Situation in the Gulf

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:06 pm on 22nd July 2019.

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Photo of Stephen Gethins Stephen Gethins Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) 5:06 pm, 22nd July 2019

I wish the shadow Foreign Secretary a speedy recovery. I also congratulate Jo Swinson on her election as the new Liberal Democrat leader, and I look forward to continuing to work with her in opposing this Tory Government

I thank the Foreign Secretary for his statement. I also thank him for the diligence and seriousness that he, unlike his predecessor, has brought to this role—it is 20 minutes past 5, but I am not sure that comment would have swung it for him, regardless of when I said it. I thank him nevertheless.

I also pay tribute to Sir Alan Duncan for his work. We have not always agreed, but I thank him for his collegiality. Where we have agreed, we have been able to work together. This is not a great time for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to be falling apart, but I entirely sympathise with the reasons he has set out today.

Iran’s actions are completely unacceptable. Along with the jailing of the innocent mum, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, that should tell us all what kind of regime we are dealing with. Regardless of who holds the post of Foreign Secretary in the coming days, they must be fully on top of their brief when it comes to Iran, and we must have a full complement of staff in the Foreign Office who are able to speak frankly on Iran. The damage done by the Foreign Secretary’s predecessor has illustrated what happens when one is not fully briefed when dealing with Iran.

Right now, there is a need for engagement, cool heads and a multilateral approach, and I am glad to see the start of that with the Foreign Secretary’s statement today. Will he set out what talks he is having with our partners, over and above the ones he has already set out, and in particular along the lines of what is happening with the Iran nuclear deal? That is a critical piece of work that will need to be done. There are concerns that this Administration have taken their eye off the ball, and certainly that the UK has been ill prepared. Will the Foreign Secretary set out in a bit more detail why this situation was not foreseen and what actions he is taking to look at it again? This is a dangerous situation and there must be a clear understanding of what is going on, alongside the work to look into ways to de-escalate the situation.

Finally, Northern Marine is headquartered in Clydebank in the constituency of my hon. Friend Martin Docherty-Hughes, who has been working incredibly hard on this matter. I hope the Foreign Office will continue to co-operate with my hon. Friend. We are thinking about the families of those affected at Northern Marine. I thank the naval personnel, particularly those on HMS Montrose, for their service.