Thank you to all those who have been in contact with me about the situation in Yemen.
In short, I absolutely share your concerns. To provide some context to the war in Yemen, Saudi Arabia entered the conflict in support of the legitimate Government of President Hadi. The UK is not part of this Saudi-led coalition but it does support its aims; aims which are backed by UN Resolution 2216 and a legitimate request for help from the Government of Yemen.
Ultimately, a political solution is the best way to bring long-term stability to Yemen and end the conflict. The suffering of the people of Yemen is deeply concerning, which is why making progress on peace talks is the top priority. The UN has drawn up a road map for ending the conflict, which outlines the security and political steps the parties must take. The UK is taking a central role in this and in the effort to garner the necessary support for the pending UN resolution that supports it.
I want to assure you that the UK is playing a leading role in the humanitarian response and Ministers are also pressing the international community to step up its efforts. As you point out, our funding for Yemen was increased to £139 million for 2017/18, compared to £112 million the previous year. This money will be used to prioritise life-saving aid, including helping to provide food and nutrition support for 1.7 million people and clean water and sanitation for 1.2 million people. Moreover, £8 million from the Yemen budget this year is being prioritised for the treatment and prevention cholera.
Ministers have more than doubled our humanitarian funding to Yemen over the last year, making the UK the fourth largest donor to the humanitarian crisis. We are providing vital medical supplies, water, food and nutrition, and emergency shelter to those most in need and have so far supported more than 1.3 million Yemenis. You might wish to read more about the work DFID is doing in Yemen on the webpage here:
That said, although I understand the commercial reality of the world in which we exist, to be frank – to me, arms sales full stop leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I would much rather see British manufacturing pride in cars, IT, food, trains – in fact, anything other than arms. This is such a long term goal I know, and not one that can be secured overnight, but I do think we should aspire to be better. In light of this, I recently supported a letter to the UN General Secretary which called for a new United Nations Security Council resolution to bring this conflict to an end. This was backed by over 50 MPs and I hope that this will help to influence the debate at the next UN Council meeting.