I agree with Philip Collins’ judgment that continued arms sales to Saudi Arabia cannot be justified. (“We should stop selling arms to the Saudis,” The Times, 10 July 2020;https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/we-should-stop-selling-arms-to-the-saudis-whnz7kxb2 )
Mike Taylor, then ceo of BAE Systems, the UK’s biggest arms dealer, admitted in August 2005 that BAE and its predecessor had earned £43 billion in twenty years from its contracts with Saudi Arabia; and projected it could earn at least £40 billion more
In 2010, BAE Systems pleaded guilty to a United States court, to charges of false accounting and making misleading statements in connection with the sales.
In 1992, the National Audit Office (NAO) had investigated the contracts, but never released its conclusions – the only NAO report on any subject ever to be withheld.(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Yamamah_arms_deal)
On 14 December 2006, the UK Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, announced that the long running NAO investigation was being stopped on grounds of the “public interest,” telling peers in a House of Lords statement:
“The Director of the SFO has decided to discontinue the investigation into the affairs of BAE Systems plc as far as they relate to the Al Yamamah defence contract. This decision has been taken following representations that have been made both to the Attorney General and the Director concerning the need to safeguard national and international security. It has been necessary to balance the need to maintain the rule of law against the wider public interest.”
Mr Collins’ boss, Tony Blair, re-inforced this decision with the justification "Our relationship with Saudi Arabia is vitally important for our country in terms of counter-terrorism, in terms of the broader Middle East … That strategic interest comes first."
As his speech writer at the time, did Mr Collins pen this comment?
Sadly, this cynical political perspective still remains under Mr Johnson’s Conservative Government.