a forgotten war


that is underreported, and are considered and I welcome this debate


because I think that we must elevate this debate not only for the people


who live in Yemen but the people in the region who are going to suffer


and perhaps the people of western Europe with reference to some of the


extreme Islamist elements within Yemen. This is a history of a


country that's had problems, a despotic leader to members of the


labour club to Accrington, the problem is you got a despotic leader


in Sana'a who was returned, once fought by the Houthis and now he's


involved in a war after joining them. He very simple view but the


view the United nations takes on the 2216. There has been a coup by some


very terrible people, Houthis and other and the resistance have got


involved as well on the other side in committing some atrocious acts in


what has been a vacuum created by the former president who is now


causing trouble again where we are with this series of this issue is is


that if we don't stop and prevent this conflict in 2017, if we don't


resolve the situation and will bring a ceasefire, we risk ending up in a


situation where it is intractable, where it is not in the interests of


Iran or Saudi Arabia to have a peaceful settlement because they


will continue that Middle East proxy war, we have not to allow this


conflict to get to that stage and that is one of the reasons why the


UN 2216 talks about an arms embargo and the blockade and trying to stop


some of the assets being transferred in which are bringing illegal


weapons, guns and munitions into Yemen and exaggerating the


situation. As I pointed out earlier, let's just look at the scale of


this. 6-8 -year-olds reported by the United Nations carry Kalashnikovs


and are being killed. This is the war that we face and on one side. I


fully take what he sing about the use of child soldiers by Houthis the


by does he not remember that the United Nations found that Saudi


Arabia was culpable of being the biggest killer of children in the


war in Yemen through its bombing and the Saudi resume forced the United


Nations to take Saudi off its list of states that were the worst for


dealing badly with children. A very valid point, the United Nations has


had trouble and there is nobody in this chamber who thinks that either


side are right in this. Both sides are killing people and that's what


needs to end and what we have to focus on, not blaming individual


nations. Now, let me just put the record straight, I come to this


debate frustrated. 2016 was the year of post-truth, false fact, fake


news. It was a terrible year for Britain and for the world in which


moderate people and democracy lost arguments to extremists, right part


on one side, the Canary on the other, the Albright, or the hard


left on the Labour Party and Yemen is being used as the next vehicle to


advocate some lunacy rather than the principal position of how can we


help these people. And it's about time that moderate Britain fought


back against some of these extremists who pursue these views.


And it's important, we must not allow this to become an Iran versus


Saudi conflict because it will become intractable. However, I do


accept as well if you read all the reports there is a massive


complication on the ground, it's not simply Iran versus Saudi, we haven't


arrived at that position yet but it's one that we ought to be


exceedingly mindful of. We have President Salah, the guy that robbed


Yemen basically, this is the guy that when he was president he was...


And arms dealer, he was buying bullets at 50 cents as an arms


dealer and selling them to himself as president at a dollar a time.


Buying Kalashnikovs and guns at $150 as an arms dealer, selling them to


himself as the president at $600. The UN report describes this man as


creaming off the whole of the year many -- Yemeni state. And one Depor


there were 1500 troops, he had an invoice for 80,000 troops. There are


nine teachers for every child in Yemen if you believe residents Salah


and of course he wants to get back his position and he wants to bring


in all the money and assets that the United Nations are trying to freeze


to fund this war in which ordinary people are being mercilessly killed.


Let's just faced some truths about this. The biggest donors to Yemen


over the years that have prevented the humanitarian crisis being what


it is today has been the GCC, has been Saudi Arabia and because of the


Houthis aid tap has been turned off but worse than that because the


Houthis want to find Saudi Arabia on the border we got a situation where


Saudi Arabia can no longer have foreign workers from Yemen working


in Saudi Arabia. It's logical so all the remittances have dried up, no


wonder the country is in poverty and we're allowing these people to get


away with it so it is obvious why UN resolution


2216 PINS at all on the Houthis, the people who started this in line with


the person they were fighting, president. We have got to try and


deal with it but it is about building bridges and what's in the


UN report is the GCC have tried at Geneva twice at the Muscat


principles to bring both parties together for a peaceful settlement


and who is the party that is resisting the peace talks? The


Houthis will not allow a peace delegation to fly to Geneva, will


not allow the UN express to see the situation on the ground. This is a


group of people who in my mind and I say this to people and Accrington,


they're just try to rob the state, not interested in a peaceful


settlement and it makes it difficult but we should never abandon the


principle of trying to build bridges that also applies to not trying to


upset on to stabilise the Gulf cooperation Council or the Arab


league. I very much enjoyed listening to his remarks. One of the


thing that shows their intent is the coup disrupted the constitutional


process that was in place in Yemen to try to bring a lasting and stable


government. But I wish this debate was for two hours and I can speak


for two hours. The Onomah member for West Derby is right. I could go for


three hours. The proposal from a constitutional settlement was for a


six estate federated Yemen and who walked away from that? The president


walked away from the talks in Geneva because he didn't want a federated


because he wanted to do what he was doing before, milk the state for


himself. This is the problem and all the meantime people are suffering.


Now the Saudis are trying to get a den, we've donated ?100 million, I'm


pleased we've done that, that's a fraction to what Saudi Arabia done


it and yet were trying to castigate them and that's just Saudi Arabia so


let's just talk about the conflict. This has been presented against


Saudi Arabia against the people of Yemen. What an absolute load of


garbage. They are operating under a UN mandate, the Gulf cooperation


Council, five members, four members of the Arab League are operating


under that mandate of which Saudi are one component. They are the


biggest component, I'm not denying that, they are also guilty it


appears of doing some awful things and they should be held to account,


nobody is saying that anybody should be exempt from the law, nobody


saying that but we must never take our eye off the ball that people are


suffering in Yemen and how did we get to the end result of relieving


that suffering? That is the primary purpose and I'm never going to slip


from that, not going to be taken on some hard left loony left or right


wing bandwagon about arms sales to Saudi Arabia if that impacts


negatively on the people in the region. I stand unequivocal. I'm


there to help the people of Yemen and I want to see the best outcome


for them. I thank him for giving way. Is he aware however that after


the strike on the funeral in which 140 people died, even the UK


Government was quoted as saying it was going to review its policy


towards arms exports to Saudi Arabia and I wonder if he has had any


feedback on what that review has stated? There is an issue and a


concern and it is a well-meaning and it is a genuine concern that the


speed and efficacy of Saudi's investigations into some of the


things that they've done is not up to the required standard. However,


they have as has been explained by many honourable members attempted at


least to come to this place, to speak with foreign powers, to allow


coalition partners who buy military equipment as well as British to be


involved in looking and training at what is going on, have tried to be,


to a degree, we will know what that degree as, transparent. One of the


issues that hasn't been addressed here is if you take Saudi Arabia out


of this, if you isolate that coalition, is there a risk that Isis


will fill that gap and flourish in Yemen and make the conflict even


worse? She's taken the words right out of my mouth and congratulate her


for raising the point that's not been raised enough. If you read the


UN report and all of the reports, this is the situation on the ground,


you have the Houthis marching south, next to no government forces,


marching through and they are marching into Sunni areas and we are


seeing a repeat of Mosul, history repeat itself in Iraq, Shias


marching into Sunni areas and the consequences of that like Mosul this


to consolidate the black flag over these places and so when I see


130,000 Saudi troops marching to the south, when I see the UAE send


synth, I at least, if I lived there I would prefer that but I'm at least


satisfied that some degree of military civil forces moving into


place to try and secure rather than allow which is what's happening


communities to be fearful, to have extremists who then turned to their


towns and communities and say the only way that we can defend


ourselves from those Houthis is to raise the black flag.


It will be terrible because we will not be to remove lifeless from years


to come, we are storing up a major problem. -- Isis. When I see the


troops moving to South Yemen I think it has to be welcomed because let's


not forget, it is not the Houthies who are using child soldiers but the


resistance using child soldiers as well. Both sides are using child


soldiers and what we need is a restoration of civil governance. We


cannot support the coup against the legitimate government even if that


government wasn't popular or efficient. We cannot allow that. I


want to discuss arms because some issues on this have not been


discussed. Who are supplying arms to Yemen? If you read the US register


of interest I will give you the list, Russia, Bulgaria, Moldova,


France, USA, Ukraine, Belarus, China, tanks, attack aircraft, Mick


jets, rocket launchers, all of these have been provided into the nation


of Yemen. I will tell you one country that hasn't supplied arms to


Yemen, the United Kingdom. They have not supplied, we have not supplied


arms to Yemen but all these other countries have. I think that ought


to be noted, we have a robust and good system of arms control and arms


export control. I do apologise Deputy Speaker. I will lend their


that 2017 will be a year in which we will seek a ceasefire and anybody


who wants a job on the passing bandwagon of using Yemen as stopping


arms sale to Saudi Arabia I will stand up and oppose them. Thank you


Madam Deputy Speaker. As you've heard the conflict in Yemen has been


labelled and I want to contribute to the comment earlier that is not in


this house and also for that reason I would like to congratulate and


paid tribute to both members of Liverpool and West Derby and


Leamington for the excellent contributions to this debate which I


have enjoyed. And also ensuring instead that this parliament and


although set have a chance to keep this issue at the forefront of


public debate and to remember those killed and injured as a result of


this ongoing violence. To remember those who are starving or stricken


with illness as a result of breakdown of civil society and to


remember that the UK has a central role to play in the Middle East and


indeed the role it has played in the conflict. It is our moral and civic


duty and also in our best pragmatic strategic self-interest to do all we


can to help end the conflict and bring peace to Yemen. I think we


have consensus that this is indeed what everybody wants to happen.


