Iran-Israel Update

– in the House of Commons am 3:35 pm ar 15 Ebrill 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party 3:35, 15 Ebrill 2024

Mr Speaker, before I start, I would like to express my deepest sympathy, and I am sure that of the whole House, on the death of your father. He was a true giant of not just this House, but the other place, too.

I also want to express my solidarity with our Australian friends after the horrific and senseless attacks in Sydney in recent days. Our thoughts are with all those affected.

On Saturday evening, Iran sought to plunge the middle east into a new crisis. It launched a barrage of missiles and attack drones over Iraq and Jordan, and towards Israel. The scale of the attack, and the fact that it was targeted directly at Israel, are without precedent. It was a reckless and dangerous escalation. If it had succeeded, the fallout for regional security and the toll on Israeli citizens would have been catastrophic, but it did not succeed.

In support of Israel’s own defensive action, the United Kingdom joined a US-led international effort, along with France and partners in the region, that intercepted almost all of the missiles, saving lives in Israel and its neighbours. We sent additional RAF Typhoons to the region as part of our existing operations against Daesh in Iraq and Syria, and I can confirm that our forces destroyed a number of Iranian drones. We also provided important intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support for our partners. Our pilots put themselves in harm’s way to protect the innocent and preserve peace and stability. I spoke to the RAF earlier today; they are the best of the best, and I know that the whole House will join me in expressing our gratitude.

With this attack, Iran has once again shown its true colours. It is intent on sowing chaos in its own backyard—on further destabilising the middle east. Our aim is to support stability and security because that is right for the region, and because although the middle east is thousands of miles away, it has a direct effect on our security and prosperity at home, so we are working urgently with our allies to de-escalate the situation and prevent further bloodshed. We want to see calmer heads prevail, and we are directing all our diplomatic efforts to that end.

Yesterday I spoke to my fellow G7 leaders. We are united in our condemnation of this attack. We discussed further potential diplomatic measures, which we will be working together to co-ordinate in the coming days. I will also shortly speak to Prime Minister Netanyahu to express our solidarity with Israel in the face of this attack, and to discuss how we can prevent further escalation. All sides must show restraint.

Our actions reflect our wider strategy in the middle east, which I have set out in the House previously. I believe there are three vital steps to put the region on to a better path. First, we must uphold regional security against hostile actors, including in the Red sea, and we must ensure Israel’s security. That is non-negotiable and a fundamental condition for peace in the region. In the face of the threats that we saw this weekend, Israel has our full support.

Secondly, we must invest more deeply in the two-state solution. That is what we have been doing over the past six months, including working closely with the Palestinian Authority, so that when the time comes, they can provide more effective governance for Gaza and the west bank. It is significant that other regional partners actually helped to prevent a much worse attack over the weekend. It reminds us how important the attempts to normalise relations between Israel and its neighbours really are, and they hold out precious hope for the region.

Thirdly, the conflict in Gaza must end. Hamas, who are backed by Iran, started this war. They wanted not just to kill and murder, but to destabilise the whole region. This weekend, they rejected the latest hostage deal, which offered a road to a ceasefire. It is Israel’s right, and indeed its duty, to defeat the threat from Hamas terrorists and defend its security. I want to be clear: nothing that has happened over the past 48 hours affects our position on Gaza. The appalling toll on civilians continues to grow—the hunger, the desperation and the loss of life on an awful scale. The whole country wants to see an end to the bloodshed, and to see more humanitarian support going in. The recent increase in aid flows is positive, but it is still not enough. We need to see new crossings open for longer to get in vital supplies.

I want to take this opportunity, Mr Speaker, to pay tribute to the three British aid workers who were killed in Gaza: John Chapman, James Kirby and James Henderson. They were heroes. The children of Gaza whom they were risking their lives to feed need a humanitarian pause immediately, leading to a long-term sustainable ceasefire. That is the fastest way to get hostages out and aid in, and to stop the fighting. Israelis and Palestinians alike deserve to live in peace, dignity and security, and so do people across the entire region.

In conclusion, Saturday’s attack was the act not of a people, but of a despotic regime, and it is emblematic of the dangers that we face today. The links between such regimes are growing. Tel Aviv was not the only target of Iranian drones on Saturday; Putin was also launching them at Kyiv and Kharkiv. And who was the sole voice speaking up for Iran yesterday, seeking to justify its actions? Russia.

The threats to stability are growing, not just in the middle east but everywhere, and we are meeting those threats, time after time, with British forces at the forefront. It is why our pilots were in action this weekend. It is why they have been policing the skies above Iraq and Syria for a decade. It is why our sailors are defending freedom of navigation in the Red sea against the reckless attacks of the Iran-backed Houthi militia. It is why our soldiers are on the ground in Kosovo, Estonia, Poland and elsewhere, and it is why we have led the way in backing Ukraine, and we will continue to back it for as long as it takes. When adversaries such as Russia or Iran threaten peace and prosperity, we will always stand in their way, ready to defend our values and our interests, shoulder to shoulder with our friends and our allies. I commend this statement to the House.

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Leader of HM Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party 3:43, 15 Ebrill 2024

I thank the Prime Minister for an advance copy of his statement, and for the regular briefings on the developing situation in the middle east. I also thank him for his warm tribute to your father, Mr Speaker. Doug Hoyle was a great servant of our party, respected by all who knew him. I also join the Prime Minister in offering our solidarity with the victims of the horrific attack in Sydney, and in recognising the heroism of the three British aid workers killed in Gaza while working for World Central Kitchen.

Turning to the events of this weekend, we support the defensive action taken by the UK, alongside our international allies, against the Iranian attacks on Israel, and we welcome the Prime Minister’s call for restraint. Once again, we all salute the professionalism and bravery of our armed forces. We also support the RAF planes being sent to the region to bolster Operation Shader. Their efforts are vital for a safer world.

There can be no doubt that the attack perpetrated by Iranian forces this weekend has left the world a more dangerous place. It targeted innocent civilians, with a clear intent to destabilise the region. It must be wholly condemned by all, but let us also be clear that a full-scale conflict in the middle east is in no one’s interest. It is a path that can only lead to more bloodshed, more instability and the unleashing of forces that are beyond the ability of anyone to control.

The combined defensive action this weekend was a success and, because of that, lives were saved. As a result, escalation is not inevitable. In repelling the attack, Israel showed strength and courage. It must now show the same strength and courage to de-escalate. That has to be the primary objective, and that is the responsibility of all sides and every partner. We must be resolute and united in our support for the collective security of Israel, Jordan and other partners in the region.

But tensions remain very high. We must proceed calmly, carefully and with restraint, because if diplomacy takes centre stage—and it must—we also need to be clear that diplomatic premises should not be targeted and attacked. That is a point of principle, but as the condemnation from our G7 allies rightly notes, Iran’s response this weekend was unprecedented—a further step towards the destabilisation of the region and the risk of escalation. Nobody in this House should be, or is, under any illusion: this is a regime that sponsors terror across the middle east and beyond, that murders and represses its own people and supports Putin’s war efforts in Ukraine. So can the Prime Minister update the House on any new steps he is taking with our international partners to pursue sanctions against the regime, and can he clarify what steps he is taking to limit the power of the revolutionary guard to glorify terrorism here in the UK?

While there is no justification for Iran’s actions, we cannot be naive to the fact that one of the drivers of tension in the region is the ongoing war in Gaza. Six months on from the horrific Hamas terror attack, hostages remain separated from their families, thousands of innocent Palestinians have been killed, and now more than a million people face the imminent threat of famine—so I urge the Government again to use every ounce of diplomatic leverage that we have to make sure that aid to Gaza is unimpeded and drastically scaled up. Alongside that, we reiterate our call for an immediate ceasefire, for Hamas to release hostages and for a return to a diplomatic process that can rekindle the hope of a two-state solution.

It is right that we condemn Iran’s action, it is right that we work with others to defend the security of our allies, and it is right that we seek the end of conflict in Gaza. But this is a moment for restraint, because escalation will only lead to further destruction; and, for the sake of all those still caught in the horror and violence, that must be avoided.

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his support of the Government’s actions. With regard to what might happen going forward, ultimately, Israel has a right to self-defence, as any state does. The G7 leaders spoke yesterday and unequivocally condemned Iran’s attack, and expressed full solidarity and support for Israel and its people. But as the Foreign Secretary said this morning, this is a time to be

“smart as well as tough”.

Israel has incredibly successfully repelled the Iranian attack, and Iran is even more isolated on the world stage. As others have said, we urge Israel to take the win at this point. We want to avoid further escalation and bloodshed—the right hon. and learned Gentleman is right that that would be deeply destabilising for the region and would risk more lives—and all our diplomatic efforts at this point will be geared towards that goal, in partnership with our allies.

As I have said previously, the behaviour of the Iranian regime, including the actions of IRGC, poses a significant threat to the safety and security of the UK and our allies. Yesterday at the G7, we agreed to work together on further measures to counter the Iranian regime and its proxies. It was agreed that we should co-ordinate those actions, and that work is now under way. Obviously, at the appropriate time, I or Ministers will update the House. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman will know, we have already sanctioned over 400 Iranian individuals, including the IRGC in its entirety. We put in place at the end of last year a new sanctions regime that gives us more extensive powers to designate sanctions, and of course, the National Security Act 2023 created new offences for espionage and foreign interference, and means that our security services have the powers that they need to deter, disrupt and detect threats of a more modern nature from states such as Iran.

Lastly, with regard to diplomacy for Israel and the region, we are absolutely committed to a two-state solution. We have been working very hard and using all our efforts to bring that about, particularly over the past few months, by building up the capability of the Palestinian Authority, as I have said, so that they have the necessary technical and administrative capability when the moment comes for them to provide effective governance in the west bank and Gaza. It is absolutely my view, and that of the Government, that Israelis and Palestinians should have the opportunity to live side by side in peace, with security, dignity and opportunity, and I am proud of the role that the United Kingdom is playing.

