Iran and Israel - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 6:09 pm ar 15 Ebrill 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Baroness Smith of Basildon Baroness Smith of Basildon Shadow Leader of the House of Lords, Shadow Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Shadow Spokesperson (Devolved Issues) 6:09, 15 Ebrill 2024

My Lords, I am grateful to the Lord Privy Seal for repeating what is a very important Statement.

At the outset, we associate ourselves with and thank the Prime Minister and the Lord Privy Seal for their genuine sympathy on the passing of our colleague from these Benches, Lord Doug Hoyle. His was a long life, well lived, and we join in the condolences of the Lord Speaker to his family. I hope noble Lords will accept that on these Benches today we also mourn the loss of another Labour colleague, Lord Richard Rosser, who served on our Front Bench for many years, including as a shadow Defence Minister. We also associate these Benches with the Prime Minister’s comments on the terrible attacks in Sydney.

The Prime Minister rightly described the British aid workers, John Chapman, James Kirby and James Henderson, who were killed in Gaza, as heroes. They lost their lives when all they wanted to do was to help others.

Iran’s actions over the weekend have, as Keir Starmer said in the other place,

“left the world a more dangerous place”.

There was clear intent to destabilise the region and fuel further tensions. Innocent civilians were targeted. It is right that these actions were swiftly condemned by the Prime Minister, the leader of the Opposition and much of the international community. We endorse the Prime Minister’s calls for restraint.

We also acknowledge the professionalism and bravery of our Armed Forces, both for their contribution to the weekend’s combined defensive action and for their ongoing work in the region. Given recent events, we welcome the decision to send additional RAF jets and refuelling tankers to bolster Operation Shader, the existing counter-Daesh operation in Iraq and Syria.

The repelling of Iran’s attack against Israel is important for several reasons. First, lives were saved, as 99% of the drones and missiles were intercepted. The attack failed. Secondly, Israel acted with strength and courage. Thirdly, the success of that defensive action gives hope that, with political will from the relevant parties, and with diplomatic support from partners, escalation can be avoided. The Foreign Secretary commented earlier that Israel should be

“smart as well as tough”.

The strength and courage that we have seen should now be harnessed to try to de-escalate action and tensions in the region.

Britain is resolute in our support for the collective security of Israel, Jordan and other partners in the region, and we urge every nation to proceed with restraint. The Prime Minister’s Statement is clear that, although the Middle East is thousands of miles away, it has a direct impact here at home, and we want to do all we can to prevent further bloodshed and conflict.

In the Statement, the Prime Minister said he had spoken to other G7 leaders and that “further potential diplomatic measures” had been discussed. Diplomacy is key to urging restraint, so we welcome those discussions. I do not know if the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal can today say more about what actions might be expected in the coming days, given the urgency of the situation now faced. Can he confirm that the Government agree that, as a matter of principle, diplomatic premises must not be targeted and attacked?

With the Iranian regime sponsoring terrorism across the region and beyond, repressing its own population and supporting Putin’s war in Ukraine, are additional sanctions being planned? If so, how will they be enforced and their impact monitored?

Are the Government now considering proscribing the IRGC? What additional steps are being taken to limit the revolutionary guard’s ability to glorify terrorism here in the UK? I would be grateful, and it would be helpful to the House, if the Lord Privy Seal could say whether that is now being looked at.

Given Iran’s use of drones in the attack against Israel, what steps are we and our international partners taking to prevent the regime accessing western-made components?

We do not accept that there is justification at all for Iran’s attack on Israel, but we acknowledge the role that the ongoing war in Gaza has in driving regional tensions. We are now more than six months on from the dreadful Hamas terror attack, yet hostages remain separated from their families and thousands of innocent Palestinians have been killed or wounded. Many more have been displaced and more than a million people are on the brink of famine.

Over the recess period, there were some positive signs in relation to the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza. I do not know whether the Lord Privy Seal is in a position to give us any current figures or an update on that, but could he outline what additional diplomatic and practical steps the Foreign Secretary and others are taking to ensure a continued scaling up of aid provision? He will be aware of the logistical challenges in getting aid to where it is desperately needed. UNRWA has the expertise and capability to do that, and Japan has now joined Canada and Australia in resuming payments. Can he say more about the Government’s intentions on aid distribution?

It is right that we condemn Iran’s actions and it is essential that we work with others to defend our allies in the region. It is right that we unite and seek the end of the conflict in Gaza to create a route to a sustainable peace through a two-state solution. Both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have spoken of support to the Palestinian Authority. Can the Lord Privy Seal outline what form that is likely to take and what co-operation we would expect and get from our allies? While we do these things, we must show restraint and urge others to do so as well. This is essential if we are to prevent greater violence, conflict, death and destruction.