First and foremost because the suffering has reached a horrifying


tipping point, I was grateful this week to have the opportunity of


hosting a presentation by a range of aid organisation setting up the


scale and scope of the suffering we are now seeing. We were warned by


Oxfam, the Yemen safe passage grave and others that the danger of famine


in the country are very real. She mentions Oxfam and I have been


contacted by number of constituents supporting the Red Line for Yemen


campaign, will she join me in welcoming back campaign and support


for the Government to uphold the spirit of the arms trade and end any


illegal arms trade which will call suffering in Yemen? I'm grateful to


my friend in raising that campaign and I hope many more people will


sign up to it. Even before this conflict Yemen was relying on


external imports of around 95% of its food. By October 2016, the


combined efforts of a blockade of ports by coalition forces and damage


to roads meant that imported food only covered 40% of demand. I would


ordinarily give way that the honourable gentleman has had 15


minutes to make his speech and I want to make sure the Minister can


answer the questions posed to him, please forgive me. Oxfam have stated


if this continues unabated then informants food imports will come to


a complete halt. And to add to this spiralling economic problems which


face the country, the central bank has stopped salary payments as well


as pension payments to the elderly and welfare payments to the


vulnerable, the human tragedy on an epic scale is upon us. The estimate


of these experts is that by April or May this year there is a high


likelihood of what they call a cataclysmic famine which would


condemn millions madam Deputy Speaker to suffering and death. It


is important that we bear in mind that these victims are not a


by-product of the conflict, they are the target of military action with a


lack of food being used as a weapon of war. We have a moral


responsibility to our fellow human beings to address this crisis. I


welcome the work being carried out by aid organisations in Yemen to


make sure aid is delivered to those who need it now and I recognise that


the UK Government has contributed over ?100 million worth of aid to


the country for the Scottish Government has made donations to the


ongoing disaster emergency committee appeal. Our charity alone will not


avert this. What the people of Yemen need now as much as they need food


is international leadership. I want to welcome the efforts of the US


Secretary of State who try to broker a ceasefire still at the end of last


year but what we do know is that the incoming trump administration is


unlikely to take the same view in the region. I fear that the policies


of the new White House administration will instigate a


worrying degree of instability in the Middle East, a point also made


by the Member of points maths south. . Because of the vacuum that has


been created with the new administration, Britain holds the


pen as we are told in the Security Council. There is nothing to stop us


hosting a conference that will try and bring all the sides together as


well as taping the resolution because it will be several months


before the American administration will take office and get into the


right positions and of course they may take a different do to the Obama


administration. I'm very grateful for the Member of Leicester for his


comments and indeed absolutely that is a demonstration of how we can


show international leadership. I know the Secretary of State has been


active in this area but we need to build on his efforts to date. We


should do so not so because of the humanitarian crisis but also


strategic in stopping the bastions of Al-Qaeda whilst de-escalating the


tensions of a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Before we


take on the role of peace broker we have to face our role in the


conflict now. The UK too has often as its quartermaster. This must end


now. The UK has exported ?3.3 billion of military committee Saudi


Arabia since 2015 and if we're to be an honest broker the Government must


suspend arms deals to Saudi Arabia and facilitate a full independent UN


led enquiry into devious conduct in the war in Yemen. This has to happen


because we also now know that after consistently failing to live up to


his responsibilities to -- these responsibilities, the current


approach to arms sales has failed in the case of Yemen and the Yemeni


people are the innocent victims. This government must show the


leadership as that shown by the Netherlands in suspending licences


for arms exports to Saudi Arabia. More specifically the US government


has a ready been alluded to by the Member for East Lothian, the US


government banned the sale of guided munitions kits to Saudi Arabia. I


would like to ask the Minister today if he could clarify whether the UK


has granted export licence to any similar weapons, manufactured here


in the UK and would it be happy to do so in the future. Rather than


relying on the Saudis to dispose of these weapons themselves, ministers


should demand that these weapons are turned over to our personnel for


disposal. Is it not our own legal obligation to do everything we


possibly can to prevent their use? Decommissioning them ourselves would


serve this responsibility. Will ministers pledge to do so today?


Finally in order to be an honest broker, we need to be clear of the


involvement in UK forces on the ground in Saudi Arabia. When


published reports recommended that the UK Government and to the


following questions, how many UK personnel assisting the Armed Forces


and in what roles including BAE Systems and employees. What is the


extent of the operations and how the UK personnel advising the Saudi


Arabian Armed Forces on law and what level of understanding do they have


of the coalition 's regard for international humanities and its


operations in Yemen. These answers should be forthcoming now. Madam


Deputy Speaker, this government has an opportunity to show international


leadership, it has an opportunity to use our own power and influence in


the Middle East. To stop violence and not sell more weapons. It has an


opportunity to end suffering, the suffering of millions of Yemeni men


and women and children, but in order to do this it must come clean with


this house and with the country in our involvement to date and the


actions it has taken to put things right. And then truly then, it can


then play its part in consigning this forgotten conflict to history


where it belongs. Let me start by echoing everything that my


honourable friend, the Member for West Derby and both sides of the


House have said today about the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Making


gradually my honourable friend for securing this very important debate.


Let me also make it clear at the outset that we agree with the


principles behind a UN resolution 2216. We all want to see Yemen


restored to the of legitimate stable and democratic government is capable


of peacefully leading the whole world, the whole country and we all


want to see the beauty rebels hold to account for the illegal coup and


for the atrocities they have committed during this were --


Houthies but with all due respect to the Government and to some of those


on my benches, it is possible to agree with the principles will also


disagreeing profoundly. Especially in the way this has been enforced,


and with the abject failure of the British government to bring the war


to an end. I will move... If members will give me a moment I have ten


minutes and I will be going into details. Let me talk about the war


crimes on both sides and on these bench as we have said many times


just as the UN has that all leading human rights groups and a number of


select committees of this house that the only way to ensure the


comprehensive, thorough and impartial investigation of those


alleged crimes is to commission and independent enquiry. The Government


has been consistent to the call and they have said the Saudi led


coalition must be left to investigate themselves. Let's see


how that is going Shall We. In October revealed that this dispatch


box that the 3000 documented air strikes, but to the end of August


2016, the coalition's joint incident assessment team has issued report on


just nine. A pathetic 0.002%. How many more reports have been


completed since then? Madam Deputy Speaker, they have completed just


for. -- four. Of those 13 investigations which were use the


word unreservedly, there are only three where culpability has been


found on the coalition. On the other ten cases including 241 civilian


deaths and the bombing of four features, three medical facilities,


one wedding, one food market, one cattle market, they have found,


surprise surprise at the coalition has done nothing wrong. This is the


investigatory body into which the Government has put all of its faith


to ensure that the coalition is not violating international law. Let us


look at the man who is in charge. Colonel Mansell Al Mansoor, or as he


is known by some in Bahrain, the butcher. In 2011 with a popular


uprising in Bahrain brutally suppressed and martial law being put


into place, Colonel Al Mansoor was the military lawyer who presided


over the kangaroo court which was to jail and execute the protest the


activists, the activists, the opposition politicians, the


teachers, the religious clerics, the human rights campaigners, in fact


anyone seen as a threat to the Bahrain regime. Hundreds were jailed


or sent to death under his orders and yet this is the man to him the


Government had put all of its faith to investigate alleged war


The Government is either naive, or negligent. But either way, this is


not good enough. I thought it telling, Mr Speaker,


when the minister said at the Saudi collision on Tuesday: It is having


to provide reports when it makes mistakes, and has never done that


before. It has no experience of even writing reports. That much is


obvious, given it produced 13 reports in eight months but what is


more telling is the implication that the roll of the situation is to


identify mistakes. So, contrary... The honourable gentlemen shouts but


what he said on Tuesday and I'm quoting him, it is videoing to


provide reports when it has made mistakes. So if it is to identify


mistakes, the situation is not investigating whether international


law is breached but it has been taking on trust. Tall is doing is


looking at a handful of high-profile incidents and in one or two cases,


saying a mistake has been made. This is not good enough.


The honourable gentlemen is not doing his cause any good. It is not


good enough as an investigation or good enough as the basis for


confidence that our arms laws are not being breached for it to be


investigated by Mansour and to be investigated in the way it is. 13


reports in eight months is not good enough. It is not good enough. Let


me turn to the role that Britain must play in bringing an end to the


conflict. I go back to what the minister said on Tuesday: The House


may remember I asked why the UK had not presented its resolution to the


Security Council, the minister explained: We will not get a


Security Council resolution passed until we get the cessation of


hostilities in place. If that is the case, Mr Deputy Speaker, why does


clause one of the UK's draft resolution demand an immediate


cessation of hostilities? Why would the first line of the resolution


demand something already in place? In October, the UK's ambassador to


the UN said: We have decided to put forward a draft Security Council


resolution on Yemen, calling for cessation of has tillities and a


resumption of the political process. In other words, the resolution which


was designed to be the driving force behind a ceasefire and peace talks.


Just as it was with resolution 1860 on Gaza, on 2174 on Libya, as it was


on resolution 2254 on Syria. For the minister to claim we must have a


ceasefire before the resolution make no, sir sense. So what is the


explanation for the delay? I give way to the honourable gentlemen.