Photo of Alicia Kearns Alicia Kearns Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee, Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee, Chair, Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee on the Overseas Territories, Chair, Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee on the Overseas Territories

My condolences, Mr Speaker, on the loss of your father.

This remains a dangerous moment, yet over the weekend we saw a demonstration of unity and purpose. We saw the depth of will for normalisation and for a secure future for all peoples of the middle east. Restraint is vital if we want to build on the momentum to get hostages home to their families and to get improvements to continuing aid, but to better protect our people, will my right hon. Friend commit to launching with our allies a new consensus on Iran and a new effort—with combined diplomatic, military and wider expert areas—to limit the extent of the atrocities of Iran? We need to end the compartmentalisation of threats when we deal with Iran; we must deal with it as one, whether on its nuclear ambitious, the arming of the militia, femicide or transnational repression. Only with a new consensus will we see that progress, so will he please commit to leading that internationally?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I can give my hon. Friend that commitment. That was exactly the subject of our discussions among the G7 leaders yesterday. She mentions nuclear. Iran’s nuclear programme has never been more advanced than it is today; it threatens international peace and security. There is absolutely no justification, at a civilian level, for the enrichment that we are seeing and which the International Atomic Energy Agency has reported in Iran. I want to reassure her that we are considering next steps on the nuclear file with our international partners, and we are committed to using all diplomatic tools available to ensure that Iran never develops a nuclear weapon, including using the snapback mechanism if necessary.

Photo of Mhairi Black Mhairi Black SNP Deputy Leader

I echo the Prime Minister in passing on our thoughts not only to you, Mr Speaker, but to the families of the aid workers who have been killed in Gaza.

I condemn the acts of violence by the Iranian regime. They are no more than a cynical attempt to exploit the suffering, pain and turmoil being experienced by people in Palestine right now. While we rightly condemn the violent acts of Iran, so too must we condemn the violent acts of Israel. From listening to the interviews that he has been giving, the Foreign Secretary is correct in his attempt to uphold the principle of proportionality, but if firing 100 missiles in retaliation for an isolated attack on an embassy is—correctly—considered disproportionate, so too must be Israel’s 192-day bombardment of Gaza.

We know that the agenda in Tehran is to bring about as much instability as possible. We all have a responsibility to ensure that that does not happen. There is not going to be a military solution to the conflict in the middle east. There must be a political and diplomatic solution, so what is required now is the same as what was required six months ago: we need de-escalation, and for the causes of conflict in the region to be reviewed. The biggest continuing cause of conflict is the siege of Gaza; hence the need for a ceasefire. Can the Prime Minister outline what he is doing to ensure that the ceasefire mandated by the UN Security Council becomes a reality?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

First, it is important not to try to draw any equivalence between Israel’s absolute right—indeed, duty—to provide security for its citizens in the face of an appalling terrorist atrocity and what happened over the weekend. Those things are not remotely the same. More broadly, though, as I have said repeatedly from this Dispatch Box, we urge Israel to abide by international humanitarian law. We have been very clear that too many civilians have been killed, and we are deeply concerned about the impact on the civilian population in Gaza; our diplomatic efforts are geared towards alleviating that suffering. I will continue to raise those points with Prime Minister Netanyahu when I speak to him, but, as I have said, drawing an equivalence between those two things is absolutely not the right thing to do.

Photo of Jeremy Quin Jeremy Quin Chair, Defence Committee, Chair, Defence Committee

Notwithstanding the sheer scale of the Iranian attack, multi-layered air defence proved effective. Are we ensuring that we are passing any learnings we have picked up on to Ukraine for the use of its own defence, and, in a more hostile and dangerous world, with the ever-increasing proliferation of missile and drone technology, are we reviewing our own air defence assets and capabilities to support our allies—and, indeed, closer to home—if ever required?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I thank my right hon. Friend for his excellent question. He is right about the importance of air defence, which is why it has repeatedly been one of the key capabilities that we have sought to provide to Ukraine—that is something we have led on for some time. Ditto, some of the new contracts that we have placed to replenish UK stockpiles, most recently this year, also cover air defence missiles. More broadly, my right hon. Friend is right that we need to ensure our industrial production here in the UK is geared to produce the capabilities we need, whether for our own use or for Ukraine’s. I am pleased to say that the Defence Secretary is working with the industry to ensure that supply chain is there to meet those needs.

Photo of Edward Davey Edward Davey Leader of the Liberal Democrats

Mr Speaker, I send you and your family our deepest condolences on the loss of your father, and associate myself and my colleagues with the comments of others about the appalling murders in Sydney and the death of the aid workers in Gaza.

I thank the Prime Minister for his statement. The Liberal Democrats join him in condemning Iran’s attack on Israel: this is an alarming escalation in a conflict that has already seen far too many deaths and far too much suffering. We support the action taken by the RAF to intercept Iranian drones as we stand up for Israel’s security.

We also worry about what Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Government will do next. The Prime Minister has rightly said that we must prevent further escalation, so does he agree that the best way to achieve that is to press all sides to agree to an immediate bilateral ceasefire in Gaza to get the hostages home, get the aid in, and put us on the path to a lasting peace for a two-state solution?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

We have repeatedly called for an immediate humanitarian pause so that we can get the hostages out and more aid in, and use that as the foundation to build a more lasting and sustainable ceasefire, but it is worth pointing out—this has not been mentioned by colleagues so far—that Hamas, yet again, have rejected another offer to release hostages. It is important that we do not lose sight of that. We must have the hostages released as part of any of those conversations, and over the weekend it was Hamas who yet again rejected the latest round of those talks.

Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox Ceidwadwyr, North Somerset

I thank my right hon. Friend for the leadership he has shown on this issue, and I echo his call for the need to avoid a spiral escalation. However, we have seen a military attack by Iran on a nation that its regime believes should not exist at all. Iran has directly or indirectly engineered a war in Gaza, with the aim of thwarting better relations between Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia, and Israel. We now have death and destruction in Gaza in a conflict that no one can win, and where the only beneficiaries are Iran, its proxies and its allies. We have seen an Iranian journalist attacked on British soil, and we have seen an international vessel being pirated by the IRGC in international waters—another vile example of hostage taking. So I ask my right hon. Friend again: why is Iran Air still operating out of Heathrow, and why are Iranian banks still operating in the City of London? When will the snapback mechanism be invoked, and what can be done to stop the export of Iranian oil to Russia and other countries, which is now keeping the regime afloat?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I thank my right hon. Friend for his leadership on this issue over a consistent period of time, and he is right to highlight the threats that Iran poses to us. I want to reassure him that, on all of the areas that he mentioned, active work has been undertaken by the Government. As I mentioned in my statement, we discussed yesterday on the G7 call the need for and benefit of co-ordinating further measures, perhaps including some of the things that he talked about, among allies in order to have maximum impact both on the regime and the ultimate designations of any future sanctions. I am pleased that our new sanctions regime, which we implemented at the end of last year, gives us extensive new powers. I am keen to make sure we use them to good effect, but where we can co-ordinate those with allies, I know he would agree with me that that would be preferable, and I can reassure him that that work is happening at pace.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Llafur, Knowsley

Mr Speaker, could I too pass on my condolences for the loss of your dad, Doug? I was one of those who on many occasions benefited from his wise advice.

As the Prime Minister has said, there is no moral equivalence between the two sides in this—what is happening in Gaza and what happened in the attacks by Iran on Israel—but Israel has made mistakes in the past and should be held to account for them. Would the Prime Minister agree with me that, as things move on, the importance of neighbouring states—particularly, for example, Jordan—is going to be vital in resolving not just the current difficulties, but a long-term future that brings about a two-state solution?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

In a word, yes. I pay tribute to the King of Jordan for the leadership role that he has played over the past several months. We are fortunate to enjoy a strong working relationship with the Jordanians, which was on display yet again over this weekend, and I commend him and his country for what they have done.

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman Ceidwadwyr, Fareham

Mr Speaker, please accept my condolences on the loss of your father.

Two weeks ago, I was in Israel at the northern border with Lebanon. Of course, we have all seen what happened this weekend, but since 7 October Iran-backed Hezbollah has fired over 4,000 rockets into northern Israel, displacing over 150,000 Israeli civilians. I met some of those families. They are under siege and they have been uprooted, but they are brave and defiant in the face of terrorism and antisemitism. We have known for years that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is the world’s chief sponsor of terrorism, funding and promoting terrorist plots, radicalisation and hostage taking both in the middle east and at home. We have proscribed Hamas and we have proscribed Hezbollah. Prime Minister, why do we not put the UK’s national security first by now proscribing the IRGC?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

As my right hon. and learned Friend knows, we do not comment on any potential proscription decisions, but of course we recognise the threat from Iran and have taken measures to counter it at home and around the world. I obviously refer her to my previous answer, but I am confident that the police, security services and courts all have the tools they need to sanction, prosecute and mitigate the threats from Iran. We strengthened our sanctions regime recently, including sanctioning the IRGC in its entirety.

