Iain Duncan Smith welcomes the Foreign Secretary’s statement on the situation in the Gulf and asks why we have not request the US to help protect our shipping while we get the right resources in place.
I welcome what my right hon. Friend has said. There is no question but that it is the Iranians, not the British, who have caused this problem. Any linking of this would therefore be quite wrong, and I commend him for what he said on that.
I want to ask a very simple question, and it may be one that my right hon. Friend is unable to answer at this point. We have known for some time that there is a heightened problem in the Gulf and that our strongest ally is there with some force. Why did we not request or agree with the United States that in the interim, while we get the right resources in place, it acts in concert with us to protect some of our shipping, as it has said it could have done?
I always listen to my right hon. Friend very carefully on all defence matters, and I reassure him that throughout this period we have had close behind-the-scenes discussions with the United States on how we can improve maritime security. HMS Montrose’s 17 transit missions would not have been possible without US logistical support. Indeed, the United States has made a proposal on how we could enhance maritime security more generally. The US asked us to contribute to a maritime force on 24 June, which became a formal request on 30 June, and it formally briefed NATO allies and the Washington diplomatic corps on the proposal last Thursday and last Friday. We will be talking to the US about it later this week.
We think what the United States is saying is helpful and important, and we will seek to co-ordinate any European efforts on freedom of navigation with anything the US does, but we want the UK’s contribution to be to make that coalition as broad as possible.