I don't know where to start but to begin by saying when a draft


resolution is put together, the reason why we don't air it in public


is the details may change. So she needs to hold on until the UN


resolution comes about and we then debate that I pose the question, has


she read the UN Security Council resolution 2216? The reason I ask is


that it calls for the same thing. She is asking for a ceasefire but it


is inherent in the UN Security Council resolution 2216. I am very


interested to hear what he says and will listen to a care what he says,


and interested to hear, as I know that the Government says on many


occasions that the Saudi led intervention in Yemen is something


which is UN-backed and that they rely on the same resolution. I would


be interested to hear where that is in the revolution and how it is able


to be claimed that Saudi intervention in Yemen is...


ALL SPEAK AT ONCE, would my honourable friend


give way? I don't think there is a huge gap between what the two


frontbenchers is a saying. It was common knowledge what was in the


draft resolution. Every member of the Security Council spoke if favour


of the ceasefire. Given everyone knows what is in the resolution,


there is no reason why this cannot be tabled.


I agree. For 50 days we have known what is in this draft resolution and


we wait and wait for the British to put the resolution on the table.


There is support for it. It has a number of elements in it. I wish to


explain perhaps the reasons why the British are not putting it on the


table. I will take interventions as necessary if the minister wishes to


explain. I do ask her to perhaps join in with the spirit of the


debate to look at the positives what we can do. She is focussing deeply


on a draft resolution she has got, which I promise you, having been


involved in the Riyadh talks in December, it is now out of date. I


will go into detail but if she devotes more minutes to this, it is


superfluous to the good debate we have had in the chamber.


Can I remind there is another debate to follow, so there are not many


more minutes remaining, only about 1.5 minutes remaining.


I will go through the speech. The truth is that Saudi Arabia does not


want this resolution to be presented. When asked about the UK's


draft resolution in November by an Arab newspaper it was said that


there was a joint agreement with Britain concerning the draft


resolution, and whether there is a need for it or not, the newspaper


went on to say that the Saudi ambassador said that the UK draft


resolution includes: Unnecessary text in addition to wrong timing.


There it is. Saudi Arabia does not sit on the UN Security Council but


has been able to veto the UK's draft resolution without so much of a


discussion. Why? Is it clause 4 that cause for full and transparent


investigation of war crimes? Or is it clause 5 that calls on sides to


negotiate a political solution on the basis of a UN roadmap given that


President Hadi described the roadmaps a betrayal of the blood of


the martyrs, or is it that just likes a areaed and Syria, Saudi


Arabia sees no valuable in agreeing the ceasefire when it believes that


the rebellion can be crushed, no matter the civil Ouwejan casualties,


the humanitarian cost and because no matter what they do, they know this


Tory Government will remain on their side. Mr Speaker, the Foreign


Secretary was right last month to call Yemen a proxy war. He was right


to criticise Saudi Arabia's puppet earring. While I am happy to applaud


his a honesty, it is just his hypocrisy, all the more


disappointing. If he knows what Saudi Arabia are doing in Yemen, he


should follow the American lead to stop selling arms. If he is worried


about the scale of casualties, there should be a UN-led investigation to


see if the international laws are broken. And if he would like to see


an end to the conflict and get the yellow yen children the aid that


they need, have the guts to stand up to Saudi Arabia and stop the


delaying tactics and do the decent thing, present the draft UN


resolution, end the conflict, demand an independent investigation of war


crimes and send a signal of intent to the Saudis today by supporting


the back bench motion. Thank you very much. I'm saddened to hear the


comments by the frontbench. I'm not sure that they are supported by


those that sit behind her. I will say after the final statement, that


it was shameful to say that Saudi Arabia is not wanting a ceasefire in


the same way that Assad doesn't want a ceasefire in Syria is shameleful


and show as miss under standing of what is happening. I will


congratulate my honourable friend, we have known each other a long time


since the days of being involved in student politics and the honourable


member for Liverpool west Derby for securing the debate which has been


reflected in the majority of speeches, showing a sense of a


growing understanding and expertise. Without inis thing anybody, I would


say that we have moved on from the Thursday afternoon. Armchair


generals that look at things through a particular prism to understand


that this is a deeply complicated issue and conflict and the solutions


are complicated as well. Now, the starting with the conflict


and the causes of conflict, which many have touched on. In 2014, the


Huthi forces and those loyal around the capital that forced out the


legitimate government have attacked Saudi Arabia, shelled border


villages and killed Saudi civilians as well. There was a military


occupation to restore the government to deter aggression that otherwise


would have been likely to reach the port of Aidan and defend the Saudi


border. In 2015, the UN security rose luges condemned the Houthi


actions. Paragraph 5 called for a cessation of violence. In this


context, the UK support's the coalition's efforts. UK diplomatic


efforts also have played an important role. Government believes


a political settlement is the only way to find lasting peace in creme


yen. We have about the at the forefront of the effort to make


progress towards this goal. In July last year, here in London we brought


together the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab


Emirates, the US Secretary of State, to show support for the role of the


UN in mediating a solution to the crisis. This, I will give way at the


end but I'm under pressure from the deputy speaker. This informal group


of key players is known as the quad and meetings expanded to include the


UN Special Envoy and other represents from other Gulf countries


as well. I attend a meeting in Riyadh on the 18th of December, to


engage in the process to put the needs of the Yemeni people first. We


are to continue to engage with the parties throughout the region to


support peace. I have spoken to President Hadi to emphasise the


needs to find a way forward in the political process. We had


transition, and there will be a takeover from John Cary, this person


is familiar with the area. I will give way at the end. I must pay


tribute and comment on the other contributions made. The honourable


gentlemen paid tribute to the humanitarian work. My Right


Honourable friend, the member for Penrith and the Border, in his


place, has been engaged on this. It is well recognised across the floor


of the work Britain does and marks our place on the Security Council in


the role we play in this particular conflict. He touched on the region.


I will not give way. I am under pressure. I wish there was more


time. If there is time I would be delighted to give way. He touched on


the history of the region but it is worth underlying that there are


complex divisions in the country. It is not just simple those sporting


Hadi and the hathis. There has been a power struggle since the


unification in 1990. There are tribes, militants, elites, group,


terrorist organisations which leads to instability on a grand scale.


Loyalties are not firm. They move and come and go along with the winds


as well. That is the backdrop to which we are dealing with this


matter. He asked a key question as to when we will join calls for an


independent inquiry, which we have said we would support, I will make


the argument for that case coming to fore. My Right Honourable friend for


the East Bedfordshire gave a powerful speech to reflect his grabs


of what is going on there. Paying tribute to Stephen O'Brien and the


whole House will join him in doing that at the United Nations for


exposing what is happening and what more work must be done. He also


spoke about the visit, which I thought remarkable. I was pleased to


be involved of the Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister. Have we ever heard


of a Foreign Minister from the Gulf nations coming to the House, meeting


Parliamentarians and answering each question as best he could. I hope


that continues. He made it clear why would we want to bomb farms and


schools in yep yen? That places into context that these are two countries


with a deep history with each other. No long-term interest in Saudi


Arabia causing damage right aRoss the piece to yell yen in the way


some of the frontbench described. It is not in their interest as the


international condemnation that brings about. He also says that yes,


he that Saudi Arabia is slow in providing the reporting that


everybody in this House has been calling for. Absolutely, he admits


that. He said that he is willing to ask for help, can we help him


provide that? This is very much a reserved country, it is unused to


the limelight it is now adapting to live in. It is unused to sustained


warfare that it is now participating in and unused to providing the


reporting and the scrutiny required when sustained warfare takes place


in the same way we have had to learn the same mechanisms to provide that


transparency that is now expected on the battle field.


On the issue of transparency that they should learn from us but can


the minister explain why when he said they had immediately decided to


correct the mistakes that they had given to this house, both in debates


and parliamentary questions, he has just confirmed to me at 11 minutes


past three that in fact the Foreign Secretary knew it on the 20th of


June, why did it take a month to come with this information? The


Defence Secretary made a point about that. He knows me and I've done my


best to be as transparent as possible and any members of the


opposition who have been ministers and government know we have one of


the best civil service in the world dealing with thousands and thousands


of written answers. I will finish my point. Occasionally mistakes are


made, we put our hands up and say they have been made. I'm sorry there


was a delay, as soon as we realised one error was made with ended an


investigation to see and there were out of nearly 100 PMQ 's, there was


one clerical error which continued on. There was a handful and we kept


six out of almost a hundred whether wording was incorrect. We did an


investigation which took some time. I tell the House now which I did


before, I apologise for that. There is no conspiracy here, it is an


error and it is on my shoulders that I take it and I apologise to the


House. I will now move on. I want to talk about the honourable Member for


Leicester EC made important points about this being a forgotten war and


today's debate has made sure we have not forgotten about it. He talks


about a ceasefire and this gives me license to talk about the security


resolution which is in the process of being written. It is working on


the basis of the road map discussed on the 19th of December and it


includes seven steps and when I mention these, I will elaborate a


little, we can see how complicated it is to get a consensus on the


ground for these steps. There are security steps for the ritual of


equipment, there are a crude roles and appointments for who will run a


transition process. There are consultations in accordance with the


GCC negotiations and the partnership for peace agreement and the UN


security resolution to 216 and additional withdrawals and the


signing of an agreement itself, and a potential donor conference which


we need a commitment for and finally leading up to electoral reform. That


is complicated business. That is why a UN security Council resolution


will not be a draft form. That one is out of date. I will not give way.