Photo of Rushanara Ali Rushanara Ali Shadow Minister (Investment and Small Business)

Despite the calls for a ceasefire here in our Parliament and from across the international community, the war in Gaza has raged, costing 33,000 lives as well as the 1,200 killed by the Hamas attacks and a humanitarian catastrophe that is now turning into a famine. For months many have raised concern around the spectre of regional escalation; precisely what conversations is the Prime Minister having with leading figures in the Israeli Government, as well as through various parties to influence the Iranian regime to de-escalate as quickly as possible given the seriousness of the crisis?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Both the Defence Secretary and the Foreign Secretary have spoken to their counterparts over the weekend, and the Foreign Secretary has spoken to the Iranian Foreign Minister specifically to urge de-escalation and condemn what happened over the weekend. I will be speaking to Prime Minister Netanyahu shortly, and I can reassure the hon. Lady and all Members of the House that we will continue, together with our allies, to urge calm heads to prevail and de-escalation. That is the right course forward, and across all levels of Government that is the message we are taking to everyone.

Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace Ceidwadwyr, Wyre and Preston North

There is another country that is under almost constant daily bombardment by Iranian-made drones: Ukraine. Some three years ago I pleaded with the Israelis to help Ukraine against Russia, and they refused even though Russia was spending half a billion dollars in the Iranian drone programme. I know the Prime Minister will be speaking to the Prime Minister of Israel later today; now that RAF pilots have quite rightly gone to the defence of Israel, could he perhaps ask that Israel now decides it is time to help Ukraine in its hour of need, and we can see off both Russia and Iranian aggression?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I thank my right hon. Friend for the role he has played in ensuring the security of the UK and our allies over previous years. My statement alluded to the fact that the Ukrainians were suffering from Iranian drones over the same weekend that this happened. Not only will I, as always, be taking up his points with all our allies in urging them to do more to support Ukraine, but I know he will have welcomed the recent announcement a few weeks ago of more support from the UK to Ukraine, specifically in the areas of uncrewed platforms on autonomous warfare to make sure the Ukrainians have the ability both to protect themselves and to conduct their operations. The majority of the 10,000 new platforms we are delivering to the Ukrainians have been developed in the UK, which my right hon. Friend was keen to ensure we saw the benefits of here at home. I am glad that has been realised, both supporting Ukraine and its security and bolstering the British defence industry here at home.

Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Llafur, Hayes and Harlington

There is rightly consensus across the House to call for restraint from the Israeli Government, but we have called for restraint before: we called for restraint with regard to the attack on Gaza, yet the indiscriminate bombing took place; we called for restraint on the settlements in the west bank, yet the settlements have expanded; we called for restraint so that food could be got to the children of Gaza, yet malnutrition is killing some of them. So what action will the Government take if Israel does not show restraint, because we are in danger of the middle east being set alight by the decisions taken by the right-wing factions within the Netanyahu Cabinet?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I am sorry, but I missed the part of the right hon. Gentleman’s question where he condemned Iran and Hamas for what they have done. We will always encourage de-escalation in the region, and I am proud of the role the UK is playing to bring that about.

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

The Prime Minister was right to authorise the defence of Israel and the avoidance of violence and death, but violence has also erupted in the west bank over the last few days, as he will know. What concrete steps can we take to protect those civilians?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I have personally repeatedly raised with Prime Minister Netanyahu the issue of settler violence in the west bank, as have my colleagues including the deputy Foreign Secretary. We have joined with allies in sanctioning the activity of particular individuals where it has been brought to our attention and we will continue to ensure that the Israeli Government do everything they can to reduce tension in the west bank. It is not conducive to long-term peace in the region, and that is why we have taken action where we can, as well as being explicit with the Israeli Government about our concerns.

Photo of George Galloway George Galloway Workers Party, Rochdale

Mr Speaker, I knew your father well for a very long time. He was a fine man, and I am sincerely sorry for your loss.

There was not one single word in the Prime Minister’s statement of condemnation of the Israeli destruction of the Iranian consulate in Damascus, which is the proximate reason for the event everyone is here in concert condemning. He was not even asked to do so by the Opposition Front Bench. Kay Burley is the only person so far to demand that of a Government Minister. We have no treaty with Israel—at least not one that Parliament has been shown. The Iranians are not likely to listen to the Prime Minister when Britain occupied Iran, looted its wealth and overthrew its one democratic socialist Government in my lifetime.

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Whatever may have happened a few weeks ago, it is absolutely no justification for launching more than 300 drones and missiles from one sovereign state towards Israel—it is as simple as that. In the hon. Gentleman’s question, not once did he condemn that action or, indeed, the actions of Hamas in the region. There is no equivalence between these things whatever, and to suggest otherwise is simply wrong.

Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Ceidwadwyr, Harlow

I thank my right hon. Friend for his strong support for the state of Israel. Last year, as Israel and Saudi Arabia were about to strike a transformational agreement, Iran-backed Hamas carried out its massacre on 7 October with the aim of torpedoing the chance of peace between Israel and the Arab nations. Last Saturday’s drone attack by Iran being thwarted by Israel and her allies, including Jordan, demonstrates that our countries can work alongside Israel after this new period of contention. Does my right hon. Friend agree that this represents a new opportunity for Israel and the Arab nations to rebuild relations in the aftermath of 7 October and bring the hostages home?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I agree with my right hon. Friend. It is significant that other regional partners helped to prevent a much worse attack over the weekend. It reminds us how important the attempts are to normalise relations between Israel and its neighbours. It holds out precious hope for the region. It is exactly that hope that Iran and its proxies are trying to snuff out, and we should work hard to combat that.

Photo of Dawn Butler Dawn Butler Llafur, Brent Central

My condolences to you and your family, Mr Speaker.

Prime Minister, I condemn Iran and Hamas—let me start there—but we must not lose focus on the situation in Gaza, where there is a humanitarian crisis and famine. It is just destruction that people are seeing in front of their eyes. If we want to ensure that the hostages come home—like the hostage who has been adopted in Brent, Noa Argamani—we must argue for a ceasefire, not a pause. Will the Prime Minister clearly state that we should be calling for an immediate ceasefire on all sides?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

It is wrong to suggest in any way that we have lost sight of what is happening in Gaza. Indeed, the G7 statement yesterday specifically referenced our desire to co-operate to end the crisis in Gaza, to work towards an immediate humanitarian pause where hostages can be released, to get aid in, to build the conditions for a sustainable ceasefire and, crucially, to deliver more humanitarian assistance into the region. It is welcome that we have seen an increase in that flow over the past few days and weeks, but far more aid has to get in, and that is pressure that we will continue to put on all partners concerned.

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith Ceidwadwyr, Chingford and Woodford Green

My condolences, Mr Speaker.

Can I commend my right hon. Friend’s statement? It is clear, as has been said already, that all roads lead back to Tehran when it comes to the terrible violence and wars that take place in the middle east. Every country—not just Israel, but other Arab countries—fear what Tehran is doing in their countries as well, which is something we forget. We know that Iran is committing murder at home and has executed thousands of protesters while this war on Hamas has taken place.

With all of that known, when my right hon. Friend sits down with our international colleagues and looks for other restrictions to place on Iran, will he please consider proscribing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and doing so in a way that makes sure it can no longer foment extremism here in the United Kingdom as well?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. As I said in my statement, we are urgently working with our allies to see what steps we can take together in a co-ordinated fashion to deter and condemn what Iran is doing. With regard to destabilising activity here in the UK, he will know that the Charity Commission recently opened an investigation into a particular organisation. We will continue to use all the powers at our disposal to ensure that people are not fomenting hate and undermining British values here at home from abroad.

Photo of Zarah Sultana Zarah Sultana Llafur, Coventry South

I have notified the office of Alicia Kearns, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, that I would reference her in my question. It was recently revealed that she told a private fundraising event:

The Foreign Office has received official legal advice that Israel has broken international humanitarian law, but the Government has not announced it.”

I have a simple question for the Prime Minister. If he cannot answer it—if he dodges and deflects—our constituents will know that he is hiding the truth. Was the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee telling the truth—yes or no?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I am happy to address that clearly. We have one of the most robust arms export licensing control regimes in the entire world. We have previously assessed that Israel is committed and capable of complying with international humanitarian law. But, as the hon. Member would expect, we regularly review our assessment. As the Foreign Secretary confirmed last week, the UK position on export licences is unchanged and, following the latest assessment, is in line with our legal advice. We will keep that position under review and act in accordance with advice. I also point out to the hon. Member that most like-minded countries have not suspended their existing arms export licences to Israel.

Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock Annibynnol, West Suffolk

I, too, welcome the Prime Minister’s leadership in this area. In addition to the thanks given to the RAF, which undertook exemplary action this weekend, will he also thank those US service personnel based here in the United Kingdom, including many in my West Suffolk constituency, who were prepared to act as a moment’s notice to defend Israel against this attack, which has been roundly condemned?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I am happy to join my right hon. Friend in paying tribute not just to our colleagues in America but to our partners across the region, who participated in a joint international effort. That was all in support of Israel’s own actions; its armed forces also deserve enormous praise for the success with which they repelled this awful attack.

Photo of Ian Blackford Ian Blackford Scottish National Party, Ross, Skye and Lochaber

Mr Speaker, may I pass my condolences to you and your family for the sad loss of your father, Doug?

We live in deeply unsettling times, and the Prime Minister, along with our allies, is right to call for a de-escalation. When he has his discussions with Prime Minister Netanyahu this afternoon, will he convey to him that now is the time to step back? There must be no further escalation in the middle east. Now is the time to recognise that both Israelis and Palestinians must live in peace, and for that we need the two-state solution. In 2014, when we had an outbreak of violence in Gaza, the then Prime Minister David Cameron unequivocally called for a ceasefire. We must today put an end to the conflict and the killing in that region for the benefit of both these countries.

Finally if I may say so, I welcome the Prime Minister’s comments on the situation in Ukraine, but we are all aware of the reports of a build-up of Russian activity. I say to the Prime Minister that we must do more today with our allies to protect our friends, and give them the tools they need to defend themselves and to ensure that Russia is defeated.

