Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 8:07 pm on 26th February 2019.

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Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Conservative, Reigate 8:07 pm, 26th February 2019

That makes me the lucky recipient, as I am following my right hon. Friend Stephen Crabb.

Plainly, how we deal with Hezbollah has been matter of careful consideration for a long time. I do not think that anyone is in any doubt that the previous position—this differentiation between the military and the political wing—was, as has been made crystal clear by a number of contributions here, a piece of constructive ambiguity. It was exactly that. There were, of course, reasons why the Government created that constructive ambiguity. Those considerations that, until now, have dictated the scale of proscription of Hezbollah should not be lost as we go forward.

Hezbollah is, of course, an important part of the Government coalition in the Lebanon. I think that it provides 13 out of the 68 Members of Parliament in the governing coalition. There are important development objectives, particularly in the south of Lebanon where Hezbollah has the core of its support from the poorer Shi’a communities in the Lebanon. Many of those development projects will be delivered with the assistance of the local authorities and the local councils that are elected there. It will be very difficult for officials from the Department for International Development to deliver those projects in the way that they have been if they suddenly find that they have to identify which local officials are flying a Hezbollah badge to get elected, which is largely necessary in that part of Lebanon given Hezbollah’s political popularity—that is the case whether we like it or not. Our aid programme to that part of Lebanon is extremely important. In particular, the assistance that we have given to Lebanon in dealing with the Syrian refugee crisis means that it would possibly be damaging to British interests if we allowed this proscription to affect the effective delivery of that assistance.