DEFENCE (FRONT BENCH) – ROYAL NAVY AND IRAN – 14 May 2007

[The Secretary of State for Defence (Des Browne): We continue to press by all diplomatic means the Government of Iran to return the boats and equipment seized illegally in both 2004 and 2007.

Desmond Swayne: Can the Secretary of State tell us – apart from the iPod – what radio and cipher cards were seized, the standing operational procedures for which are destruction prior to capture?

Des Browne: I am not in a position to give the House that sort of detail in relation to operations, for good operational reasons. I can reassure the hon. Gentleman, however, that all issues relating to operations, particularly the operations in March 2007 when boats and equipment were seized, will be looked into by the inquiry ordered by the Chief of the Defence Staff, which will be led by Lieutenant-General Sir Rob Fulton, and will report to the Select Committee on Defence. ...]

Dr Julian Lewis: Returning to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, West (Desmond Swayne), may I say that it would be extremely strange if highly sensitive cipher cards were indeed in the possession of a boarding party, given the duties that it has to perform? May I also ask the Minister why a ministerial written answer on 24 April said that we had not at any stage sought the support of the United Nations in recovering the boats, even though both in 2004 and in 2007 the boats were captured while carrying out a mandated mission supported by the United Nations? Why are we making only bilateral approaches, when the right hon. Gentleman said in his answer that all diplomatic approaches were being made?

[Mr Browne: The judgment as to the most effective way of approaching the Iranians in relation to the matter entails a complicated assessment of what will be to best advantage in the wider circumstances of our relations with Iran and our other interests in that part of the region.]