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I am happy to say to the right hon. Gentleman that we remain steadfast in our support for Ukraine. We will not allow Putin to achieve his aim of eradicating freedom and democracy in that country. We have announced significant support—it was the first trip I made at the beginning of this year—and have encouraged allies to do the same. We are committed to supporting Ukraine for as long as it takes, for Ukraine not only to win the war but to emerge as a strong sovereign and free country.

Photo of Rehman Chishti Rehman Chishti Ceidwadwyr, Gillingham and Rainham

My thoughts and condolences are with your family, Mr Speaker.

The United Kingdom stands for an international rules-based system, respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other nations. That is one of our key objectives with regard to Ukraine. I condemn in the fullest Iran’s attack on Israel, and I have previously condemned Iran’s malign behaviour in the region. The question on people’s minds is this: what information or intelligence does the Prime Minister have about what went on in Iran’s consulate in Damascus that led to the attack? The international community and people around the world want to see the United Kingdom applying international law consistently across the board.

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Whatever happened in that situation has not been confirmed. Regardless, there can never be any justification for a sovereign country launching over 300 drones and missiles towards Israel. It was right that we took action with allies to repel that attack.

Photo of Richard Burgon Richard Burgon Llafur, Leeds East

I send my condolences to you, Mr Speaker, on the loss of your father, who will have been very proud of you.

This is a very dangerous moment. The UN Secretary-General rightly told the Security Council last night:

“Now is the time to defuse and de-escalate”.

Ordinary people in both Israel and Iran, and across the whole region and the wider world, will pay the price if this escalates. The Secretary-General also rightly reiterated the call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, as the Security Council voted for, given the huge loss of life there. This is the first opportunity that we have had to question the Prime Minister since the recent killing of British nationals in Gaza. Is he planning to appoint an independent adviser to scrutinise the Israeli inquiry into those deaths of British nationals, similar to what Australia has done?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I spoke to Prime Minister Netanyahu after that incident to express our very strong concerns about what happened. We are carefully reviewing the initial findings of Israel’s investigations into the killing of the aid workers, and welcome the suspension of two officers as a first step. The findings must be published and followed up with an independent review to ensure the utmost transparency and accountability.

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis Ceidwadwyr, Northampton North

I congratulate the Prime Minister on his world-leading strength defending Israel and wider peace in the middle east. Saudi Arabia—this country’s friend—has now said in an official statement that Iran “engineered a war in Gaza” in order to destroy the progress that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was making in normalising relations with Israel. That very important statement from the Saudis yesterday also said that Iran is a country that sponsors terrorism and it should have been stopped a long time ago. Is my right hon. Friend as hopeful as I am that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Israel—both allies of this country—will normalise their relations as soon as possible, as it looked like they were on track to do before the pogrom of 7 October?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I had a very constructive meeting in Saudi Arabia with MBS at the end of last year. I know how important it is to normalise relations between Israel and its neighbours. It is clear from this weekend and the comments that my right hon. and learned Friend just made that there is momentum and a desire to see that happen. I believe that holds out precious hope for the region.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Brexit)

I pass on my party’s condolences to you, Mr Speaker, on the loss of your dad.

The UK should neither dictate to Israel nor demand restrictions on how it retaliates against the Iranian regime, which has shown that it is prepared to take action to back up its threats to wipe out Israel. The political and military support that we have given is very important. Can the Prime Minister tell us what direct action we can take here in the United Kingdom to disrupt Iran’s economic interests in our own country?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

We have already sanctioned more than 400 Iranian individuals and, as I have said, we are discussing with our allies what more we can do.

Photo of Jason McCartney Jason McCartney Ceidwadwyr, Colne Valley

I join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to the Royal Air Force personnel who were on operations over the weekend. I also join him on the importance of de-escalating, calling for maximum restraint and, on Gaza, working towards that sustainable ceasefire. A flood of aid is going into Gaza to help the humanitarian efforts there. We all want to see an end to the bloodshed. I echo what the Chair of the Defence Committee, my right hon. Friend Sir Jeremy Quin, said—what we saw over the weekend shows the importance of investing in air defence systems to defend civilians from hostile regimes.

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Whether it is with Ukraine, where we have provided AMRAAM and Starstreak missiles, or here at home, where we placed new contracts at the beginning of this year to improve our air defence capability, it is a key capability that we need to invest in, and ideally we need to produce more of it here at home.

Photo of Afzal Khan Afzal Khan Llafur, Manchester, Gorton

Twelve-year-old Zain Arouq miraculously survived Israel’s bombing that killed most of his family in Gaza three months ago, but he was killed this weekend by an aid airdrop when he was searching for scraps of food because the parachute did not open. Zain and thousands of others would still be alive had allies like the UK and the US pushed Israel to adhere to the UN resolution on a ceasefire in Gaza, which would allow aid to reach starving children safely. Will the Prime Minister set out exactly what repercussions Israel will face for failing to abide by the UN Security Council motion?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I have been very clear that too many civilians have already lost their lives in Gaza. The UN Security Council resolution also called for the unconditional release of the hostages, which, as the hon. Gentleman will know, Hamas rejected at the weekend. It is important that we focus on that, at the same time as getting more aid in.

Photo of Stephen Crabb Stephen Crabb Chair, Welsh Affairs Committee, Chair, Welsh Affairs Committee

There is one thing right now that would do more than anything to help end the conflict in Gaza: the release of all the Israeli hostages being held by Hamas. Does my right hon. Friend agree that no matter how well intentioned and no matter how much we all want the conflict to end as soon as possible, simply calling for an unconditional immediate ceasefire reduces the incentive on Hamas to do the hostage deal? So long as they feel that they are winning diplomatically, it reduces pressure on them to do the right thing.

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I agree with my right hon. Friend, and I have made the same argument from the Dispatch Box previously. It is absolutely crucial that, as part of the immediate humanitarian pause that we are calling for, not only can we get considerably more aid into Gaza to alleviate the suffering that people are experiencing, but we must be able to release the hostages. That is what we are focused on doing.

Photo of Marsha de Cordova Marsha de Cordova Llafur, Battersea

While globally the attention is rightly focused on Israel and Iran, and we are all in agreement that the next step has to be de-escalation, the situation in Gaza is worsening every day. More than 33,000 lives have been lost and more than 1 million will now be facing imminent famine. The UK almost stands alone in not restoring funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Will the Prime Minister tell us when he will set out a clear path for funding to resume?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Together with our allies, we are reviewing the interim findings and are discussing appropriate next steps. Many partner countries have suspended funding to UNRWA after what happened, which was shocking. In the meantime, we are considerably increasing our own aid into the region and welcome the commitments from Israel recently to increase the flow, opening new checkpoints at the port of Ashdod, the Jordan land corridor and Kerem Shalom, but we now want to see those commitments followed through. We all want to see more aid getting in and that will be a focus of our conversations with Israel.

Photo of Mark Logan Mark Logan Ceidwadwyr, Bolton North East

Mr Speaker, on behalf of myself and your neighbours in Bolton North East, I am very sorry for the loss of your father.

Some 90% of Iranian oil exports go to China. China is increasing in importance in the region. It already trades four times more than the United States with the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, along with Iran. What discussions does the Prime Minister plan on having with his counterpart, Xi Jinping, and with Foreign Minister Wang Yi on resolving an escalation in the conflict in Iran?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

The Foreign Secretary recently spoke to his counterpart on exactly that topic. More broadly, we are discussing with our G7 partners and allies what further measures we can take to deal with the threat, economically, that Iran poses.

Photo of Naseem Shah Naseem Shah Llafur, Bradford West

Much has been said by the Prime Minister and other Conservative Members about the normalisation process between Saudi Arabia and Israel. On 9 January, the Saudi ambassador to the United Kingdom told Radio 4 that that normalisation process was subject to a two-state solution and a fully recognised Palestine.

Having put that on the record, I remind the Prime Minister that support for any nation is not like the unconditional support that he has for his football team. When Iran acts like a rogue state in Syria, we rightly call it out and, when Israel taunts Iran by bombing its consulate building, knowing full well that Iran will respond and risking further escalation, we must call it out as well. What is the Prime Minister doing in his efforts to ensure that the two-state solution and the recognition of Palestine are being actively pursued?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I refer the hon. Lady to my statement, in which I was clear about my commitment to a two-state solution and our diplomatic efforts to help to bring that about.

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright Ceidwadwyr, Kenilworth and Southam

My right hon. Friend has made it clear that it is right and lawful to defend yourself and right and lawful for your allies to help to defend you, but does he agree that it is also important to point out that self-defence can be both effective and restrained, and furthermore that self-defence can be more effective in the long run when it is restrained, because it helps to retain the broadest coalition of those who support your position and because it enables you to retain the moral authority to act robustly against others when you need to do so?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

My right hon. and learned Friend has put it well. Ultimately, Israel does have a right to self-defence, as any state does. However, it has successfully repelled the Iranian attack and Iran is even more isolated on the world stage, which is why, as the Foreign Secretary said, we would urge it to take the win and avoid further escalation at this moment.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Creative Industries and Digital)

The Prime Minister is right to say that we and our allies need to be very clear-sighted about the activities of Iran and Russia. However, when we consider that British businesses such as Avon are still doing business in Russia, claiming that that is because it is vital and urgent; when we consider that a massive shadow fleet of tankers is evading Russian oil sanctions; when we consider that many countries such as Kazakhstan are importing so that they can then export those goods to Russia, again to avoid sanctions; and when we consider that not a penny from the sale of Abramovich’s Chelsea has yet gone to Ukraine and we have still not seized any of the multibillion pounds of Russian state assets sitting in British banks, should we not also consider whether we could go further?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

We and our G7 partners have repeatedly underscored the fact that Russia’s obligations under international law are clear and it must pay for the damage that it has caused to Ukraine. I believe that we should be bold and pursue all routes through which immobilised Russian sovereign assets can be used to support Ukraine, in line, of course, with international law, and I have discussed that repeatedly with my G7 partners. We have tasked Finance Ministers to that end, they are reporting back ahead of the G7 summit in June, and I hope that we can make further progress.

