Following pressure and strong criticism from Plaid Cymru AM Leanne Wood, Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary Ken Skates AM has been removed as a keynote speaker at Defence Procurement, Research, Technology & Exportability (DPRTE) 2019 Chain Event - and the Arms Fair moved from Cardiff to Birmingham.
Speaking in the Senedd chamber yesterday, Leanne Wood AM said,
“The Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport is listed as the keynote speaker at an arms fair in Cardiff to be held next year.
"This event will involve the sale of weapons to regimes with appalling human rights records that are involved in serious armed conflicts, including Saudi Arabia, a country that were it not for its oil interests would have been regarded as a state sponsor of terrorism, as any honest analysis would conclude.
"Can you explain how your colleague's explicit endorsement of this bazaar of brutality is compatible with compliance with human rights obligations?”
Leader of the House and Chief Whip Julie James AM replied that she had not been aware that her "colleague was scheduled to speak there" and would be "more than happy to take that up with him."
The DPRTE arms fair that was scheduled to be held at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff on March 28th 2019 has now been moved to Birmingham with Ken Skates AM removed as a keynote speaker.
Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood AM said: “I am glad to see that following my intervention, Mr Skates will no longer be representing the Welsh Government at an event that will be selling deadly weapons to regimes and conflicts worldwide. But the question remains, why was he, a Welsh Government minister, down to speak in the first place?
“There are 14 million people in Yemen that are on the brink of famine, thanks to the war, which our arms trade is supporting—one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent years.
“We discovered on Tuesday that the Welsh Government had contributed £400,000 to a £1m investment with Raytheon UK – a well-known arms supplier to the Saudi Arabian regime. Then the Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport was scheduled to be a keynote speaker at an arms trade event.
“The growth of the Welsh economy should not be built on industries that profit from human suffering - jobs should not come at any cost. As far as the arms industry and the war in Yemen is concerned, the cost is too high.
“How can the Welsh Government possibly justify their unethical involvement in the arms trade and supporting totalitarian regime?"
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