Greater mutual understanding helps strengthen relations between UK and Saudi MPs
From 16 to 20 May 2022 the BGIPU hosted a delegation from Saudi Arabia, a visit that was strongly supported by the APPG for Saudi Arabia and the British Embassy in Riyadh. The delegation was led by Dr Ghazi bin Faisal bin Zaqar and his Shura Council colleagues also on the delegation were Maj General Turki bin Humoud Al Enezi, Dr Turki bin Saleh Al Awad, Dr Hanan bint Abdullah Al Semari, Dr Khayran bin Debash Rajab, Mr Raed bin Abdullah Al Tamimi and Dr Aliaa bint Muhammad Al Dahlawi.
The visit programme began on Monday morning with a warm welcome to Westminster by a range of Members who escorted the delegation to their first meeting in the IPU Room. The delegation were presented with an overview of the Westminster System by James Rhys, Principal Clerk in the Select Committee Team, and they in turn had plenty of questions on our processes and structure. This first scene setting meeting was followed by lunch in Strangers hosted by APPG Chair and BGIPU Executive Committee Member, Mark Menzies MP. This informal lunch was a first opportunity for the delegation to meet a range of Members from both Houses. The afternoon programme began with an opportunity to observe the Treasury Select Committee take evidence from the Governor of the Bank of England, Mr Andrew Bailey, as part of their inquiry into the Bank of England Monetary Policy Reports. This session was followed by a return to the IPU Room to meet Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The first day of the visit ended with a formal welcome dinner at the Conrad Hotel, hosted by BGIPU Chair Harriett Baldwin MP.
Tuesday morning began with a fascinating tour of Parliament led by Tim Loughton MP who was able to give the history of the building but also focus on some of the traditions of our parliamentary system as well as some updates including in the way Members vote in the lobbies. This tour was followed by a meeting with Members of the Defence Select Committee led by John Spellar MP. A working lunch that day was hosted by BGIPU Vice Chair, John Whittingdale MP, in the IPU room and was again attended by a broad of Members from both Houses. The first meeting of the afternoon was focussed on Sport where the delegation had an opportunity to hear from Lord Moynihan and Tracey Crouch MP. Later that afternoon the female Members on the delegation had a private meeting with Harriet Harman MP before the whole delegation gathered for one last meeting with the Arab British Chamber of Commerce.
Wednesday morning began with a roundtable session hosted by Flick Drummond MP and attended by a number of other Members. On the agenda that morning were discussions on the UK-Saudi Strategic Partnership Agreement, a progress report on Saudi Vision 2030, discussions on global issues including the invasion of Ukraine and impacts on European security and global energy markets, discussions on key developments in the Middle East region and finally a discussion on environment, climate change and green energy issues. After this interesting session the delegation observed Prime Minister’s Question Time before heading to Lunch in the Peers Dining Room, hosted by Baroness D’Souza, Vice Chair of BGIPU. The afternoon was spent at the BBC where the delegation received an overview of the newsroom and the World Service before very interesting discussions with the Head of the Arabic service and other colleagues from BBC Arabic.
Thursday morning started bright and early with a drive to Oxford where the first appointment of the day was at the Ashmolean Museum. The delegation was met on arrival by Dr Alexander Sturgis, Director of the Ashmolean Museum, before enjoying a tour of the Islamic Art gallery with the Assistant Keeper and Curator, Francesca Leoni. The delegation then moved on to the Centre for Islamic Studies where they were met and given a tour of the impressive centre by the Director, Dr Farhan Nizami, before enjoying lunch with a number of the centre’s members. The last visit of the day was to Blenheim Palace, where they were met by Nigel Huddleston MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who joined the delegation for a presentation on the cultural history and preservation of the Palace before enjoying a private tour of the state rooms.
The last morning of the visit focussed again on the issue of Sport with a visit to UK Sport and a presentation by Alex Rolfe and Chris Harvey on the history of the UK’s achievements in global sporting events and how the recent successes were achieved. The visit ended with a debrief lunch with Members of the BGIPU and FCDO teams, where the final discussion centred on the mutual enthusiasm for and importance of continued parliamentary bilateral exchanges.