Photo of Simon Clarke Simon Clarke Ceidwadwyr, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland

May I add my voice to those of Members on both sides of the House who have called for the proscription of the IRGC as a terrorist organisation? Its tentacles are wherever trouble is to be found across the middle east, and this is the latest demonstration of its malign influence.

Given that the threat of war is growing in a way that I think bears a grave risk to us here at home, does my right hon. Friend accept that we need to set out a timetable to fulfil our commitment to raise the proportion of GDP that we spend on defence to 2.5% as quickly as possible, but we also need specificity on how we will do so?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I am pleased to say that, just a couple of years ago, in anticipation of the rise in the threat environment, we increased defence spending by the largest amount since the end of the cold war, and we subsequently increased it by more than £11 billion specifically to deal with inflation, strengthen our nuclear enterprise and rebuild our stockpiles. However, I can reassure the House and my right hon. Friend that we will always continue to invest in our armed forces to keep this country safe.

Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice and Home Affairs), Chair, Human Rights (Joint Committee), Chair, Human Rights (Joint Committee)

I hold no candle for the Iranian regime. In fact, I recently co-authored a report on its disgraceful oppression of women and girls, which we concluded amounted to gender apartheid. However, just as Iran must be held to the standards of international law, so must Israel. The Prime Minister has paid tribute to the three brave British aid workers who were killed by the Israel Defence Forces. Will he condemn Israel for their wrongful killing, and will he also condemn it for the ongoing slaughter of innocent life in Gaza?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I refer the hon. and learned Lady to my previous answers to both those questions.

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford Ceidwadwyr, Chelmsford

Iranian drones have not only been fired towards Israel and Ukraine; there are also biweekly shipments of Iranian drones arriving in Port Sudan for use in the war in Sudan, which, as of today, has now raged for a full year. I am glad that the Prime Minister has made a statement today and will act for us on financial sanctions and other measures, but given that Iranian weapons are now being used in wars in the middle east, Europe and Africa, does he agree that partners not only in the west but in the global south should be deeply worried about how far the tentacles of terror from Tehran are now reaching?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I agree with my right hon. Friend, which is why yesterday I discussed with G7 leaders the co-ordinated effort among allies to take further measures to stem the flow of Iran’s malign influence across the world. Hopefully, we can co-ordinate that action to tackle the precise thing that she has just mentioned.

Photo of Khalid Mahmood Khalid Mahmood Llafur, Birmingham, Perry Barr

I deplore the attack by the IDF on the consulate in Syria, and I totally deplore the massive attack by Iran, which launched 301 drones and missiles towards Israel. Iran knew full well that this attack would detract from the great work that we need to do in Gaza to support people who are starving and young children who are suffering from malnutrition. Will the Prime Minister commit to oppose escalation in the region by any of the countries involved? As he said in his statement, we need to concentrate on supporting young people and those who are dying in Gaza.

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

As I said very clearly, we have urged de-escalation and calm heads to prevail, and we continue to do everything we can to get more aid into Gaza.

Photo of Mark Francois Mark Francois Ceidwadwyr, Rayleigh and Wickford

On air defence, I wholly commend our RAF pilots and their superb Typhoon aircraft, but we have only 137 Typhoons. Because of budget pressures, the MOD plans to retire 30 of them next year and sell them off, which would now be akin to selling Spitfires before the battle of Britain. When the Prime Minister has a moment, will he go back to his office, place that ridiculous decision under immediate review and, at the very least, put those Typhoons in a war reserve, in case one day we need them for ourselves?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. He will know that individual equipment and capability decisions will be made by a service chief, in conjunction with Ministers. I am happy to look at the point he raised, but we are increasing our purchases of F-35 aircraft and collaborating with Japan and Italy on building the next generation of fighter aircraft—something in which we are leading the world. It will be fantastic for British jobs here at home.

Photo of Derek Twigg Derek Twigg Llafur, Halton

I hope that, as the Prime Minister said, we can find a diplomatic solution, but we should plan for the worst. I note that the Prime Minister said in his statement:

“The threats to stability are growing—not just in the middle east, but everywhere.”

I may add that our armed forces are running very hot at the moment. Why did the Prime Minister not come here today to announce a significant uplift in defence spending to match the real and potential threats that we are now facing as a country? Is that not going to add to the insecurity for our country?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I refer the hon. Gentleman to my previous answer about the existing increase in our defence budget—not just over the last few years, but especially this year—in recognition of the increasing threats. I point out to him that we have remained the second largest defence spender in NATO over the past 10 years, behind only the US.

Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers Ceidwadwyr, Chipping Barnet

I welcome the action taken by the Prime Minister and the armed services over the weekend. I regret to say that some of my constituents feel that UK support for Israel has weakened in recent weeks. In the light of the horrific aggression from Iran, will the Prime Minister take the opportunity to confirm that there is no backsliding and that the UK stands shoulder to shoulder with Israel as it exercises its right to defend itself from a genocidal attack?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

As I made crystal clear in my statement, we must ensure Israel’s security. It is a non-negotiable and fundamental condition for peace in the region. In the face of threats like we saw this weekend, Israel will always have our full support.

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion

Like the whole House, I condemn the attack on Israel by the tyrannical Iranian regime, just as I deeply condemn the atrocities of Hamas, but I am also incredibly concerned that our Prime Minister has now pitched the UK into a perilous war—and in support of an Israeli Government presided over by Netanyahu, a man who chose to bomb an Iranian embassy because he is dependent on his hard-right provocateurs. That was itself a dangerous escalation by Israel and a further breach of international law, so if the Prime Minister’s priority is indeed international law and de-escalation, why is he not calling now for an urgent bilateral ceasefire to get the hostages home and to get the region on the path to peace?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

We have called for an immediate humanitarian pause to get the hostages out and aid in, and we will continue to do so. I am completely comfortable that what we did over the weekend was the right thing, acting together with allies to make sure that we could act in defence of Israel in the face of an unprecedented attack on its territory and people.

Photo of Alec Shelbrooke Alec Shelbrooke Ceidwadwyr, Elmet and Rothwell

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on his holistic view of the situation in Israel, Gaza and, of course, Iran. May I say how glad I am that he has categorically said that we will carry on supplying the arms that Israel needs to defend itself, which have been proven to be so vital just this weekend? Does he agree that, in order to try to achieve a sustainable ceasefire, the middle east has to confront the threat that Iran makes? Its direct influence in Yemen is having an impact on shipping through the Red sea. It is having an impact on the war in Sudan. It is having an impact in the war in Gaza, and there is the effect on Israel and surrounding countries such as Lebanon. So I ask my right hon. Friend to do everything that he can to make sure that the whole of the region recognises that Iran plays a large part in all the suffering that we are seeing in the area.

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

My right hon. Friend is right to point out Iran’s support for the Houthi militia, who have carried out a series of dangerous and destabilising attacks against shipping in the Red sea. That is why the UK, together with our allies, stood up to take action against that and are currently engaged in the multinational Operation Prosperity Guardian to further deter Houthi and Iranian aggression.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Chair, Work and Pensions Committee, Chair, Work and Pensions Committee

I welcome the support of the Prime Minister and the Government for the resolution on Gaza adopted recently by the United Nations Security Council. Israel is currently in breach of that resolution. How does that affect the Prime Minister’s view of the current actions of Israel in the middle east?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

That resolution also calls for the release of the hostages, which Hamas rejected just this weekend.

Photo of David Jones David Jones Ceidwadwyr, Gorllewin Clwyd

Further to the points made by my right hon. and learned Friend Suella Braverman and my right hon. Friend Sir Iain Duncan Smith, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps not only is the principal sponsor of terrorism in the middle east, but is active on the streets of the United Kingdom. Indeed, the Iranian journalist, Pouria Zeraati, who was almost fatally stabbed last month, was under threat from the IRGC. It is actually the case that IRGC officials can be seen dining out in restaurants in west London quite regularly. While I fully understand that my right hon. Friend will not flag up any such action in advance, can he confirm that he will take into account what I believe to be the overwhelming feeling in this House, which is that the IRGC should be proscribed as a terrorist organisation?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I refer my right hon. Friend to my previous answers, and also remind him that the National Security Act 2023 creates new offences that give us the powers to arrest and detain people suspected of involvement in state threats on our soil.

Photo of Emma Lewell-Buck Emma Lewell-Buck Llafur, South Shields

I share the hope for calm and de-escalation. The UN Secretary-General has said that, without it, the middle east faces

“a real danger of a devastating full-scale conflict”.

Can the Prime Minister tell us what the parameters are of UK military involvement in the region, and confirm that it will remain defensive?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I am not going to speculate on hypotheticals. As I said, we have sent additional jets and air refuelling tankers to bolster our existing operation in the region. We will obviously keep next steps under review.

