POLITICS
22/06/2020 12:54 BST | Updated 22/06/2020 13:09 BST

The Government Isn't Letting MPs Scrutinise Who The UK Sells Weapons To

Labour says ministers "dragging their feet" over key committee – despite concerns UK anti-riot gear is being used against US protesters.

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The government has been accused of “dragging its feet” by failing to convene a “vital” committee on arms exports – despite concerns that UK-made tear gas and rubber bullets are being used on Black Lives Matter protesters in the United States.

Labour said it was “extremely worrying” that ministers had failed to appoint a chair and constitute the Commons committee on arms exports controls at a time when licenses for the sale of crowd control equipment to the US and the use of British weapons in Yemen are being questioned.

Shadow peace minister Fabian Hamilton said a failure to convene the committee for nine months following the 2015 election may have contributed to a failure to properly scrutinise arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

The UK last year suspended new arms deals with Saudi Arabia after a court ruled they were illegal because ministers did not properly assess whether British-made weapons were part of bombing campaigns in Yemen that critics say violated international humanitarian law. 

Labour has already called on ministers to suspend the sale of riot control equipment to the US and review whether British-made tear gas or anti-riot guns or shields have been used against people protesting the death of George Floyd in police custody.

The row also comes amid criticism of the government for failing to publish a long-delayed report into Russian interference because it has not constituted the intelligence and security committee. 

Hamilton has written to Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg to demand an explanation of the delay in setting of the arms export committee. 

The Labour MP told HuffPost UK: “It’s extremely worrying that the government has dragged its feet on encouraging this committee to be convened. 

“At a time where the sale of tear gas and crowd control equipment to the US and the use of British weapons in Yemen are rightly being questioned, the work of the committee on arms exports controls is more important than ever.”

The Commons leader’s office has been contacted for comment.