There are a number of popular subjects that are regularly being covered by Parliament where many MPs share significant levels of support or disagreement. Some of the most current themes such as COVID and Brexit are also widely communicated by the media and social media and of course there are many themes that are linked to these subjects such as education, jobs, social activity and housing along with trade and travel. All of these are vital matters and there are many things that need to take place to maintain the way in which our nation operates so it is understandable that some of the less popular issues get ignored most of the time. One of these is how our Nation and indeed other nations will try to solve problems for vulnerable locations such as Yemen and Palestine. On Thursday two short debates took place on both of these subjects and the one Sussex MP who took part was Tim Loughton who was the convener of the Yemen debate. Tim is the MP for East Worthing and Shoreham. Based on my own understanding the Palestinian theme does get better coverage than Yemen, although not always very positively. Although there were no other Sussex MPs involved in the Yemen debate, two other Sussex MPs have spoken about Yemen since the General Election. Caroline Lucas has raised this subject several times since December and Lloyd Russell-Moyle who has not raised the issue quite so often since the election was very vocal previous to the General Election as was Tim Loughton.
On Thursday the opening words by Tim included “We have tried many times—it was aborted some six months ago because of lockdown—but now, at last, we are able to debate this situation.” He went on to explain a series of challenges that are being faced by the nation which he claims is like a complex cocktail made up from “an extended and ostensibly insoluble civil war with international ramifications; various other man-made disasters; numerous natural disasters and potentially catastrophic environmental ones; an economic meltdown; and now, on top of it all, a deadly pandemic that Yemen was least prepared and equipped to deal with.”
A very positive issue he mentioned was a petition that was started in July and over a 6 day period gained more than 200,000 signatures. The petition is entitled “Broker a ceasefire for all sides in Yemen to carry out humanitarian aid” and it goes on to state “As Yemenis who are privileged to be British citizens, we want our Government to put pressure on all military groups in Yemen, including the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition forces, to halt attacks on Yemen; to allow humanitarian aid to be carried out. We want all groups to put down their weapons.” The fascinating thing is that when the Government responded to the 10,000 plus signatures around 3 weeks later they began by stating that “The UK Government shares your concern at the appalling situation in Yemen. We are doing everything we can to find a sustainable political solution to the conflict and end the humanitarian crisis.” The challenge is that the Government authorises the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia and so their claim that they share these concerns is very questionable. The signatures include over 1200 people in Caroline’s constituency, nearly 600 in Lloyd’s and nearly 400 in Tim’s area. After mentioning the petition Tim Loughton went on to explain that this year “marks five years of a devastating conflict in Yemen and almost 10 years of chaos since the Arab spring in that country. Yemen desperately needs an effective and lasting ceasefire. Out of a total population of some 30 million, 24 million people rely wholly or partly on aid, and they desperately need protection now.” It is clear that our Government is claiming it will do what it can and some of our MPs are also adding to this through their questions and this debate. However it seems vital for those of us who would like to add our names to these issues. As it happens there are another couple of petitions that are not set out for people with a Yemen background. Along with these two active petitions are nearly 50 that were rejected by the petition committee so it is clearly worth signing both of these. The first was set up in mid July and it has less than 2,000 signatures. It is entitled “Provide immediate aid to Yemen and stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia.” The other one is only a few days old so it currently has fewer signatures so far. It is entitled “Stop the sale of arms to Saudi-led military coalition”. Let us hope they both gain some support now that Parliament and all parties have disclosed their views.