Photo of Nicola Richards Nicola Richards Ceidwadwyr, West Bromwich East

Iran has smuggled arms into the middle east, including the west bank. It has equipped, funded and trained Hezbollah, Hamas and the Houthis, as well as threatened British-Iranians on British soil—and that does not even include what Iran has done to its own people, not least gassing Iranian schoolgirls. I thank the Prime Minister for the strong action over the weekend. Does he agree that we must now consider proscribing the IRGC as a terrorist organisation?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

My hon. Friend is right to highlight Iran’s influence, including its missile shipments on the surrounding seas, and I am pleased that the United Kingdom is playing its part in doing something about that. HMS Diamond is bolstering our maritime presence in the region as we speak, and the UK has previously interdicted the supply of Iranian missiles being smuggled to the Houthis and others, both last year and the year before. We will continue to be vigilant in the area.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Justice)

I hope the Prime Minister has heard the very strong and broad consensus in this House on the need for stability and de-escalation. When he speaks to Prime Minister Netanyahu, will he make it clear to him that if Israel were now to proceed with its much-anticipated attack on Rafah, it would be not only a humanitarian catastrophe for the 1.5 million Palestinians who are sheltering there and make the release of the hostages more difficult, but make that stability and de-escalation more difficult to achieve and, as a consequence, would not have the support of this Government?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

We have repeatedly raised humanitarian concerns with the Israeli Government. Just the other week, the Foreign Secretary set out our views on the situation in Rafah.

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale Ceidwadwyr, Maldon

It has been two weeks since the Iran International journalist was attacked on the streets of our capital. The journalists and families of those working for BBC Persian live under constant threat. The organisation responsible for those acts is the IRGC, working for the Iranian regime, so will my right hon. Friend therefore look to see what further measures can be taken, including outlawing the IRGC?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I am happy to reassure my right hon. Friend that, as we speak, we are in active dialogue with our international partners, following yesterday’s G7 call, to co-ordinate further diplomatic measures to contain the threat from Iran.

Photo of Seema Malhotra Seema Malhotra Shadow Minister (Education)

The core issue now must be de-escalation, an immediate ceasefire on all sides to end the devastating situation in Gaza, and a political solution for the long term. UNRWA is arguably the single biggest multilateral tool to support a political solution, and it is unmatched in its administrative ability to deliver aid. The UK stands behind other countries in not renewing funding to UNRWA. Further to the question of my hon. Friend Marsha De Cordova, will the Prime Minister set out a clear path for funding to resume?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I refer the hon. Lady to my previous answer. I do not think it is right to say that we are behind other countries. We are in active dialogue with other countries on the approach to UNRWA. We recognise the operational and logistical role it plays on the ground while recognising the very shocking concerns that we all had about what happened previously. It is right that we take the time to get our future approach to UNRWA right.

Photo of Philip Dunne Philip Dunne Chair, Environmental Audit Committee, Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

I welcome the Prime Minister’s focus on calling for restraint and de-escalation, which I imagine will be on his agenda when he speaks to the Israeli Prime Minister this afternoon. I also welcome his highlighting of the greater threats to this country. Recognising all he has said today about the future defence budget, could he undertake an immediate review of the resources and resilience of the British armed forces in the immediate term?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I am happy to tell my right hon. Friend that we keep these things under constant review to make sure that we have the capabilities we need to protect our country and to stand up for our values and interests around the world.

The conflict in Ukraine has shown how technology is changing warfare, which is why we our increased focus on autonomous vehicles and building our UK industrial supply chain is so welcome. We need to focus on these things, and I am delighted that the Defence Secretary has prioritised those areas.

Photo of Hywel Williams Hywel Williams Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Trade), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs), Shadow PC Chief Whip

Is there not a danger that a further military attack on Iran would serve to entrench the despotic regime in Tehran and strengthen its ability to oppress its own people—Iranian women, the Kurdish community, the Baha’is and many others?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Iran’s treatment of its own citizens is appalling, and we have repeatedly condemned it and called Iran out for that.

Photo of Jane Hunt Jane Hunt Ceidwadwyr, Loughborough

Last week, I met students at Woodbrook Vale School and De Lisle College in Loughborough. Their question on this topic is even more important now than it was when they put it to me: what more can the UK do to help bring peace to the region?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I point my hon. Friend to the statement. First and foremost, we have to be resolute in protecting regional security and standing up for Israel when situations such as this happen. Secondly, we have to be committed to a two-state solution, and we are doing everything we can to bring that about—the regional co-operation over the weekend demonstrated that there is much to be hopeful for. Thirdly, we must see an immediate humanitarian pause in Gaza, so that we can get the hostages out and aid in. That is the British approach. It is the right approach and we will work very hard to bring it about.

Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Labour/Co-operative, Walthamstow

The Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, has warned that Europe is in a “pre-war era” because of the situation in Russia. Our Prime Minister rightly said that these were not mutually exclusive conflicts but interlinked. Therefore, it is important that we co-ordinate, just as we have seen co-ordination at the United Nations. He will be aware of the real concern that the UN’s sanctions regime on both Iran and Russia is being undermined. The UN has combined to support and call for a ceasefire. What more is the Prime Minister doing to make sure that the UN works for sanctions on both Russia and Iran? Does he recognise that waiting until June for the G7 to act may be too long when every day counts in stopping further military action?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

What I was talking about on the G7 was with regard to Russian assets, but obviously the G7 has an outsize economic role to play and so it is important that there is G7 co-ordination first and foremost. Last year, we funded the economic deterrence regime which we have specifically to target sanctions evasion. The hon. Lady is right to say that that is a growing issue, and I can reassure her that, together with our allies, we are tackling it.

Photo of James Morris James Morris Assistant Whip

Notwithstanding the drones and missiles launched by Iran, which were rightly taken out by UK planes and our allies, the Iranians prefer to operate in the shadows, through proxies and through an increasingly sophisticated cyber operation. Does the Prime Minister agree that our priority should be working with international allies to go after Iran’s promotion of illicit finances and weapons smuggling, as well as working with our international partners to combat Iran’s cyber operations?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

My hon. Friend is absolutely right on that and I can reassure him that we are working closely with international partners, not least on cyber, but also on weapons smuggling. As I said, I am pleased that the Royal Navy is playing a significant role in combating that, with interdictions of illegal arms shipments both last year and the year before, and by contributing as we speak to Operation Prosperity Guardian.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Llafur, Middlesbrough

I would just point out to the Prime Minister that a nation state’s capacity to observe international humanitarian law is quite different from its actually doing so. At this terrifying moment for the world, we are all mightily relieved that Iran, which must be condemned for what it did, failed to inflict serious loss of life on people in the region. The de-escalation call is correct, as is the commitment not to engage in offensive action. He was explicit in his statement that all people are entitled to security and peace, but sadly for the people of Gaza the calls for restraint have not worked. What additional options is he considering? Surely an immediate ceasefire and the funding of UNRWA is the best way to secure security for the region and the release of all the hostages.

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

It is important that the hostages are released, and that is what we continue to call for. As the hon. Gentleman knows, it was Hamas, yet again this weekend, who rejected the latest round of negotiations to get those hostages back to safety.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. I am anxious to get everybody in, so I plead for brevity in the questions.

Photo of Jack Lopresti Jack Lopresti Ceidwadwyr, Filton and Bradley Stoke

I place on the record my condolences to the Speaker and his family.

I commend the Prime Minister for his statement and the leadership he has shown. Given this despicable attack on the civilian population of Israel by Iran, does he agree with me that the world cannot risk a nuclear-armed Iran? Will he commit to supporting whatever it takes, including not taking military action off the table, to ensure that that nightmare never happens?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

As I have said, there is no credible civilian justification for the enrichment levels we have seen and that the International Atomic Energy Agency has reported in Iran. We are committed to using all diplomatic tools to ensure that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon, including using the snapback mechanism if necessary.

Photo of Neale Hanvey Neale Hanvey Alba, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

I oppose all acts of violence. I welcome the Prime Minister’s call for de-escalation and restraint, but I cannot be the only person who wonders where those calls for de-escalation and restraint were six months ago. Given those calls, does the Prime Minister share my concern that the political fortunes of Prime Minister Netanyahu, in whose hands such a choice rests, are so heavily invested in the continuation of the conflict?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

We have continued to call on the Israeli Government to do everything they can to protect civilian life, as they exercise their right and duty to ensure security for citizens. I will continue to raise those points with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Ceidwadwyr, Harrow East

Over the weekend Iran effectively declared war on our friend and ally, Israel. When the Prime Minister talks to Prime Minister Netanyahu, he will have to be very careful about how he persuades him to exercise self-restraint. There has to be a menu of options for what the British Government and the British people will do in assisting Israel and resisting Iran. The fundamentals that are required are the proscription of the IRGC, the removal of the embassy here and the return of all those officials to Iran, the return of our officials to the United Kingdom, and the harshest possible sanctions against the regime in Iran.

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

We have already sanctioned over 400 different Iranian individuals and entities, including the IRGC in its entirety. We continue to discuss with international partners how best we can co-ordinate future actions.

Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Shadow Minister (Domestic Violence and Safeguarding)

Everyone in this House is united in wanting to see the fighting in Gaza come to an end as soon as possible, with a sustainable ceasefire in place. As the Prime Minister rightly states, it was once again Hamas who rejected a US-brokered deal that would see the fighting stop, the release of hostages and allow far more aid into Gaza. What pressure is the Government applying to our allies in the region who provide support to Hamas, to urge them to do all they can to make Hamas accept a deal?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I thank the hon. Lady for her question and agree with her. We are doing everything we can talking to allies in the region to put pressure on Hamas to accept a deal and get the hostages released. That is the best and most important way we can move towards the sustainable ceasefire that we all want to see.

Photo of Steve Double Steve Double Ceidwadwyr, St Austell and Newquay

I thank the Prime Minister for his statement and the clear leadership he is providing on this important matter. As a beacon of liberal democracy in the region, Israel’s security is our security. It is clear that serious loss of life was avoided at the weekend only because of the effectiveness of Israeli defence mechanisms, supported by the UK and others. Does the Prime Minister share my concern that those calling for an arms embargo against Israel are not only misguided, but risk weakening Israel’s ability to defend itself and encouraging those who wish Israel harm?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

As I have said, we stand by Israel’s right to defend itself. It is important that it continues to abide by international humanitarian law—that will always be important to us. We continue to keep all arms exports under review. We have one of the strictest regimes anywhere in the world.

