On 25th June 2019 the Bishop of St Albans asked the Government “what assessment they have made of the impact of weapons exported from the United Kingdom to Saudi Arabia on the conflict in Yemen”. The Lord Bishop, Rt Revd Alan Smith, then asked a follow-up question:
Earl of Courtown (Con): My Lords, Her Majesty’s Government take their arms export responsibilities seriously. We draw on a range of sources in making assessments, including from NGOs and international organisations which detail political and humanitarian developments in Yemen. We also consult regularly with colleagues at our overseas missions and in other government departments to ensure that we have all the relevant information to make an informed decision.
Bishop of St Albans: I thank the Minister for his reply. I was given an assurance in a past written response to a Question that every sale of arms from the UK undergoes a rigorous assessment in the light of serious violations of international humanitarian law. Yet in 2018 a Minister in the other place said:
“The MOD does not investigate allegations of IHL violations”,
and in 2016, as evidenced in the Court of Appeal last week, the decision was made that there would be no assessment of past violations of international humanitarian law with regard to Saudi Arabia. Can the Minister clarify whether international humanitarian law is taken into consideration when selling weapons?
Earl of Courtown (Con): My Lords, I thank the right reverend Prelate for his question. The key test for granting export licences in these circumstances is criterion 2c of the consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria, which considers whether there is a clear risk that the items to be exported might be used in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law. The right reverend Prelate then moved on to a decision made in 2016. At that point, international humanitarian law was considered on past events as well, and the judgment under ground 1 was that we should also take into account past events.