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Volume 508: debated on Monday 29 March 2010

We keep the security threat posed by Iran under continual review. Iran possesses conventional military capability that is both defensive and offensive in nature. We also remain concerned about Iran’s intentions with regard to its nuclear programme. Iran should be under no illusion that without progress in addressing the international community’s concerns tougher sanctions will be imposed.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Does he believe that the Iranian Government are serious in their undertaking in respect of uranium enrichment abroad or does he believe that they are just playing for time?

A substantive offer of engagement has been made by the international community, which has been led, in particular, by the President of the United States. I regret that Iran has failed yet to embrace that offer of engagement. Iran needs to be in doubt that this is a matter of serious and real concern for the international community and that if there is not movement and engagement on the part of Iran, there will be—we will argue for and achieve this—much tougher sanctions.

Do the Government agree with the statement made at the weekend by the NATO Secretary-General, Mr. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, that Europe now needs to develop a missile shield system to protect against a future Iranian missile—one with or without nuclear warheads?

There is a strong case for the missile shield, which is why the Government have supported the technology; the threat that the Secretary-General outlined, and to which my right hon. Friend refers, is one of the reasons for that.

With Iran undertaking a major submarine-building programme, which military experts say could cause havoc in the Gulf, and Russia continuing its incursions into United Kingdom waters, why have the Government decided this week to scrap the Nimrod long-range maritime patrol aircraft? Who will provide the long-range search and rescue capability so lost from this week and who will protect our ships—at home and in the Gulf—now rendered vulnerable by Labour’s cavalier approach to the defence of these islands?

On long-range search and rescue, the introduction of the MRA4 means that there will be substantially more capable aircraft than the MR2 in the RAF’s fleet. In the period of transition until the MRA4 enters service we intend to use other assets, as available, in a long-range search and rescue role. The reason we take the decisions that we do is because we are responsible for these budgets and for prioritising Afghanistan as our main effort. As we have repeatedly made clear, the Conservative party is not committed to spending one penny more on defence than this Government are—in fact, the reverse is true because the Conservatives are not even prepared to commit to next year’s spending. Until they do so, their words are simply hollow.