Photo of Anum Qaisar Anum Qaisar Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Levelling Up)

The events of the weekend mark a dangerous new chapter in a long history of conflict in the middle east. Does the Prime Minister accept that proportionality is key and must include the conduct of all parties, including the 192 days of uninterrupted and constant bombardment of Gaza in response to what was, of course, a horrific attack by Hamas? That has killed over 33,000 civilians in Gaza, a place where children look to the sky not knowing if aid or bombs are going to fall on them. I ask the Prime Minister: is that proportionate?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

We continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself and ensure security for its citizens. It must do that in accordance with international humanitarian law; we will continue to make that point to the Israelis.

Photo of Greg Smith Greg Smith Ceidwadwyr, Buckingham

I join others in thanking the Prime Minister for his leadership in ensuring that the United Kingdom Government stand shoulder to shoulder with our ally, Israel, in the face of yet another attack. Does he agree that, in order to live in safety and security, the first and most pressing mission for Israel continues to be the necessity of defeating Hamas? The harsh reality is that that will require an operation in Rafah, in which every step is taken to protect civilian life. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is the path to peace in the middle east?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

My hon. Friend is right to highlight the threat that Hamas pose to the security and safety of the people of Israel. The Foreign Secretary set out in detail our view on the right approach to Rafah from this point forward just a couple of weeks ago.

Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Llafur, Hammersmith

The Prime Minister rightly calls for restraint and de-escalation in the middle east, but is there not more chance that his words will carry weight if a ceasefire is advocated for all sides, including the warring parties in Gaza?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

We have called for an immediate humanitarian pause in Gaza, so that hostages can be released and aid can go in, and for that to form the basis of a more lasting and sustainable ceasefire.

Photo of Anna Firth Anna Firth Ceidwadwyr, Southend West

I thank the Prime Minister for his strong international leadership in this area, and for his calls for restraint. He will agree that Iran is the dangerous and destabilising player in this region, whether by itself directly or through its proxies. It is also a despotic, medieval regime. There were 853 executions last year—an eight-year high—including 22 women. As the Prime Minister works urgently with the G7, please will he confirm that no reasonable option should be off the table, including the proscription of the IRGC?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Iran’s human rights record remains completely unacceptable. We have sanctioned almost 100 entities and individuals specifically for human rights violations. For example, we have condemned Iran’s surging use of the death penalty, and at the 78th UN General Assembly, we co-sponsored the Iran human rights resolution calling for Iran to issue a moratorium on executions.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I say once again that I am anxious to get everyone in, but I can only do that if the questions are brief.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Annibynnol, Islington North

Thirty-three thousand people have died in Gaza. More bombs have been dropped there than were dropped in the whole of the Iraq war. This weekend’s horrific events show the danger of a war escalating across the whole region. Does the Prime Minister recognise that the kernel of the whole issue across the region is the continued Israeli occupation of Palestine? What does he say about bringing an end to that occupation, and calling for a permanent ceasefire?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Of course we want to see, and remain committed to, a two-state solution, and we are working hard to bring that about, but the biggest cause of regional instability is the pernicious influence of Iran, and nobody else.

Photo of Kieran Mullan Kieran Mullan Ceidwadwyr, Crewe and Nantwich

Does the Prime Minister agree that even those who want to link the conflict between Israel and Hamas with the conduct of this attack have to recognise that, since its inception decades ago, the Islamic Republic of Iran has sought the destruction not only of our way of life, but of Israel and its people, and we should never hesitate to play our part in preventing that?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I agree with him wholeheartedly.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Social Care)

I echo the calls for restraint and de-escalation. I was interested in what the Prime Minister said about the diplomatic efforts over the past six months, with the Palestinian Authority looking towards a two-state solution. Given that the issues are settlements, water and access between Gaza and the west bank and Jerusalem, what window of opportunity does he think there is with the Netanyahu Government to get all parties round the table?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

That is something that we continually push for. In the meantime, we also focus on building up the technical and administrative capability of the Palestinian Authority, so that they are in a position to provide effective and strong governance for the west bank and Gaza when the moment that that is possible arrives, and we are working very hard to bring that about.

Photo of Janet Daby Janet Daby Shadow Minister (Youth Justice)

Yesterday, the United Nations Secretary-General said:

The Middle East is on the brink. The people of the region are confronting a real danger of a devastating full-scale conflict. Now is the time to defuse and de-escalate”.

Does the Prime Minister agree with the Secretary-General, and if so, what is the Government’s strategy to achieve this, as the Prime Minister works with our international allies?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Of course we want to avoid further escalation and bloodshed, which would be deeply destabilising for the region and risk more lives. That is a message that all Government Ministers will be taking to their counterparts across the region.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Llafur, Brent North

Iran sought to justify its unjustifiable attack on Israel on the basis that it was retaliating for Israel’s attack on its consulate. I welcome the fact that the Prime Minister said that in his telephone conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu later today, he will urge de-escalation. In that telephone conversation, will he set out the measures that the UK will take if, in fact, Israel seeks to retaliate further?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I am not going to comment on hypotheticals, but of course we will calm heads to prevail everywhere across the region.

Photo of Beth Winter Beth Winter Llafur, Cwm Cynon

Diolch yn fawr, Madam Deputy Speaker. At the Security Council last night, the UN Secretary-General warned of “devastating full-scale conflict” and called for de-escalation and maximum restraint. Today, the Foreign Secretary said in response that there could have been “thousands of casualties” and pressure for an escalation of this conflict. Does the Prime Minister agree with that, and does he also agree that the very real tens of thousands of deaths and casualties that Israel’s military attacks and imposed famine conditions have caused in Gaza are drivers of regional instability?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

We want to avoid further escalation and bloodshed, which would be deeply destabilising for the region and would risk more lives. That is why we are calling on all regional partners to focus on being calm and de-escalating the situation.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

My constituent Sama has been trying to get her mother, father and brother out of Gaza since this conflict began. They have been displaced multiple times, and they are now in a tent in Rafah. They cannot apply to come to the UK for safety, as there is no scheme. This is in the UK Government’s hands, and they could waive the need for biometrics, if they so decided. Will the Prime Minister do that and let Sama’s family come to safety?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Obviously, I am not aware of the specifics of the hon. Lady’s case, but I am sure that if she writes to the Home Office, it will be happy to look into it for her.

Photo of Mohammad Yasin Mohammad Yasin Llafur, Bedford

Four former UK Supreme Court judges and more than 600 lawyers, including over 60 KCs, have warned the Prime Minister that the UK risks breaking international law relating to a plausible risk of genocide in Gaza if it does not stop its weapons exports to Israel. The Prime Minister is ignoring their warnings and hiding his Government’s legal advice on this matter. Why, Prime Minister?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

No, that is not right. We have a very robust and rigorous export licensing regime. The Foreign Secretary confirmed last week that the UK’s position on export licences is unchanged following the latest assessment, and is in line with the legal advice. We keep that position under review, and always act in accordance with that advice.

Photo of Debbie Abrahams Debbie Abrahams Llafur, Oldham East and Saddleworth

The middle east has entered a very dangerous new phase that can be resolved only by diplomatic and political solutions. Can I push the Prime Minister on what he said earlier about the sanctions that he is considering taking, with international allies, against Iran, including the proscribing of the IRGC? Will he also confirm that the UK will not take part in any offensive action of Israel’s?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

We acted in a defensive capacity, and we are discussing with G7 allies further diplomatic measures that can be taken in a co-ordinated fashion.

Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance, North Down

I fully condemn Iran’s attack on Israel, and the nature of the Iranian regime. The Prime Minister says that he wants to see stability in the region, but surely there must be honesty and transparency about the fact that Israel itself is a threat to stability, and has already systematically broken international humanitarian law. The Government have no reluctance to rightly challenge Russia over Ukraine in that regard; why the reluctance in relation to Israel—and indeed the reluctance to publish the associated legal advice?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

As I said, I do not think there is any equivalence between what Vladimir Putin is doing in Ukraine and what Israel is doing to ensure the security of its citizens in the face of an appalling terrorist attack.

Photo of Christian Wakeford Christian Wakeford Opposition Whip (Commons)

It has been over 15 months since it was reported that proscription of the IRGC was imminent. Since then, Iran has continued to fund and supply Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis. Following this continued funding for terror and destabilisation, what more does Iran have to do before the IRGC is proscribed?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

As I have said, the police, security services and courts all have the tools that they need to sanction, prosecute and mitigate the threats from Iran. We strengthened our Iran sanctions regime recently, and the IRGC is sanctioned in its entirety.

Photo of Helen Hayes Helen Hayes Shadow Minister (Education)

The Prime Minister said in his statement that it was important that aid gets into Gaza, and he said a few moments ago that the Government were right to take their time in deciding on the restoration of funding to UNRWA. The organisational infrastructure of UNRWA is unparalleled and cannot be replicated. A further delay on the part of the UK Government will cost further lives, in a context in which famine is taking hold. I urge the Prime Minister to think again and to today set out a path for the restoration of funding to UNRWA.

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I know that the whole House will have rightly been appalled by the allegations that UNRWA staff were involved in 7 October. We want UNRWA to give detailed undertakings about changes in personnel policy and procedures to ensure that nothing like that can ever happen again. We are actively working with allies to try to bring the situation to a rapid conclusion. We are expecting final reports from the UN and others on what happened by the end of April, and we intend to clarify the UK’s position on funding once we have reviewed those final reports.

