HC Deb 18 March 1987 vol 112 cc924-5
14. Mr. George Robertson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has received on the implications for Her Majesty's Government's foreign policy of the supply of arms to Iran.

Mr. Renton

We have received a number of letters from hon. and right hon. Members and members of the public on this subject. We have no plans to change the guidelines on defence sales to Iran and Iraq. They have proved effective in implementing our policy of strict impartiality in the Iran-Iraq conflict and of not supporting the war-making capabilities of either side.

Mr. Robertson

Is the Minister aware of the concern throughout the country at the existence just across the road from this palace, at 4 Victoria street, of an office which reputedly organises over 80 per cent. of all Iran's arms imports? Is not the continued operation of this office, in the face of representations from the American Government to shut it down, an outrage in view of the Government's declared policy to end this dreadful war? Will the Minister now take resolute action to stop the activities of these "neighbours" of ours who are indulging in this evil trade?

Mr. Renton

On the hon. Member's main point, may I say that we are, of course, aware of the allegations concerning the activities of the Iranian military procurement office in London. He must understand that the arrangement from the United Kingdom of arms sales to Iran is not illegal unless the goods concerned are exported from the United Kingdom in breach of British law. There is no firm evidence of this.

As to the hon. Gentleman's general point, he seems to revel in guilt by accusation and innuendo. He appears to think that if he throws enough mud some of it will stick. There is no firm evidence for the allegations that he has made now and on previous occasions. He should learn to put the national interest before cheap scaremongering in order to make political points.

Mr. Nelson

In welcoming my hon. Friend's restatement of the Government's policy of not selling lethal arms, may I invite him to agree that we have international obligations as well as a national interest in the security of the Gulf, and that, following the increasing extent to which American policies in the middle east have become discredited, there is a real vacuum which could be filled by this country? Will my hon. Friend consider taking an initiative in that regard, but, before doing so, will he consult most closely with our allies in the region who are directly affected in the Gulf Co-operation Council, that is, the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman?

Mr. Renton

I take my hon. Friend's point. He knows the region well. I was in the Arabian peninsula three weeks ago and my noble Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement is in the area at the moment. From those visits we are well aware of the points my hon. Friend makes and of the need to work closely with the Gulf Co-operation Council to try to defuse the risk in the Gulf of the present worrying Iran-Iraq conflict spreading. We shall do all we can in that respect, with the advice of our friends in the area.

Mr. Foot

Does the hostility to the sale or provision of arms to Iran expressed by the hon. Gentleman a few minutes ago include hostility to the sale or provision of arms from the United States of America? Can the Minister tell us when last either the Foreign Secretary or the Prime Minister put that point to the President of the United States?

Mr. Renton

We are clearly talking today about our policy in relation to arms sales to Iran and Iraq. We remain in consultation with the United States and other friendly countries about what we can do to stop the spread of the conflict. This was a matter that I discussed with two Government officials from Iraq only yesterday. We shall do all that we can to see that the conflict does not spread.