The Gulf — [Mr David Nuttall in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:03 am on 4th May 2016.

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Photo of Alan Duncan Alan Duncan Conservative, Rutland and Melton 10:03 am, 4th May 2016

Thank you, Mr Nuttall. I regret that we have seen two contrasting speeches this morning: one informed and thoughtful speech from my hon. Friend Charlotte Leslie, and one of an extraordinary lack of knowledge from Andy Slaughter, who I fear has travelled little to these areas. He may be able to read reports but knows almost nothing from his own experience. I declare my interest: I am chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council. I have taken an interest in the region for 30 years. I want to make, in the two or three minutes I have, one major point.

We are looking at a period of greater instability and danger than I think we have ever known. The last four decades have seen conflict, war and fluctuating oil prices, but never before, until the last five years, have we really seen countries completely falling to pieces. Now, around the region, entire countries are falling apart, and the centuries-old lines in the sand are disappearing. Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya—and, for a moment, it looked like Egypt, too—have been unstable and disrupted as never before. We have seen the rise of non-state fanatics and space ungoverned by legitimate and decent authority. Sunni and Shi’a difference has been polarised by the fall of the Shah and the revolution in Iran. In addition to countries being pitted against one another, we are now seeing them completely fall apart.

That leads me to the one point I want to make—one that is totally lost on the hon. Member for Hammersmith. Our watchword should be stability. It is very easy to criticise Gulf countries from the ignorant comfort of a British armchair. It is very easy to slip into prejudicial judgmentalism, but these countries need to be understood. Their particular social composition, their historical origin and the nature of their regimes need to be understood. I suggest that that understanding sits on the Government’s side of the Chamber rather better than with the hon. Gentleman.

Our approach should be to hold the countries of the Gulf Co-operation Council together, to show respect and understanding and to work with them. Where would the world be if they were not there governing as they do? They would be replaced by something far worse.

In the 30 seconds I have left, I add that I am the Government’s envoy to Yemen. I have been going to that country for 30 years. The hon. Gentleman has probably never visited it in his life. I have done so on a dozen or more occasions, and I look forward to continuing to work on the peace talks that are taking place in Kuwait at the moment. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will do its best to ensure that those peace talks are successful.