Tag Archives: saudi arabia

William Wallace writes… Sources of UK extremism

Part of our role in both houses of Parliament is to hold the government to the commitments they – often reluctantly – give.  One of the five conditions Lib Dem parliamentarians established in return for supporting the extensions of air operations over Iraq to Syria was that the government should set up an enquiry into sources of funding for extremist versions of Islam within the UK.  Alastair Carmichael in the Commons, and myself in the Lords, are holding the Conservatives to the promise they made to report on this by ‘the Spring of 2016’. Alastair has pressed ministers on the size and quality of the ‘Extremism Analysis Unit’ set up in the Home Office to cover this.  I asked an oral question in the Lords yesterday (February 3rd) on how thoroughly overseas funding will be investigated, from both foreign government and from private sources. In both cases, the answers have been that the government is acting on this commitment, but there are clear reasons why we should continue to put pressure on them to deliver.

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Farron slams UK’s billion pound arms deals with Saudi Arabia

The Guardian reports that human rights groups have expressed concern at a major rise in UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Last month Saferworld and Amnesty commissioned a legal opinion from Professor Philippe Sands QC and other lawyers which concluded that British arms sales to Saudi Arabia, in the context of its military intervention and bombing campaign in Yemen, were breaking national, EU and international law.

UK arms sales in the three-month period from July to September 2015 for the export category that covers missiles, rockets and bombs amounted to £1,066,216,510, the BIS documents show. They were sold under five separate licences.

You can see the official figures showing the details of the export licences here.

Tim Farron has accused David Cameron of putting profits before human rights.

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Tom Brake slams “shamefully weak” UK government statement on Saudi executions

Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesperson Tom Brake has torn into the Government’s statement on the executions of 47 prisoners in Saudi Arabia in a series of tweets this evening.

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Paddy: Tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia “a far greater danger” than ISIL

Paddy Ashdown has told the Independent that the growing tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the wake of the Saudi executions carried out over the weekend is “a far greater danger” than ISIL. He said that the UK Government should be robust about calling the Saudis out for their actions:

Lord Ashdown said Saudi Arabia’s sudden mass execution of prisoners – including the prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and a number of young political protesters – may have been intended to derail the ongoing Syrian peace talks in Vienna.

These executions are deeply, deeply destabilising to the very delicate situation that exists in the Middle East and the danger of a wider Sunni and Shia conflict. The West, including the UK government, is only just realising the danger of this and its implications for long term peace in the region. It poses a far greater danger in the long term than, for example, Isil,” the former Lib Dem leader added.

The UK Government should be making it explicitly clear that it regards this act as extremely destabilising. These executions are shocking in human rights terms and reveal the real nature of the people with whom we are dealing. The UK’s stance underlines its deeply illogical position of ignoring the funding of jihadist groups, including Isil, which is coming from within Saudi Arabia.

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Tim Farron says UK Government should challenge Saudis over executions and human rights

Tim Farron went on Sky News yesterday to describe the execution of 47 people in Saudi Arabia as both “morally wrong and politically foolish” and to criticise the UK Government for being too soft on the Saudis and not calling them out for their appalling human rights record.

I remember being very proud when one of the first big things Vince Cable did as acting leader back in 2007 was to boycott the state visit of the Saudi King. I was not so chuffed last year when there was a chorus of silence from Liberal Democrats when flags were flown at half mast following the death of the Saudi King.

So, it’s good to see Tim Farron slamming the Saudis for their actions and the UK Government for being too soft on them. I’m also interested that he made the point that the relationships between the two governments benefit the most powerful people in both countries but don’t do much for those who aren’t well off. Watch the whole thing here.

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Heathrow and Saudi banks – where Boris invests London taxpayers’ millions

Well, well. Boris is against Heathrow expansion, isn’t he? You have to then wonder why his office is investing millions in Heathrow airport. According to the Independent on Sunday, the Mayor’s office invested £3.54 million in the airport just two weeks ago. Liberal Democrat Assembly member Stephen Knight is quoted:

The GLA said that notwithstanding Mr Johnson’s trenchant views on Heathrow, it remained a suitable investment. But critics of the Mayor, who is ultimately responsible for GLA investments, said there was a clash between the mayor’s public position and his officials’ investment decisions.

Mr Knight said: “Only Boris Johnson would not be able to understand the total contradiction between publicly opposing a third Heathrow runway, whilst behind the scenes pouring millions of pounds of London taxpayer’s money into Heathrow bonds, which will help finance such an expansion.”

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Flags at half mast – the right way to mark the passing of an illiberal despot?

You can probably guess that my answer to this question is a resounding “No.” When I saw yesterday that Westminster Abbey of all places was flying the flag at half mast to mark the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, I was horrified. The vomit-inducing tone of the tributes portraying him as some sort of reformer added to my irritation. If he was a reformer, Brian from the Magic Roundabout is a world champion sprinter to rival Usain Bolt.

I guess what intensified my overall sense of injustice was the chorus of silence from Liberal Democrats. Surely at least one of our parliamentarians should have openly criticised such a ridiculous decision. The only honourable exceptions I can find are Meral Ece and Mike Thornton, both of whom have been retweeting human rights information about Saudi Arabia and wry observations about the reaction to Abdullah’s death:

Most annoying was that it fell to a TORY to heap the most condemnation on the flags decision:

It’s all so different from 2007 when Vince Cable as acting leader boycotted the State Visit of King Abdullah, saying:

Mr Cable added: “I think it’s quite wrong that as a country we should give the leader of Saudi Arabia this honour.”

He said that although Britain has a “business-like” relationship with the country, Britain would not dream of extending the same invitation to other controversial leaders like Libya’s Colonel Gadaffi..

He said he had also been critical of the Saudi regime’s treatment of Britons.

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  • User Avatarexpats 12th Feb - 8:59am
    .Further to my ..... 11th Feb '16 - 4:28pm....given Mr. Hunt’s record on ‘honesty and openness’, I know who’s side I’d trust… .................Jeremy Hunt’s letter...
  • User AvatarVictor Grayson 12th Feb - 8:51am
    Hi Peter, forgive me but I find this discussion interesting. The exchange rate between the pound and the euro has depreciated by 8.5% over the...
  • User AvatarBrianD 12th Feb - 8:44am
    The BMA is a Trade Union. The Tories are opposed to Trade Unions after all they have successfully blamed Trade Unions for the failure of...
  • User AvatarJohn Marriott 12th Feb - 8:24am
    Why not just "Gong Hey Fat Choy" (I think that's something like the Cantonese version)?
  • User AvatarJohn Marriott 12th Feb - 8:19am
    Hasn't the former vicar (or was it curate) got something better to do, like save the Labour Party? You need to get out more, Mr...
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 12th Feb - 8:02am
    What a joy to be able to agree with Mick Taylor.