An appalling attitude towards Yemen last Tuesday


On Tuesday in the House of Commons 20 MPs tried to change the way in which the Government is planning to deal with Yemen over the next financial year and sadly James Cleverly who was representing the Government at the debate refused to do anything that would help. The whole debate is available here and the 20 people who took part represented several political parties and yet most of the Conservative Party MPs were as strong in their calls as the members of other Parties. The responses came because the Government plans to cut its funding towards Yemen claiming it will only be temporary and it is because the Government is unable to release £127m compared to this current year. As Christian Wakeford, the Conservative MP for Bury South explains during the debate the current arrangement is

£214 million-worth of aid funding for Yemen this year will support at least 500,000 vulnerable people each month to help them buy them food and household essentials, treat 55,000 children for malnutrition, and provide 1 million people with improved water supply and basic sanitation

and as James Cleverly explains when he begins his own statement

Yesterday, I attended the high-level pledging conference for the United Nations humanitarian appeal for Yemen. I announced that the UK will provide at least—I repeat, at least—£87 million in aid to Yemen over the course of financial year 2021-22. Our total aid contribution since the conflict began was already over £1 billion. This new pledge will feed an additional 240,000 of the most vulnerable Yemenis every month, support 400 health clinics and provide clean water for 1.6 million people. We will also provide one-off cash support to 1.5 million of Yemen’s poorest households to help them buy food and basic supplies.

So this is 36% of the amount we are currently providing which is why a number of MPs referred to the cut as being 60% although in fact that is 64% just to be precise. After the initial statement Christian goes on to say

Will my right hon. Friend reassure the House that he is stressing to the conflict parties that it is essential that they allow this aid to reach the areas that it is intended to help? Does he agree that, given these figures, now is not the time to be reducing aid to those whom we supply in Yemen who are most in need?

Sadly Cleverly only says “I recognise the point that my hon. Friend makes” and although he says a few extra words he does not get any closer to admitting that our nation is being very negative to reduce our funding by 64%. The person who speaks after Christian Wakeford is Jeremy Corbyn whose statement is very clear

The crisis in Yemen is wholly human made. Thousands have died as a result of the war, thousands of children have lost homes and lost schools, and poverty and starvation are the order of the day. Britain’s record in this is appalling. Throughout this whole conflict, we have armed Saudi Arabia knowing full well that those missiles are killing people in Yemen, and at the same time claiming to be the harbingers of peace by organising a resolution at the United Nations. Will the Minister make it very clear that all arms sales to Saudi Arabia will stop and that Britain will be a determined partner in trying to bring about a peace process through a ceasefire as quickly as possible and to build good relations with all countries in the region? Too many people have died. The conflict has gone on too long and it simply has to stop. We should be a party to ending the war, not promoting the war.

Now to be clear there are several times after this exchange when James Cleverly seems to be suggesting that bringing an end to the conflict is a good thing to do. He responds to Tim Loughton by stating at the end “But, ultimately, the best thing we can do is bring about a swift end to this conflict” and when he is responding to Hilary Benn he ends by stating “we bring to bear to bring about an improvement in this situation, including our voice on the international stage, our lobbying power and our political power. We will continue to work to bring about an end to the conflict in Yemen” so given these statements one might hope he would have responded positively to the call by Jeremy Corbyn which was earlier. However the entire response from Cleverly was

The right hon. Gentleman speaks with an authoritative voice, particularly on Iran. Perhaps if he would also call upon the Iranian regime to no longer give lethal support to the Houthis, that might be a big step in the right direction to bring about sustainable peace in Yemen.

Two other people to focus on, sadly neither of which get any positive responses and indeed one is another Conservative. Firstly Layla Moran who is a Liberal Democrat MP and who explains

The Government’s appalling decision to cut aid to Yemen has been described as “a death sentence” by the UN Secretary-General, and he is right. This enormous cut, in a year when 400,000 children under five might starve to death, is not only heartless but, just like the cut to the 0.7%, damages the UK’s international reputation, and they are doing this just weeks after announcing £1.36 billion in new arms sales to Saudi Arabia—the exact opposite of what the United States is doing. Is this what we can now expect—the UK Government shrinking away from their commitments, leaving other, more compassionate countries to pick up the slack?

As I have pointed out Cleverly says nothing positive or even specific about these two key points and then one of his other colleagues in the Conservative Party is Anthony Mangnall who is the MP for Totnes who states

The Minister started his remarks by saying that money matters. Yes it does, but what this cut represents is a cut to projects, a cut to aid and a cut to assistance that will put lives in jeopardy. If the Government are so reassured by their position, then I suggest that they bring a vote to the House on this issue and they can truly gauge the strength of feeling. We have a moral duty to lead on this issue and I hope he will consider bringing a vote before it is too late.

and the pathetic response from Cleverly is

As I said previously, the Foreign Secretary is looking at the legal requirements around the situation. I completely understand my hon. Friend’s passion, but I remind him and the House that we remain one of the largest donors in this humanitarian crisis.

So let us end this piece by reading the text from Tim Loughton who is the MP for West Worthing and as he explains at the beginning

As chair of the all-party group for Yemen, yesterday I spoke to some very brave women from within Marib, which is under long-term siege from the Houthis. They told me that most of the Houthi forces are young men and teenage boys recruited from the most impoverished parts of Yemen. They also told me that Marib is now hosting over 2 million displaced people across 144 camps. Many children are not just suffering from famine and disease; they have been deeply traumatised after having been driven out by the Houthis. They all rely on generous UK aid and the example it sets to other countries who need to step up in the humanitarian aid effort and the subsequent reconstruction. How can indicating a cut in UK aid at this crucial time do anything but prolong this terrible conflict?

About ianchisnall

I am passionate about the need for public policies to be made accessible to everyone, especially those who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am particularly interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as health services and strategic planning.
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