THE government confirmed yesterday that it was “urgently investigating” allegations that a British-made cluster bomb was dropped in Yemen by Saudi Arabian military forces.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Defence Minister Philip Dunne admitted there was an investigation into British ally Saudi Arabia’s possible deployment of cluster bombs.
But following questions from Labour and SNP MPs, both said that until proven that the Saudis actually used the internationally banned munitions, arms licences to the country would still be in place.
The emergency questions came after Amnesty International reported the death of a Yemeni child who had been playing with bomblets expelled from a Bedfordshire-made BL-755 cluster munition.
Addressing shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn’s inquiry into Britain’s alliance and arms trading with Saudi Arabia, Mr Hammond said: “The weapons that are being described here are decades old.
“We need to be careful, there is no evidence yet that Saudi Arabia has used cluster munitions.
“We have an assurance from Saudi Arabia that cluster munitions have not been used in this conflict.”
Mr Dunne even argued that the bomb could be a remnant from one of the seven conflicts that have taken place in the area over the last decade.
However SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh called on the Foreign Secretary to apologise for the government’s “continued inaction” on the conflict in Yemen.
The Committee on Arms Export Controls is holding an inquiry, to which its chairman Tory MP Chris White urged Mr Dunne to submit evidence.
A district judge rejected the Crown Prosecution Service appeal against the acquittal of eight anti-arms trade activists charged with blockading a London arms fair last year.
The application was refused Judge Angus Hamilton for being “frivolous” and “misconceived.”