Page last updated at 17:02 GMT, Monday, 26 March 2012 18:02 UK

MP: Arms sales to Bahrain 'shaming'

Former Foreign Office Minister Denis MacShane has attacked UK arms sales to Bahrain, describing them as "shaming".

Speaking during defence questions in the House of Commons on 26 March 2012, the independent MP said that people in the Arab world were "crying out for democracy" and that "we are rightly critical of arms sales to Syria".

Mr MacShane added: "I think it is shaming that as Bahrainis are tortured, killed and repressed we have resumed arms sales there.

"Should we try exporting a bit more democracy and a bit less weaponry?"

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said that human rights concerns needed to be balanced against "the United Kingdom's security concerns when making these judgements".

Security forces in the small Gulf state crushed pro-democracy protests in March 2011, though demonstrations continue.

The UK government revoked more than 100 arms export licences to Bahrain, Libya and Egypt following unrest in those countries.

The issue was raised following a question from Conservative MP Bob Blackman on defence co-operation with another Gulf state, the United Arab Emirates.

Mr Blackman described the UAE as a "key strategic ally" and said that UK arms including fighter aircraft should be exported to the UAE so that it can be be "defended properly" in the light of "tensions around the region with Iran".

Other questions covered subjects including the welfare of the families of service personnel and co-operation with France on defence equipment.

Mr Hammond opened the session by paying tribute to UK service personnel killed in Afghanistan, including a soldier and Royal Marine who have been shot dead by an Afghan army soldier in Helmand.

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy also expressed condolences.

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