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 Lord Newby Lord Newby Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords 6:09, 15 Ebrill 2024

My Lords, I too thank the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement. I join the condolences that have been expressed to the family and friends of Lord Hoyle and Lord Rosser, both of whom were great servants of Parliament and this House. I also associate these Benches with the expression of solidarity that the Government gave to our Australian friends after the horrific attacks in Sydney.

Since the appalling attack on 7 October, one of the ever-present fears has been that the conflict would spread beyond Gaza to involve the wider region. Sadly, that is exactly what happened, from Hezbollah in Lebanon to the Houthis in the Red Sea, and now the first direct attack by the Iranian regime.

On last Saturday’s attack, we join the Prime Minister in expressing our gratitude to the RAF personnel who performed their role, as usual, so professionally and successfully. We support the Government in their work, in co-operation with international partners, to stand up for Israel’s security. We also support the Government’s priority, at this point, of seeking to de-escalate the situation and prevent further bloodshed. There is nothing to be gained by further retaliation on either side. We must hope that the pressure exerted by the UK, the US, EU member states and others on the Israeli Government and on Iran results in calmer heads prevailing.

The Government are right to seek to uphold regional security, including, as the Statement points out, in the Red Sea. Can the Minister inform the House about recent activity there? Has there been any increase in Houthi attacks in parallel with the Iranian strikes on Saturday? More generally, what has been the level of Houthi attacks on naval vessels and civilian shipping in the recent weeks since we last discussed the issue in your Lordships’ House?

It is of course right to seek a two-state solution for the benefit of both the Palestinian and Israeli people, but also for the stability that it would help bring to the wider region. In that respect, the Statement rather intriguingly refers to the involvement of “regional partners”, which it says

“helped prevent a much worse attack over the weekend”.

I realise that he may be unable to do so, but can the Leader of the House say anything further about what this actually involved?

It is depressing that it has so far proved impossible to negotiate a ceasefire in Gaza. Of course, we support all attempts to do so. In the meantime, the threat of famine continues to increase. Food shipments are also increasing, but at nowhere near a level to meet needs. Will the Government keep up the pressure to open up the additional routes by land and via Ashdod which the Israeli Government have promised, but which have so far failed to materialise, so that the threat of famine can finally be lifted?

The Statement rightly points out that Iranian drones were in action over the weekend not only in the Middle East but in Ukraine. The position there is desperately worrying and getting more so. Can the Minister update the House on the Government’s assessment of the likelihood of resumed military support from the US to Ukraine at a significant stage, particularly in the light of the Foreign Secretary’s recent visit to the United States?

There are a limited number of unilateral actions which the UK could take against Iran, but we could finally proscribe the Iranian Revolutionary Guard—a sponsor of terrorism across the region—as a terrorist organisation. Will the Government now do so?

It is clear that there is a large measure of agreement across the House about the nature of the crisis in Israel, Gaza and the wider Middle East, and about the broad approach needed to resolve it. Whether it is about strikes against the Houthi or the Royal Air Force’s action at the weekend, the convention that Parliament should have the opportunity—albeit retrospectively—to express its view formally when the UK takes military action has not been followed. We therefore urge the Government to have a debate, with a Commons vote, not least so that all the actors in the Middle East are absolutely clear about British resolve on this issue.

After Saturday’s attack, the prospect of a lasting peace in the Middle East looks further away than ever. For the UK, this must simply mean that our efforts to try to reach one are redoubled. The Government will have our full support in this endeavour.