Birkenhead MP tables Commons motion regarding UK arms sales to Israel

Members of Parliament including Birkenhead MP, Mick Whitley, are demanding that David Cameron attend the House of Commons to answer questions concerning arms exports to Israel.

The MPs claim that the offensive on Rafah and the grave threat it poses to the civilian population makes this demand imperative.

David Cameron’s appointment as Foreign Secretary in the autumn of 2023 made him the first holder of that office to serve from the House of Lords in over forty years.

The appointment of a peer to a senior role in government was criticised by some MPs who questioned how they could hold Lord Cameron to account. As he does not hold a seat in the House of Commons, he is unable to participate in regular departmental questions and instead questions are delegated to foreign minister, Andrew Mitchell.

But an Early Day Motion (EDM) tabled by Birkenhead MP Mick Whitley on Tuesday, 14 May, is calling on the Foreign Secretary to attend the House of Commons to answer questions from MPs concerning arms exports to Israel.

This follows the confirmation by the UK government that it will not suspend arms licences to Israel following its offensive into Rafah in southern Gaza.

Mick Whitley MP said that the Foreign Secretary must not be allowed to escape scrutiny by elected MPs, especially on such a vital issue.

Earlier this year, hundreds of legal experts including the former President of the Supreme Court Lady Hale wrote to the Prime Minister to warn him that the provision of military aid to Israel could make the UK legally complicit in genocide and breaches of International Humanitarian Law.

The EDM describes the “moral imperative of ending arms exports to Israel” as now being “so great as to warrant the House taking exceptional measures”. It says that the Foreign Secretary should answer questions from the “Bar of the House” – the white line in the House of Commons chamber beyond which only MPs can cross when the House is sitting.

Though unusual, a government Minister taking questions from the Bar of the House of Commons is not without precedent. In a report published in January 2024, the Commons’ Procedure Committee recommended that the Foreign Secretary take questions from the Bar so as to improve democratic scrutiny over the Foreign Office.

Mick Whitley told Birkenhead News, “According to Rishi Sunak the ‘dangerous world’ is the biggest issue facing us. Yet in the midst of the war in Gaza and the Israeli Defence Force’s assault on Rafah, Parliament can’t even ask questions of the Foreign Secretary.

“This is unacceptable. The offensive on Rafah should be stopped. We must not be complicit in it by supplying Israel with any weapons at all. And we must be able to hold David Cameron accountable on this issue.”

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