THE UK is “urgently investigating” claims that a British-made cluster bomb was used in Saudi strikes on Yemen, it has emerged.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond yesterday announced the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has launched an inquiry after Amnesty International discovered evidence of the munition during a recent operation in the crisis-hit country.

Hammond’s comments came after the SNP’s Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh lodged an urgent question in the House of Commons, calling on Hammond to acknowledge that “the continued use of British bombs has resulted in the deaths of Yemeni men, women and children” and apologise for the Government’s “inaction” on the issue.

However, Hammond said the weapon, made by Hunting Engineering in the 1970s, may date from earlier fighting and cautioned: “We need to be careful. There is no evidence yet that Saudi Arabia has used cluster munitions.”

He told the Commons: “The UK has long since given up the use of cluster munitions. They are, their use or their supply, illegal under British law and the weapons that are being described here are decades old. But the MoD is urgently investigating the allegations that have been made.”

Hospitals, schools, factories and food warehouses are among the sites destroyed since Saudi-led forces entered Yemen’s internal conflict last year.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions, which has more than 100 signatories, became international law in 2010 and bans the use, holding, production and transfer of the explosives, which release small bomblets over a large area. Amnesty International said it found the partially-exploded BL-755 cluster bomb in a village in the north of the country.

Defence Minister Philip Dunne said the UK last provided such weapons to Saudi Arabia in 1989, adding: “Based on all of the information available to us, including sensitive coalition operational reporting, we assess that no UK-supplied cluster weapons have been used or UK-supplied aircraft have been involved in the use of UK cluster weapons in the current conflict in Yemen.

“We are aware of reports of the alleged use of cluster munitions by the coalition in Yemen.

“We have raised the issue of their use during the current conflict in Yemen several times with the Saudi Arabian authorities and in line with our obligations under the Convention on Cluster Munitions continue to encourage Saudi Arabia as a non-party to the convention to accede to it.

“The Saudis have previously denied using UK cluster munitions during the conflict in Yemen but we are seeking fresh assurances in light of this new, serious allegation.”

MPs have repeatedly pressed the Government for action on alleged war crimes and human rights abuses by Saudi Arabia in Yemen and called for an end to the lucrative arms trade with the kingdom, which has brought in £6.7 billion since David Cameron assumed office in 2010.

Despite criticism over the use of UK-made weapons and UK-trained personnel, the Government has repeatedly stressed it is not directly involved in the conflict.

Yesterday, the SNP’s Kirsten Oswald said: “This government have truly got their head stuck in the sand. Yemen faces one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, yet through their continuing sale of arms to Saudi Arabia the UK Government are exacerbating the plight of the Yemeni people. Is our arms trade with Saudi Arabia worth so much more than the thousands of men, women and children involved in and dying in this terrible conflict?”

Dunne said the exports had “been about providing capability to cope with incursion by foreign powers” to a country fighting Daesh and playing a key role in regional security.

Oliver Sprague, of Amnesty International, said: “The UK should have been tracking down all the now-banned cluster bombs it’s sold to Saudi Arabia over the years and pressing for them to be safely disposed of.

“There needs to be a full investigation into both this incident and all aspects of the UK’s arming of Saudi Arabia, and other countries involved in the carnage in Yemen.”