Arms giant Raytheon, which has a bomb factory in Fife, has been criticised for declining to meet MPs to answer questions on arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
Raytheon is the world’s third largest arms dealer and makes laser guided systems for smart bombs in Glenrothes.
The US multinational was called to give evidence to the government’s committee on arms exports control (CAEC) at Westminster ahead of the fourth anniversary of Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign in Yemen, which began on 26 March 2015.
CAEC is charged with policing the government’s arms export strategy and MPs wanted to question Raytheon over sales of Paveway IV bombs to Saudi Arabia.
A Saudi-led coalition of Arab states has been using UK warplanes and bombs part-made in Scotland by Raytheon in a war against Houthi rebels backed by Iran.
As many as 60,000 people are estimated to have died so far.
Raytheon’s smart bombs have been linked to several alleged war crimes in Yemen and the firm’s decision not to meet MPs in person prompted criticism.
When questioned over alleged human rights abuses in Yemen and links to bombs made in the UK, he said: “We understand the sensitive nature of what goes on in Yemen, and the current issues.
“The individual companies are part of government-to-government arrangements under which they are contracted by their own government to provide support, so that provides a rather different context.
“They are also part of long-running arrangements that will have been in place over many, many years. I think that our companies will be turning down more business than you probably are aware of, or I am aware of, because they do not want to do business with particular people.
Every time the rest of us see atrocities, Raytheon sees another business opportunity. Andrew Smith, Campaign Against Arms Trade
However, Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade, criticised Raytheon’s non appearance and said: “It is no wonder that Raytheon is afraid to speak to MPs, and is keen to avoid scrutiny. The company has a lot to be ashamed of.
“Its weapons have played a terrible role in Yemen, where it has poured missiles into a war that has killed tens of thousands of people. Many of those weapons are made in Scotland, and the company must be held to account.
“The Saudi-led bombing has had a devastating impact on Yemen, but Raytheon has profited every step of the way. Every time the rest of us see atrocities, Raytheon sees another business opportunity. It is shameful that it has been able to fuel such abuses while enjoying the full support of Westminster.”
Ross Greer, Scottish Green MSP, said: “Dealers like Raytheon have taken full advantage of the UK government’s clear lack of interest in policing arms sales to brutally abusive regimes like Saudi Arabia.
“With the Tory government failing to do the right thing by banning these arms sales and the Scottish Government continuing to hand public money to the dealers, it’s right that MPs try to intervene.
“Decent people across the UK are sickened to see the profits of a multi-billion dollar US arms company put ahead of the lives of children being slaughtered in Yemen.”
A spokesman for CAEC said: “The committee invited Raytheon to give evidence. Raytheon did not attend the meeting but are a member of ADS who sent a representative.
“Both ADS and Raytheon considered that ADS, as the relevant trade body to which Raytheon belongs, would be able to address the relevant issues on arms export controls when ADS gave evidence to the committee.
“The committee’s deliberations on this matter, as with other aspects of its work, are private and confidential. CAEC continues to take evidence on 2017 Strategic Export Controls Annual Report and will make recommendations to the government in due course.”
A Raytheon spokeswoman said: “Raytheon did not refuse to attend the CAEC session. Raytheon, like all members of our trade association, is being represented by ADS in matters of government policy.”
As Yemen’s war entered its fifth year last week, Save The Children revealed that more than 400 children had been killed or maimed in airstrikes over the past year.
The day after Save The Children’s report was published a hospital it funds in Yemen was bombed, resulting in the deaths of eight people including five children.
Save The Children has demanded an urgent investigation. Kevin Watkins, chief executive of Save the Children, said: “We are shocked and appalled by this outrageous attack.
“Innocent children and health workers have lost their lives in what appears to been an indiscriminate attack on a hospital in a densely populated civilian area. Attacks like these are a breach of international law.
“This hospital is just one of the many Save the Children support across Yemen, delivering life-saving aid to children living in what is the worst place on earth to be a child. These children have the right to be safe in their hospitals, schools and homes.
“But time after time, we see a complete disregard by all warring parties in Yemen for the basic rules of war. Children must be protected. We must stop this war on children.”
Meanwhile, the UK Government was investigating a report that the SAS had been in action in Yemen and that the UK military was training child soldiers in the Saudi-led coalition.
Foreign office minister Mark Field answered an urgent question asked in the Commons on 26 March by shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, who suggested that Britons may have been witness to war crimes.
This story was published in the Sunday Mail on 31 March 2019.