My honourable friend for Beckenham... Points of order. In


your absence there has been a bit of backwards and forwards between the


front benches, I gave way on several occasions. And he is now making it


clear that he will not allow me to intervene the tour and... Order. Are


you sitting down. Let's be clear about this. Either side, it is up to


the Minister or the Shadow Minister to give way, that is the rules. The


other points, I know this debate was meant to finish at 330 and we are


running over, if the minister does not give way it is his choice, there


is no need to get uptight about it, that is life. I'm grateful for your


guidance and I understand the remaining two minutes... This is not


a continuation I hope. Let's get to the end of the debate. There are


people who want to move on. I'm looking after all members of the


House and all members who wish to speak in the next debate, we weren't


to do so if we run over. Please let's get to the end. I'm sorry I


finished. Mr Deputy Speaker, just to continue in the last two minutes


that I have, I want to make the point that my honourable friend from


Beckenham made on Tuesday. The fundamental backdrop to this is in


essence a Cold War that has existed between the Sunni and Shi'ite


leadership, and we need to solve that. We need to move forward from


that because there is extra technically and theologically no


doctrinal difference between the two faiths themselves, they both believe


in the centrality of the Prophet Muhammad and it all goes down to the


difference in succession. Was it Ali the son-in-law and cousin was it


Abubakar the father-in-law and since then there have been tensions in


Islamic history and peace and prosperity might improve if the two


faiths could reconcile their political differences. That is at


the core of what a lot of challenges are that to find in the Middle East.


Time prevents me Mr Deputy Speaker from being able to respond to other


contributions although I would do my best, but I will enter by


clarifying... I will give way unless I can answer the question as I'm


about to which is when we feel it would be inappropriate to not have


faith in the Saudi system itself. In conclusion Mr Deputy Speaker, the


Government is not opposing calls for an international independent


investigation of the first and foremost we want to see the Saudis


investigate the breaches of international humanitarian law which


have been attributed to them and for the investigation is to be thorough


and conclusive. They have the best insight into their own military


purposes and can have their own clarification and to apply these


lessons in the best possible way. This is the standard Mr Deputy


Speaker that we set ourselves and our allies. When allegations were


made against us in Afghanistan and Iraq, we investigated those claims


and when for example... The US investigated that incident and


applied it to their military procedures to ensure this would not


happen again. They have reported they are investigating allegations


and any lessons learnt to be acted upon. As of today only 13 have been


reported, the machine is slow and the conduct is new and the team is


learning its way. I keep putting pressure on them and I will continue


to do so and I make it very clear that should lose faith in that


process which is beginning, to digress how long it took for the


Chilcott enquiry to come together, this is a machine that we have in


this country which is well versed to the legal parameters you have to


deal with. We need to have faith in Saudi Arabia to say yes these must


be forthcoming. In conclusion I believe this has been a very good


debate and I thank the backbenches. This is not a forgotten crisis and


we remain fully engaged. We will continue to lead the way providing


humanitarian support, ultimately it is for the Yemenis themselves who


need to read the compromise indeed. We stand ready to help them. I have


to say I'm very disappointed that the minister in his final remarks in


his speech basically didn't give us any further indication of when the


Government would move to actually support an independent


investigation. I'm pleased he responded to my point but I don't


think we were taken further on that issue and it is an issue to which


the House will return. There are many areas of agreement and this is


a complex country, the humanitarian crisis is appalling, all of us want


to work together to ensure access for humanitarian organisations and


we welcome the positive leadership role. We need a ceasefire, a


political settlement and reconstruction. I want to finish


with two points. This is co-sponsored by the honourable


gentleman for Boruc in Leamington. He chairs the committee on arms


exports. That committee plays a crucial role in this house on


monitoring arms exports. Some argue that should be abolished and instead


they should all fund to fall under the international trade committee


but this demonstrates the importance of effective scrutiny including the


development of affairs, is not a question of international trade. It


was evidenced in my committee that said there is a paradox at the heart


of the UK's approach to Yemen. We are generous on aid but also


contributing to the conflict through our arms sales. The views on both


sides of the House has been reflected in the debate today. I


hope all of us can come together behind this motion supported by


three select committees of the House which is that we should have this


investigation because yes we want is peace birds alongside peace we want


justice. A ceasefire is a necessary condition and not sufficient and we


will only get justice when we have a full independent investigation into


all alleged violations by all parties to this conflict. The


question is on the order paper as many to the opinion say ayes, on the


contrary snow. The eyes have -- the ayes have it. We now come to the


debate on the political situation in the African great Lake. Thank you


very much and this is the first opportunity the House has had since


the general election to discuss the Great Lakes. I shall curtail my


remarks on what to allow sufficient time for those on the backbenches


wishing to speak. Having lost 12 minutes or more on the debate so


far. They were the first three countries, the countries have had


things go better in recent times and I start with Rwanda which has a


booming economy which has moved on from the genocide of 1994 in the


most admirable ways. The White House but a statement in November 2015


saying the Rugani in many ways has an opportunity to enshrine his


legacy by honouring his commitments to respect the time limit set when


he entered office. Any move to prolong his hold on power would be


to the detriment of his legacy. Samantha Power called for him to


step down in 2017. What is the UK Government position in relation to


this? Secondly in relation to unite the toes report on the freedom of


and freedom of expression, has the UK been making representation, this


is meeting with the Rwandans of 2015 to ensure other political parties


are not being labelled as enemies of the state and that the plurality of


democracy becomes a key part alongside a booming economy of


building this is one of the great powerhouses of Africa and thirdly


NGO's and the function of NGO's, the other big worry at the moment in


Rwanda, not least the relation to the leadership of NGO's, what is our


position as a country on this and what representations are we making


on these three issues? I shall come from Rwanda and it'd be good to go


the same border, I'm sure there are others who wish to say but I suspect


there will be less said about the Central African Republic which has


been something of a, a place not mentioned, not visited by anyone. It


has been too unsafe for anyone to visit, although the Pope has now


demonstrated that it is moving on and indeed impressively. This we


have seen 79% at the last election, we are seeing democracy and would


democracy the possibilities of stability and of peace and of


development. That's tempered by the Amnesty


International report this week. What is the Government's response to that


report? And what assistances are Government giving in allowing this


country to move from its dark years? Or are we standing by the side? What


assisting are we giving, weather remnants of the resistance army


remain, causing turmoil, what ais a cystance are we giving to the


central African public in allowing it to become a more normalised,


stable country, that can grow democratically and economically with


a significant level of peace. The Congo, not the DRC, which will be a


issue of concern, where we have a lot of relationships but Congo,


hardly mentioned. What are we doing there, where there is a level of


political instability, to ensure that is recognised and strengthened?


And as an important aside, the worldwide -- the World Wildlife Fund


a significant country in terms of preservation of forest elephants and


lowland guerrilla, and also, it seems to me, a huge potential


tourist boost, whether one welcomes it or regrets it, a significant part


in maintaining endangered species in a country which overlaps to the CAR


and its National Park bordering Congo. What are we doing to give


assistance to allow that to develop? This is an why where we have great


interest in the country, not least through Prince William's exertions,


it is one where in 2018 we are hosting a major conference but one


where we have expertise and there are opportunities there to do


significant, in a country rarely mentioned in this House but one that


I give a passing mention to, even though the All-party group is


intending to propose to the IPAU delegation and many members


participating in that, and it maybe that the CER and the Congo are


included in that and the Foreign Office would be keen to see such a


delegation taking place. Taking place into the areas where we must


build our relationship an consolidate their gains. There are


countries that have improved and significantly in recent times, and


welcome so. So one should temper criticisms and support for improving


democracy which we should continue to press them on with recognition of


progress. In bar ownedy, which I visited two years ago -- Barundi, it


is a less happy state of affairs, DIFID has pulled out. We do not have


an embassy there. The press recently, over the issue, has been a


mistake as Barundi is increasingly anglocised in its approach to the


world as part of the east African community has followed many others


and gone its own way, with Presidents that seem to think they


should be there for life but in this case with turmoil and a lot of


violence on thing a lights of the present President and his entourage


and huge dangers within that country. What are we doing to assist


and to intervene? Do we support the use of Chapter 7 of the UN Charter


in order to deploy a employers in accordance with UN resolution 2303


of July 2016? What will it take for the UN Security Council to take this


decision and are we working to that end? And what other leverage are we


using on the President to ensure that this country moves on? This is


a country again hardly spoken about, whose genocide compares with the


worst in Africa in recent and historic times, at an extraordinary


level. An extraordinary level of genocide hidden away in the '70s and


the '80s, the biggest single proportionate dislocation of people


anywhere in the country, in the world, moving across Tanzania in


dramatic numbers from 1972 onwards, then being successfully


reassimilated an extraordinary success in reassimilating a


population that had been displaced and yet we stand at a side from all


of this? And the country in need where its democracy is under threat,


where violence has been Pre-Budget Reportedly breaking out and with the


legacy of the genocide, 1,000 bodies in a mass grave just discovered in


the last 24 hours in an area of Barundi, highlighting the hidden


genocide. And what is the NGO situation, with


the malaria situation, for a country that is not really moving forward in


tackling malaria. And of course we are talking about the second poorest


country on the planet. And when it comes to human rights, what are we


doing in Geneva with the Human Rights Council to ensure that Ba


are, undi is not given a soft option? It is tackled over what it


is doing? So that it can become a great success in Africa, rather than


regress into dictatorship and with that the ensuing violence.


The final country I shall mention, the seventh poorest on the planet,


the biggest, the DRC, a country of extraordinary size with its 60


million population, with its level of displacement, with its wars on


the eastern side for so long. Again, opportunities are great but what are


we doing? The 31 of December agreement on progression so that the


President can stand down, he has not yet signed it. Although, most


observers seem to think that he will but what are we doing to ensure that


democracy prevails in this huge country? And what are we doing to


ensure as well, as we have a significant aid programme there,


that the move on of Kabila isn't seen as a silver bullet for the


country, and is seen as a starting point for significant change. And


what are we doing to ensure that our efforts are not entirely


concentrated on the conflict areas of the east but the whole mass of


the rest of the country, the largest, one calls it illegal, I am


not sure that is the right term but ad hoc landmine in the world, a huge


chunk of the country with the most extraordinary health and safety


caned death rate, and our expert team could play a significant role.


