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 True Lord True Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal 6:09, 15 Ebrill 2024

My Lords, I thank both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord for their responses. I will not be able to deal with specifics on some of the points they raised. As the noble Lord, Lord Newby, conceded, there are certain sensitivities over who does what in particular places and times, including—obviously—particular details of our own operational activities.

I thank both parties opposite and, by the way, I must add my own and our side’s sympathy for the loss of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser. I have indicated this privately to the noble Baroness opposite. He will be greatly missed on all Benches of this House. He was the ultimate exemplar of a courteous servant of your Lordships’ House.

The noble Baroness was quite right to say that one of the few encouraging aspects thus far is that it is clear that the Iranian action, unjustified as it was, was a failure. This does not mean that its gravity can be in any way underestimated—and nobody has suggested that. I echo the Prime Minister and others in calling for restraint on all sides. This is a grim and difficult situation, where all wish to avoid further escalation. It must not be forgotten that this whole grievous episode started with a merciless lack of restraint by the Hamas terrorists who burst into the homes of civilians and murdered women, children and old people in the most brutal and despicable manner. However much we deplore and rightly express concern about ongoing developments, we must never lose sight of the real naked horror of Hamas terrorism.

Both responses asked about sanctions, specifically on the IRGC. The Prime Minister touched a little on this in his Statement in the other place. I have said before, and it is true, that we have already sanctioned more than 400 Iranian individuals and entities, including the IRGC in its entirety for roles in weapons proliferation. The noble Lord, Lord Newby, rightly referred to the very disturbing evidence—there is a good deal of it—of co-operation between Iran and Russia in the deployment of weapons in the Ukrainian theatre.

The IRGC has been involved in fomenting regional conflicts, violating human rights and terrorism. We have introduced a new Iran sanctions regime to give us more extensive power to designate, and the National Security Act—I was asked about domestic security, which we take extraordinarily seriously—implements new measures to protect the British public, including new offences for espionage and foreign interference, and tougher powers to arrest and detain people suspected of involvement in state threats.

The option of proscription of the IRGC obviously remains open to us, but the British Government’s position remains that it is not helpful to speculate on whether a group is being considered for proscription. We recognise the threat from Iran. The police, security services and courts have all the tools they need to sanction, prosecute and mitigate those threats and, as I said, the IRGC is sanctioned in its entirety.

On sanctions more generally, following the welcome convening of the G7 by the Italian Government, for which we are grateful, it was agreed in the communiqué that

“we demand that Iran and its proxies cease their attacks, and we stand ready to take further measures now and in response to further destabilizing initiatives”.

Obviously, the most effective actions are those taken on an international basis.

I was asked about diplomatic activity. There has been a great deal of diplomatic activity, including the Prime Minister speaking to G7 leaders on Sunday when, as I just said, Iran’s attack was unequivocally condemned. We have expressed our full solidarity and support to Israel and its people, and the G7 reaffirmed its commitment to its security.

I recognise the other points made—the other side of the coin, as it were. We will also strengthen our co-operation to seek to end the crisis in Gaza, working towards an immediate and sustainable ceasefire, the release of hostages by Hamas—something it refuses to do—and increased humanitarian aid to Palestinians in need. Yesterday, the Foreign Secretary spoke to his Israeli and Iranian counterparts, expressing continued support to Israel and condemning the Iranian attack, making it clear that Iran must take immediate action to de-escalate. We will continue to make those efforts.

Humanitarian aid is vital. The UK’s humanitarian support this financial year stands at over £100 million and we are working with our international partners to develop that further. As the noble Lord, Lord Newby, said, Israel has committed to significant steps to increase the amount of aid getting to Gaza, including delivery of aid through the Port of Ashdod and the Erez checkpoint, increasing the number of aid trucks to at least 500 a day, increasing capacity through the Jordan land corridor, extending the opening hours of the Kerem Shalom crossing and approving more types of aid, including fuel to enable more bakeries to open and hospitals to function.

The UK has urged Israel to take these steps for a long time and they are welcome, but, although these commitments represent significant progress, I agree with the noble Lord that we must see further action to ensure more aid actually gets over the border, as the noble Baroness emphasised. The UK is calling on Israel to make progress on the following additional action: a major change in the conduct of hostilities to protect civilians and reform of the deconfliction mechanism to ensure the safety of aid workers. The situation in Gaza is dire. The entire population faces famine.

The Houthi attacks have continued, but shipping continues to go through the Red Sea and we will continue to protect that.

As far as Ukraine is concerned, I have little time to respond—I apologise for that—but the MoD remains fully engaged with industry allies and partners to ensure continuation of supply to Ukraine. If I have the opportunity, I will write to noble Lords setting out in detail some of the actions we are taking there.

I thank both parties opposite, and I urge restraint on all in this very difficult and dangerous situation.