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Volume 719: debated on Tuesday 6 September 2022

1. What steps her Department plans to take to counter Iran’s destabilising use of proxies in the middle east. (901301)

I am sure that the whole House will accept the apologies from the Foreign Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss), who is otherwise engaged today.

The UK maintains a range of sanctions to constrain Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps malign activity. Maritime interdictions in January and February 2022 led to the seizure of advanced conventional weapons travelling from Iran to the Houthis in Yemen. We support the strengthening of state institutions in Iraq and Lebanon, and work to end the conflict in Yemen and Syria.

Mr Speaker, you may recall that it was against considerable Whitehall resistance—it needed pressure from this House—that we got the Government to ban Hezbollah. I hope that the Minister will be more receptive to recognising that the IRGC is at the heart of destabilising proxy wars across the middle east and further afield, and that she will show more urgency in joining our allies in the United States in proscribing the IRGC.

The UK maintains a range of sanctions that work to constrain the destabilising activity of the IRGC. The list of proscribed organisations is kept under constant review, but we do not routinely comment on whether an organisation is under consideration for proscription.

The hostility with Iran has caused even greater friendship between the adjoining Arab countries and the state of Israel, so is not now the time to follow the US and some other countries by moving the British embassy from Tel Aviv to the capital of Israel, where its Parliament is, Jerusalem?

My hon. Friend is right to say that the UK and Israel share a thriving relationship, working together on bilateral priorities, as well as on regional issues of mutual concern. The British embassy in Israel is in Tel Aviv. I am aware of the possibility of a review but will not speculate further on this point.

When we are talking about the people in power in Tehran and their proxies around the world, whom my right hon. Friend the Member for Warley (John Spellar) mentioned, we are talking about clerical fascists, who would probably have been on the same side as the Nazis if they had been around 80 years ago. Why can we not just get on with it and ban the IRGC, as we banned Hezbollah?

I have been clear in response to earlier questions on the IRGC and the range of sanctions to constrain its destabilising activity. I will not comment further on the possibility of proscription of this group.

It is a mistake for the west to regard Iran’s sponsorship of proxies as somehow being a non-strategic irritant, as there is a continuous thread that links its sponsorship of terror with its ballistics programme and its march towards acquiring nuclear weapons capability. So does my right hon. Friend agree that we should not repeat the mistakes of the past and that any revised nuclear deal with Iran should be accompanied by very strong measures to discourage it from being the world’s largest sponsor of terrorism?

We have real concerns about the instability that Iran causes in the region. Its nuclear programme is today more advanced than ever. There is an offer on the table and Iran should take it urgently—time is running out and there will not be a better one. If this deal is not struck, and soon, the joint comprehensive plan of action will collapse. In that scenario, we will have to consider carefully the options with partners and allies.