Photo of Brendan O'Hara Brendan O'Hara Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs)

Israel has indicated that it intends to respond to Iran’s attack, against the advice of the international community, including the UN and the United States. Such a retaliation could tip the region into a catastrophic all-out war, so in terms of leverage to persuade Prime Minister Netanyahu against further retaliation, will the right hon. Gentleman say that, should Israel choose to escalate, there will be no further UK military support for its endeavours in this conflict?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman meant also to condemn Iran for what happened over the weekend. We will continue to urge de-escalation and for calm heads to prevail on all sides.

Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Exports)

Iran is of course no ally of the UK, and its huge unprecedented assault on Israel must be called out, but the UK Government must now work hard to prevent further escalation of the crisis in an already volatile region. It is a matter of principle that diplomatic premises are not targeted, so will the Prime Minister confirm what conversations he has had with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu about the attack on the Iranian consulate in Syria, or whether he plans to discuss that with him?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

As I said, we will continue to urge de-escalation and for calm heads to prevail on all sides. As the Foreign Secretary said this morning, we urge Israel in particular to recognise that it has successfully repelled the Iranian attacks, and that Iran is ever more isolated on the world stage.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

Jacqui, the mother of murdered aid worker James Kirby, is my constituent. I am sure that she will agree with the Prime Minister’s description of her son as a hero. There is a real danger—I am already seeing this, as events move on—that his death will end up being chalked up as collateral damage in this conflict. Will the Prime Minister show that he understands the family’s need to see justice done, and will he keep up the pressure on Israel about the review? The family want to know why James was killed, and that someone will be held responsible.

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

My condolences to Jacqui and the families of all those who were tragically killed as they delivered aid. As I said, they were heroes and they absolutely deserve our admiration. Our thoughts will be with all their families. I refer the hon. Lady to my previous answer about what we have asked of the Israelis. What is crystal clear is that there needs to be a considerable improvement in the deconfliction mechanisms between Israel and aid agencies. I have already made that point to Prime Minister Netanyahu, and we expect to see that followed through.

Photo of Christine Jardine Christine Jardine Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Women and Equalities), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

I join my right hon. Friend Ed Davey in unequivocally condemning the action of the Iranian regime on Saturday, and in supporting the actions of our RAF. Like many others, my Edinburgh West constituents are concerned that attention will now be taken away from the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza. Can the Prime Minister assure us that when he speaks to the Prime Minister of Israel later today, he will impress upon him not only the need for restraint to restabilise the region, but the unique opportunity he has now to take steps towards peace by promoting a ceasefire and allowing aid into Gaza?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Our position remains unchanged: we continue to want to see an immediate humanitarian pause so that hostages are released and aid goes in, and we want Israel to immediately deliver on its commitments to significantly increase the amount of aid getting into Gaza through the various measures it has set out.

Photo of Toby Perkins Toby Perkins Shadow Minister (Nature and Rural Affairs)

The question from Sir Liam Fox exposed that there is much more we could be doing to undermine the murderous Iranian regime. Simultaneously, the way that Israel continues to ignore the United Nations resolution is deeply troubling. Is the Prime Minister worried that his approach at the moment risks failing, both on Iran and on Israel?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

No; as we have demonstrated this weekend, the UK is leading with allies, defending our values and our interests, and standing together with our friends to bring about regional security. That is good for people in the region, and it is good for people here at home, too.

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Llafur, Ealing Central and Acton

Iran’s reckless actions only add more fuel to an already raging fire, so will the Prime Minister proscribe the IRGC, and what assessment has he made of whether bombing a consulate violates international law? What are we doing to uphold that principle in a war that has gone on for six months and cost so many lives?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I refer the hon. Lady to any of my previous answers on both those topics.

Photo of Emma Hardy Emma Hardy Shadow Minister (Flooding, Oceans and Coastal Communities)

In response to my hon. Friend Seema Malhotra, the Prime Minister said that he would take the time to set the right future approach to UNRWA. As the famine continues, I wonder how much time the Prime Minister needs before he makes up his mind to restore funding and get aid to the people who need it.

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

What the hon. Lady failed to mention was the shocking allegations of people involved in UNRWA also being involved in the massacre on 7 October. It is right that those allegations are properly investigated and new procedures are put in place to ensure that that could never happen again. The final reports, which have been commissioned, are due at the end of April. We are already in dialogue with our partners; once we review those reports, we will set out our future approach, but that is not to say that we are not already doing an enormous amount to bring more aid into the region. We have tripled our commitment, and right now are delivering aid by land, sea and air. We are taking a leading role, and everyone in this House should be incredibly proud of what the UK is bringing to the table.

Photo of Claudia Webbe Claudia Webbe Annibynnol, Leicester East

The action of the Royal Air Force in shooting down Iranian drones and cruise missiles heading to, and over, Israel over the weekend raises a very serious question. Since the UK is clearly capable of acting to prevent air strikes in the region, and both the International Court of Justice and the UN special rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories have implicated Israel in a genocide in Gaza, why are the Government not interested in fulfilling their obligations under international law by protecting Palestinian women and children from Israeli airstrikes? Why are the Government not acting to prevent the killing of Palestinians?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I disagree with the hon. Lady. While, of course, we respect the role and the independence of the ICJ, our view is that Israel’s actions in Gaza can simply not be described as a genocide, and that case is not helpful at all in achieving our goal of a sustainable and lasting ceasefire.

Photo of Matt Western Matt Western Shadow Minister (Education)

The threat of imminent famine hangs over the people of Gaza; aid urgently needs to get into the country and to be safely distributed. With the deaths of those three UK charity workers, working for World Central Kitchen, will the Prime Minister confirm whether he has received a written apology from the Prime Minister of Israel?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I spoke explicitly to the Prime Minister of Israel, who did that when I spoke to him the very next day. We have made absolutely crystal clear our concerns about what has happened, and as I have previously pointed out, we are now looking through the preliminary findings. We are pleased to see the early suspension of two officers involved; now what we need is reform of Israel’s deconfliction mechanism to ensure the future safety of aid workers.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Labour/Co-operative, York Central

In speaking to the Prime Minister of Israel this evening and calling for restraint, will the Prime Minister put that into action? Should the Prime Minister of Israel say that he will further assault Gaza or impede aid, will the Prime Minister action that restraint and call for an immediate ceasefire?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

We have already called for an immediate humanitarian pause so that more aid can get in and hostages can be released. As I say, we have tripled our aid commitment, and are bringing aid in by air, land and sea, together with our allies.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Scottish National Party, Kilmarnock and Loudoun

Over 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including 14,000 children. Some 76,000 civilians have been injured or maimed and 700 healthcare and aid workers have been killed. There is an ongoing famine, and the UK Government under the Prime Minister’s watch are now trying to find ways around the Israeli blockade that is preventing aid from getting in; is that not in itself an admission that the ongoing Israeli actions are disproportionate, and should we not be calling them out as such?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

We have been consistently clear that we are concerned about the humanitarian situation in Gaza. We have called on the Israelis to open up more aid corridors and have them open more often; they set out a series of steps just recently, and now we want to see them deliver on those.

Photo of Kim Johnson Kim Johnson Llafur, Liverpool, Riverside

The middle east is in a crisis, and I and thousands of my Riverside constituents have been calling for a ceasefire to end the destruction in Gaza and prevent a widening conflict in the middle east. The Prime Minister has talked about diplomatic action towards a two-state solution. Can he say what action he is taking against the far-right Ministers in the Israeli Government who are opposed to a two-state solution?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

We have been very clear that our view is that we should have a two-state solution, and we are making sure we do everything we can to contribute to that aim.

Photo of Michael Shanks Michael Shanks Shadow Minister (Scotland)

On the wider humanitarian crisis in Gaza, there is now a famine across the area. In response to a question from my hon. Friend Marsha De Cordova, I think the Prime Minister said that he has received the interim report on UNRWA and that in due course he will receive the final report. Will he publish the interim report, and if not, why not? With Canada, France, Finland, Australia, Sweden and the EU having now restored funding, why does the UK stand alone?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

When it comes to UNRWA, it is the UN that is publishing the expected final reports towards the end of April. After receiving them, we will clarify and set out the UK’s position on future funding.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

First, I thank the Prime Minister very much for his decisive action in support of Israel, and I thank our world-class Royal Air Force for preventing further loss of life. Just last week, I had an opportunity to be in Israel to visit the kibbutz where the people—innocent Jews—were murdered. I went to the site of the Nova music festival, where over 1,000 Israelis were murdered, and I spoke to some of those families.

On Hamas and their sponsorship by the IRGC, does the Prime Minister agree that Hamas and the IRGC can be likened to cancer, and that to save life throughout the middle east and to retain stability the cancer of Hamas and the IRGC needs to be removed urgently by all means necessary?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

The hon. Gentleman is right to point out the destabilising impact of Iran across the region, including action through proxies such as Hamas, the Houthis and others, and we will do everything we can to counter that threat.

Photo of Richard Foord Richard Foord Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence)

Our constituents will always want us to think about the second-order consequences of British military action. When the Government deployed the RAF to defend civilians in Libya, a full parliamentary debate was held afterwards and a vote was granted to Members of this House. That was in line with the convention that has been observed for most of the last 20 years. Will the Government grant Members a full debate and a vote on British military action, even after the action has happened?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

No, I do not believe that is necessary. I am obviously here answering questions. It is my job to take action where I believe it is necessary, and it is the job of Parliament to hold me accountable for that. But it was right that we moved quickly to respond to an immediate and dangerous threat. Publicising any action in advance would undermine the effectiveness of the operation. We acted in line with precedent, and we have also made very clear and public statements that we will not hesitate to protect our allies.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I thank the Prime Minister for his statement. I suspect there will be a slight change of personnel before the next statement.