Iranian Seizure of Royal Navy Personnel

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 12:33 pm on 28th March 2007.

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Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett Foreign Secretary 12:33 pm, 28th March 2007

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his response to the statement, and for his concern. I am grateful for the very welcome co-operation that he has willingly given. He asked what justification had been given for withholding consular access and information about the location of our personnel, and so on. Nothing that I could call justification has been given. All that has been said is that investigations are continuing. I spoke to the Iranian Foreign Minister yesterday, and he said for the first time that consular access would not be given until the investigations were completed. Prior to that, delivery had been taken of the request for consular access, but no commitment had been given. We have been given no clear indication as to where or by whom our personnel are being held. I share entirely, as I am sure does the whole House, the right hon. Gentleman's observation about the grave concern with which we would view any mistreatment.

To date no demands have been made by the Government of Iran. What has been said is that this is a technical but very grave breach of Iran's borders, and that investigations into it are continuing. We do not judge that it will make a difference to how our people operate, but the right hon. Gentleman is right to say that if the commanders on the ground were to seek a change in the rules of engagement—which they have not done—that would be treated with the utmost seriousness.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about a range of people. We have contacted everyone we can think of who might have an influence, and sought to get them to bring that influence to bear. He may be aware that the Foreign Minister of Germany, which has the EU presidency at the moment, recently made a statement on behalf of the EU. I therefore assure the House that we will pursue every avenue and channel to try to bring this matter to a satisfactory conclusion.