Amber Rudd, the British Home Secretary, has suggested that arms sales to Saudi Arabia are strengthening the British defense industry while refusing to consider the multibillion deals as controversial.
Rudd made the comments while standing in for Prime Minister Theresa May at a live BBC debate for the leaders of seven British political parties.
May had faced criticism for her decision to not take part in the event.
During an often-fractious debate, Rudd was asked about Britain’s arms deal with the Middle Eastern state by Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas.
“I will make no apology for being a government that wants to defend this country,” said Rudd. “We will make sure that our defence budget is well-funded and we will do that by having a strong economy and make sure we can do that by having a strong industry.”
“Saudi has the right,” she added, as others began to interject.
In the Yemen, 10,000 have died and millions more displaced following attacks by Saudi-led forces against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, with the Saudis accused of targeting civilians.
Meanwhile, the UK has continued to sell arms to the Saudi regime, sending more than £3 billion of weapons to the kingdom since the conflict in Yemen began in March 2015.
A UK parliamentary committee said it was likely British weapons had been used in Yemen.
Some viewers were outraged at Rudd’s stance on the issue.
Amber Rudd trying to defend Theresa May’s murderous Saudi allies who export extremism which threatens our national security #BBCDebate
— Owen Jones (@OwenJones84) May 31, 2017
I could not believe Amber Rudd’s reply on selling arms to Saudi and other countries on govt terrorism watchlist. I was horrified.
— msaerfen (@msaerfen) May 31, 2017
“Good for industry” Amber Rudd on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, who use them on civillians in Yemen. Allegedly inc UK made cluster bombs!
— Steve Holcroft (@mroctopus) May 31, 2017