Thank you for giving way. Whilst I understand, there is lots of cry of


what are we doing? We can only do a lot by working with others. We are


doing a significant amount through the Foreign Office level and DIFID,


and we work along with the western nations in democracy building in a


number of these states. We have a project, my own party and I suspect,


that there will be integral projects to apply, in this whole Africa and


great region. And also, just to say this, it does strike that there is a


country to which he has not referred, Uganda and the security


implications of what is going on there will be of great importance to


this whole region in the years to come.


And he makes his point eloquently. The rack thank you callities for the


minister, the Electoral Commission has no money, no capacity. Our


expertise in elections is huge, is this an area where we can give


expertise and support? And some of the conflicts, for example in


Katangu with the Bantu, the competition for land, how are we


looking at how are aid programme could be assisting in ameliorating


that situation, and when it comes to the forces that are effective? What


is our approach to ensuring that those forces are effective and our


expertise is brought to bear as part of it? And finally in relation to


the mining sector, because alongside our aid programme we have huge


interests, we have mining companies heavily involved in the Democratic


Republic of Congo, it is the minerals, that are without question


the reason why in the east and the south-east there has been so much


continuous war, battling for minerals or groups funded by mineral


but what are we doing to ensure that we are not responsible with


companies in this country, indeed, looking at the bribery, looking at


the payments to military groups? How do we know? Does the Government not


see the importance of the proposals on beneficial ownership with places


such as the British Virgin Islands and how that directly connects in


into the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, through mineral


companies who are based in off-shore locations such as the British Virgin


Islands, allowing as the New York Times has revealed recently, a whole


series of what can be only described as suspicious bank transfers, 100


million of them, going towards Mr Kabila's adopted brother one


example. Bur it is clear, in the region it is clear looking at our


own Serious Fraud Office, which has had to be involved, that without


skimming the surface of the problem, we could be doing a significant


amount if we were simply able to clarify and confirm beneficial


ownership of what the monies and the mining interests are, and then hold


them to account. Some people feel that the various military forces


battling illegally there, are using mining money in a very significant


way both through bribery and other direct extractions. We have a


responsibility, there, a huge responsibility to the region as well


as to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and what are we doing? And


finally, I should pay credit to callow Velazquez assisting and in


Carole's case for many, many years and to CAFOD who have been


influential in supporting and assisting the Catholic Church in


getting the break through in the DRC. There are many other great


players in this country in the aid world but they should be


congratulated in their work. I could say much more, Mr Deputy Speaker, I


won't, I hand over to others. Marvellous. The question is, how to


consider the security situation of the African Great Lakes. Can I say


to members up to seven minutes and we all get equal time. I know that


the frontbench don't like being squeezed.


I refer to my entries in the register of interest and pay tribute


to the honourable member for a well informed speech and for my


honourable friend that sponsored the debate. We are increasingly engaged


in the Great Lakes region and rightly so. It is vital to continue


this and for the long-term, not to dip in and out but maintain our


presence in a positive way in many respects that I will come to. I have


to say that I'm standing here more positive about the Great Lakes than


I have been for some time. We have on many occasions in the past year


raised our concerns about the future of the Democratic Republic of Congo.


Yet I hope that the agreement reached on New Year's Eve will be


remembered in the same way that we remember the Good Friday agreement


for Northern Ireland when people put aside differences in the interests


of people. It talks about elections in 2017, no


third term for President Kabila, and I want to pay tribute to the


catholic church, who have done so much, also to the retiring envoy who


has done a tremendous job, and indeed to our own Foreign and


Commonwealth Office, and indeed to our own Great Lakes envoy. I also


want to pay tribute to the work done by... on a visit, particularly the


health work done in remote regions, access to water, some of the best


projects I have ever seen done at low cost by people really committed


to the Democratic Republic of Congo the decades. These are not


consultants that come and go, these are really committed people who work


the porous. Mr Deputy Speaker, Randy is another matter, but I had to say


that we have two as positive as we can beat -- Burundi. It is vital


that ID 17 is better, every effort had to be put in to turn this


country around, principally by those that have the want ability for it.


One thing we have to remember is to ensure that any agreements, when


made, are watertight. The Burundi problem arises from a lack of


clarity over how many terms the current president was going to be


re-elected, how many terms he was to serve. And as a result of that, we


have had hundreds, if not thousands, of people killed. These agreement


must look forward to problems that may arise in the future when they


are signed. I believe we must continue to support economic job. It


is disappointing that some organisations have withdrawn their


support from this process. You can understand the reasons why, Mr


Deputy Speaker, but I believe it is the only game in town, and they need


to be engaged with it. As the president says, they need to deal


with the situation as it is to work with the president, to try to


persuade the government of that country to turn away from an


extremely dangerous path, to seek extrajudicial killings stopped, to


see paramilitaries and roaming gangs go back to lawful activities to


restore law and order, and human rights, and above all not to let the


blight of ethnic hatred, which might honourable friend referred to.


Burundi suffered as grievously from genocide as Rwanda, but it was a


roaming genocide over Decatur, not a genocide over a couple of days in


1994. Mr Deputy Speaker, I won't say much about wonder, because possibly


others will, but it has been a success story, but with many


problems along the way. This is a time for the country to come


together. It is also a time to look to the future. The president has


been a flawed but outstanding leader, and needs, if he stands


again, which is likely, to look beyond the next term to who his


successor will be. He has the interest of his country at heart. He


will want it to prosper in future. He knows he will not be forever, as


indeed none of us are. Turning to Tanzania, the country probably


closest to my heart in this reading, having lived there for some years,


the country has managed the transition to free and fair


elections extremely well, except sadly in the case of Zanzibar. There


was progress from Zanzibar from 2010 to 2015, but the elections in 2015


were flawed. They were pooled in a way that the government made its


views quite cleared clear about. It is vital the island of Zanzibar


comes together in whatever way with the union government and resolves


this problem for the future. The people of Zanzibar deserve nothing


less. They are very peaceful and wonderful people.


At the same time, Tanzania has respected the two term limit for


presidents impeccably, and we have to pay great credit to that. The


CCM, the major ruling party, has achieved a great deal, but it needs


to go further. It needs to bring in an independent electoral commission


in Tanzania. That is the biggest flaw in Tanzania in Agassi in my


opinion. At the moment, at the same time, the opposition needs to use


Parliament, and Parliamentary process, to deal with its


understandable questions to government, rather than just


assuming that it should go onto the streets every time. I pay tribute to


the opposition for thinking calmly about that, and not going ahead with


a major demonstrations that were proposed in September, which I


believe would have resulted in unnecessary violence and possibly


deaths. Finally, Mr Deputy Speaker, I would


like to refer to Uganda. The examples of former presidents all


show the benefit of presidents who recognise the importance of term


limits. Those that stay on forever rarely go gracefully, and that


surely is a lesson for Uganda. The peace and stability which has been


brought from 1985 has been a great relief to the people of Uganda, but


proper democratic transition is also a sign of wisdom and maturity. I


would like finally to referred to development in all of these


countries. In our debate on the sustainable development goals last


year, in November, in Westminster Hall, I referred to five levers of


developing, which I believe are absolutely crucial and are vital.


Jobs and livelihoods, health and research on health, education,


gender equality, and infrastructure. The UK are involved in all of these,


pretty much in all of these countries, including in Burundi,


through multilateral means. It is vital we continue this, and as I


said at the beginning, for the long-term committed in a way to


ensure the future prosperity of a wonderful part of the world, which


is of great importance. I would like to thank my honourable


friend from Bassetlaw for securing this very important debate, and I


would like to focus on eastern DRC, because I think it is an area that


has been overlooked considerably by this place, the West and the world.


Stability and security in a Great Lakes region of Africa are too often


overlooked by the international community. Throughout the region,


violence and displacement have become normalised, while several


regions have experienced conflict and human rights abuse. Over a


thousand Congolese women are raped every day. It seems uniquely


shocking when we talk about it, but the transformation seems to be


tragically commonplace, and we seem to accept it. That is a really sad


reflection. The result is a relative lack of awareness about action


against the political instability that has the set these countries for


decades. And worse still, there is a tendency to regard the violence as


perpetual, inevitable, in contrast with other parts of the world, which


seems more immediately redeemable, and we seem to be more focused upon.


The ongoing refugee crisis in Europe and the Mediterranean is testament


to this trend, as is Syria. Activism compared to the refugees of eastern


DRC and Burundi, and yet refugees, as tragic as their plight was, the


numbers of 7000, compared to the millions internally displaced in


Burundi and from eastern DRC and DRC, who are displaced the decades,


not months, not a year, decades. Worse still, the millions of


refugees have been torn from their families, homes and communities,


have been forced to live in East African refugee camps for around 20


years. It's a shame that little attention is paid to this particular


issue. Having visited Rwanda twice in the past few years and spoken to


Congolese refugees who have been accommodated in that particular


country, I want to provide some reflections on how I see the issue.


