UK government backs out of Saudi jail deal

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Michael Gove, UK Justice Secretary.

THE UK government cancelled a £5.9 million (€7.9 million) contract to provide prison services to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, October 13. The proposal had caused controversy due to the questionable human rights record of Saudi Arabia. 

A spokeswoman for the prime minister said it had walked away from the deal as part of the government’s focusing on domestic priorities. 

The prison deal is still at the stage where the UK can cancel the bid process without any financial penalties. 


Justice Secretary Michael Gove said that Britain’s relationship with the Saudis would not be affected by the decision not to pursue the deal.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Gove said, “There is security cooperation between Britain and Saudi Arabia that has, as the prime minister and others have pointed out, saved British lives in the past.”

Addressing the controversy surrounding the deal he added: “While we would never compromise on our commitment to human rights, we must also recognise that it’s in the interests of the most important human right of all, the right to live in safety and security, that we should continue with necessary security cooperation with the Saudi government and with other governments.”

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour party, said “David Cameron has been shamed into a u-turn on this terrible contract, but why on earth was it set up in the first place?”

Reports in the UK media suggest that tensions within the cabinet preceded the decision to withdraw from the deal.


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