02 MAR 2018
Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about the upcoming visit to the UK by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman and the related EDM, number 685.
I understand you would like me to sign EDM 685, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.
Nonetheless, I hope the following information on this topic from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is reassuring:
The Government has announced that this visit will take place from 7 March, and that it expects the visit to usher in a new era in bilateral relations focused on a partnership that delivers wide-ranging benefits for both the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Government intends to enhance our co-operation in tackling international challenges such as terrorism, extremism, the conflict and humanitarian crisis in Yemen and other regional issues such as Iraq and Syria.
Vision 2030, a programme of internal reforms, has been set in motion in Saudi Arabia by the Crown Prince. These include lifting the ban on women driving from June this year, opening up attendance at major sporting events to women and allowing cinemas to operate in the country. Vision 2030 aims to catalyse and open up the country's economy over the next 15 years, which will provide opportunities for British businesses to help support delivery in areas such as education, entertainment and healthcare where they have world-class expertise.
Maintaining a good relationship with Saudi Arabia allows us to support their important programme of reform, and to have frank conversations on matters where we both have concerns.
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