Rwanda seems to be a developed country in a relatively stable and


increasingly prosperous democracy, while DRC continues to be played by


anarchic and systemic violence. According to recent UN statistics,


there are currently 2.7 million internally displaced people, as well


as 430,000 refugees displaced from eastern DRC, spreading cancer across


Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania, nearly half a million


people that we seem to ignore when we talk about human rights and


helping people. On my first visit, I witnessed


first-hand the conditions in which families spanning three generations


have had to live. Located at the top of a lonely mountain range, isolated


from the attention of the world, the refugee camp houses some 15,000


people. As I say, it has been there since the 1990s. It is overcrowded,


lacking in resources and cramped. The shacks and primitive location


are crowded on the steep slopes, and inside the camps there is an it"


supply of water, electricity and food. Children below 18 years of age


represent a staggering 51.2% of the camp's population, and since they


have grown up in these camps, they know nothing else. This is a world


in which they live, a placed the world doesn't seem to understand or


care about. Poor education, insufficient public amenities


abound. The situation in the DRC makes it almost impossible for


refugees to return home. Over 100 armed militia groups camped out in


DRC's impenetrable jungles continue to kill and terrorise families


daily. Rape continues to be used as a weapon of war, and I hope that is


an issue that this parliament and this chamber will raise again and


again in future, because it is an issue we should not turn our backs


on. And when the conflict worsens, over 400,000 women can be raped in a


year, from the Ugandan Allied 's democratic forces to the democratic


forces for the liberation of Rwanda, the eastern DRC is just plagued by


murderous militia groups who exploit the country's mineral wealth, and


use its proceeds to terrorise communities into subordination. The


state is at best ineffectual, and at and they are allowed to descend into


mindless violence in pursuit of what is a 27 trillion dollars worth of


industry of untapped mineral resources in the DRC. Fighting for


control over cotton production, for example, and the DRC's vast gold and


tungsten reserves. Fighting frequently breaks out to determine


which groups control the lucrative mines, situated in the eastern areas


of the country. And the situation shows little sign of improving, with


little or no hope of return for the Congolese refugees trapped in these


camps, and they've been trapped there for a long time.


Unlike those in Calais, they are not provided with comments of rights in


their new country. Tanzania and Uganda have restricted the legal


right of refugees to work, while Burundi and Malawi have restricted


access, Zambia is even restricted access to education for the


Congolese refugees. We in this place need to ask why this situation


continues with no end in sight. The Minister will undoubtedly point to


the efforts of the Catholic Church, the AAU, UNESCO, in trying to broker


a lasting peace. Why be actions of the UN peacekeeping force, the


largest peacekeeping force that was sent to eastern DRC has failed to


stabilise eastern DRC. And now that force is being withdrawn. There


doesn't seem to be an enquiry into the failure and ongoing violence, so


that refugees are able to return home and conduct their lives without


the constant fear of violence and an ending poverty. Just to finally


finish, Mr Deputy is bigger, I want to refer to the case of rape. An


attitude showed in 2012 be shocking prevalence of the acceptance of rape


amongst congressmen, carried out by the South African Justice network,


the study heard that one in three men in the eastern DRC admitted to


committing sexual assault, while 61% of interviewees stated that women


sometimes deserved to be beaten. The DRC has been branded the rape


capital of the world, and I hope we will address it in future sessions.


Mr Deputy Speaker, I congratulate the honourable member of bringing


this debate to this place for a wide and comments of speech on the


region. There are few areas of the world where the real legacy of


colonialism is prevalent. It is also true to say that there is


a greater burden to bear due to history of appropriation. I have a


particular interest in it, and the fact that the Church has


brokered a deal at least put the democratic transition back on the


table in the coming year, and that is to be welcomed, although only


cautiously, as it remains to be seen if President Kabila signs up.


Government repression of protests intensified, of human rights


defenders were arbitrarily arrested and convicted for peacefully


exercising their rights. Numerous armed groups perpetrating serious


abuses of human rights and violations of international


humanitarian law, high civilian death toll and mass displacement. It


is understandable, therefore, the people are cautious. The deal has


been struck, and the DRC is in a better place than it was before.


The key structural problems across the region remain and will continue


to drive instability unless they are tackled. Many of these stem from the


colonial period, as I mentioned at the start, the good governance over


natural resources is a massive issue, and is essential. Others have


and will speak about that. An equal distribution of land continues to


impact on many in the region. Those that have been displaced because of


internal conflict often return to find their land has been


redistributed in their absence. Whilst that is dramatic enough for


an individual, it is far more destabilising if entire committees


are displaced and returned to find their land has been seized or salt


off in its entirety in their absence. Instability quickly


spreads, and it remains that there are many willing to exploit this. --


sold off. 100,000 displaced Burundi and is


currently reside in Tanzania. We would do well to remember that it is


the poorest countries in this world that host the majority of the


world's refugees. You probably find they complain less because they


don't see what they do as charity, they see it as their duty to


humanity. As the SMP civil liberties spokesperson, it would be remiss for


me not to mention some of the problems. We can look to build links


with Parliamentary colleagues, and work to strengthen democracy and


rule of law. I know a great many colleagues involved with projects


developing the democratic institutions. In my role, I chaired


a meeting in Westminster looking at how the UK can support the


participation of women and the rule of law in the DRC. It was attended


by very impressive and courageous women from the DRC. Campaigners,


activists, refugees, academics, Mr Deputy Speaker if we need one reason


above all others to do everything in our power to support the people of


the DRC, it is these women and all the women and children currently


living there, so many of whom have been or will become victims of


sexual violence. Amnesty International described the problem


is rampant, out of control. As we have heard, 1000 women a day, that


is 48 per hour, which means that since this debate started not long


ago, something like 34 women have been raped in the DRC. What I heard


from them haunted me for a long time. I rarely let myself think


about it, let alone speak about it I am choosing today not to share the


stories that haunted me but I'm in awe of the women, while they told


their personal stories, I cannot bear to repeat their words the what


the experience has termed is something savage, if it is something


I find unspeakable, you know it is extreme. We cannot turn our backs on


people in that region and in particular in the DRC, we must tell


people that we do care, and at the least we will play our part in


ensuring this the people of the DRC are able to participate in free and


democratic elections later in the year.


Thank you. It is a pleasure to support the lady


speaking for Glasgow north-east. It is important rethe elections


there and to reiterate the point she made, that it is often the poorest


countries in the world that host the largest numbers of displaced people,


including refugees. Can I congratulate my friend from Basset


Law, for securing the debate and echo in his opening remarks and to


congratulate others who is taken part in the debate, the members of


the select committee, my friend, the honourable member for staff order,


an expert on Tanzania and on Barundi, and a champion for Barundi


and the member for mid-Derbyshire. A great champion, if not least, great


expert on the situation for the gamma. And in particular on this


issue of displacement and refugees in Africa is an important one, one


that the select committee will be addressing shortly because it is


such an important issue. I want to focus on the Democratic Republic of


Congo. The scale of the humanitarian challenge is enormous. At least 1.6


million displaced people. It is estimated about 5% of the poorest


people in the world live in DRC. Unless things change, project ex-s


suggest that will more than double in 15 years, the period of the


global goals. Water aid tell us fewer than 30% of people in DRC have


access to basic sanitation. The humanitarian crisis has been shaped


by conflict and political instability. I echo what has been


said about the encouraging signs with record to the political


position and congratulate the Catholic Church and others in the


role they've played in mediating talks over the Christmas period. Let


us hope now that we see movement towards elections this year in the


Democratic Republic of Congo and as my honourable friend says the United


Kingdom can play and must play a proactive role, not least in


supporting electoral registration and other aspects that the Electoral


Commission has responsibility for. There is an inquiry in fragility in


the Democratic Republic of Congo. We visited the country last July. We


saw some of the work that DIFID is doing. I spoke on Tuesday about the


support that CDC is giving to a positive hydroelectric power


programme in a region of the DRC. We have seen excellent peace building


work being done in the Goma community to bring members of the


community and the police to break down barriers to break down the


barriers that had built up over the years. We visited a camp for


displaced people, and how they are giving back control to people's


lives to people who were powerless to do anything but flee from


conflict and to a Red Cross hospital in Goma where the patients treated


are a slow and steady stream of patients suffering from the most


appalling gunshot injuries. This is making a real difference to some of


the poorest people in the world, aid given by the UK. The recent history


of that country has been violent and unstable but there are some reasons


now for cautious hope. Let us as a country play a positive and


proactive role in supporting a peaceful solution that enables


elections to happen, enables the elections to be free and fair, that


puts the focus on human rights but seeks to bring peace to a country


savaged by war. The humanitarian crisis, Mr Deputy Speaker will not


disappear overnight in the Democratic Republic of Congo, so it


is important that we through DIFID, Non-Governmental Organisations and


others continue hard work to alleviate the worst aspects of


poverty in this country. We on the international development committee


on a cross-party basis have seen first hand the many good things done


to alleviate poverty in the country and look forward to releasing our


report as a result of that inquiry. Thank you.


Thank you Mr Deputy Speaker. I welcome that the debit has taken


place in the chamber. The first debate on the Great Lakes. Last


January, there was a debate on eastern Africa that touched on a


number of similar countries and had a similar debate about the


definition of the region. Sadly in that time very little changed in


terms of the overall stability of the region, although perhaps there


are glimmers of hope. Perhaps the most tragic situation, is that the


people most affected by conflict, poverty and food insecurity a


usually the people that have done the least and not in position to do


very much about it without support and encouragement, so at the heart


of the debate there are basic questions about human dignity and in


making sure that this is respected. I want to look at the countries


touched upon, the regional issues and the role for the UK Government


and international actors. The Democratic Republic of Congo has


been the main focus of the debate. I have not had the privilege of


visiting the country but have met many people from the Democratic


Republic of Congo when they visited here, not least at the event


organised by my friend from Glasgow north-east and with the Scottish


Catholic international aid fund and always moved by the motivation to


work despite the challenges, not least the terrible sexual violence.


