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Orders of the Day — Iran (Temporary Powers) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:50 pm on 12th May 1980.

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Photo of Mr Leslie Huckfield Mr Leslie Huckfield , Nuneaton 9:50 pm, 12th May 1980

The hon. Gentleman is confirming what I feared. If the Bill is enacted, we shall have given the Government their enabling powers. It is only after the Bill's enactment that we shall know what the Government intend to do with it. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not try to mislead the House on that score. The other thing—[Interruption.] I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not continue with personal references. We are dealing with a serious issue.

The Minister of State referred to the need by 17 May to make decisive progress on the release of the hostages. I only hope that all our other trading partners who become parties to the agreement are hurrying legislation through their respective Chambers to make similar provision for sanctions to operate in their countries.

It has been said that it is not the Government's deliberate intention to let trade be delivered into the hands of our trading partners. Many of my hon. Friends fear that we could be caught in that way. It is well known that many of our trading partners, as we have seen from events elsewhere, are expert sanction breakers. I hope that the Government will realise that, although they may want to play fair and may want to get a Bill on the statute book and to implement sanctions, that may not be, and certainly has not been, the attitude of many of our major trading partners.

If the real issue is the need to secure the release of the hostages, why do Ministers spend so much time emphasising that we have to exercise substantial influence in the Alliance? Is that what it is all about? Is it about exercising substantial influence in the Alliance, or is it about the release of the hostages? Many of my hon. Friends feel that the introduction of a Bill of this sort at this moment will have precisely the opposite effect and that it could provide a stimulating rallying call, once the sanctions are applied, for those who are in power in Iran.

Hon. Members may ask, if the Bill deals only with future contracts, why so many Labour Members are concerned. However, even present contracts have to be renewed. The Government did not mention renewal of contracts. The Minister said that he would deal with the matter but then carefully avoided it. We fear that, even if the Bill is not brought fully into operation, the French will still use it as an excuse to switch a valuable contract from this country to France. That is why we find it difficult to support the Bill.

The company that I am concerned about was previously called Chrysler and is now called Talbot. Last year's United Kingdom trade with Iran totalled approximately £340 million. The revenue from the Talbot contract with Iran was £150 million. That one contract represents half the United Kingdom trade in Iran, and many of us, particularly in the Coventry area, are concerned about that significant contract.

The Minister of State perhaps gave the impression that sanctions would take a little time to work through and their effect on industry may be leisurely. That is not so. Immediately sanctions are declared, at least 1,600 workers in the Talbot works at Stoke will be told that their jobs are in jeopardy and will probably have to go. At least 2,000 workers in the Coventry area will suffer the same fate. I recognise that we are dealing with a future contract situation, but if sanctions are made to apply to other contracts that could be the immediate effect.