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Iran (Temporary Powers) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:50 pm on 12th May 1980.

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Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds 10:50 pm, 12th May 1980

They do things differently in the American Congress.

I was saying that our support cannot be unqualified, first, because many Americans have reservations about the conduct of foreign policy by the present Administration and may yet change it and, secondly, because the recent track record of that Administration has demonstrated a number of failures of assessment of world affairs which I find lamentable. One need mention only Angola, the Horn of Africa or, indeed, some of the activities of Mr. Brzezinski following the invasion of Afghanistan to conclude that by no means all wisdom is to be found in the State Department or the White House in the judgment of world affairs. That being so, our support cannot be unqualified.

Secondly, I believe that our support cannot go all the way in all circumstances. I should indicate one or two possible limits where our support would have to be withheld.

We could not conduct sanctions against Iran if the cost to this country were greater than it was to Iran. We could not conduct such sanctions if the only result, as my hon. Friend fairly said, was that some of our trade with Iran went to our allies. I look forward to the Government's reply demonstrating that there will be a degree of solidarity within the European Community on this matter.

Above all, the United States owes us a measure of reciprocity. It will not be possible to explain to the British people that we should continue to support the United States in this matter if, for example, the United States continues to deny to the Royal Ulster Constabulary the pistols that it needs to carry out its duties in Northern Ireland. On that issue we can look to the United States for a measure of reciprocity. However, I believe that we owe it to the Americans to support them in their hour of need.

I ask my hon. Friend two questions about the diplomatic scene. Is he able to give an assurance that in conveying to the Government of Mr. Bani-Sadr the decision of the Government and of the House of Commons when the Bill is enacted, the British Ambassador will do his utmost to pursue the many diplomatic and unofficial overtures that have been opened between the West and the Government of Mr. Bani-Sadr in recent weeks? I do not ask my hon. Friend to speak in detail. As he rightly said, it is best that these avenues be pursued in private. However, the House is entitled to ask, as the price of passing the Bill, for an assurance that the diplomatic channels that have recently been opened, through Britain and through various persons, both official and others, in the United States are being pursued with the greatest determination.

Secondly, is my hon. Friend able to give the assurance—he came close to it in what he said about the visit to Washington of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affaire—that he is now confident that between the British Government and the United States there is a ready consultative mechanism that will ensure that we are not taken by surprise should the United States undertake some further vigorous action, be it diplomatic, economic or military? It is not the price of the Alliance that we are informed in advance in detail, because in operational circumstances that may be impossible. However, the House is entitled to an assurance, as the price of the Bill, that the consultative mechanism between Washington and London is now extremely close.