The DRC should be one of the richest countries in the world. We carry a


little bit of the DRC in our pockets, in the oil tan in our


phones, yet it is the poorest. We enjoy cheap access to technology and


don't speak out about the instability that suits the


extracting of the components extracted from those countries. I


hope there will be fresh elections and President Kabila standing down.


Although, as we have seen it is not beyond Presidents to back on on


their word. And there are talks with the UN Security Council. There is


displacement into Tanzania, Malawi, and a camp that has over 25,000


refugees from Barundi. Yes in Rwanda there is instability, and what price


will their President be standing again in 2017. It is important that


talks on this is repeated. Africa could have so much to gain


from tourism if there was more stability and infrastructure.


Few challenges are caused by natural causes but the behaviour of people


in the governments and the region and around the world are


responsible. That is true of climate change. We in the west have done the


most to cause climate change through deckiates of pollution. People of


the Great Lakes are affected hardest and threatened by climate change and


threatened by increasing demands for water on their biodiversity. There


are threats for the pressure of providing food this compounds the


weak civil society and the big man politics we have heard about.


Investment through government programmes is vital.


Without it the cycles will continue. Weak a governance makes it easier


for the multinational companies to run riot, whether extracting


countries dodging taxes and affecting labour standards, and


these companies should be the first in the queue to pay corporate taxes


to invest in food, education, and we should be demanding that this


Government is supporting this. There is a role for the African Union,


interesting to hear from the minister in what preparation and


support it is giving in diplomatic, structural or diplomatic support in


order to provide a role of peace and stability. It will be good to hear


the minister reaffirm the minister to the 0.7% on taxes in spending


periods. And in Brexit, it should be a signal that the UK tends to play a


positive role in the country in the world and how we engage.


INAUDIBLE What progress is being made? What


improvements are made on country that are supporting taxes? Will the


supply chain management condition after being decoupled from existing


UK regulations? And how to promote efforts to promote climate change?


Will we work with the Trump administration? And is the UK


Government prepared to provide adequate fundings to help adapt to


the impact of climate change that is taking place.


Is there a similar debate in a year's time? I hope that the


minister gets a break from the despatch box as he has been here all


afternoon, if we come back in a year's time about the region? What


progress will there have been? Will there have been eelections in the


DRC? Will the elections in rah Rwanda, or in Barundi? At the end of


the day this is about human dignity, our humanity is diminished if we


don't step up to the plate to promote a resolution. It stands to


reason that people and political will can overcome these problems.


I'd like to thank the honourable member for Bassetlaw for securing


this debate on the African Great Lakes region. I would also like to


thank the backbench business committee for granting this


important debate, and I would particularly like to acknowledge the


excellent contributions from all sides of the House. The honourable


member, my honourable friend from Bassetlaw, who highlighted some of


the less mentioned countries of Africa, including the Central


African Republic, highlighting the work done by Prince William, and


moving on to the more commonly talked about countries in this


debate, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. I would like to


thank the honourable member for Stafford, who highlighted his


positivity, and I was pleased to hear him say that he felt more


positive about the region than he has for a long time, and that's


quite encouraging given his expertise having lived in Tanzania.


I was pleased to hear him share his expertise on that country. I'd like


to thank my honourable friend, the Member for Heinberg, who's moved


again, keeping us on our toes. , who highlighted shocking violence,


including the widespread acceptance of rape, human rights abuses in the


eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and also highlighting the


plight of Congolese refugees. I would like to thank the honourable


member for Glasgow North East, sharing her expertise on the


Democratic Republic of Congo, and it was my privilege to attend the APPG


that she organised with women from the Democratic Republic, whilst I


was still fairly new to this role, and it was a great education for me,


and I'd like to thank her for organising that meeting and inviting


me along. Obviously, the honourable member for


Liverpool West Derby, who like many of us has been in this chamber all


afternoon for highlighting the humanitarian challenge in the


Democratic Republic of Congo, and the work done by NGOs. Finally, the


honourable member for Glasgow North, who highlighted the issue of climate


change, and the effect on the Great Lakes region, which is an important


aspect that we mustn't forget about. The African Great Lakes region is


one, as we all know, it is in this chapter, is one of great


significance, not only to stability and Africa, as a continent, but also


to the UK through the humanitarian development aid that we can come to


be, and also to our future trade and investment. And as we have heard, in


both 2015 and 2016, the region witnessed abuses of constitutional


powers through the extensions of presidential terms, numerous


failures to hold fair and free elections whilst state crackdowns on


political opposition and discourse took place. I'd like, as most


speakers have, to focus on the Democratic Republic of Congo, and on


Burundi, both countries are facing an acute political crossroads. And


trouble in the region is no more so apparent than it is in Burundi where


the president successfully engineered an illegal third term in


office for himself midway through 2015, and has indicated that he will


also stand for re-election in 2020, and I'd be interested to hear the


Minister's and is on this situation. Since the President's decision to


run again, political unrest has led to more than 1000 dead, and 8000


people detained on political grounds, including the leader of the


main opposition party, and many high-ranking army officials.


Amnesty International have reported that torture has become systematic


by the Burundi National intelligence service, it has shown that sequel


detention facilities are multiplied and used as torture centres used for


extracting information on all those who are believed to oppose the


ruling party. Burundi, sadly, took another major step backwards by


officially withdrawing from the International Criminal Court in


October of last year. This was an unprecedented decision, and could


lead to others in the region following suit. And I would ask the


Minister what the UK Government has done and can do to persuade them to


reconsider. On New Year's Eve, the country


awaited news that the environment minister had been assassinated,


leading to civil unrest, and I hope the Minister can update house on


events following this tragic event -- the country woke. In 2012, the


government set out funding for phasing out the bilateral programme


of funding to Burundi with no plan or commitment from the government to


restart the programme. I would like to ask the Minister if he is aware


of any additional funding or assistants that could be used to


help the people of Burundi. Moving onto the DRC, which as we have heard


is in similar political turmoil, military forces led under President


Kabila have led a widespread crackdown on political dissidents,


including a media blackout, where he has shutdown media outlets close to


the opposition, at least six of which still remain blocked.


At least 40 opposition leaders and supporters, and pro-democracy youth


activists, remain in detention across Congo. Many have formed rebel


groups and factions, dispersing to borders, and insurgency killers have


plagued the east of the country. Can I ask the Meesawat additional


support we are giving the United Nations organisation mission in DRC


to help implement Security Council resolution two to 77 in the region?


-- 2000 277. There has been further violence and abuse in the country


over the Christmas and New Year period, DRC security Ford has killed


40 protesters peacefully and mistreating.


As we have seen, the Catholic Church managed to broker a deal between the


ruling party and the opposition. That agreement was signed between


the political parties on New Year's Eve that President Kabila will step


down at the end of 2017, and it's clear that all sides of the House


welcome this accord, and hope that President Kabila signs and upholds


the agreement of which he has yet to commit to.


Sadly yesterday, we did see the first signs of backtracking on this


agreement. A group of senior MPs alongside confidants of President


Kabila have outspokenly challenged the deal, calling for it to be


scrapped, and the signs are beginning to look ominous. Could the


Minister outlined to the House that failure to comply to leave the legal


office, what changes would materialise between our two


countries if this should happen? Would the government look to impose


sanctions on the DRC? Given that the Congo is one of our largest aid


recipients with projections of ?168 million for the forthcoming 2016-17


year. Also, should he not stand down in


the agreed time frame, would the UK Government consider sanctions on his


family business, which have benefited from his policy reforms,


in particular in mining, energy and the banking industry? All of which


have gained heavily from foreign investment into the DRC, including


from the UK, US and EU. African Great Lakes is seeing an upsurge in


political repression, violence and militia recruitment. Conflict has


been on the rise. Much of it can be derived from historical warfare, but


the suppression of fair and democratic systems and the upholding


of human rights are a grave cause for concern. The world's eyes are


currently focused on the devastation of the conflicts in Syria and in


Yemen, which we have debated in the chamber, but we must not turn a


blind eye to this region, which has seen its own horrors of civil war in


the 20th and 21st century, most notably in Rwanda. I am sure love us


here in this House will never forget the horrors of the genocide which


claimed the lives of around 800,000 people are only 23 years ago. Rwanda


is now as an international success, and it has blossomed as an


architectural model for rehabilitation and reconciliation.


Yet the political situation in all of these regions is fragile, and the


honourable members for Bassetlaw and Stafford have highlighted current


issues with Rwanda, particularly in relation to democracy. The Great


Lakes region will only be stable if all the countries in the region are


stable, their politics are integrally linked will stop as we


have seen only recently, it was referred to earlier in the debate,


the Gambia, through the power of the ballot box, the rule of the strong


man in Africa is beginning to break. Although those aware of the


situation in the Gambia know that progress is slow, as highlighted by


the honourable member for Glasgow North.


