Thank you to all those who have contacted me about arms exports to Israel. I understand why so many constituents in Lewisham East are concerned about this important issue.
In relation to Israel specifically, the Government has said no offensive military equipment has been delivered since 7 October 2023. It also says it keeps relevant licences under review and will not grant an export licence where it would be inconsistent with the Strategic Export Licensing Criteria. This means UK arms exports should not be allowed if there is a serious risk they will be used for external aggression, internal repression or serious violations of international humanitarian law.
I know there is widespread concern about Israel’s conduct in this military operation, including serious allegations from the UN, and that it is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the International Criminal Court. I believe this raises serious questions about compliance with the licence criteria, which the Government has a duty to assess and address as part of any export process. It is crucial that the Government guarantees the export criteria will be applied rigorously and robustly to Israel in light of the conduct of the conflict in Gaza.
On a wider point about defence exports, I support our defence industry and its role in protecting our national security, in supporting our allies, and in delivering jobs. At the same time, it is essential that it is subject to robust export controls. This helps ensure compliance with our international obligations, as well as retaining confidence in the industry. That is why our arms export regime should be strengthened so it is transparent and fully committed to upholding international law, with a stronger role for Parliament. These rules should apply equally and consistently to all countries.
Finally, while other Parliamentary commitments prevented me from attending, I welcome the Westminster Hall debate which took place on 12 December. This debate provided an opportunity for MPs – including my Opposition colleagues – to press the Government on these issues. I continue to monitor developments on exports licensing, including to Israel.