Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Backbench Business — Iran (UK Foreign Policy)

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 1:07 pm on 6th November 2014.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering 1:07 pm, 6th November 2014

It is pleasure to follow the remarks of Mr Slaughter about his constituent. Obviously, all of us in this House hope that the case can be resolved in a satisfactory way as soon as possible.

I have been hugely impressed by all the speeches I have been privileged to hear in the debate so far. We have heard from Mr Straw, my right hon. Friend Sir Richard Ottaway, and my hon. Friends the Members for South Norfolk (Mr Bacon) and for North West Norfolk (Mr Bellingham). I am sure we will hear an excellent speech by my right hon. Friend Sir Nicholas Soames in due course.

What we have not heard, explicitly, is anyone saying that it would be completely unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon. That is the position that I stand by. I think it would be unacceptable to this country, and to the world, for a dangerous regime such as that in Iran to have a nuclear weapon. I do not particularly want to cast aspersions, but I suspect that some Members of this House would actually be content for Iran to have a nuclear weapon; indeed, I have heard Members say that. That is a perfectly defensible position, but I have not heard it put forward today.

What we have also not heard today is the Israeli perspective. Iran, as the right hon. Member for Blackburn said, is a country of 77 million people, second only in the middle east to Egypt’s 85 million. If we stack that up against the Israeli state, with 8 million people, we can see that from the Israeli perspective Iran is the biggest bully in the playground.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex said, it all comes down to a question of trust. Why should we trust Iran? I very much respect the judgment of Members of this House who know far more about this subject than I do, especially former Foreign Secretaries and hon. Members who have been to Iran and know some of these individuals. However, if I were a citizen of Tel Aviv, despite the huge respect I would have for the right hon. Member for Blackburn, I would say to myself, “Well, this gentleman obviously speaks with a huge amount of experience, and he has spoken to Hassan Rouhani and others, but what if he is wrong? What if the regime in Tehran is mad enough and bad enough to want a nuclear weapon and to use it?”

We had a similar debate when China was developing nuclear weapons and Mao Tse-tung said, “What does it matter if we lose several million Chinese people? We can take out our enemies in one go.” It would be possible to take out most of Israel with one nuclear weapon. The holocaust was not really that long ago in strategic terms. Half the Jewish population of the world was wiped out in Europe, supposedly under the safety of a Christian civilisation, so if I were an Israeli citizen, although I might respect the right hon. Gentleman’s wise words, I would be saying to myself, “What if he’s wrong? Where’s my insurance?”

That is why this House has to wake up, smell the coffee and realise that there is simply no way on earth that Israel is going to allow Iran to have a nuclear bomb. It represents an existential threat to half the Jewish population of the world. It does not really matter what we in this Chamber think about that; Israel, quite rightly, will say, “We are not going to accept this.”

The Iranians are going about things in all the wrong ways. We have heard that there are cultural aspects to that. We are told, for example, that the Iranian way of approaching the world is different from that of the west; that there are complications of language and history; that the only rules they want to stick to are those that suit them; and that we should look at this through a diplomatic prism. At the end of the day, however, we are talking about 8 million Israeli citizens who fear for their lives. They fear that Iran will get enough nuclear material to stuff into one of its Fajr-5 rockets and launch it at Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.

Iran is going about the negotiations in all the wrong ways, because it is doing all the bad things that none of us like. Iran is a major exporter of terror, not just to the middle east, but around the world. If it really wants to do a deal with the west, why has it not backed off from supporting Hamas or from stocking up an arsenal of 100,000 rockets in southern Lebanon? Another Israeli fear, of course, is not just nuclear weapons, but Hezbollah launching 100,000 rockets all in one go at the Israeli population. It does not matter how sophisticated Iron Dome is—it is not possible to take out 100,000 rockets launched in one go.

The exporter of this terror—its funder—is Tehran. These are not nice people. They might have gone to English universities and they might have an understanding with very senior Members of this House, but this regime is extremely unpleasant, not only to its own people, but to others in the region and further afield.