I have received emails asking for my thoughts on the UK’s relationship with Persian Gulf states and raising a number of issues including that of arms exports licensing.
I recognise that significant concerns have been raised about a number of countries’ human rights records and the UK’s relationship with them.
I agree that we have to ensure our arms exports licensing regime has proper accountability and transparency, and is correctly exercised, including in respect of human rights. In my view, when there are credible reports of human rights abuses or war crimes being committed, British arms sales should be suspended. Ultimately, it is the Government’s responsibility to apply its own criteria on arms sales and I appreciate that any perceived failure to do so would seriously undermine Britain in the eyes of the world.
Last week I voted to suspend arms exports to Saudi Arabia in the light of their use against civilians in Yemen. I have also asked numerous questions about the Government's decision to establish a base in Bahrain, another country with a terrible human rights record.
I believe human rights should be at the heart of our foreign policy, and Britain’s voice in the world is a reflection of the moral leadership that we demonstrate on human rights. The Foreign Office should continue to make human rights a priority.