The Independent Group’s foreign affairs and defence spokesperson, Mike Gapes MP, blocked a call for arms sales to Saudi Arabia to be blocked at the height of concerns over civilian casualties in Yemen.
Sitting on the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC), Gapes was at the heart of a rift over whether to call for a suspension of Saudi arms sales during an inquiry by Parliament’s Committees on Arms Exports Controls in September 2016.
The FAC is one of four constituent committees that make up the arms exports committee.
Following a stand off between the constituent committees, the FAC decided to publish its own minority report. Formal minutes show Gapes voted to veto a draft report including the recommendation that “the UK suspend licences for arms exports to Saudi Arabia, capable of being used in Yemen, pending the results of an independent, United Nations-led inquiry into reports of violations of [international humanitarian law], and issue no further licences.”
The International Development and Business committees published their own joint report calling for a suspension of arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
Gapes’s rejection of a suspension came amid intense pressure from charities and NGOs such as Save the Children and Amnesty International to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia over concerns they were involved in civilian deaths. An April 2016 UN report attributed 60% of conflict-related child deaths and injuries in Yemen to the Saudi-led coalition.
Countries including Germany have since suspended sales of arms to Saudi Arabia. The Labour Party, which Gapes quit earlier this month, has been calling for a suspension of arms sales to Saudi Arabia over its conduct in Yemen since January 2016.