Bishop of Leeds asks Government about Saudi Arabia – arms sales, reforms and extremism

On 15th November 2017 the Bishop of Leeds, Rt Revd Nick Baines, received  written answers to three questions on Saudi Arabia: on arms exports, reforms, and violent extremism:

The Lord Bishop of Leeds:

(i) To ask Her Majesty’s Government what was the value of UK arms exports to Saudi Arabia in (1) 2015, (2) 2016, and (3) 2017.

(ii) To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s recent announcement that he intends to return Saudi Arabia to a path of “moderate Islam”.

(iii) To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the relationship between (1) reports that Saudi Arabia funds organisations that promote a Salafist Wahhabist ideology, and (2) the growth of violent extremism.

(i) Baroness Fairhead: Government data on the value of exports does not differentiate sufficiently between military and non-military exports.
However, the Government publishes Official Statistics (on a quarterly and annual basis) of licences granted for military exports on GOV.UK. This data includes the value of exports licensed where this is known. Licensing data for 2015, 2016 and 2017 indicates the following values for military exports to Saudi Arabia:

  • 2015: £2,856,814,952
  • 2016: £680,288,434
  • 2017: £1,120,427,691 (January-June)

The value of exports licensed each quarter is not necessarily a measure of actual exports shipped in a given period because licences are valid for between two and five years, and because exporters only declare values for a subsection of export licences (Standard Individual Export Licences). Additionally, some licences expire before they are fully used and in these circumstances exporters must apply for a new (duplicate) licence, which can result in a significant element of double counting in some reporting periods. Over the period 2015, 2016 and 2017 (January-June) at least £2.4 billion of the total value of military exports licensed (£4.6 billion) is attributable to double counting because of duplicate licences.


(ii) Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: ​We welcome recent developments under Vision 2030 in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, such as the Royal Decree permitting women to drive from June 2018 and the announcement of a new economic city. We recognise HRH Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s comments as part of these changes and we continue to encourage reform in Saudi Arabia.


(iii) Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: On 12 July, the Home Secretary announced the main findings of the Home Office’s internal review into the nature, scale and origin of the funding of Islamist extremist activity in the UK, including any overseas sources. I refer the noble Lord to Written Statement HCWS39.

We work closely with Saudi Arabia to combat terrorism in all its manifestations, including countering violent extremism and terrorist financing. The Saudi Government’s national strategy includes a number of important initiatives to counter extremism.


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