Iranian Military Action: Deterrence

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons on 20th May 2019.

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Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

Whether the Government plan to (a) support and (b) deploy in conjunction with the US to deter Iranian military action against the UK’s allies in the Gulf.

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Defence

The United Kingdom shares United States, European and Gulf partners’ concerns about Iran’s destabilising activities in the region. We continue to work closely with our allies and partners to mitigate the threats to regional security.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

If the balloon goes up, are we ready and will we help our allies?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Defence

Yes, we are, and we are already deployed in the region. This is a region where we have huge stakes and a huge amount invested. We are working with our allies and partners, first, to try to de-escalate things in the region, but also to truly understand the facts behind recent events.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

May I welcome the Secretary of State to her new job? Some of us will miss her at the Department for International Development, where she really ploughed her own furrow and was very refreshing.

Are our defence forces capable of helping any of our allies, either in the middle east or if someone invaded one of our allies in Europe? We have a minuscule armed forces. The 75-year D-day celebration is in June. We could not defend anyone with the size of the defence force we have at the moment.

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Defence

First, I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind comments. I am sure he will continue his campaign on road traffic accidents and all that Britain can do to prevent them around the world.

I think that our armed forces are getting increasingly more capable, looking what we are doing in terms of operations. Increasingly, we are forward-deploying people. The Royal Navy is undertaking more activity. However, we must ensure that the budget, or what we are doing with the budget, is absolutely linked to the tasks that we require our armed forces to do because of the mission that we give them.

Photo of Fabian Hamilton Fabian Hamilton Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (Defence)

Last week, the British deputy commander of Operation Inherent Resolve stated that

“there has been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria.”

He was then rebuked by US Central Command. The Foreign Secretary later went on to declare that the UK and the US share

“the same assessment of the heightened threat posed by Iran”,

and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office changed its travel advice for Iran. Will the Secretary of State clarify the Government’s position, and will she confirm that the UK will oppose any escalation of tensions in the middle east?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Defence

We want the increasing tensions to de-escalate. I think that the major general’s remarks have been clarified; he was speaking in a particular context. We are absolutely on the same page as the United States in terms of the assessment of risk, and we have always been clear-eyed about the threats that Iran poses.