Following eight months of reduced oversight, parliamentary scrutiny of UK arms exports looks set to resume when the Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC) reconvenes, possibly later this month.
The decision to revive the CAEC comes amid growing concerns over the UK's arms exports to Saudi Arabia - an issue recently raised by UNA-UK's Chairman Sir Jeremy Greenstock in The Times newspaper. The recent execution of 47 prisoners in Saudi Arabia has reportedly prompted MPs to escalate calls for the Committees to be reconvened.
UNA-UK welcomes the news and looks forward to CAEC taking swift action to investigate alleged breaches of the UK arms export laws, including by investigating the end use of exports to Saudi Arabia. Over the past five years, the UK Government has authorised arms sales worth over £5 billion to Saudi Arabia.
The CAEC has an important role to play ensuring that human rights concerns are not trumped by commercial interests during the licencing process. The lucrative Saudi relationship - read alongside recent comments by Simon McDonald on the primacy of the Government's prosperity agenda and the UK's plans for additional support to promote UK arms exports - makes the Committees' revival all the more pertinent.
As a member of the UK Working Group on Arms, UNA-UK first expressed concerns about the lack of parliamentary oversight in September last year. The Association has long been campaigning for the UK Government to implement its international obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty to a high standard.