But like the Honourable member for Stafford, I am hopeful for the


region, and hopefully we have a new era upon us, and we must show our


strength in support, and ensure that measures can be implemented where we


can to support across the African continent and in the Great Lakes


region. Thank you very much, Mr Deputy


Speaker. It is a pleasure to be was bonding to this debate, and I'm


guessing that many of the same characters are here from the


previous debate we had this afternoon, I suspect the tone of


this debate will be slightly different. It is a pleasure to


respond to something which I think there is an awful lot of cross-party


agreement. Many of the questions that have come forward today relate


to international aid commitments, but I will do my best to answer


those. The Honourable member that brought the debate forward, the


Honourable member for Bassetlaw, I congratulate him. He asked a series


of pertinent questions, and I will endeavour to write to him and two


other members if I don't get the opportunity to answer or pay tribute


to the work that has been done. But certainly, lots of points have been


made, but can I begin by saying that the Great Lakes region has been a


troubled region, which faces many challenges, challenges to democracy


when those in power seek to hold onto it, and challenges to the


livelihoods and human rights from armed groups and repressive


governments challenging survival. But it is also a region of great


potential. Rwanda, I visited that country a number of times, it has


had rapid Veltman since the 1990s, and is a testament to that. -- rapid


development. It also shows what can be achieved when the international


community work together. The UK is a major partner for that region. That


is why it was part of my first visit to the continent, following my


appointment in July as the Minister for Africa. The UK is the second


largest donor of humanitarian development aid. We continue to play


a key role in promoting sustainable peace and stability. The people of


the great Lakes region are resilient, and our aim is to work


with government and people of the Great Lakes countries to achieve a


more peaceful government, and a more democratic and prosperous region.


Before going to the details of the main countries, I thought I would


respond to some of the points that have been made.


We talked about the issue of conflict minerals, I can assure that


we take the matter seriously. The Serious Fraud Office is looking into


investigations linked with British companies. I can write to him with


further details. He touched on also, and the only member to do so, the


illegal wildlife trade but also the importance we are placing on this.


This is something that the Foreign Secretary is taking seriously. He is


working with the Environment Secretary, who attended the illegal


wildlife conference in Vietnam in November and have now offered to


host the next event in 2018. It is something that the Foreign


Secretary's father is engaged in. What has been mentioned is the power


that the monarchy play in this. Prince William is a huge driver in


raising the professional of this in understanding the work we have done.


On a visit I paid to Uganda, I saw the DIFID programmes in place,


providing better intelligence to understand the criminal gangs with


no regards to the borders themselves but moving the ivory across the


borders, looking for the markets, getting through the customs and on


to the Far East, where that is the biggest market itself. That is why


the hosting of the event in Vietnam was important for them to


acknowledge that more needs to be done in that neck of the woods.


I think that the honourable member mentioned the Democratic Republic of


Congo as well, I had the experience of going across in a small boat


across the mighty Congo river from kin Sharona to meet the President


there. He is committed to all of the areas of work that we want to do,


and taking engagement and invialment in the recognition of the


constitutional, or to honour the constitution in the DRC. With 80


million people living in the DRC what happens there can have a


spillover effect to Angola, to elsewhere, so it is important to


ensure there is stability in that part of Africa. My honourable friend


who I have long known is a supporter advocate of South Africa give as


powerful speech. He knows my interest is a personal one. We have


a connection with my sister, the head teacher of an international


school in Kilimanjaro, a connection that we made and became and


recognised our interest in Africa itself, the fact he says, that he is


positive about the region, given the amount of knowledge he has, gives


me, fills me with a sense of promisis, that we are going in the


right direction. I pay tribute to Tom Pierello, I have no idea what


the American envoy will be doing next because of the changes taking


place but certainly I join with him in paying tribute to the Catholic


Church and the work that they have done to broker the deal that is so


important. Also paying tributes to the people that in Tanzania and


Uganda in the work that they have done in looking after the refugees


in the region. There was reference made to the refugee crisis and we


should not forget while discussing refugee issues in Libya, in the


Mediterranean and on the shores of Turkey, Greece, and across Europe,


the source of the problems is the instability in the heart of Africa


itself. Get the source right and these people will not feel the need


to make that terrible journey across Africa to seek a life in Europe


itself. The honourable lady for Glasgow north-east, again made a


powerful contribution, as she does on these matters, reminding us, less


delicately than I would have put it about our historical links to the


country but we cannot deny our history, we must recognise the role


we have played in this vast Continent but to say also that there


is a desire for us to continue our engagement, working with them in a


positive way to meet some of the challenges that we face today. The


honourable gentlemen for Liverpool, West Derby, talked about the


challenges for the DRC, the numbers of people displaced. I pay tribute


to the work he is doing on focussing and the work he is helping with on


this, on the crisis that is shaping the conflict. But also he touched on


something important, yet not apparent but there is vast


criminality in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and


extremism has yet to set foot in there, yet that is where it could go


to next in the same way we have seen Boko Haram in Nigeria, to take


advantage of the absence of Government, al-Shabab taking


advantage of the absence of governments in the southern neck of


Somalia as well, that is why it is important to get it right in the


east of the DRC too. The honourable member for Glasgow north, again


making important point that the many millions of people affected by


conflict are those who have not caused it at all and are in a


limited position to influence what is going on, yet they receive the


harm from it. These are man-made conflicts and problems, therefore


they should be solvable. He #20u67ed on the issues of climate change. The


only member to do so, we should not forget that the climate change is


affecting the abilities to grow craps, if it is too hot to do so,


those people will then have to move and there is a consequence of


geographical migration because of what is happening on the ground. He


asked for commitment, and I absolutely stand by this, I would


hate to see any government of any hue challenge our commitments to


0.7% international aid. It allows us to stand up with authority at the


United Nations to be able to call from other countries to act and


follow us because we are able to provide that commitment itself. I


hope all parties will continue in that vain. The more we make noises


about it, nobody at the Treasury can sneak this through on the quiet as


we are all in agreement. And turning to the honourable member for Hayward


and middle tonne, to honour the constitutions across Africa and that


failure, this is something that we all must work. As the mother of all


Parliaments, this is a country that supports the idea of democracy. The


programmes we are doing with the 0.7%, it must not just be about


infrastructure, or about working with NGOs in the groups that need


support, that is important but it is about improving the governance of


the decision making and the democratic proses, so that when they


turn ends they stand down. There is nothing to stop Kabila standing


again in five years' time. But not to continue or tweet the


constitution or play around with it, that is something we don't want to


see. We have spoke been the role of the ICCC, there is an issue with a


number of African countries chosing to step away in order to protect


those up for charge. It is something that we are working with our


colleagues in the ICC to prevent this happening any further. Turning


to the countries themselves in more detail and the time that is left.


The Democratic Republic of Congo itself, President Kabila's mandate


ended on the 19th of December. No elections have taken place. Yet he


is still in power. I made this point when visiting in last year, the UK


was deeply disappointed that elections did not take place in


2016. What happened is that the opposition also didn't want


elections to take place as the Electoral Commission had not


upgraded the electoral role so many new 18-year-olds would not be on the


roll so there was a disjoint between where to go, who should be in


charge? That new roll is being mapped out. It requires a consensus,


sorry a sensus to be done, so we are moving forward. The unexpected good


news came on the 31st of December. After talks that honourable members


had reached a deal between the opposition and the Government as


well. I join others in paying tribute to


the work that they have done. There may be a demand for them to move in


other parts of Africa as well. They have achieved what few thought


impossible, a deal which, if imply meanted will include the Democratic


Republic of Congo's first movement of power. And I hope to visit the


country to underline Britain's commitment and enforce the point


that process must continue. So, assurances that Kabila will step


down and the elections will be held by the end of this year. Secondly,


the current Prime Minister must be replaced by someone from the


opposition majority. Armed groups in the eastern DRC as has been


mentioned are causing problems from a security situation in the east. We


have to ensure we work with the United Nations to ensure that


commitment to ensure that the stability in the east continues. I


give way to the honourable gentlemen.


About the situation regarding minerals, there is a failure to


resolve the violence, UNESCO is appearing to be failing here.


I raise the point as to what more we can do. Half of the problem is


access to the areas. The roads are poor. A road that we expect to take


20 minutes to go from one community to another takes seven to eight


hours, perfect for criminals, ininsurgents, and for the


instability we are seeing. I suggested to the Deputy Head of the


area, that there would be more effort on improving the


infrastructure to allow the security forces to get deeper into the areas


to provide the security that we need. It looks like I have one


minute left. I will say that I have made the comments on the other


countries but I will write to the honourable gentlemen and ladies to


clarify where we stand and to underline our commitment. But to go


back to the beginning and say thank you to the honourable gentlemen from


Basset Law and the backbench committee for allowing the debate to


take place. We share the concerns about the continuing violence,


oppression across the various parts of the Great Lakes and its regions.


They want and deserve peace and democracy and hope for the future.


We will continue to work hard with the regional governments to make


these aspirations a reality. Can I thank the minister for his response


and for his kind offer to write to honourable members present to pick


up a myriad of detailed issues that have been raised which clearly


no-one could possibly answer all within a time limit. This is


appreciated and will be helpful. Mr Deputy Speaker, inspired by your


firm but fair moving on of the last debate will allow us to have this


debate, this has been a most excellent debate. Hardly surprising


looking at the experience of those around the back benchers who is


participated and frontbenchers as well, that is not a surprise but it


has been of a superb quality, managing to cover in important


detail and knowledge of the seven different countries in such a short


period of time. It respects perhaps shows the scale of the issues and


the scale of the opportunities. I hope that the minister will be


taking away, in particular from the debate, the fact that we have a huge


amount of leverage there. Are different kinds of leverage that we


have. Someone who leaves office in disgrace, forced out with a fortune


in Swiss franks has been paid by somebody, that somebody, certainly,


some of them will be British, and therefore the more we have


transparency the more we can add to the leverage but there are many


other leverages, not least from the excellent government departments and


he has in that region, in my estimation excellent civil servants


as does DIFID. Therefore, we stand with a competitive advantage in


using our leverage if we use it wisely. I trust he takes from the


debate the importance that the House gives to using that leverage. And I


share with the friend, from Stafford and my honourable friend from


Lancashire, or the other side of the border... Order!


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