CHANCELLOR Kwasi Kwarteng held undisclosed meetings with senior executives of Saudi Arabian firms when he was business secretary, according to documents obtained by The Guardian.

Documents acquired by the newspaper show the meetings occurred in January, when Kwarteng visited the kingdom for a two-day trip under his previous ministerial role. 

Documents released using the Freedom of Information Act (FoI) show Kwarteng held undisclosed meetings with the chief executive of Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil producer, the chief executive of Sabic, the world’s fourth largest petrochemical company, and the chair of Alfanar Group, an industrial conglomerate. 

However, the documents acquired by the newspaper from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy did not contain any reference to meetings during the period the current Chancellor was in Saudi Arabia when originally published. 

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Although meetings with foreign government figures are not required to be declared, any meetings with business executives should be. 

A government spokesperson said there had been an “administrative oversight”. 

Kwarteng was flown around the kingdom by Saudi Aramco, which operates several helicopters, jets and airports.

The flights provided the opportunity for the oil company to lobby the minister who, at the time, was responsible for the UK’s energy policy, the documents suggest.  

Minutes of meetings held by Kwarteng written by an official that accompanied him include a section titled “Aramco flight talk”, noting the politician discussed the “history and opportunities for the company”.

Other points of discussion were redacted by the business department on the basis of potential prejudice on UK-Saudi relations, possible harm to the formulation of UK government policy, and the need to protect commercial interests. 

Kwarteng’s travel by Aramco aircraft also poses questions surrounding compliance with the ministerial code, which states offers of free travel “should not normally be accepted. The only exception to this is in the case of an offer of transport from an overseas government provided no undue obligation is created.”

In its response to an FoI request, the business department said, “in some cases, transport and accommodation was provided by Aramco, but this was organised by the Saudi energy ministry, who worked closely with the British embassy [in] Riyadh on the programme”. 

According to his travel plans, Kwarteng met with Amin Nasser, the chief executive of Saudi Aramco, at Ithra – a cultural centre owned and operated by Aramco. 

The National: An FoI request revealed undisclosed meetings between Kwasi Kwarteng and Saudi Arabian officialsAn FoI request revealed undisclosed meetings between Kwasi Kwarteng and Saudi Arabian officials

The minutes note that the Chancellor “toured the library and the exhibitions (contemporary art, Islamic art and Aramco exhibits)”. 

Whilst the meeting with Nasser was not disclosed on the list of ministerial meetings published back in July, some details were revealed on September 20 by a business department minister in response to a parliamentary question from the Green party MP Caroline Lucas. 

The climate minister, Graham Stuart, said Kwarteng had met Nasser and added: “Discussions covered clean energy innovation and Aramco’s sustainability initiatives, including hydrogen technology, carbon capture, utilisation and storage, and the reduction of fugitive emissions associated with oil and gas production.”

Kwarteng’s other meetings with Saudi executives have never been disclosed by the government in any form.

His visit to a Sabic plant was disclosed by the company in a tweet however and documents obtained by the FoI request show he also met Sabic’s chief executive, Yousef al-Benyan. 

Lucas was critical of the lack of transparency and called for all the meetings to be “fully and comprehensively” disclosed. 

She said: “If our then energy secretary, now chancellor, has failed to declare his meetings properly, how are we to believe that our climate policies have not been squandered, our energy security has not been compromised, and Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights record has not been brushed under the carpet?”

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A briefing pack prepared for the Chancellor prior to his trip, also obtained by the newspaper’s FoI request, sheds light on the information provided to ministers before travelling to Saudi Arabia.

This included details on the status of human rights in the kingdom. 

The 68-page pack contains several pages of background on Saudi Arabia, offering figures on its energy production, an outline of recent ministerial visits and notes than “[Mohammed bin Salman] recently announced sweeping judicial reforms. 

The final sub-heading, “human rights”, contained just four bullet points, one of which was redacted by the business department which cited the potential for prejudice on the UK’s relations with Saudi Arabia. 

The other three bullet points all stressed positive developments in Saudi human rights, stating for example that “women’s rights continue to improve dramatically”. 

Another states that judges give “equal weight” to a mother’s and father’s views in divorce cases, while another added that the World Bank had praised Saudi Arabia for eliminating restrictions on women’s rights to employment. 

There was no reference in the unredacted bullet points to what Amnesty International described as Saudi Arabia’s “appalling human rights record”. 

Amnesty International’s UK foreign affairs expert Polly Truscott told The Guardian: “For years, we’ve been concerned that Saudi human rights abuses were being downplayed by successive ministers to clear the way for new trade deals, including massive arms shipments. This briefing seems to confirm those fears.”

In a statement, a government spokesperson blamed the failure to declare the meetings on an “administrative oversight” and confirmed the data would be updated. 

They added: “The briefing being referred to is only one part of a wider briefing [Kwarteng] received on Saudi Arabia, which included content on human rights, recent political developments in Saudi Arabia and UK-Saudi engagement activity.”

Kwasi Kwarteng and Aramco have been contacted for comment.