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Whitehall broke court order with exports to Saudi troops in Yemen

THE British government approved a series of arms sales to Saudi Arabia in breach of a court ruling, a Tory minister has conceded.

Liz Truss MP, secretary of state for international trade, told Parliament’s arms export controls committee in a letter on Monday that Whitehall had made “two inadvertent breaches.” 

Under a Court of Appeal judgment, the government was barred from granting “any new licences for the export of arms or military equipment to Saudi Arabia for possible use in the conflict in Yemen,” until a new risk assessment had been carried out.

Now it emerges that 180 radio spares worth more than a quarter of a million pounds have been shipped to Saudi ground troops, despite British diplomats knowing that such units were being deployed to Yemen.

In the second breach, a license for a Saudi armoured vehicle’s air cooler was approved. The item was shipped before the mistake was noticed.

Ms Truss said she had “apologised to the Court unreservedly for the error in granting these two licences.”

She added that Whitehall has issued a total of 183 licences for “exports to Saudi Arabia and/or its Coalition partners since the Court’s judgment” in June 2019.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “We are always being told how rigorous and robust UK arms export controls supposedly are, but this shows that nothing could be further from the truth.

“If the government cannot be trusted to follow its own rules, or an order from the Court of Appeal, then it must immediately end all arms exports to the Saudi regime and cease all support for this devastating war.

“The reality is that, no matter how appalling the crisis in Yemen has become, the government has always been far more concerned with arms company profits than it has with the rights and lives of Yemeni people.

“This disregard was on full show last week when the Saudi regime was in London buying weapons at the DSEI arms fair.”

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