I have demanded that the government explain why it approved the sale of £7m worth of UK military equipment to Israel just months before attacks on Gaza began in July and August this year.
Earlier this week I asked Ministers in the House of Commons about official figures showing that the Government granted 68 export licences for nearly £7 million-worth of military-use items to be sent to Israel between January and June of this year.
I asked what discussions the Defence Secretary had with the Business Secretary about those licences and why the Government refused to suspend them during the offensive on Gaza this summer, when they clearly broke the guiding principle of being responsible exports.
The Defence Minister, on behalf of the Government, responded saying, “The Government were concerned to look at any export licences that had been granted and undertook an initial review in August. We launched another review earlier this month and when it is available we will respond to the hon. Lady.”
It’s just not good enough that the Government won’t give straight answers to these questions. I raised the issue of the UK selling military equipment to Israel during the Gaza crisis and got a very unsatisfactory response from the Government that made no effort to explain why the Foreign Secretary or Business Secretary felt they were appropriate sales to make. Nor was this latest effort by the Government to dodge the question, put to them in the House, any more helpful.
I share the views of many of my constituents that the UK should make a fundamental re-evaluation of its approach to arms sales and look again at the effectiveness of our arms export controls.
Recent reports suggest that the sale of arms to Israel, in the months before its offensive on Gaza this summer, included components for drones, combat aircraft and helicopters along with spare parts for sniper rifles. The worst case scenario is that these weapons were used against the people of Gaza. I hope they weren’t but the public have the right to know why and how the government makes these decisions.