I should like to use this opportunity to pay tribute to the work of all our staff in the embassy at Sana’a. The right hon. Gentleman said at the end of his speech how much he would like to be able to take a cross-party delegation from this Parliament to the Parliament in Yemen but was prevented from doing so by his concerns about the security situation. It is worth placing on the record the fact that the United Kingdom staff and their Yemeni colleagues have been operating in very difficult circumstances in an environment of high terrorist threat. Sana’a is now probably our most dangerous post world-wide—the most dangerous place for Foreign Office and other British Government staff to serve in. Our diplomats’ ability to operate has also been continually constrained

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by ever-present and unpredictable bouts of violence and civil disorder. Our staff are living in temporary container accommodation inside the embassy compound and have to cope with irregular electricity, and occasionally even water, supplies. Life for our local staff has often been even more difficult, with many living in areas of the city affected by ongoing violence and curfews. They have been constantly affected by frequent food, fuel and electricity shortages. Yet through all this, all our staff continue to show willingness, effectiveness and commitment in pursuit of our vital national objectives in Yemen.

That brings me to the crux of what I wish to say. The reason we maintain, at considerable cost and, in terms of hardship, a considerable burden on our staff, a diplomatic and wider British Government presence in Yemen is that we recognise, as the right hon. Gentleman said, the great importance of Yemen in its own right across the wider region and globally. As he said, it is important in security terms because the presence of al-Qaeda and other malign influences in Yemen means that they have the potential to visit themselves on us here in the United Kingdom. However, we also recognise it in other regards.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): I hope the Minister will forgive me for interrupting. We also have responsibility

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because the Aden protectorate was, for a very long time, a responsibility of ours. I speak as someone who lived there for four years. We also have a responsibility to this part of the world because of that.

Mr Browne: I endorse the point that my hon. Friend makes. We have a narrow self-interest in security terms, but I hope and believe that we also have a wider enlightened interest, and a desire on humanitarian grounds to see the population of Yemen living more materially prosperous lives free from the degree of insecurity that they must feel on a daily basis. I hope and believe that not only because of the hard concerns about national security but because of a desire to see stability, peace and relatively greater prosperity in Yemen, the British Government are affording that country the degree of attention and seriousness that it clearly warrants.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the opportunity to discuss Yemen’s manifold challenges and what he has said about them. I am sure that we will have other opportunities to discuss what I hope will be progress by the British Government and our international partners in the months and years ahead.

Question put and agreed to.

9.43 pm

House adjourned.